Your Ultimate Guide To A Dog’s Heat Cycle
March 22, 2022 | 3 min read
Updated March 22, 2022
By Sarah Milton
Published: March 22, 2022
Updated: May 12, 2023
Summary: In this blog, we learn all about a dog’s heat cycle. We’ll learn what the term means, the signs, how long the heat cycle lasts, how it affects behavior, whether male dogs can go into heat, and how often it happens. This is your ultimate guide to the dog heat cycle…
What Does It Mean When A Dog Goes Into Heat?
Just like humans, dogs reach puberty and begin to move from puppy to adult. In female dogs, this will be marked by estrus, or going into “heat” or “in season”. This happens anywhere between 6-18 months of age, but varies from breed to breed. The larger your dog is, the later she will most likely enter her first heat cycle.
A Dog’s Heat Cycle
A dog's heat cycle is made up of four stages:
Proestrus Stage: This stage lasts between 3 and 17 days. This is when the vulva typically swells and changes to her appetite, personality and behavior occur. She also may tuck her tail between her legs more frequently.
Estrus Stage: This stage lasts between 3 and 17 days too. This is when she is most fertile and is most keen to be in male company. She may raise her rear toward male dogs if allowed to be around them.
Diestrus Stage: This is when the cycle begins to come to an end. Her vulval swelling will decrease and her interest in male dogs will diminish.
Anestrus Stage: The resting stage. A female dog is in this stage any time she is not in season.
Signs Of Dog In Heat
Your dog may exhibit physiological and behavioral changes when she is in season. The signs a dog is in heat include;
- A swollen vulva
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- Urinating more often
- Self-cleaning that area more often
- Becoming more clingy
- Becoming more distant
- Seeming stressed
- Having her tail tucked in between her legs
- Her behavior towards other dogs changes (more defensive, more/less friendly)
- May mount furniture, dogs, or people
- Male dogs will show an increased interest in her
- She may try to escape to find a mate herself
Your female dog’s urine will contain an increased amount of pheromones and hormones when she is on heat. This indicates to male dogs that she is in season and these scents encourage them to mate with her.
Some dogs may not show any adverse signs at all when being on heat.
How Long Does A Dog Stay In Heat?
A heat cycle can last anywhere between 2-3 weeks, but symptoms of being on heat may not last this long. Your dog can become pregnant any time during this period and for a few days afterward.
How Often Do Dogs Come In Heat?
If you haven’t had your dog spayed, you can expect your dog to come into heat about twice a year. Again, this will vary depending on her size and breed. Like a human period, some dogs' cycles are long, some are short but most should regulate themselves out as they grow into adulthood.
Most owners, if they don’t intend to breed their dog, will have her spayed (neutered). Spaying is a small surgical procedure where the ovaries and uterus are removed from the dog. This has numerous health benefits for female dogs (e.g. it reduces the likelihood of some cancers). It also means she won’t have heat cycles at all and will not become pregnant.
Home Remedies For Dogs In Heat
When your dog is in heat, to help make her more comfortable and to protect her, you’ll need to:
- Avoid stressful events and situations (like putting her in boarding or taking her to busy places etc.)
- Keep her routine consistent and predictable
- Monitor any symptoms of complications and contact your vet if you’re concerned
- Walk her at less busy times, and away from other dogs
- If she lives with un-neutered males (including relations), keep them separated from her if you don’t want her to fall pregnant
- Keep her on a lead at all times when out
- Keep her secure
- Do not leave her unsupervised outside
- You may want to try doggy diapers during this period, as she will bleed and discharge around the house. You should remove these when you leave the house so she can urinate and defecate freely. Ensure you get the right size to avoid leakage.
- Give her extra attention
- Give her some extra baths to help reduce her heat scent
- Consider things like Chlorophyll tablets or scented sprays that are designed to minimize the scent of her pheromones to help protect her from male attention
Can A Dog Get Pregnant When Not In Heat?
No, she cannot. But, be mindful that she can be impregnated for several days after her heat cycle symptoms seem to have ended.
What If My Dog Mates When They’re On Heat?
If you catch your dog being mated with, do not intervene. Separating them can lead to injuries that can hurt both dogs. Speak to your vet after they’ve separated themselves as there are things your vet can do to help prevent an unwanted pregnancy after mating.
The best way to ensure your dog does not get pregnant is by spaying her.
Can You Spay A Dog In Heat?
Yes, this is possible but not advisable. A veterinarian will usually only spay a dog in heat in a medical emergency. Professional advice is to wait for several weeks after a heat cycle has ended to conduct this procedure.
Some dogs may experience a phantom pregnancy if they haven't been spayed. Read our blog on Phantom Pregnancies In Dogs here.
Can You Board A Dog In Heat?
This is at the kennel’s discretion, and whether they have an isolated facility away from other dogs that could impregnate her. Boarding can be stressful for a dog, and female dogs in heat can already be stressed, so it is worth considering that this may not be the best or most comfortable option for your dog.
Do Male Dogs Go Into Heat?
No, they do not. They are fertile all year round and typically become able to make a female dog pregnant from the age of 6 months.
“Dogs In Season” Blue Cross, Dec 17. 2021 https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/dogs-in-season
Author Farracelli, Adrienne “How To Help A Dog In Heat” Pet Helpful, Apr 02. 2021 https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Help-a-Dog-in-Heat
“What You Need To Know About Dogs In Heat” Four Paws https://www.fourpaws.com/pets-101/health-and-wellness/female-dogs-in-heat#:~:text=The%20estrus%20stage%3A%20A%20female,male%20company%20in%20this%20stage.
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!