A dog in heat is similar to a human being’s menstrual cycle, except for one main difference. Even though both species are bleeding during the process, but their fertility levels are different.
When a human being goes through a period, they have a lower chance of pregnancy during sexual intercourse. However, when a dog is in heat, it means that she is ready to reproduce, so the chances of getting pregnant are exceptionally high.
It could be a scary experience to witness your female dog in heat for the first time, but we have some insights on this process and what you can do.
When Do Dogs Go Into Heat
If you have a female dog, it’s common to ask the question, "when do dogs go in heat?" Dogs can go into heat as young as four months old, but on average, they usually start at six months.
Keep in mind that smaller breeds tend to go in their heat cycle earlier than larger breeds. Some giant breeds can start their first cycle in 18 to 24 months old.
If you are a breeder, try not to breed your dog during the first and second cycles. This is mainly because the eggs are not mature yet, and the dog has not completed its development.
You can talk to your vet, and he or she can pinpoint when the dog is mature enough for the breeding process.
How Long Does a Dog Can Stay in Heat
The answer to the question “how long does a female dog stay in heat” varies between 2 to 4 weeks. At the beginning of the cycle, a female dog may not like the attention of a male dog, but as she gets further in the process, she will become more receptive.
The length of the cycle can be shorter or longer, and you will know when the cycle is complete. That is when the vulva returns to its normal size and is no longer bleeding.
There’s a small window when the dog is highly fertile during the heat cycle. Usually, it begins 9 to 10 days after they go in heat and can last for about five days. Despite these ranges, they can still get pregnant until the end of the cycle.
Keep in mind that every dog breed is different when it comes to determining how long do dogs stay in heat.
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Does a Dog Period Happen for a Lifetime?
The number of heat cycles per year and how long the dogs stay in heat depends on the breed. It will take around 15 to18 months until the period become well regulated. It’s best to keep a record of this during the early days. Once it gets regulated, the cycle should occur every six months.
Smaller breeds can go into heat more often than larger ones. Small dogs can go as much as 3 to 4 times per year, but large dogs like Great Dane, Saint Bernards, or Irish wolfhound can go every 12 to 18 months.
A Female Dog in Heat Behavior
During the heat cycle, your dog will be easily distracted, nervous, and more alert. She might also urinate more than usual, and you will notice various behavior changes because of the shift in hormones.
For example, when female dogs are ready to breed, they can initiate sexual interaction with other dogs by elevating their hind legs, deflect the tail to one side, and tense up their legs.
At the beginning of the cycle, the vaginal discharge is bloody, and the vulva is swollen. As the cycle progresses, the vaginal discharge decreases and transition to a transparent color.
What to Do When Your Dog Is In Heat
If you witness a tinge of blood on the ground and a change in your dog's behavior, then there are some things that you can do to care for your dog while she’s in heat.
Keep The Dog Inside
If a female dog is not spayed and is experiencing the heat cycle, then she is most likely to attract a lot of male dogs and is ready to mate.
During the heat cycle, the female dog will emit pheromones that are strong enough for male dogs to detect at a distance. Male dogs can detect the pheromone several miles away and are willing to travel far distances to get to the female dog in heat.
If you don’t want your dog to get pregnant, then it’s best to keep them indoors with all the windows and doors closed. That means you will have to supervise them if they were to go outside for bathroom breaks. Make sure to keep a leash on them when they go out and to avoid the dog park.
It might be sad to see a dog who enjoys the great outdoors to have to stay inside, but there are things that you can do with your dog indoors. You can purchase dog toys and chews that will leave your companion entertained for hours. The new toys will distract them from feeling nervous or restless as well as keeping them entertained for hours.
During the heat cycle, your dog will experience a change in behavior and personality. For example, some dogs would be fatigued and lethargic, while others would be more irritated during the whole process.
It’s essential to select the proper activity intensity based on your dog's behavior and comfort level. For example, if your dog wants to sleep, then get them a comfortable bed. It’s essential to leave them alone when they are sleepy, fatigued, and lethargic. If they seem restless and agitated, you can purchase some toys for them to play with, brush them, talk to them, or even play with them.
When you give your dog love and attention, it keeps them calm and sane so they can get through the heat cycle.
During the heat cycle, some dogs will shed a lot of blood, while others will have barely any. It’s essential to keep your dog clean to avoid skin irritation, discomfort, itchiness, and potential infection.
Even though your dog will be licking themselves, but constant licking can lead to skin irritation. Plus, you want to avoid stains on your carpet and furniture, so a doggy diaper would be a good idea to protect your dog from skin discomfort and to save your furniture.
If your dog does not like the diaper, then it’s best to cover the furniture and to keep them away from the carpets.
Some dogs may experience a decrease in appetite, while others would want to eat anything. Whatever the case is, it's essential to feed your dog something nutritious during the heat cycle. You want dog foods with the proper balance of vitamin, nutrient, and fiber to ensure they get what they need to survive this process.
If your dog is anxious and agitated during their period, then you can purchase CBD dog treats to calm them down. These treats can relax them so they could get a good night's sleep, eat properly, and prevent aggression. Plus, it will reduce their innate need to breed during the cycle, therefore, keeping them sane while they are indoors.
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Prevent My Dog from Going in Heat
The best way to prevent your dog from going into heat is to bring them to the veterinarian to get spayed. It's essential to do this before they start their first cycle to prevent mammary gland tumors. This will prevent accidental pregnancy, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and other reproductive diseases.
Your veterinarian can spay the dog starting at two months of age, but it’s best to consult them first. Getting your dog spayed is a responsible move if you’re not ready to welcome a litter of puppies. Keep in mind that a lot of dogs are euthanized or left homeless in the streets due to irresponsible decisions.
People think that allowing a dog to have one litter of puppies is healthy for them, but that is a misconception. The stress of giving birth and raising puppies can cause premature aging and complication to your dog's health.
However, spaying your dog does have health concerns because it reduces their estrogen levels. Some female dogs would end up with incontinence from estrogen deficiency and will require hormone supplements for the rest of their life. Luckily, not all dogs will have this issue, so it’s best to understand the procedure and side effects before letting Fido go through with the surgery.
What are the Four Stages of a Dog in Heat
While owning a non-spayed female dog can have its challenges, it's vital to understand the four signs of your furry friend being in heat. This will let you be aware that she is in heat, but this will also help you take care of your dog better during this time. Usually, female dogs in heat tend to want more affectionate, have wild energy levels, and need to urinate more often. But learning about each of these stages will help you protect and comfort your dog.
Stage One: Proestrus
The first part of the cycle for a dog to be in heat would be proestrus. Usually lasting around three to fifteen days, the average for a dog would be about nine. This is going to be the stage where your dog begins to bleed. Some dogs may bleed heavily, while other dogs will bleed lightly. Doggy diapers prevent blood from getting everywhere as a maxi-pad does for a human.
However, it's vital to keep in mind that diapers only prevent blood from making a mess; this will not prevent your dog from getting pregnant. This is also when you may notice your dog being more affectionate than usual. But this can vary per dog as it's been known that some dogs are in a bad mood and distant in this stage. Even the most overprotective dogs will begin to have a shift in personality.
Stage Two: Estrus
Just like the beginning stage can last around nine days, on average, stage two, Estrus, will last around nine days. However, some dogs have been through stage two for three weeks. The estrus stage is where a dog is willing to mate. She may move her tail to welcome male dogs. Stage two can lead to physical changes as well. Sometimes, a lightened discharge is released, and even the dog's vulva will also swell or soften.
So, what about personality changes? This would be the stage when your dog may be interested in male dogs. It is also around the time when she may have the urge to run away and seek a suitable male. During the time in this stage, keep a close eye on your dog, as this is the stage that makes females get pregnant.
Stage Three: Diestrus
During this fertile stage in the heat cycle, the end is nearing. Lasting anywhere from sixty to ninety days, this is technically when your dog is no longer fertile. However, if your dog is pregnant, this cycle will last until she gives birth to her puppies. Dogs are no longer interested in running away, they're no longer interested in males, and their personalities are usually going back to normal.
Stage Four: Anestrus
Also known as the resting stage, the Anestrus lasts around one hundred to one hundred and fifty days. This is the most extended cycle within the entire heat cycle. Since this is the ending stage, the dogs are infertile. Most dogs will only experience two heats per year. So dogs are infertile in this stage until it ends and a new cycle begins.
Take Home Message
Your dog is your best friend, and just like any human being, they can have a period. The funny thing is that a dog's period is a sign that she is ready to mate and get pregnant.
The length and how often they have their cycle depends on the breed. For example, smaller breeds tend to have 3 to 4 cycles per year, but larger breeds can go every 12 to 18 months. The periods often last between 2 to 4 weeks.
If you are not ready to have a litter of puppies, it’s best to spay your dog before they get to their first cycle. If you’re OK with your dog getting a period, then you should keep them indoors, pay attention to behavior changes and appetite changes, and do whatever you can to keep them comfortable, entertain, and occupied.
Once the cycle ends, your dog will get back to their normal self in no time. If you find that something isn’t right, listen to your intuition, and bring them to the vet.
Fortunately, with this information, you will know what to expect during your dog's heat cycle.
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