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What Does Heat Mean?

Heat, or estrus, refers to the period in a female dog’s reproductive cycle when she becomes receptive to mating with male dogs. The canine reproductive cycle consists of four distinct stages: proestrus, estrus, diestrus & anestrus.

  1. Proestrus: This stage lasts for approximately 9 days and is marked by the onset of swelling in the female dog’s vulva and the presence of bloody discharge. During this stage, the female dog is not yet receptive to mating.
  2. Estrus: Lasting around 9 days, this is the stage when the female dog is most receptive to mating. The discharge changes to a lighter colour and the dog will exhibit various behavioural changes, signalling her readiness to breed.
  3. Diestrus: This stage lasts for about 60 days. If the dog has become pregnant during estrus, she will remain pregnant throughout this stage. If not, she will experience a “false pregnancy” with similar hormonal changes.
  4. Anestrus: This is the resting stage, lasting about 4-5 months, during which the dog’s reproductive system remains inactive.

How Often Do Dogs Go on Heat?

The frequency of heat cycles in dogs varies based on several factors, including breed, age and overall health. Generally, dogs experience heat cycles every six months, with smaller breeds sometimes going into heat more frequently. Some large breeds, such as the Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound, may only have one heat cycle per year. It’s essential to monitor your dog’s individual cycle and consult with a veterinarian if you notice any irregularities.

How Long is a Dog on Heat?

The combined duration of the proestrus and estrus stages, when a female dog is considered to be “in heat,” typically ranges from 18 to 21 days. However, this timeframe can vary depending on the dog’s breed, age and individual characteristics. Some dogs may be in heat for as short as 8 days, while others may experience heat cycles lasting up to a month.

What Age Do Dogs Go on Heat?

Female dogs usually experience their first heat cycle between 6 and 12 months of age, although there is considerable variation depending on factors such as breed, size and overall health. Smaller breeds tend to reach sexual maturity earlier, sometimes as early as 4 months old, while larger breeds may not have their first heat cycle until they are 18 to 24 months old.

Signs a Female Dog is in Heat

There are several physical and behavioural signs that a female dog is in heat. It’s important to recognize these signs to ensure the proper management and care of your dog during this time.

Physical signs:

  1. Swollen vulva: This is often the first noticeable sign, with the vulva becoming visibly enlarged and softer to the touch.
  2. Bloody discharge: A bloody or straw-coloured discharge is typical during the proestrus stage and may become lighter during the estrus stage.

Behavioural signs:

  1. Increased urination: Female dogs in heat may mark their territory more frequently to attract male dogs.
  2. Attention-seeking behaviour: Female dogs in heat may become more affectionate, clingy, or demanding of attention from their owners and other dogs.
  3. Agitation or restlessness: Some dogs may exhibit signs of restlessness, pacing, or increased vocalization during their heat cycle.

How Long do Dog Periods Last?

It’s important to distinguish between the heat cycle in dogs and menstruation in humans. Dogs do not menstruate; instead, they experience a bloody discharge during the proestrus stage of their reproductive cycle. This bleeding phase typically lasts for 9 days, although it may be shorter or longer depending on the individual dog.

How to Manage a Dog in Heat

Taking care of a dog in heat requires patience and attentiveness. Here are some tips for managing a dog during this time:

Keeping the dog comfortable and clean:

a. Using dog diapers or bedding: Dog diapers or absorbent bedding can help keep your home clean and minimize the risk of staining.

b. Regular grooming and cleaning: Gently clean your dog’s hindquarters with a warm, damp cloth to remove discharge and prevent matting of the fur.

Managing unwanted attention from male dogs:

a. Leash-walking and supervision: Always keep your female dog on a leash and under close supervision when outside to prevent unwanted encounters with male dogs.

b. Avoiding dog parks and off-leash areas: During your dog’s heat cycle, it’s best to avoid places where she may come into contact with other dogs, especially males.

Preventing unwanted pregnancies:

a. Spaying: Spaying your dog before her first heat cycle can help prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the risk of certain health issues, such as mammary cancer.

b. Proper confinement during the heat cycle: Keep your dog in a secure area away from male dogs during her heat cycle to avoid accidental breeding.

Consultation with a veterinarian:

a. Health check-ups: Regular veterinary check-ups can help monitor your dog’s reproductive health and identify any potential issues.

b. Reproductive health advice: Discuss your dog’s heat cycle and reproductive health with your veterinarian, who can provide guidance on the best course of action for your dog.

Heat Information by Breed

Are you trying to find out details about a particular breed? See below for detailed heat information on all of the most popular breeds.

How Often Do Dogs Go on Heat? Signs, How Long & How to Manage