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Can You Spay a Dog in Heat? What You Need To Know - PawSafe

Can You Spay a Dog in Heat? What You Need To Know

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Can You Spay a Dog in Heat

If your dog is in heat and you are scared of an unplanned pregnancy, you may be asking if you can spay a dog in heat? When our female dogs are in heat, it can be a nerve wracking time, especially when we strive to be responsible dog owners with our dog’s best interest at heart.

When your dog is in heat , she needs a secluded, comfortable dog bed to rest in. Just as she will need it after she is spayed. But the pressing point is that being in heat and being spayed is not something your dog experiences at the same time.

To answer whether you can spay your dog in heat, we have consulted the work of our expert source, by Professor Gary England, Veterinary Surgeon and Dean at the University of Nottingham. So, let’s take a closer look at the issue.

Let’s take a closer look at what spaying your dog is and how your dog’s heat cycle impacts the procedure:

Can You fix A Female Dog In Heat: Looking At What Happens if you Spay A Dog In Heat

To understand what happens if you fix or spay a dog in heat, we need to start with what spaying is and why we need to do it.

What is Spaying & Why Do You Need To Spay Your Dog?

What is Spaying & Why Do You Need To Spay Your Dog?

Spaying is a common term for an ovariohysterectomy, which is when a vet surgically removes the ovaries and uterus of a female dog. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and usually takes about an hour. 

The dog will have a small incision on her abdomen. You will need to keep it clean and dry until it heals. They must also wear a cone to avoid licking or biting the wound.

Spaying has many benefits, including your dog’s health and well-being. These include:

What Happens When You Want To Fix Your Dog While She Is In Heat?

Most vets advise not to spay your dog in heat, and to wait until after her first heat at least. Even if your dog mated and may be pregnant, it’s probably still best to wait until after the heat for the hormones to settle and the area around the uterus and ovaries to return to normal. This limits the risks of complications. 

Spaying your dog in heat is more complicated and risky. That said, there is a method called the ‘flank spay,’ which possesses significantly less risk to your dog. 

Potential risks and Complications Of Spaying A Dog In Heat

Spaying a dog in heat presents more risk than spaying a dog not in heat. These include the following:

  1. Excessive internal bleeding during or after the surgery. For dogs that have an underlying blood clotting disorder like von Willebrand’s disease, this could mean that the surgery could be deadly.
  2. Infection of the wound or internal organs.
  3. Swelling or bruising of the abdomen.
  4. Increased pain or discomfort (more than from a normal spay surgery).
  5. Delayed wound healing from increased bleeding.
  6. Suture reaction or dehiscence (opening of the wound after it’s been closed).
  7. False pregnancy or phantom pregnancy (a condition where the dog shows signs of pregnancy without being pregnant) is more common in dogs spayed within two months of being in heat.
  8. The surgery can be more difficult and take longer, which can make it more expensive and also prolong the time your dog is under general anesthesia.
  9. A dog that is spayed and in heat can still give off the pheromones that attract male dogs and they may still mate. Mating with a female dog that has just had surgery could be absolutely disastrous for her and cause a medical emergency.

One complication of spaying a dog in heat that could happen is called ovarian remnant syndrome. Ovarian remnant syndrome (ORS) happens when a tiny bit of ovarian tissue stays behind in a dog during the surgery. This tissue still gives off hormones and your dog may continue to have a normal estrus cycle despite being spayed.

There is no definite evidence that suggests that ovarian remnant syndrome happens more when spaying pregnant dogs or dogs in heat. 

It’s important to note that spaying dogs in heat makes the surgery more prone to complications as the uterus and ovaries are swollen with an increased blood supply. The difficulty involved in spaying a dog in heat may make it more likely that some ovarian tissue stays behind in the surgery, meaning that your dog will need a second surgery to remove it.

Reasons To Spay A Dog in Heat

Despite the risks outlined above, in certain circumstances it may still be best to go ahead and spay your dog when she is in heat. The biggest reason to do this is if there is a high change your dog may get pregnant. If you have many male dogs milling about and can’t be 100% certain they can’t reach your dog, it may be best to go ahead and spay her rather than risk a pregnancy.

However, as we point out above, if you spay your dog while she is in heat, she still has to be kept away from male dogs as they may still want to mate. Mating post surgery could cause life threatening internal injury.

have your dog spayed during her heat cycle

So under certain circumstances, you can opt to have your dog spayed during her heat cycle. However, generally it’s better to wait until after.

Alternatives to Spaying a Dog in Heat

If you want to spay your dog, but she is already in heat, consider some alternativ-e-archives:

Wait for Their Heat to End

The simplest option is to wait until your dog’s heat cycle is over before spaying her. It usually takes about three weeks from the start of the cycle. 

However, you must keep your dog away from male dogs during this time to prevent unwanted pregnancies. You must also monitor your dog for signs of pyometra (infection in her uterus) which can occur after a heat cycle.

Administer Medication to Stop Heat

Another option is to give your dog medication to stop her heat cycle temporarily. That involves injecting a hormone called progestin or giving her pills containing synthetic progesterone. 

These treatments can stop the bleeding and swelling of your dog’s reproductive organs and make her less attractive to male dogs. 

However, these medications have side effects, such as weight gain, mammary gland enlargement, and an increased risk of pyometra (infection in her uterus). 

They also do not prevent ovulation, so your dog can still get pregnant if she mates.

Is the Laparoscopic Spay a Better Alternative for a Dog in Heat?

A laparoscopic spay, or laparoscopic-assisted or lap spay, is a less invasive technique used to spay female dogs. 

Unlike traditional open spaying, which involves making a larger incision in the abdomen, a laparoscopic spay uses small incisions and specialized instruments.

During a laparoscopic spay, the veterinarian makes one or a few small incisions in the abdomen, typically around the belly button area. 

A laparoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light source at the end, is inserted through one of the incisions. It helps the vet to visualize the internal organs. 

Additional small incisions accommodate the surgical instruments. The veterinarian uses the laparoscope and specialized instruments to remove the ovaries carefully. 

The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, ensuring that your dog remains asleep and pain-free throughout the surgery. 

The laparoscopic approach allows for magnified visualization, precise surgical movements, and decreased tissue trauma. Benefits of laparoscopic spaying compared to traditional open spaying include:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Reduced post-operative pain
  • Faster recovery
  • Less risk of complications such as infection and hernias

However, it’s important to note that not all veterinary clinics offer laparoscopic spaying. It requires specialized training and equipment.

Unfortunately, heat makes this procedure less practical, thanks to the swelling in the reproductive organs. Most vets won’t use this alternativ-e-archive method to spay a dog in heat.

Understanding the Risks: Spaying Your Dog During Heat

Spaying a dog is a common procedure, but doing so during the heat cycle involves additional complexities. This section provides an overview of the risks and considerations when spaying a dog in heat, supported by insights from various experts.

Key Considerations and Risks

FactorDescriptionExpert Insight
Surgical ComplexityThe procedure becomes more intricate due to enlarged blood vessels and increased blood flow to the uterus during heat.“Most spay surgeries are fairly routine, but a skilled surgeon is required for dogs in heat.” – School of Veterinary Medicine
Potential for BleedingEngorged blood vessels can lead to more bleeding during surgery.“Tissues are more fragile, increasing the risk of internal bleeding.” – Your Vet Online
Surgical DurationSurgery may take longer, increasing the time the animal is under anesthesia.“The reproductive organs are swollen and ooze blood, resulting in a prolonged surgery time.” – Your Vet Online
Veterinarian ExpertiseNot all veterinarians are comfortable performing this procedure during a dog’s heat cycle.“Not all veterinarians will be comfortable performing this procedure.” – Your Vet Online
Behavioral ChangesOwners might observe changes in their dog’s behavior during the heat cycle.“Behavioral changes occur, especially during the proestrus and estrus phases.” – Preventive Vet

Making an Informed Decision

The decision to spay your dog during heat should not be taken lightly. It’s a collaborative decision between you and your veterinarian, considering the potential risks and the available expertise. If there’s a high risk of unwanted pregnancy or other health concerns, your vet may recommend proceeding. However, it’s often advisable to wait until the heat cycle concludes to minimize complications.

Consult your veterinarian for guidance tailored to your dog’s specific health status and needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is spaying before the first heat bad?

Spaying a female dog before her first heat is not bad. Most vets recommend spaying before the first heat, although some opinions differ. There are several advantages to spaying a dog before her first heat cycle, including reducing the risk of mammary tumors in dogs.

What is the downside of spaying a dog?

While spaying female dogs is the best practice for responsible dog owners, there are a few potential downsides. One downside is that the lack of estrogen could cause more problems related to urinary incontinence later in life. If you are concerned about any medical issues related to spaying, speak to your veterinarian to make an informed decision.

Why is it better to spay before the first heat?

Spaying before the first heat significantly reduces the chances of some reproductive health issues. Female dogs spayed early have no risk of developing pyometra, a potentially life-threatening uterus infection and are less likely to develop certain cancers, like mammary gland cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine tumors.

Will spaying calm a female dog?

Spaying the dog reduces hormonal influences, which may lead to a more stable and predictable temperament. Many dog owners report that their spayed female dogs become calmer. However, it’s doubtful if there will be a really noticeable effect on your dog’s personality.

Can you spay a dog after heat?

You can always spay your dog after she has been in heat. If you wait a bit more than two months after the heat, you significantly reduce the chances of a false pregnancy. Although, keep in mind that dogs usually come into heat roughly every six months, so don’t wait too long after her heat to get her spayed. 

Also, remember to make sure she is not pregnant after she has been in heat (you can still spay her after she has conceived, but it does make things trickier).

Can you spay a dog while pregnant?

Spaying a pregnant dog involves removing the reproductive organs, including the uterus, which would terminate the pregnancy. The procedure carries additional risks and complexities compared to spaying a non-pregnant dog. However, spaying a dog while pregnant is often necessary to prevent the birth of unplanned puppies who don’t have homes.

How long do you have to wait to spay a dog after heat?

The ideal time to spay a dog is before her first heat cycle, usually from six months and up. However, if she has already gone into heat, then spay her 2 to 3 months after the heat. This allows the hormones to settle from the previous heat, while giving you time before the next one.

Should a female dog have a heat cycle before spaying?

Veterinarians disagree over waiting for a dog to have a heat cycle before spaying. However, spaying before the first heat cycle can reduce the risk of mammary cancer, pyometra (uterine infection), and reproductive diseases.

What is the recovery time for a dog spayed while in heat?

While a dog who is spayed when she is not in heat will usually be back to her old self within a day or two, a dog who is spayed during her heat may take longer to recover from her surgery, usually between 3 days and week. You will need to watch her carefully for signs of internal bleeding or complications.

What are the four stages of a dog’s reproductive cycle?

A female dog’s heat cycle has four stages: proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. During proestrus, there is swelling of the vulva and a bloody discharge. In estrus, the dog is ready to mate. Diestrus is a resting phase, and anestrus is the time between heat cycles. 

Do females still go into heat after being spayed?

Female dogs should not go into heat after being spayed. If they do, there is a problem. It is most likely ovarian remnant syndrome (a bit of ovary tissue stays behind and causes a heat cycle) or in extremely rare cases, it could mean a hormone secreting tumor on the pituitary gland. 

Why does spaying cost more if in heat?

If you spay a dog in heat, the procedure is probably going to cost you more. When a dog is in heat, her reproductive organs are more engorged with blood, making the surgical procedure more complex and time-consuming. The veterinarian may also need to use specialized techniques and equipment.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, spaying a dog in heat is possible, but it is not recommended. It is due to the increased risks and complications associated with the procedure during this time. 

Spaying your dog in heat can lead to excessive bleeding, infection, delayed wound healing, hormonal imbalances, and other potential complications. Waiting for your dog’s heat cycle to end before scheduling the spaying procedure is advisable. 

Alternatively, consider using medication to stop her heat cycle temporarily. Keep in mind that this approach has side effects and risks. 

Ultimately, consulting with a veterinarian is crucial to make an informed decision regarding the best course of action for your dog’s health and well-being.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.