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4 min read

Can Dogs Get Spayed While in Heat?


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You kept meaning to have your female dog spayed before she was old enough to go into heat, but life seemed to always have a way of throwing you a curveball. Now she is in heat and the last thing you want is for her to become pregnant. But the big question concerns whether you can still have her spayed even though she is in heat?

In humans, a tubal ligation (having your tubes tied) can be done during menstruation and can terminate a pregnancy by eliminating the chance of an already fertilized egg reaching the uterus. A dog’s reproductive cycle is different than a humans, though. Can dogs be sterilized while in heat?

Can Dogs Get Spayed While in Heat?


Most people are under the impression that once a dog is in heat, you have to wait until she is done the cycle before she can be spayed. It is, however, quite possible, but you should be aware that there are higher than normal risks associated with performing the procedure at this time.

Many vets will spay a dog while she is in heat, though many will recommend against it due to the risk of serious complications.

Is My Dog in Heat?

a leashed Golden Retriever walking on the street

If you’re considering spaying your dog, look for the following signs to determine if she might be in heat:

  • Bloody discharge

  • Her vulva will become enlarged

  • She may exhibit excessive licking

  • Her behavior may change and she may become more aggressive

  • Her appetite is likely to change

  • She may have a fever

Being in heat is normal in a female dog who has not been spayed. It is a sign that she is ready to become pregnant and may start as early as 6 months of age in some breeds and as late as 2 years of age in others. 

The amount of time a dog is in heat, or estrus, varies not only from one breed to another but from one dog to another. The average time for a dog to be in heat is approximately 18 days. However, the dog is only likely to enjoy the company of a male companion for about half of these days. 

The average unspayed dog will go into heat about two times each year, but again the number of times will vary from one breed to another.

How Can I Have My Dog Spayed While She Is in Heat?

black brown and white dog is leashed and being petted by a girl with long brown hair

While most vets prefer to perform the surgery while your dog is not in heat, they can do so even when she is. 

The procedure involves the complete removal of her ovaries (and commonly, the uterus) to ensure that she can no longer become pregnant. It will also put an end to her coming into heat along with its associated problems. Most vets recommend you have this done right before or just after her first heat cycle. 

In the event you opt to have the surgery done while she is in heat,  the job becomes far more complicated, as her uterus and ovaries are going to be swollen, making it much harder for the surgeon to locate the ovaries. There is likely to be more bleeding during surgery and there is a definite risk of her dying from blood loss.

Your dog will need 10 to 14 days of rest along with plenty of peace and quiet following the surgery. This is intended to reduce the risk of both the internal and external stitches being pulled out, causing further complications.

  • Be sure she does not lick her wounds, you may need to use an Elizabethan cone for this
  • If she is in pain you can use pain medications as prescribed by your vet
  • She should only go for walks long enough to take care of her business until she is fully recovered.

For more information on spaying your dog, visit our guides to Ovariectomy and Ovariohysterectomy in dogs.

How is Spaying in Dogs Similar to a Tubal Ligation in Humans?

There are few similarities between spaying a dog in heat and performing a tubal ligation in a woman during her menstrual cycle:

  • The most common similarity is that there is a serious risk of complications and both doctors and vets tend to recommend against doing so
  • Both surgeries will prevent future pregnancies and may terminate current ones
  • Tissues surrounding the surgery site are more apt to tear as they are swollen

How is Spaying in Dogs Different than Tubal Ligation in Humans?

There are far more differences in spaying dogs in heat than in performing a tubal ligation on women who are menstruating. Among these are:

  • Tubal ligations may be reversible
  • An ovariectomy is not reversible
  • A dog's blood does not coagulate well when she is in heat
  • Menstruation does not cause this problem in women
  • Spaying stops your dog going into heat
  • A tubal ligation does not stop a woman from menstruating

Case Study

You just realized that your pup is going into heat for the first time and you have a male dog in the house that has not been neutered. Panicked, you call the vet and schedule her to be spayed as soon as possible, explaining you have no way to keep the two apart. 

Despite his misgivings about performing this surgery while your pup is in heat, he agrees to do it the next day. After confining your poor dog in the bathroom for the night, you take her in for the procedure. The vet says she lost a fair amount of blood, but the surgery went well and she should recover just fine. After a couple of weeks of treating her like a baby, she is back to her old self and you no longer have to worry about her becoming pregnant.

Reproductive conditions in unspayed female dogs can be expensive to treat. To protect your fur-baby (and your budget), start shopping around for pet insurance plans today. While most pet insurance providers don't cover spay procedures or vet costs related to breeding, most plans cover newly diagnosed illnesses in unspayed females, like pyometra.

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