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Maltese Heat


If you have a female Maltese and she is not spayed, you will want to know all about the heat cycle.

Heat, also referred to as heat cycle, heat season, or 'entering into season', refers to a female dog's cycle of menstruation. 

During this time, a female's body is preparing for possible mating and pregnancy. 

Here we will cover:
  • What age a Maltese's heat starts
  • How long this lasts
  • Signs that a Maltese is entering heat
  • Care tips during this time
  • Answers to some reader questions
Roxie,  photo courtesy of Dale Lefevre 

Maltese Heat Cycle Stats and Facts

Age this begins: Female Maltese dogs enter their first heat at a rather young age. It occurs when the Maltese enters puberty. The average age is 6 months old, but it can generally occur any time between 4 and 8 months old. 

If an un-spayed female Maltese has not had her first heat by the age of 1 year old, she should receive an examination by the veterinarian to determine why her body has not started this natural process. 
How often each cycle lasts: The heat cycle actually has 4 parts to it; The estrus cycle, which is the one noticeable by owners and the one with active bleeding and discharge, lasts from 14 to 21 days. 
How often heat occurs: A Maltese will have a heat cycle 2 to 3 times per year. Anywhere from every 5 to 8 months is considered normal. However, many small toy breeds have frequent heats, every 5 to 6 months. 
Age the heat cycle stops: For many dogs, the heat cycle will not stop and will continue on through the senior years. However, discharge may be lighter, and there may be more time between each heat. Even senior dogs can become pregnant, and this is just one reason to consider having your female Maltese spayed. 

Signs That a Maltese is Entering the Heat Cycle

Small toy breeds like the Maltese may have much less discharge than their larger counterparts; however, there are other signs as well, and some begin before any noticeable discharge. All signs include:
  • Swollen vulva. When heat first begins, the vulva may only be slightly swollen. When she is in full heat, it may be two to three times its normal size.  
If your Maltese has not yet entered her first heat, it is recommended to note the normal size and shape of her vulva so that you can more easily spot the early signs of heat. 
  • Discharge. This will range from light pink to dark red. The color may change over the course of the cycle. In some cases, it will go from light to dark and then light again. 
The amount of discharge will typically be light. However, this will accumulate over time. If she is not wearing a doggie diaper, noticeable amounts will be seen on her bedding or other areas where she rests and sleeps.
  • Behavioral changes. It is not uncommon for females in heat to try and seek mates. Even normally well-behaved dogs may try to dash out of the house as hormones are in control during this time. 
  • Attention from male dogs. The drive in un-neutered males dogs is incredibly strong and with a keen sense of smell, male dogs will be able to smell a female Maltese in heat from 1 to 3 miles away. Also, each time a female urinates, her scent is released onto the grass, so male dogs may also be attracted to that.
Males dogs may try to approach a female in heat, and male dogs loose on the run may linger around your property.

Heat and Pregnancy

You may be wondering at what stage during the heat cycle a Maltese can become pregnant. To be safe, you should consider any time at all during the cycle to be one that a tie can be successful, and keep her segregated away from any un-fixed male dogs.

However, generally within the 2 to 3 week time frame in which there is active discharge, there will be a smaller window in which a pregnancy can occur. This typically ranges from 7 to 10 days. When a female is receptive to a male, she will 'flag' him by raising her tail. 

Irregular Heat Cycles

There are two events that are not uncommon:

Split heats: Every now and then, a dog can have a split heat in which there is a pause in the middle of the cycle. It will start, stop, and start again. 

Silent heats: With this, the heat cycle occurs; however, the typical signs of swollen vulva and discharge are not apparent. It is nearly impossible for an owner to be able to differentiate between a silent heat and a skipped heat, so if this happens to your Maltese, it should be reported to the veterinarian. 

Heat Cycle Care Tips

There are several steps to take in regard to both care and hygiene.

1) Contain and clean discharge. 

While the amount of discharge may not seem like a lot, over the course of days and weeks this will accumulate. It will stick to the fine hairs on the coat, and it will soak into fabric such as bedding, furniture, and other places where the Maltese sits and lies down. 

Because of this, you will want to:

1- Place a canine diaper on your Maltese to catch and whisk up the discharge. Most owners opt for disposable diapers which are very easy to use like Paw Inspired Ultra Protection Disposable Dog Diapers, X-Small for Females.
Some owners do opt for the more economical and environmentally friendly option of using reusable canine diapers, and these are often very cute with pretty colors or designs like the Pet Magasin Reusable Dog Diapers in Extra Small.
2- Keep her clean. Baths are typically given every 3 weeks and not more frequently to help prevent skin and coat issues such as drying. However, one or two extra baths 2 or 3 times per year during the heat cycle will be just fine as long as you are using high-quality shampoos and coat products. Therefore, during heat, you may bath every week or so.
You can also use quality canine body wipes or tushie wipes to wipe the area one to two time per day. Since the vulva is a sensitive area, be sure to use gentle wipes that have moisturizing elements like Petkin's Tushie Wipes
2) Respond to any discomfort.

While more studies should be done, it is assumed that many female dogs feel some level of discomfort during the heat cycle due to the abdominal muscles contracting. Either due to discomfort, hormonal changes, or both, some Maltese will want to retreat away and rest more often.

Do not discourage her from retreating. If your Maltese appears to be uncomfortable, a heating pad set on warm (not high), with the cord wrapped in cord concealer (to prevent any chewing), and placed near her tummy may help her feel more comfortable. 
3) Take care when bringing her outside.

While a Maltese is in heat, it is suggested to refrain from bringing her to any outdoor public places. This is because every un-fixed male dog within sight or scent will see her as a mating target. This can be overwhelming for you and dangerous for her. 

When you bring her outside for her potty training or bathroom needs, even if you have a fenced-in yard you will want to thoroughly check the area first for any stray dogs. Keep her on leash, and very close to you (no more than 6 feet away). 
If you have her wearing a harness and not a collar, an important care tip for this breed, if need be you can quickly reel her in to you should there be any surprises. 

Maltese Heat - Reader Q&A

Q: If I want to have my female Maltese spayed, should I have this done before or after her first heat?

A: There are two sides to this. Spaying before the first heat is generally recommended because if so, this will essentially eliminate a female's risk for developing mammary tumors. If done after the first heat, it still reduces risk, but by only about 50%.

That said, since a Maltese can enter heat as young as 4 or 5 months old, this means that the spaying procedure will need to be done on a rather young and small puppy.

When you take all factors into account most veterinarians still agree that spaying before the first heat is the best option. 
You will want to discuss this with your vet who will assess your particular dog's age, health status, and size, to determine what is best. 
Q: Is it possible to have a Maltese spayed if she is experiencing a heat cycle? 

A: Technically, it is possible if a dog is just entering heat. However, this should not be done when a dog is in full heat, as it can cause post-operative complications. For this reason, most vets recommend waiting until a dog comes out of season. 

Small white Maltese dog walking

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