What Does A Dog In Heat Smell Like?

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What Does A Dog In Heat Smell Like?

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As part of the natural canine reproduction process, female dogs go on heat twice a year.

If you are a first-time dog owner with a female dog that hasn’t yet been unsprayed, the period will fascinate you to the core.

No matter how guarded your dog is, male dogs will hang around your home looking for a chance to mate with the ready female.

But how did they know she was on heat in the first place?

They smelled her scent, of course. Trust a dog to pick up scents from miles away (experts say they can smell the scent from 12 miles away).

That only means one thing; a female dog on heat releases a smell.

How is the smell like? We’ll find out shortly.

Heat Cycles in Dogs

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To best understand the whole topic of being on heat, you have to understand how the canine reproductive system works.

Typically, at the age of six months, a female dog reaches the child-bearing age. Some arrive there pretty early—as early as three and half months and others at about 10 months of age.

If you are not ready to have puppies around your house, don’t wait until 6 months to have your female dog spayed as is the popular belief. You might just be too late.

As soon as your doggie is ready, she will go into her first heat cycle. The first stage is called proestrus and it is when the dog’s body prepares for mating.

You will notice her licking her vulva repeatedly, being clingy, rubbing her genitals on surfaces, and releasing a discharge with some blood spots on it. Her vulva will start to swell at this time.

Next, she will go into actual heat, or estrus. Here, she will be open to mating.

During this stage, her hormones are over the roof. She will urinate frequently as a way of marking spots to tell the males that she is receptive to them. Her vaginal discharge will take on a pink color. She will also raise her tail as she moves around.

Diestrus  follows next and this is basically the stage after the heat cycle. Whether the dog mates or not, she will go into diestrus where the body either develops into pregnancy or goes back to normal.

The anestrus is the last phase. Here, the female dog has no signs of sexual behavior whatsoever.

Odor and Heat

When a female dog is on heat, particularly the estrus stage, her body is going through all sorts of hormonal changes.

Naturally, she will release odors because of the high surge of hormones. Canines are designed this way to ensure the continuity of the species. The odors come from the discharge leaving her body.

Essentially, during the proestrus stage, your fur baby will release a mucous-like discharge with bloody stains. You will come across the discharge in her bed or play areas. Some dogs don’t have bloody discharges, though.

As she enters estrus, the discharge will look like straw. It is this specific one that gives off a distinct smell that male dogs love so much.

Granted, the smell may not appear strong to you but male dogs can sniff it even when they are far away, thanks to their remarkable sense of smell. This is the way canines were designed to reproduce.

The odor is what alerts male dogs of fertile females that require their services.

How Is The Smell Like?

Different dog owners interpret the smell of a dog on heat differently. There are those that say their female dogs give off an unpleasant and strong odor that makes them undesirable.

Then there are those that insist the odor is very mild. Others barely catch a whiff despite the colossal amounts of discharge throughout the house.

Generally, many have described the smell to be fishy and pungent—much like a dog with anal gland issues.

Of course, you have to see other symptoms of heat to be sure that the smell is actually caused by estrus discharge and not an infection or sickness.

What to Do

Smelly estrus discharge can be a major turn-off for many dog owners. No one enjoys having their entire house reek of estrus odor for some days.

Plus, if you are not ready to breed, the presence of ten or more male dogs hanging around your compound will drive you up the wall.

Lucky for you, there are a few things you can do to mask the smell. These include the following:

I. Bathe The Dog’s Hindquarters

Your dog releases the discharge from her rear. The first defense mechanism against the smell would be to keep her hindquarters as clean as possible. What better way than to clean the area more frequently than normal?

Grab your shampoo and get cleaning at least twice a day. While you are at it, make sure that there are no male dogs around for when you take her to the bathroom. A lot can happen in the twinkling of an eye.

II. Use Diapers

A dog on heat leaves discharge everywhere—on the floor, sofa, dog bed, clothes, you name it.

Not only does this worsen the smell but the blood on the discharge can stain your surfaces.

A diaper will help trap any discharge from the dog’s body. That way, your house will stay clean and odor-free.

Plus, there’s a high likelihood that male dogs will not catch the scent of the discharge from the diaper.

III. Apply a Methanol Rub on Your Dog’s Tail

This is an ingenious trick of masking the smell and warding off male dogs from mating with your dog.

See, methanol rubs like the Vicks Vapor Rub bear a strong mint odor that is more powerful than the actual odor coming from your dog. It is also pleasant compared to the estrus scent.

Even if a male dog approaches your doggie, he will be repulsed by it before he mates with the queen.

IV. Utilize Bleach

One of the most potent deodorizers, bleach gets rid of odors in a flash. When your dog is on heat, you can mask the smell by spraying a solution of bleach and water where your dog has pooped or urinated. 

Parting Thoughts

A dog on heat can give off a distinct pungent and fishy smell, thanks to her estrus discharge.

If you are like most people, the smell will drive you insane. Your male dog will go crazy for it but you, on the other side, will find it unpleasant.

Fortunately, you have quite a number of options when it comes to masking it.

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Sable M. is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.