Just like human females, unspayed female dogs experience a regular reproductive cycle.
When female dogs enter their reproductive cycle, this is called being in heat.
During the heat cycle, your female dog may display several unusual and unwanted behaviors.
If not handled properly, these unsettling behaviors may have you at your wits end.
One such behavior that house trained female dogs may exhibit when they are in heat is having frequent ‘accidents’ in the house.
This may come as a huge shock if your dog does not pee inside the house otherwise.
Understanding the heat cycle and knowing why your dog pees inside the house while in heat can help you better prepare for your dog’s next heat cycle, and help you maintain a positive relationship with your fertile, furry friend.
What Does It Mean For A Female Dog To Be In Heat?
The heat cycle in female dogs, also known by its scientific name, the estrus cycle, is the canine equivalent to the menstrual cycle or period in human females.
When female dogs enter heat, they become receptive to breeding with male dogs.
The ovaries, the female dog’s reproductive organ, releases eggs as she goes through various hormonal changes to attract male partners to mate with.
During the heat cycle, female dogs go through four distinct hormonal and physiological stages.
During this time, female dogs may exhibit strange behavior such as peeing inside..
When Do Dogs Start Going Into Heat?
Female dogs have their first heat cycle when they reach puberty or sexual maturity.
This usually occurs between 6 and 15 months of age though the exact age is highly dependent on the breed and size of the dog.
To give you a specific example, our 9 month old Golden Retriever started her first season about a month ago.
The heat cycle usually lasts two to four weeks.
After that, the female dog will go on heat about every 6 months though this too can vary depending on the breed of the dog. Some smaller dog breeds can experience heat up to three times a year. In contrast, large dog breeds may experience heat just once a year.
That being said, the canine heat cycle is not like clock work, many dogs experience irregular heat cycles throughout their lives. While it is possible to try and track your dog’s heat cycle, the best way of avoiding accidents when your dog is in heat is to be knowledgeable of the tell tale signs.
So what are the signs and symptoms of a dog being in heat?
Key symptoms that your dog is in heat?
A heat cycle can be split into four stages and because of this the number of possible symptoms is huge.
And so in this section, I will stick to the changes in behaviour that closely relate to changes in the way that your dog pees.
Your dog will urinate far more often than usual. In my experience this might be up to two or even three times more than usual.
The increased urination is a way that the dog communicates to potential mates that she is getting ready to mate.
This behaviour is instinctive and natural for your dog.
It is not an action that she has 100% control of. Even the best house trained dogs might have accidents in the house if they don’t get given more opportunities to urinate during the day than they normally would.
Urine contains blood
The second change that will happen with your dog’s wee is that it will be mixed with blood.
It will change colour. Don’t be alarmed if the colour changes from a clear or pale yellow colour to a pink or red colour.
The blood comes as your dog sheds the lining of her uterus and it is a perfectly natural process that you shouldn’t be worried about.
- Increased urination
- Discharge becomes bloody
What do I mean by accidents?
Before moving on, I want to clarify what I mean by accidents.
Now a dog in heat won’t necessarily have become incontinent and have accidents in the house.
What is far more likely to happen is that your dog will leave spots of blood for you to clear up- a messy habit that can last for up to two weeks.
Why Do Female Dogs Pee A Lot When In Heat?
While slight incontinence can occur in some dogs during heat, for most dogs, the excessive urination that female dogs exhibit during estrus is intentional. Female dogs urinate frequently during estrus in order to leave traces of their breeding pheromones around them.
The scent of the female dog’s hormones signals to male dogs that she is ready to mate. Female dog ‘marking’ behavior has a distinctive pattern during heat. Although the dog will pee more often than usual, she will pee in small amounts.
Why Do Female Dogs Pee Inside When In Heat?
Peeing inside is one of the most dreaded behavioral changes that females exhibit when in heat, aside from bloody discharge. The two combined is enough to give any dog owner a serious heachade.
When your dog urinates in the house when she is in heat, it may seem like an accident to you. This can be extremely irritating if you put a lot of effort into house training your dog. Some dog owners might even find this worrisome,concluding that it is a sign of an underlying bladder problem.
Reassuringly, there is a biological explanation for why your female dog may be peeing inside or in other inappropriate places when in heat.
During the canine heat cycle, house trained dogs are so receptive to their natural instinct to mate that this urge to mate can override the knowledge that they are not allowed to pee indoors.
When in heat, female dogs that are kept inside all day may urinate in the house in a frenzy to attract male mating partners before the end of their fertile period.
Rule out any medical or behavioural problems
It might be that the reason that your bitch is peeing in the house is unrelated to her being in heat and the fact that it is happening whilst she is in heat in just an unhappy accident.
So you need to make sure that she hasn’t got a separate medical problem which is causing her to be incontinent.
To help you with this, below I have listed the most common reasons that house trained dogs start to urinate in the house.
My first part of the list contains medical problems:
- Infected bladder or urinary tract
- Kidney disease
- Old Age
And the second part of the list details behavioral causes:
- Over excitement
- New environment
And with a list of medical problems as daunting as that it is logical to ask whether there is a link between a female going into heat and some of these diseases such as a bladder infection.
A link that I will discuss in the next section.
Does going into heat cause an infection?
When a female dog goes into “season” it doesn’t automatically mean that they will get a bladder or urinary tract infection.
The two events are totally unrelated.
Of course, it might be that your bitch goes into season and develops a UTI at the same time but the chances of this happening are incredibly small- it is very, very unlikely.
What is far more likely is that your dog has an infection and they aren’t in season.
It is an easy mistake to make because of how unpredictable the pattern of “heat” is for some dogs- and I should know because I have raised four female golden retrievers in the past four years!
Having a dog in season requires us to be more vigilant and that extra pressure can sometimes mean that we are looking for things which just aren’t there.
With that said, in the next section, I will take a look at what the symptoms of a urinary infection are and if any of these symptoms are the same as those we find in dogs that are in season.
UTI Symptoms vs Heat Symptoms
The main symptoms for a dog that has a urinary infection, include:
Bloody or cloudy urine
More frequent urination
Incontinence in the house
Licking their “private parts”
And we can see that those four symptoms are exactly the same as the symptoms of a dog in heat although the causes are slightly different.
For instance, if a dog with an infection starts to have blood in their urine then it isn’t because they are shedding the lining of their uterus, it will be for other reasons which will need to be checked out by your vet.
And if a dog with an infection is urinating far more often, then this isn’t because they are sending chemically powerful messages as part of a natural cycle to all the male dogs in the locality..
It is because they simply cannot go for as long without weeing as they normally would.
And try as they might, some dogs might just have an accident or two because they have an infection.
How to stop a dog in heat from having an accident?
To finish this article, I want to talk about the best ways that you can stop a dog in heat from having accidents in the house.
And realistically this is to give them an opportunity to go to toilet more often than they normally would.
So in the case of my dogs, they normally go out for a walk first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon.
They don’t need to go to toilet in the intervening eight hours or so between the walks.
When they are in season, I let them out into the garden at lunch time as well.
What is important here is that I’m not saying that your dog that it is in season needs another walk during the day- they just need a 5 minute trip into your garden or a quick walk to your local patch of grass or green space.