Spayed female dog still having “heat cycles”?!

That could be a tabloid headline, though I guess it's pretty tame compared to "Elvis sighted in laundromat!" or "Politician actually admits lying!".  The point is that it's weird — dogs who have been spayed have no uterus and no ovaries, so how could they still be having estrus cycles and coming "in heat"?

Once upon a time, about 28 years ago, I spayed a Scottish Terrier.  She continued to have heat cycles, and I was mystified (not to mention mortified).  That is NOT supposed to happen.

Now, I have to tell you: when you're performing an ovario-hysterectomy on a dog, sometimes it's pretty hard to pull the ovaries up out of the abdominal cavity.  If you're not careful, you might cut things a little close and leave some ovary in there.  When you've cut things off, you need to inspect what you removed and be sure the whole ovary is there (plus a little extra tissue, just to make you feel good about getting  100%). 

If you leave some ovary in the dog, they will continue to cycle regularly, coming in heat every six months. They won't get pregnant, since you've removed the uterus, but they still come in heat, they are still at greater risk for breast cancer, and could even have "female trouble" developing pyometra in the stump of the uterus.

Sometimes, you cut things pretty close, but in the case of the above Scottish Terrier, I recalled vividly that there had been no problems at all.  It was not a "close call".  So, I called the reproductive specialists to ask what I needed to do.  Now you could run hormone assays to see if there is functional ovarian tissue left, but if the dog is coming in heat every six months, you can be pretty sure there is functional ovarian tissue.

Here's the problem: it could be a piece of ovarian tissue the size of a pin-head.  The specialist told me that I could even have implanted some ovarian cells on the body wall by rubbing the ovary against it on the way out.  "Jeez, how am I going to find that?!" He told me to wait until she was sure enough in heat (flaming) and do an exploratory.  Look for a little tiny red thing that looks like ovary. It could be anywhere — the proverbial needle in a  haystack.

So, what happened, you may ask?  The owners asked, "Can she get pregnant?" and when they found she could not, they refused to allow the exploratory (even at my expense).  They decided to just live with it, and the dog lived a long and happy life, despite cycling every six months.  So, I'll never know if I could have found what I needed to.

Tinkerbell This is Tinkerbell.  She was spayed at six months old, and at seven years old has had heat cycles every six months.  And really, lately she hasn't been feeling all that great.  Several years ago, I told her owner what it would take to look for the little tiny piece of ovary and she decided not to do it.  Lately, though it had started to bother both Tinkerbell and her mom more and more, so she said, "We'll do it the next time she comes in heat."

I must say that I had some misgivings.  I had told Mom that I wasn't sure I'd be able to find what we were looking for, even with the dog in heat.  It could be so tiny.  And it could be anywhere in there… I thought.

Uterine remnant What I had not counted upon was that whoever did her surgery did an incredibly lousy job… unbelievable, really.  This picture shows a piece of ovary on the right, removed from the usual ovary location.  On the left, also attached to a usual ovary location, we have an entire ovary, which you can't see because it's behind that big thing that looks like a Vienna Sausage.  The "thing" is a section of uterus that is full of pus, sort of a pocket-sized pyometra. It was bigger than her kidney or her colon, and when I first looked at it, I couldn't imagine what it was.  It just didn't occur to me that a surgeon could have left that much uterus in place. 

So, while it was hard to believe, it wasn't all that hard to find.  I sent the tissue off to the pathologist, thinking it must be a tumor or something, but it wasn't.  "Ovary and uterus, filled with pus".  The good news is that Tinkerbell feels better than she has in a long time.

94 thoughts on “Spayed female dog still having “heat cycles”?!

  1. Doc says:

    Hello, Janet,

    She didn’t regenerate her ovaries. The previous surgeon must have been impaired when the surgery was done. The tissue just hadn’t been removed in the first place. The dog had been having regular heat cycles ever since the surgery.

  2. Melinda says:

    My three year old lab was spayed at one year old after yet prior to her second heat cycle. No further problems encountered until about six weeks ago we noticed her vulva swelling but no sign of discharge. The swelling subsided somewhat but now has swollen up again and she does have bloody discharge. Her appetite is normal but she has become sensitive to greasy foods and will vomit it up. Other than that she is pretty much her rambunctious self. Thoughts?

  3. Doc says:

    Hello, Melinda,
    You could have a bad urinary tract infection, an infection in the remaining stump of the uterus, a growth in the vagina (less likely in such a young dog).

    She needs a vaginal examination by your veterinarian.

  4. Monyce says:

    Is it possible if uterus either some or full is left in and the dog has hidden ovary or maybe like tinkerbell a whole one left in to get pregnant or would it be pyometra could it be mistaken as pregnancy

  5. Doc says:

    Hello, Monyce,

    Your question is a little difficult to read, due to the run-on sentence and lack of punctuation.

    It seems that you are asking two questions.

    The first seems to be: If the dog has a whole or partial ovary, and a partial uterus, could it get pregnant?

    I think the answer is yes. There is a condition called “ectopic pregnancy” where the egg gets fertilized, but somehow doesn’t make it to the uterus, and just attaches to some other surface in the abdomen and grows to a pregnancy without even being in the uterus. So I think it could certainly happen under the above circumstances.

    The second question seems to be: Could a pyometra occur in these circumstances, and could it be mistaken for a pregnancy? Again, I wold say the answer is yes. An ultrasound exam would show fluid in the case of a pyometra, and a fetus in the case of a pregnancy. Ultrasound would be my diagnostic tool of choice.

    There is a really funny book on punctuation that I highly recommend:

  6. Madeline Aponte says:

    I have a yorkie and at 51/2 months she was spaded, now she is a year old and now lately she’s been humping like a male dog on my granddaughters leg does this mean she might have something was left inside too.

  7. Doc says:

    Hello, Madeline,
    That type of behavior can be related to the dog trying to assert dominance, and should not be tolerated. It is not due to hormones.

    • Naomi H. Willis says:

      Lola, is our 5 year old Cavalier. In the puppy mill she was only having 1 puppy at a time so the owner decided to sell her. We bought her not knowing she was deaf. She is a delight and to think someone could have bought this dog and abused her.
      She was spayed by an older vet so I doubt if ovaries were removed. She seems to have heat cycles.

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Naomi,
        I’m pretty much an “older vet” myself now after 42 years of practice. Leaving the entire ovary would just be incompetence. Leaving a pinpont size piece of ovarian tissue could happen to anybody (though it shouldn’t). You can find out if this is the case. A vaginal cytology exam by your veterinarian can be done when she is exhibiting signs of heat. They just take a sterile cotton swab and get a smear from the vaginal lining to look at under the microscope. You can also do hormone levels of progesterone and anti-mullerian hormone if the cytology doesn’t give you the answer. If there are definite signs of ovarian remnants, an exploratory surgery to locate and remove them can be done while she is in her “heat” . Sometimes the remnant is very tiny, ,and very difficult to find. Sometimes they are obvious. It does sound like she won’t be getting pregnant, but I know the estrous cycles are a bit of a pain for the owner.

      • Deb says:

        My lab/collie x was spayed at 1 and a half years old in 2022. Since then she has had 2 seasons including swollen vulva and spotting with blood. The vet says a small part of an ovary cyst could have been left behind and to bring her in when she stops bleeding so he can operate on her again. I’m really worried about this, is this a mistake by the surgeon? And should I pay again IF I decide to go ahead?

        • Doc says:

          Hello, Deb,
          I am told by the experts that a few ovarian cells, even brushed against the abdominal wall on the way out, can implant and function. These ovarian remnants are most likely to be visible when the dog is strongly in her heat cycle. While there is less bleeding and surgery is easier when the dog is not in heat, it will be more difficult to find the remnant of ovarian tissue. I don’t have the kind of full data to adequately answer your other questions.

  8. Sandra Walden says:

    My female boxer has been spayed when she was 8months old. She is 5 years old andis chewing her way out of her pen. Found her with a male dog doing their thing.

  9. Doc says:

    Hello, Sandra,

    I think it would be wise to let your veterinarian check a vaginal cytology for signs of heat, and possibly check hormone levels.

    It is possible to leave an extremely tiny piece of ovary inside the dog (smaller than a pinhead, even) and see the dog having heat cycles.

  10. Jenny says:

    My 9 year old bitch is due to have a laparoscopic spay and a small pea sized mammary tumour removed. Unfortunately,she is due in season over the next few weeks. I am obviously concerned but, particularly because of the risks of removing swollen/ripe ovaries. Is she at higher risk of having a retained part of ovaries because she is so close to her season?

  11. Doc says:

    Hello, Jenny,
    You should discuss this matter with your surgeon.

    If she is in season, the ovaries will be enlarged (easier to find), but so will all the blood vessels in the area. It generally takes more time to do additional ligations (tying off) on the blood vessels.

    With laparoscopic surgery, you won’t have to deal with the larger abdominal incision that is usually performed, so that’ great.

    I don’t think there is greater risk of leaving some ovary, but the surgery will be a little more complicated, just as it would be with conventional surgical techniques.

    Again, you should discuss your concerns with your surgeon. I have no experience or expertise in laparoscopic procedures.

  12. Jaime says:

    We have a 1 year old female who has. Even spayed. We just brought in a 3 year old male who has not been fixed. He will not stop lucky her female parts. Quite obsessed actually. He has also tried to mount her. She has always been an overly attentive dog to herself with licking and cleaning. Is there a possibility more is going on with her. I have never noticed heat cycles. But she only turned 1 in October. So we may have missed 1 heat cycle and not known it.

  13. Doc says:

    Hello, Jaime,
    Sometimes this occurs if there is a urinary tract infection.

    I would recommend that you let your veterinarian check a vaginal exam and a urinalysis.

  14. mrs.kristi franks says:

    can that be swollen and hard? Penny was spayed 1yr ago cum march and is having heat cycle now. she is swollen and its kinda hard. cud that be wat ur talking about sum of reproduction left in after her spay

  15. Doc says:

    Hello, Mrs. Kristi,
    The vulva (external female parts) usually do become swollen and enlarged during a heat cycle. Because of the swelling, the tissue would probably feel firmer than what you would be used to.

    If she is also having a bloody vaginal discharge, it is possible she is having a cycle. You should have her checked by your veterinarian.

  16. Kim says:

    My 9 year old was spayed at 1. I noticed yesterday, my nuetered male, 5 years old, was wining and sniffing her as well as following her around all day. She acts fine. Just irritated with him. No discharge from her at all. No swelling either. Any thoughts on this?

  17. Doc says:

    Hello, Kim,

    It is unlikely that there is remnant of the ovary. You would have seen signs long before this.

    Sometimes a urinary tract infection will produce enough odor to interest a male. Usually you would see some signs of unhappy urination – frequent squatting, etc.

    If it continues, I’d ask your veterinarian to check her out.

    Rarely you get some sort of tumor that produces hormones.

  18. Donna Shanahan says:

    I adopted an almost 2 yr old chihuahua who had recently been in heat. (She also had an accidental litter at about 1 yr old). I had her spayed soon after getting her and here we are, 6 months since she had her last heat and about 4-1/2 months since being spayed and she’s humping a stuffed toy frequently and being aggressive. Do you think she is in some kind of heat?

  19. Doc says:

    Hello, Donna,

    This sounds more like a behavioral thing than a hormonal thing. Even spayed female dogs may mount one another as a dominance behavior.

    I would recommend doing some obedience training to give her something constructive to occupy her mind.

  20. tamyra spores says:

    My dog was spayed a little over 1 year ago she is having heat cycles with full 2 week blood discharge the vets are giving me the run around as what to do not a utility checked for that if something was left behind is it a health risk to her and would she have that much discharge of blood

  21. Doc says:

    Hello, Tamyra,

    If even a tiny, pin-head sized piece of ovary has been left behind, the dog can have regular heat cycles. I have been told by a specialist (when this happened to one of my patients) that it is possible to brush the ovary against the body wall during the surgery and accidentally implant a few cells.

    He told me to wait until the dog is in “flaming” heat and do an exploratory to look for the tissue.

    When the owners found that without her uterus she could not become pregnant, they declined to allow me to do the exploratory (even at my own expense).

    In the cases that I have been able to explore, another doctor had left substantial amounts of ovary behind and it was easy to find.

    It is also possible to have an infection in the stump of remaining uterine tissue, which is called a “stump pyometra”.

    A vaginal cytology examination should be able to differentiate between infection and an estrus cycle.

    I have also seen dogs who have bleeding disorders, and it is unrelated to the cycle. Also bleeding tumors in the vagina are possible.

    A good vaginal exam and vaginal cytology examination should help determine which direction to go.

  22. Amanda Keith says:

    I rescued my maltipoo 3 years ago and the rescue owner said she was not spayed. So I took her the get spayed and they opened her up and said she didn’t have a uterus and she must have been fixed. Not sure if they looked for ovaries but sewed her up and said she either was not born with one or the rescue home was not informed by previous owner. About 8 months into getting her she would go through these spells of going to a corner and licking herself excessively and whining, her vulva and teets also swell. I have taken her to the vet several times who just treat her for UTI even though her urine is not terribly infected. She continues to have this behavior about every 3-4 months. She also pokes her but in the air when I pet her. What are your thoughts?

  23. Doc says:

    Hello, Amanda,
    The swelling of her vulva and teats are certainly suggestive of ovarian remnant syndrome.
    That is a fancy way of saying that a tiny piece of ovarian tissue is still present.

    I have been told by a specialist that you can have a piece of tissue as small as a pinhead that can make enough hormones to produce these outward signs.

    If I had to deal with this, I would want to see her when she next has an episode. Obtain an uncontaminated urine specimen by putting a needle into the bladder, and culture it. If no growth, that rules out a bladder infection.

    To find an ovarian remnant, you need to do your exploratory surgery when she is as much “in heat” as possible, as that would be the time that the tissue would be most noticeable.

    The problem is that it still may not be very noticeable.

    These are not fun cases.

  24. Bill Jones says:

    Thank you for posting this. Our 5 yr. old rescue Boxer has been having cycles every 6 months with some bleeding and obvious swelling. She’s just started dropping her rear into the face or our little neutered male Maltese. We were told she had been neutered and our vet saw clear evidence of the normal scar. After reading your post it seems obvious what’s happened. We’ll be off to the vet tomorrow hoping to conclude this with a successful operation.

  25. Deana says:

    Hi, Our 9 year old dachshund named Lucy was spayed when she was a year old. We have a 4 month old male husky now named Tiberius. Lucy seems to be emitting a strange smell. My husband thinks she’s in heat though we haven’t really seen any evidence of it. Then again, she’s the only female dog we’ve ever had. She doesn’t seem to be acting any different to me. Any ideas?

  26. Doc says:

    Hello, Deana,

    I think it is unlikely that your dog is coming into heat if she went 8 years without doing so.

    If there is an odor, we usually check mouth, skin, ears, and anal sacs.

    A trip to your veterinarian may be needed.

  27. says:

    hi there, my female dog was spayed 6 months ago – shes one years old. Today a dog got into our garden and mated with her (and even got stuck). I’m now worried – She seems fine but is this normal? She has been bleeding a tiny bit over the last 2 weeks

  28. Doc says:

    Hello, Sharron,

    I would recommend that you see your veterinarian for a vaginal cytology examination to see if there is any indication that she is actually having a heat cycle.

    Ordinarily a spayed female would not allow mating (though rape is possible). But the bleeding in the previous two weeks makes me worry that a tiny bit of ovarian tissue may have been left behind.

    She wouldn’t be able to get pregnant, but she would continue to cycle.

    Your veterinarian can do a vaginal cytology exam quickly in the office and get an idea about this.

  29. Micheal says:

    Hi, my two year old lab mix was spayed when I adopted her at 3 months by the shelter I got her from. I have noticed that she is now bleeding and showing some signs of being in heat. I really don’t want to put the thru surgery, however I don’t want this to go on either. What should I do?

  30. Doc says:

    Hello, Michael,

    The first thing I would do would be to have your veterinarian examine her. He/she can perform a vaginal cytology examination to see if the dog is really having a heat cycle. There might be something else going on that has nothing to do with a heat cycle.

  31. Susan Davis says:

    You don’t have to publish this. I just wanted to say thank you for the time you took to answer some of these questions. I also wanted to tell you, I laughed so hard at the link you left someone that had typed a whole paragraph without punctuations. The sentence just went on and on and on!! That made me laugh…I think you are wonderful!!!!

  32. Cynthia says:

    Ummmm, yeah I am freaking out because my chocolate lab that I had fixed a year ago is suddenly in heat and I have one intact little male dog in my house going crazy, when she was spayed they did say they could not get all of her ovary, too close to spine, they never mentioned she could still go in heat, so I am really confused, guess I will call tomorrow, and find out if they even removed her uterus, or I will have an unplanned pregnancy
    So upset right now!

  33. Doc says:

    Hello, Cynthia,

    The best thing about this bad situation is that there should be a record of which side has a portion of ovary left behind, so you know where to look. Also, it’s going to be a big enough chunk to find, rather than some pin-head sized remnant that will be darn near impossible to locate.

    It will still be best to do surgery to locate it while the dog is in strong heat, as the tissue will be most visible then.

    Unless you can live with her continuing to cycle, somebody is going to have to go in and find that thing.

  34. Edie says:

    My greyhound bitch age 5yrs was spayed in March and she has now started rubbing up against me all the time.
    Is this natural?

  35. Doc says:

    Hello, Edie,

    This is not a common occurrence. I would look for other stressful things in her life that might be causing her to look for comfort with more physical contact.

  36. Lesley gisbourne says:

    Hi I have a 10 year old sheppard had her spade 6 months agof and as blood coming from her vigina she had pymetra and had an emergency operation if part of ovary was left in will it harm her I don’t want her to go through an operation again it cost us nearly 1000 pounds should we pay again or is it the vets fault

  37. Doc says:

    Hello, Lesley,

    The first step would to have a vainal examination performed. Examination and cytology examination should differentiate between a dog who is having heat cycles, and a dog who is having a discharge for some other reason (like infection in the remaining stump of the uterus).

    Also at her age, she could even have grown a polyp or tumor in her vagina that is responsible for the bleeding.

    If the vaginal cytology suggests that she is actually having heat cycles, then hormone levels can be measured to confirm that she still has ovarian activity.

    If there is an ovarian remnant, then your veterinarian needs to know that.

    It could be something else.

    First step is examination and cytology of the vagina.

  38. Stephanie Donnelly says:

    My female was spayed after 2 cycles… every 4-6 months she gets a weird odor. No pink discharge. We now have a 2.5 yr old male dog still in tact and out of nowhere he is persistently irritating her and trying to jump on her, whining and panting all the time! Question is could she be going into heat or giving off a scent but not discharging?
    Is that possible?

  39. Doc says:

    Hello, Stephanie,

    That would be unusual. Your veterinarian can check hormone levels when she does this to verify whether there is ovarian activity.

  40. Becky Coulter says:

    My 7-month old chihuahua was spayed 2 days ago. She tries to poop, but it hurts her too much, so she hasn’t pooped since her surgery. She must have waste in her bowels and I’m worried it could hurt her. Is there anything I can do do help soften her poop so she doesn’t have to strain or push to get it out?

  41. Doc says:

    Hello, Becky,
    I hope you have been able to contact your veterinarian by now. It is very safe to mix 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of dog (and I’ll bet you won’t need that much, with a Chihuahua) of plain metamucil (psyllium) with each feeding.

  42. Valerie Webb says:

    I have an almost two year old Bully Pit, She was spayed at one years old but two months ago had a stinky watery discharge.she also does the nesting corner thing by going onto a blanket and digging like crazy before she lays down. I also have a Five year old male bit bull that was neutered at six months that we just found out he has a mycroptopical testiy that was left inside of him, with blood work we found out this to be true!,, I had the exployitory surgery done on him but the vet went in and said it had to be so small and didn’t want do do to much digging around inside him as it could do a lot of damage. So this also happens in male dogs. When I went to have my female spayed she was six weeks pregnant, I couldn’t believe it, but the doctor sent me pictures..How crazy is this? Since the only male dog she was ever around was MY male dog, which I caught many a times doing the wild thing, this is how I found out about my male! So now I have a male dog who was neutered that can get a female pregnant and a female that maybe going into heat cycles! What the HECK! We as pet owners pay a lot for our animals to be fixed but why aren’t Vets held liable for their attentions? Ahhh I Have spent way over 1,000 dollars for them to be fixed, exploretory surgery that ended up not working because the testy was to small to find and now maybe my female. More money! I love my fur babies and am very responsible getting them their shots, heart worm pills and medication when they aren’t feeling well…but all this on their bodies worries can I make the vets who botched this up not on one dog but I now think two to make this right?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Valerie, I’m sorry to be so late replying, but we had a revamp of our website and the comments were hidden until today.

      First: a male whose testicles are located in the abdomen, or in the muscle wall of the belly, and not in the scrotal sac, produces plenty of hormones, so that he can certainly go through the physical act of mating. However, his sperm will not be viable, and he cannot father puppies. It would be a miracle if your dog was the father of these puppies.

      A cryptorchid (hidden testicle) can be really hard to find, and a very difficult surgery. It doesn’t usually require a specialist. If there is only a piece of testicle left, that can be super difficult. It’s the kind of thing that you need to do right the first time.

      I would be concerned that your female might have an infection in the stump of the uterus. This is uncommon, but it can happen even in dogs where the surgery was performed correctly. I would want that ruled out. To see if there is really a piece of ovary left, one does a blood test after her heat cycle to check progesterone levels and Anti-Mullerian Hormone levels. If they are elevated, that shows that a piece of ovary is present. Exploratory surgery to find a tiny piece of ovary can be very difficult. The piece could be as small as a pinhead.

      If you feel that your doctor has provided substandard care, you would need to seek a second opinion, preferably with a surgical specialist (which won’t be cheap). You have to have actual documentation of poor technique in order to seek any compensation.

  43. Gabby E. says:

    Hello there!
    I found your article really informative. My husband and I adopted (2 yr old at the time of adoption) female Jackchi back in 4/2018 – our 2nd dog. Our local humane society spayed her. I noticed that she was in heat when the spay was done (her breast were swollen as was her vulva). Unfortunately, we ended up having to have our vet office repair the incision as staple got stuck and became infected. Fastforward to now, we have had aggression issues and she has started randomly humping her bed or our pillows. It seems to occur when my other dog (female as well) is not in the same room. Could this be a situation of her being in heat as described in your article?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Gabby,
      This sounds more like a behavioral issue. You could sort this out by getting a combination of progesterone and anti-mullerian hormone testing to prove whether or not she still has an ovarian remnant. However, it sure sounds behavioral to me. I’m no expert on that, but there are people who are. I know that the veterinary school in Knoxville, Tennessee ahs a behavior service that will work with you remotely ( in cooperation with your regular veterinarian, should medications be needed).

  44. Pat Robinson says:

    I have a question that has been driving me and my Daughter crazy. I adopted my 12.5 year old Norfolk Terrier/Griffon Vendeen when she was a year and a half old. She was spayed by the doctor at the SPCA but I think her spay was somehow incomplete. Whenever she is in the presence of my Daughter’s two male Chihuahuas she will have a bloody discharge. She doesn’t do this at any other time, not at home as evidenced by laundering her blankets. I am stymied regarding what is going on and why she does this only around the chihuahuas. I just took her to the Vet for Gastroenteritis and asked him but he offered nothing. The focus was on the stomach issues and getting her recovery as soon as possible.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Pat,
      I don’t know why the presence of the males would stimulate a discharge. I would be concerned that she has a remnant of the uterus that is chronically infected. Sometimes you can see this on ultrasound. At the least, I would want to have a microscopic examination of the discharge to see if it has preponderance of infection-fighting cells, which would suggest a chronic infection in the stump of the uterus.

  45. Yolanda says:

    Our golden got spayed 10 days ago
    2 days ago she started bleeding like she’s in heat. Is this nomal? Or should we be concern?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Yolanda,

      Sorry I got behind on answering these comments. That is not normal, and I hope you have already contacted your veterinarian.

  46. Monica M says:

    I have a Chihuaha that I adopted at 3 years of age. She was already spayed when I got her. I have had her about 16 months and I have noticed her exhibiting heat cycles twice since I adopted her. During the most recent cycle I took her in and they drew blood for testing. It was learned she is coming into heat. The clinic wants to do exploratory surgery next week. My Chihuaha will no longer be in heat at that time. Should I insist that we wait until she is back in heat in 6-7 months for the surgery? Also considering not going through the surgery at all after reading your article. She does not bleed. She has swollen breasts and vulva during the heat cycle time and also licks her vulva frequently during that time. Aside from that there are no noticeable problems.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Monica,
      I understand your reluctance to go ahead with surgery, but I would recommend it. There may be significant remnants of the uterus present which could become infected at a later date.

      That said, if there is only a tiny amount of ovarian tissue present, it will probably be easier to find when she is having a heat cycle.

  47. Amanda Pickett says:

    I have a 10-year old Westie, who following her castration at 6 months old has had regular irritation with her ‘lady bits’. I did go back to the vet who said they could see nothing wrong and that it couldn’t have been anything to do with being spayed as she was having ‘difficulties’ every month. Unfortunately ‘we’ put up with it, she continued over the years to have the irritation, but seemed wll in herself.

    Moving onto to just recently, I took her to the vet as she was limping and aggressively licking her vulva. Vet has diagnosed with arthritis in the left leg and suspect the right knee is clicking out of place which is why she’s been limping/hopping. She checked her vagina and said that she hadn’t developed properly and the folds of skin were inside her and looked sore and inflammed, she shaved the fur away and washed her with some antibiotic wash and gave me some cream and told me to continue. However, I bought her home and she was 10 times worse and in great discomfort, broke my heart to see her. She kept licking and plopping herself down, legs splayed out and going round in a circle like they do when they have an itchy bum. I didn’t carry on with the wash and cream and on the third day she seemed a bit better, but now I’ve noticed it’s started again. I’m desperate to help, but feel wary of going to the vets, I dont want her in pain or discomfort, I also need to get her legs x-rayed but am so anxious about what the outcome will be. I’m desperate for some advice. I’m on limited income and worry about the cost of everything and not having the proper advice she needs. I know it shouldn’t come down to money, I love her sooo much and cant bear to think about not having her, but would she be better off as I don’t feel like I’ve been a very good ‘Mum’ to her!

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Amanda,
      There are definitely some female dogs who have some deep skin folds around the vulva. These can become infected with yeast and get very irritated. I’m not sure what sort of cream you were given. Even a product that has effective ingredients can be irritating to a particular individual, and you might need a different product, even though treating the same condition that was diagnosed. We often use Mal-a-Ket wipes (or an equivalent).

      Sometimes you need a product that has both an anti-fungal and a cortisone for the irritation. You really need to your doctor know about the dog’s reaction to the medicine that was prescribed. If they don’t hear from you, they assume that everything is working great (which it obviously is not, but they don’t know, because you haven’t told them yet).

      To get a good look at the knee, your dog may require a mild sedative to get relaxed for a good X-ray picture.

  48. Ryan Emery says:

    I have a 10 ish year old pit mix. I adopted her in September of 2016. She was fixed somewhere between may and August 2016. Just now she jumped up on camping chair next to me, and a pile of blood came out of her vagina. There were a few spots that looked like clots. I have photos of i can share with you guys. Have you ever heard of this? Wasn’t like she peed or anything. It just came out of nowhere, she didn’t even expect it. Thanks for any insight you can share. I’ll be trying to get her in to get in the morning.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Ryan,
      The first things that come to mind are a bleeding tumor in the vagina, and an infection in the stump of the uterus. You could also have the blood coming from the urinary bladder if it pooled in the front part of the vaginal vault.

      You also need to look for anything that could be contributing to a bleeding disorder (like mouse poison).

      Your veterinarian will probably want a blood count and a vaginoscopic exam.

  49. Sarah says:

    Hi Doc, my 15-year-old dog is probably a poodle or bichon, about 20 lbs. I’ve only had her for 3 years, but given her appearance and the limited medical records we received upon her adoption, we suspect she was used for puppy mill breeding in her youth. She was spayed 10 years ago. She has an appointment to see her vet in a few days regarding the excess discharge she’s currently experiencing, and she had this issue 6 months ago as well. 6 months ago the urinalysis did not show a UTI. My question is, if her issue is more like the one you describe here, how risky is it for a 15-year-old to undergo a surgery like the one you describe? If she does not appear to be experiencing any discomfort, just excess discharge, is it worth the risk of this surgery? I know I’m getting ahead of myself, as we haven’t been to our vet appointment yet, but I was curious.

  50. Lynn says:

    You write beautifully, I love your blog! I am taking my dog to a vet, but non-urgent appointments are very delayed due to the pandemic so I am curious on your thoughts. I have a 3 year-old, 38 lb Goldendoodle who was spayed prior to her first heat at six months. We did not notice anything amiss until the last year when her younger, intact brother matured. Once every 4-5 months, he acts like she is in season — won’t let her out of his sight, licks her constantly, whines at her, attempts to mount her. She becomes dopey and allows him to lick her neck and obsess over her in a way she normally would never tolerate. However it does not progress to a full blown heat, we haven’t noticed swelling or discharge, and after about 2 weeks she is back to reprimanding him and forcing him to treat her with more respect. Does this sound like it might be a very small ovarian remnant? Thank you!

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Lynn,
      I had some bugs in my comments, so just now seeing this. It does sound like an ovarian remnant is possible. You can speak with your veterinarian about checking hormone levels with a blood test.

  51. Cynthia says:

    I adopted a 6 year old Golden Retriever from a rescue out of state one week ago. She was spayed on Jan. 5. We’d had her for 3 days and she started spotting from her vulva. The bleeding has become a heavier spotting (bright red) so I took her to a new vet this morning. They ran urine tests, which were clear. No temp. She eats and drinks well and all body functions are working. The doctor did an exam of her vaginal area and said she thought her hormones may still be leveling out. (The out-of-state vet said she looked to be about to go into heat when he spayed her and there was a small ovarian cyst). I’m still worried about her. Is this likely? I don’t want to ignore this and it become something worse.
    Thank you for answering! ????

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Cynthia,
      I think that it is reasonable to wait and see a bit on this. If this doesn’t resolve in the next week, or she feels worse, than she should certainly be re-evaluated. Another vaginal exam and a complete blood count would be next.

  52. Terry W Motley says:

    I had my 4 year old yorkie spayed 3 years ago. About 4 months later she came into heat again. The Vet said this is sometimes natural on the next cycle. Six months later she came into heat again. The original Vet had passed so I took her to another Vet who suggested an exploritory and “clean up” surgery. This was done a year ago. my yorkie is still going through the heat cycle. Is there anything further we can do to deter our male from mating with her? I really don’t want to put her through another surgery.

    • Doc says:

      Hell, Terry, It does sound like there may be a small remnant of ovary present. It is possible to perform hormone levels when the dog is exhibiting outward signs of heat to verify this.
      Unfortunately, there can be a piece of tissue the size of a pinhead producing the hormones. It can even be some cells that accidentally implanted on the body wall during the surgery, rather than piece of ovary left behind.
      An exploratory would need to be done while she is in obvious heat.
      I’m not a reproductive specialist, and you may need to see one.

  53. Mrs. Rogers says:

    Wow, this is incredibly helpful. Not the usual plagiarized internet info. Thank you so much Doc!

    I have a Livestock guardian dog who is about 3 years old. We got her from a breeder when she was 9 months old and was (supposedly) already spayed. We have always had trouble with her digging out of the pastures but our fixed male LGD stays put and does his work. I have seen her whore fur stained around her private parts before but never thought anything of it until I saw fresh, bright blood today.

    Can you please advise, when is the best time to bring her to the vet for the exploratory surgery?

    Also, we do have a male fixed house dog. This female LGD always comes to our house when she digs out of the pastures. Do you think fixing her (again) will stop this? Not sure if she’s running away because it’s her nature or because she’s not fixed. She is running away from another LGD male that is fixed. Any thoughts?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Mrs. Rogers,

      I am told that the best time to do the exploration is when the dog is strong in her heat cycle, so I would guess 5 to 7 days in past day 1 of bleeding. I suspect that any time once bleeding starts would be about the same, though.

      Females in heat do have a tendency to seek out a mate. If that were the cause of the running off behavior, then it may help.

      If she isn’t showing other signs of heat, then there may be another reason for the bleeding. There could be a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, a tumor in the genital tract, an infection in the stump of the uterus. Your veterinarian can perform a vaginal cytology exam during this period and verify that the vaginal lining changes are those expected with a heat cycle (or maybe find other things that explain the situation).

    • Mia says:

      Hi, l have a mutt for whom l’m very interested in having only a partial spay done – for bone development, etc., concerns. My neutered male is disabled with DM and we like him to hang out outside since his activity is so limited. Is he in danger of area roaming dogs coming into the yard and trying to fight him because my female is now in heat? No one has been able to presume for me.

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Mia,
        Inter-male aggression is worse with intact male dogs (versus neutered). However, it is possible that the neutered male will feel that he needs to defend his territory from strangers. Having a female in heat will certainly attract the strangers. I wouldn’t leave him unattended at this time.

  54. Lisa says:

    We just adopted a 6 year old puppy mill Boston Terrier dog from a rescue yesterday. She was spayed for days prior. ALL of her girl parts are enlarged. She also seems to have a very light discharge…not sure if it’s vaginal or from the incision since she’s so skittish. Is it normal for her to be so swollen since she was obviously used for breeding? Is it possible that she was in heat when she was spayed? Or is it likely that she still has bits of ovaries left behind? What do we need to do at this point? Also, is it worth having her examined while we’re still trying to get her to trust us? She’s just so terrified from all the trauma she’s endured.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Lisa,
      It is certainly possible that she was in heat when spayed, which would account for the swelling of the vulva, and some discharge. However, the discharge should be minimal. Discharge from the incision is never normal, so you do need to check that out. If bits of ovaries were left behind, it wouldn’t really look any different than if everything was removed while she was in heat. The difference would be six months from now when the swelling would recur. If things are not resolving quickly, then it would be best to get her checked out. Talk to your veterinarian about getting some sedative prior to the visit.

  55. Louise says:

    I am so glad that I found your article on this subject! We adopted a 5 1/2 year old female Westie from the same breeder that we have had 2 males from. She was one of their breeding mommas. We had her spayed and 2 inguinal hernia repairs 2 weeks ago. She started bleeding from her vaginal area 2 days ago. I immediately called our Vet and was told that it is impossible that she is in heat because they took everything. Our Vet recommends a urinalysis which we will be doing when we take her for follow up tomorrow, however, it seems more likely that some ovarian tissue was missed. We are so upset that she may have to go through another surgery to fix this issue. Hopefully, it IS a UTI that can be treated easier than missed ovarian tissue. At any rate, I will be showing your article to our Vet tomorrow to get their input. Thank you for this article!

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Louise,

      Sorry that I only just now saw this. I think it is very appropriate for your veterinarian to reexamine the dog and rule out urinary tract infections. We also (very rarely) see complications with the remaining stump of the uterus getting infected and draining (like I’ve seen it twice in 44 years).

      Your veterinarian can check the vaginal cytology to see if it is characteristic of a dog in heat, or if there is evidence of infection. It is also possible to do blood tests for hormone levels.

  56. Karina says:

    I have a spayed 7 year old female dog who recently started having incontinence. The vet gave her estrogen to help out a couple weeks ago (seems to have worked), and now suddenly her vulva is inflamed much like if she were in heat, and she is licking herself quite a bit. Can an estrogen shot cause heat symptoms on spayed dogs?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Karina,
      Yes, estrogen given to a spayed female can produce outer signs that look like a dog in heat. They can’t get pregnant, since they’re spayed, but it’s not a good thing. Too much estrogen can also suppress the bone marrow. I prefer using the tablet form of estrogen so that I have better control over what’s in the dog and for how long. We usually get diethylstilbestrol (DES) tablets compounded, and can usually get to a once per week dosage without significant side effects.

  57. Julie says:

    I have a 6 year old chihuahua that was spayed immediately after her second heat cycle. She’s been fine for 5 years. Today she’s in full heat. My male dog is showing much interest in sniffing and trying to mount her, and she’s actively enticing him to fo so. She’s swollen but not bleeding.
    My question is, I take estrogen myself, and recently switched from patches to using estrogen cream on my forearms. She does occasionally lick my skin before I can stop her. Could this have triggered the heat?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Julie,
      Your intuition is correct. Her licking that estrogen cream absolutely can cause the outward signs of being in heat. You need to try to wear long sleeves with the dog, or be more diligent in stopping her from licking. Overdosing with estrogen can suppress the bone marrow. This is not a small thing.

  58. Karen Thomas says:

    Hi my girl was spade in juse two mths ago she 3 she come into season no blood just swollen my male has tied with her and is an absolute pain he wont leave her alone. I concerned as vet said we do a blood test in October to check her hormones as it can take 3 mths to go out of the system . I concerned that they left something in there during operation poor dog has been opened up twice one for spade and week later reopend as wasnt heeling and developed a hernia. It just really insettling as i have a rampant male and my female is tromotised . Just wanted to check is it likely to be hormones or has the spade surgery gone wrong ?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Karen,
      Your post is a little difficult to follow. It sounds like your dog had surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus two months ago (spay). If she is showing outward signs of estrus (heat) now, it would be very suggestive that there is a remnant of ovary still inside. It would be particularly suggestive if this episode is about six months since her last heat cycle.
      The reproductive specialists that I have spoken to about this type of situation like to start with an Anti-Mullerian Hormone test. If it is positive, then a piece of ovary is left. If negative, then there may be no ovary left, or a piece too small to produce that hormone.

  59. Jerry says:

    I had both of my female Shepherd’s spayed. The female is the mother of the other female and seven other puppies. But she is still going through heat cycle and so is the younger one who was never pregnant I am concerned over it because the father of the younger and the son of the mother are very interested in her and she does spot. I really don’t think I should have to pay the vet again to correct the situation. What do you think? It cost a lot of money to get that done along with the fact that we had one other puppy female speed at the same time, the males have not been neutered and I really would prefer not to do that. The young one is only a year and a half old and dad is 2 1/2 years old. What do you think? I. It cost a lot as I iwas trying to do the right thing.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Jerry,
      Have you spoken to the doctor who did the surgeries and let him/her know what happened?
      If this were my practice, I would want to check an anti-mullerian hormone level to verify whether there is a remnant of ovary present.
      If so, then I personally would feel obligated to go back in and try to correct the situation.
      Have you given them a chance to do this?

  60. Jerry says:

    I posted my question and all I’m getting now from you is the same thing you said in the beginning, so really I’m a little bit confused

  61. Russell says:

    We have a Red Heeler rescue dog adopted 6 yrs ago here in Mexico . About 5 yrs ago we took her to a community spay neuter clinic. She woke up during the operation and 6 months later came into heat again. A local Veterinarian tried a second operation and told us that if the first operation failed it could be tough completin it properly. Last week male dogs started showing up at our small ranch with regularity, day and night. She has left traces of blood on the patio and in her indoor bed.
    I don’t want to subject her to a 3rd operation…but at 77 yo I dont want to be chasing off dogs intent on at least marking everything around the house.
    Any suggestions? Medications? Thanks in advance

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Russell, Finding tiny remnants of ovarian tissue can be very tough, even for a surgical specialist, and the operation is best done when the dog is showing strong signs of heat, when the tissue will be at its largest.

      There is a progesterone compound called megestrol acetate. It can be used to postpone a heat cycle. It is given daily for 8 days when the dog is beginning to show signs of heat. It postpones the cycle for from 2 to 12 months ( not predictable). The worst side effects seen in using it repeatedly in intact females have been the development of a uterine infection. If she doesn’t have a uterus, that shouldn’t happen. We don’t usually recommend using it repeatedly, but this is something you could discuss with your veterinarian.

  62. Mari says:

    Hello , found this page after looking for answers my moms shitzu about 10 was bought with the former owner saying she had been spayed , recently mom got a puppy he mixed but not fixed about a yr old ,the female has showed signs of been in heat and making herself available to him They have done the deed . Is there a possibility of puppies? Prior to this she hated him

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Mari,
      I would say that it is a possibility. Sometimes signs of heat are much more pronounced when there is a male present than when the female is by herself. Your veterinarian can measure hormone levels. Ultrasound can detect pregnancy at about 4 weeks post-breeding.

  63. Kat leeds says:

    Hi our now 11yrs old jrt x chi bitch was spayed years ago at around 10 months of age and since then has “seasons” pretty much monthly give or take that last about a week sometimes 2 and my male dogs know as soon as she starts and follow her like mad and she acts like a total tart with them,she eats like shes starved during these times including ridiculous things that arent food I’ve caught her trying to swallow a whole sock ,poo bags with poop in them that she tries to swallow whole,she hoovers the floors constantly,shes not thin if anything she is slightly over weight shes fed twice daily on raw and has treats and does not do this when not in season, she also cocks her leg to urinate all the time not just when in her odd season times and is always humping the other dogs but never people, shes quite highly strung at home in general,quite moody if not allowed her own way but in others ways shes very laid back and brilliant I use her as an introduction dog for rescues as shes so good with other dogs and when testing to see how rescue dogs react to dogs as she doesn’t react to anything they do towards her at all. I took her in as a pup as her then owners couldn’t cope with her blaming it all on her being deaf but with time and sign language that was soon sorted I think she was just frustrated tbh ,I have asked multiple vets opinions with no success at all even once having her bloods tested to see if her hormone levels were normal which they were ,I’ve wondered if she could have male anatomy hiding somewhere? Or if any uterus left behind after her spat, but her season times are not classic seasons at all in timing duration or behaviour which leaves me completely stumped,we have adapted to these times by watching her very carefully during them to prevent any eating accidents etc, any ideas very gratefully received please I’d love to know why

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Kat, The humping business can be a dominance-related behavior, having nothing to do with sexual urges. I have seen it between two spayed females. It is highly unlikely that she has male anatomy, and the uterus (if some were left behind) doesn’t produce any hormones.
      Most dogs with ovarian remnants cycle as regularly as a dog that hasn’t been spayed (i.e., about every 6 months). Having an estrus-like behavior every month is certainty not typical of this. It is possible to have estrogen-secreting tumors, though this is rare, and that should have shown up in your hormone tests, assuming that they were checking an estrogen level. Sometimes they are only checking the anti-mullerian hormone level.
      The hiking of the leg to urinate is a learned behavior, even in male dogs. It is not hormonally related.
      I would suggest finding an internal medicine specialist.

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