Can You Spay A Dog In Heat? What Are The Dangers And What Should You Do?

Oh no – can you spay a dog on heat? Ugggh!!! It’s one of those timing things that has happened to many of us! Your young bitch is due to be spayed….and what do you know? She goes on heat! Read on to learn why spaying a dog on heat is far more involved and potentially dangerous.

How Old Are Bitches When They Have Their First Heat?

The majority of dogs will have their first heat or season around the age of six months.

This can differ between breeds, with smaller breeds sometimes having their first as early as four months, while large breeds might take up to two years.

Can you spay a dog in heat?

Most veterinarians recommend you spay your bitch around six months old, although there is some new evidence coming through that for large breed dogs, delayed spaying may be beneficial and protective for bone/joint development and urinary continence. Listen to Dr Leigh discuss this problem here.

We recommended that you discuss the timing of a dog spay to determine the best time to spay your dog with either your own vet or contact the vets at Your Vet Online.

What Are The Signs of Oestrus?

So that we all know what we are looking for when a bitch is on heat here are some definitions and signs that indicate the different stages of heat.

When a bitch is in heat (oestrus) the following signs occur:

First she is in prooestrus:

Proestrus averages around 9 days in duration, but may last anywhere from 3 to 17 days.

Males are interested in the female. Females are not interested in the males. So generally no mating occurs.

The vulva is swollen and there is serosanguinous (blood tinged) discharge from the vulva.

Oestrus occurs next.

Oestrus averages 9 days in duration but can be as short as 3 days or as long as 21 days.

The male and female are both interested in each other and mating can occur.

The bitch will ‘flag’ her tail, and will ‘back up’ to the male, asking for attention.

What Are The Dangers Of Spaying My Dog In Heat?

The spay surgery (or ovariohysterectomy: meaning the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and the uterus are all removed) is one of the most difficult surgeries your veterinarian will perform.

It may be routine, but it certainly isn’t easy. The surgery is the equivalent of a female hysterectomy.

So can you spay a dog on heat? When a bitch is in heat it is even more difficult.

Yes, you can spay, however, surgery time is often prolonged. The tissues are swollen and ooze blood.

Blood vessels are engorged. Bleeding tends to occur more frequently. Tissues tend to be more friable (fragile) so knots may pull through resulting in internal bleeding.

It can be a stressful surgery made worse in large breed, deep-chested dogs.

Because of the increased surgery time and difficulty, the majority of veterinarians will charge more for spaying bitches that are in heat.

How To Decide If I Should Spay My In Heat Dog?

You really do need to ask yourself these questions:

1. What is the risk of the dog becoming pregnant?

This may be the most important question. If the risk of the dog becoming pregnant is high then it is better to spay the dog while it is in heat.

3. Can we cope with the nuisance of a dog in heat?

This includes spotting blood, attracting male dogs, and occasionally a negative change in disposition?

How significant are these nuisances to you and your family?

Can you spay a dog on heat: Final words

Ultimately, the decision to spay your in heat bitch lies with both you and the veterinary surgeon who will perform the surgery.

As it is a complicated surgery, be prepared to hear your vet say “no”.

If this occurs, you can either find another vet to perform the surgery, keep your bitch locked up inside at home, or send her to a kennel for the duration of her heat.

She must not be left outside unattended. Male dogs have been known to dig and jump huge distances to get to an on heat bitch!

Have you had your bitch spayed while in heat? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section. 


Written by Dr Leigh Davidson BVSc, BApplSc

Further Reading

Why Should I Desex (Spay/Neuter) My Dog?

The Whelping Bitch – signs, stages and when to call the vet!

PUPPY VACCINATIONS: What Vaccines Do They Need And When?


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