How to tell if your dog is in heat

How to tell if your dog is in heat

If you’ve ever had an unspayed female dog in your home before, chances are you bought mountains of doggy diapers. Unlike cats, dogs experience more discharge during their heat cycle, or estrus phase, but that is only one of the signs indicating your pooch is ready to mate. Having an unspayed dog—especially if you also have an intact male dog—in your home can be a challenge, but knowing what to expect can help prevent problems from arising.

When Should I Expect My Dog's First Heat?

The age of a dog’s first heat cycle varies greatly between breeds. Toy breeds can come into heat for the first time as young as four months, while large and giant breeds may be as old as two years before experiencing a first heat cycle. On average, most dogs will have their first heat cycle between six and 15 months of age.  

What Signs Indicate That My Dog Is in Heat?

The more aware you are of your dog's cycle, the more prepared you will be for any physical and behavioral changes that may occur during her heat. During each phase of her heat cycle, you will notice different changes, and they may include the following seven signs:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Bloody or straw-colored discharge from the vulva
  • Receptive to male dogs
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Agitated, nervous, or aggressive behavior
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Change in tail position

With clues gleaned from your female dog’s physical appearance and behavior, you can determine which stage of her heat cycle she is experiencing.

How to tell if your dog is in heat

Illustration: The Spruce / Lara Antal

What are the Four Stages of the Canine Heat Cycle?

During your dog’s heat cycle, she will experience four phases, noted by various changes in her body and behavior. The four stages of the canine heat cycle are as follows:  

  1. Proestrus: Proestrus is the start of the heat period where your dog’s body is preparing to mate. Signs seen during this phase include a swollen vulva, blood-tinged discharge, excessive licking of the genital area, clingy behavior, and aggression toward male dogs. Your dog may also hold her tail close to her body.
  2. Estrus: The estrus phase is the mating phase where your female dog will be receptive to males. You may notice that your dog seems to be urinating more frequently than normal, as she is marking spots to indicate her readiness to breed. Although she may be leaving urine marks in areas, her vaginal discharge will slow and may change to a straw color. Since your dog is ready to mate, she will approach males with her tail held to the side, but will be aggressive towards other females.
  3. Diestrus: This phase occurs directly after the “in heat” stage and allows your dog’s body to either return to normal or develop into pregnancy. Her vulva will return to a normal size and vaginal discharge will disappear.
  4. Anestrus: Anestrus is an inactive phase, and no signs of hormonal or sexual behavior are noticed.

How Often Will My Dog Go into Heat?

Dogs have an average of two heat cycles per year, roughly six months apart.   Some females will have irregular cycles, especially if they are very young or very old. Small breeds may cycle three times per year, while giant breeds may only cycle once every 12 months. Unlike some other species, canine estrous cycles are not dependent on the seasons, sunlight, or temperature.

What Should I Do if My Dog Is in Heat?

If your dog is experiencing her first heat cycle, it can be an unsettling situation for both of you. Follow these tips to ensure her heat goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Never let your dog out in the yard alone. Do not underestimate a male dog’s drive to find a female who is emitting breeding pheromones. You may walk outside to find a strange male dog tied to your female.
  • Never let your dog off her leash when she’s in heat. Although your dog may have excellent obedience skills, her recall ability may fall by the wayside when she’s influenced by her hormones and is intent on finding a male.
  • Ensure your dog’s ID tags and microchip information are up-to-date. If the unthinkable happens and your dog escapes from your yard or runs off, ensure you can be reunited with legible, updated ID tags and current microchip contact info.
  • Consult your veterinarian if you notice signs of illness. Occasionally, a female dog can experience health issues after a heat cycle when the uterine lining remains thickened and produces more fluid, creating the ideal environment for bacterial growth. This can lead to a life-threatening pyometra, or uterine infection. A pet with a pyometra may drink excessively, have a fever, vaginal discharge, decreased appetite, or appear lethargic.
  • Consider spaying your dog after her heat cycle is over. If you have no plans to breed your dog, consider waiting until after her heat cycle is over to spay her. Your veterinarian can advise you on the appropriate age to spay your pet, and will likely recommend that you wait until she is finished with her estrus phase to spay her.

At What Age Should I Spay My Dog?

Although veterinarians used to recommend spaying your dog as young as four months old to ensure she never experienced a heat cycle to prevent mammary cancer, current research is leaning toward allowing large- and giant-breed dogs to grow before removing the hormones necessary for skeletal development. Discuss health concerns with your veterinarian before deciding what age is appropriate to spay your dog.

There comes a time in the life of an intact female dog when they’re ready to breed. This period is called being in heat. The stage of heat, also called estrus or season, has distinct physical and behavioral signs.

Many of the estrus factors, such as frequency, length of time, and severity, are dependent on your dog’s age and breed. Your dog may have symptoms that are particular to them.

What Are the Signs?

Keep a leash handy, because your dog may have to urinate more when she’s in heat. You may also observe that her vulva is large, red, or swollen with some bleeding or blood-tinted discharge.

Your dog will only bleed for around half of the total cycle, usually 7 to 10 days. Generally, bigger dogs bleed more than smaller dogs, but it varies between dogs. Some dogs bleed very little. If your dog prides themselves on their appearance and grooms themselves regularly, you probably won’t find much blood spotting around the house.

Your dog’s behavior will likely change as well. She may:

  • Be overly friendly with other dogs
  • Seek out male dogs
  • Mount or hump
  • Turn her tail to the side
  • Fidget or be nervous

Even though your dog will bleed, she isn’t in pain during heat. However, being in heat can make your dog uncomfortable and fidgety. If her symptoms seem to be causing her pain, consult your vet.

When Does Estrus Start?

This depends on your dog’s size.

Smaller dogs can go into heat as soon as they are 4-months old. Larger breeds may not first go into heat until they are 18 to 24 months old. On average, the first heat begins at around 6 months of age.

Even though they are old enough to get pregnant, your young dog’s eggs aren’t yet fully matured. Waiting until after the second estrus cycle will promote a healthy pregnancy.


How Often Do Dogs Go Into Heat?

Similar to the start time, the exact frequency of estrus depends on your dog’s size, breed, and age. Female dogs who have not been spayed go into heat twice a year, around every 6 months. Each heat cycle lasts around 18 days, for generally anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks.

The frequency depends on your dog, but her estrus cycles should be consistent. If these are inconsistent, your vet can determine if your dog has irregular seasons.

As your dog gets older, the frequency of her seasons may slow down. However, she will be going into heat for her whole life. Even though she goes into heat less often, she can still get pregnant.

The Estrus Cycle

The canine estrus cycle has four stages:

1.Proestrus: The beginning of heat lasts between 7 and 10 days. During this time, the vulva begins to swell and your dog begins to bleed. She will start attracting male dogs, but she isn’t ready to mate yet.

2.Estrus: This is the mating period of the estrus cycle. It lasts 5 to 10 days. Bleeding may reduce or stop. Your dog is ready to mate during this time.

3.Diestrus: This period lasts anywhere from 10 to 140 days. Your dog is either pregnant during this time or she is in a period of rest.

4.Anestrus: This is the period of downtime before the next heat cycle, lasting around 6 months.

If your dog is in heat, she’ll require a bit of extra supervision and care. She’ll be feeling hormonal. Keeping her entertained and distracted will help relieve some of her anxiety and discomfort. Extra walks will also help her to reduce stress.

Not only will she be attracting male dogs, but she’ll be attracted back! To avoid pregnancy, you’ll probably want to keep her away from other non-neutered dogs. This is true even in your own household.

If you’re worried about your dog bleeding around the house, you can create a limited space for her to roam in. This usually means restricting her to easy-to-clean areas without carpeted floors or upholstered furniture.


Creating a nest for your dog to nap in with towels to catch the blood will help prevent any accidents from occurring. Doggie diapers can also help control bleeding accidents.

Your dog’s needs while she is in heat may vary. This can be a challenge and a big responsibility. If you want to avoid pregnancy, you can have your dog surgically sterilized before her first season. Since the timing of the first heat cycle varies, these procedures are recommended before she is 6-months old.


AKC: “How Long Does a Dog Stay in Heat?,” ​”When Do Dogs Go Into Heat?”

Michelson Found Animals: “How Long Does a Dog Stay in Heat? (And Other Dog Period Questions Answered).”

How to tell if your dog is in heat

The first estrus generally occurs when an unspayed female dog is between 6 and 24 months old. It tends to occur earlier for small-breed dogs and later for large-breed dogs.

How often do dogs go into heat?

How to tell if your dog is in heat

It depends on your dog’s breed, as it varies with different breeds and individual dogs, an unspayed female usually goes into heat twice yearly, about every six months.

How long does a dog stay in heat?

The time during which male dogs are attracted to a female dog is variable, approximately 18 days. Females are receptive to males for only half of this time.

How can you tell if your dog is in heat?

When your dog is in heat, it will appear nervous, easily distracted, and more alert. She may urinate more often than she normally does. You’ll most probably notice changes in her behavior, this is caused by a shift in hormone balance. When a female dog is ready to breed, she may initiate sexual interactions with other dogs.

At first, vaginal discharge is blood-tinged and the vulva is swollen. When the female is receptive to males, vaginal discharge decreases and is straw-colored.

How to tell if your dog is in heat

Picture credit: the spruce

4 stages of the dog heat cycle

Proestrus stage

The first stage of the heat cycle is called proestrus. It can last from 3 to17 days, but many dogs experience about 9 days in proestrus. The best way to spot the beginning of a dog heat cycle is the swelling of the vulva. You may notice the following symptoms during this stage:

Changes in Personality

Changes can range from mild to more severe. Sometimes a female dog will become more affectionate and clingy with her owner, but other times she may seem grumpy.

Changes in Appetite

During this first week, she may get even hungrier, hence you might want to increase its food portion. Whatever the change is, taking note of it can be a significant clue that the heat cycle has begun.

Tail Tucking

It is a reaction to guard the vulva, either by tucking the tail between the leg or sitting down whenever another dog approaches.

Swelling Vulva

The amount of vulva swelling varies. Some dogs swell just a bit, while others swell quite a lot. Typically the bleeding is light during the first few days when it comes to mid-week, it grows a bit heavier

Estrus stage

It typically lasts from 3-21 days and lasts 9 days on average. This is the time your dog is fertile and the ovaries begin to release eggs for fertilization. The female dog will be willing to accept the male’s company, she might try to be outside more often than normal. During this period, her symptoms include:

Lightened discharge:

Previously, it is bright red, the discharge now lightens to be pink-ish.

Softening of the vulva

Initial swelling subsides just enough to make the vulva soften enough for penetration.


She will be inviting the male by turning her rear toward him and holding the tail high and out of the way. If there’s no male dog next to her, she might find a way to leave the house.

Diestrus stage

The Diestrus stage is towards the end of the heat cycle. This stage can last from 60-90 days, at this point, the dog is no longer fertile. If the dog has been impregnated, the diestrus stage lasts from the end of the estrus until the birth of the puppies. Here are the signs :

Gradual disappearance of vulva swelling

Most of the swelling is gone at this stage, but the vulva may remain slightly large.

Less flirting

Put aside whether she is pregnant or not, the dog now lacks the “mood” to mate and is no longer interested in flirting.

Anestrus stage

Anestrus is the final stage of the dog heat cycle. This is the longest phase throughout the whole cycle, from 100-150 days, at the end of which the entire heat cycle starts again.

At what stage of the estrus cycle is the dog able to pregnant?

The female dog usually ovulates at the time where the vaginal discharge becomes watery; this marks her most fertile stage and is the time where she will be most receptive to breeding. However, sperm can survive for 1 week and be capable of fertilizing the eggs, so it’s possible for her to get pregnant while she is in estrus.

How can you prevent your dog from going into heat?

Spayed is the most highly recommended way to prevent estrus and pregnancy, not only that but to protect her against breast cancer and disease of the reproductive system. You may spay your dog as young as 2 months old, but it is best to consult with your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

How to tell if your dog is in heat

What if your dog has been mismated, or accidentally mates with another dog?

You will need to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. There are mismating injections within the first to two days after mating, but there are risks that you will need to discuss it with your veterinarian.

At what age should I spay my dog?

Although veterinarians used to recommend spaying your dog as young as 4 months old to ensure she never experienced a heat cycle to prevent mammary cancer. You should discuss any health concerns with your veterinarians before discussing what age is appropriate to spay your dog.

If you think that your dog is sick, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s history, hence they can make the best recommendations for your pet.

Does a dog go through a menopause?

No, dogs do not go through menopause like humans. Dogs that have not been spayed will continue to have heat cycles and therefore bleed once a twice a year, or their entire lives unless they are pregnant or get spayed.

Can I walk my dog when she’s in heat?

Yes, you can walk your dog when she’s in heat, and for owners who don’t have a backyard, you must walk your dog. Taking your dog for a dog is one of the ways to calm their mind when they’re in heat. Other ways work too, but walking is a must.

Those who want to breed their pet and those that definitively do not want their female dog to reproduce should be familiar with their animal’s reproductive cycle. This is something that is not always easy to determine if you do not pay attention, so at OneHowTo, we’ll give you some keys to knowing what are the symptoms of a female dog in heat and how to be prepared for it.

The great mystery begins with knowing when your dog will have its first heat, which depends on the size and breed of your dog. In small breeds, female dogs begin to have heat cycles between six and nine months, while in larger breeds, this occurs between nine months and one year.

It’s also important to know when your female dog will have her next heat to prepare everything so your dog feels comfortable during those days. You should know that there are not exact patterns that can help you know when the next heat will occur as each animal has its own heat cycle, which can also vary, and it will not occur exactly six months after the first. Each animal has her own particular cycle, which is affected by factors such as food and environment. A vet can help you calculate when a dog is in heat, but it will always be an approximation.

How to tell if your dog is in heat

Proestrus is the period before actual heat and can last between 6 and 11 days. During this period, bleeding occurs, this alerts owners so they know that the heat cycle is near. If your dog has long hair and washes constantly it may be difficult to notice bleeding. During proestus you may also see how your dog tucks her tail between her legs.

The cycle of a dog in heat last between 15 and 25 days. Dogs are not fertile throughout this entire period, only in the stage known as oestrus, when they are ovulating, can they be fertilized by a male. This period lasts about four days and is preceded by proestrus.

How to tell if your dog is in heat

During the oestrus stage,your dog’s attitude will change, indicating to you that something is happening. She will be more restless and want to go outside more, urinate more often to spread her pheromones and maintain an open but also aggressive attitude towards male dogs and even towards you.

How to tell if your dog is in heat

If your dog does not mate or does not become pregnant, she will enter the dioestrus phase, during which progesterone is removed from the body and all the symptoms will slowly fade away. After a few months, the process repeats itself. It is important that you know how to keep your dog from having a psychological pregnancy in order to prevent this from happening.

Veterinarians recommend crossing female dogs after the second heat cycle, when the animal has reached greater reproductive maturity. It’s best to talk to your vet so he or she can guide you on when is the best time for your dog to get pregnant.

If your dog gets pregnant, you should know that the gestation period for dogs is between 58 and 68 days. The first half of the pregnancy is the one that allows the formation of the puppies, creating their organs, muscles and bones; this period lasts for 6 weeks.

From the sixth week onwards, the puppies will develop completely, this is when you’ll notice your dog is pregnant and you’ll see how her belly grows. Take a look at this article if you want to know if your dog is pregnant.

If your dog is pregnant, you should take some essential care indications into account so your pet is totally comfortable during her pregnancy. For example, during this period it’s vital to look after your pregnant dog eats, give her plenty of exercise and take her out for longer walks.

During pregnancy, female dogs are more sensitive so give her lots of affection and attention so she feels looked after. At OneHowTo we give you some tips so you know how to care for a pregnant dog step by step.

If you want to read similar articles to What Are The Symptoms Of A Female Dog In Heat, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

Do dogs have periods? Not the same way that female humans do. Female dogs who aren’t spayed go into heat and the amount of time a female dog bleeds and when she’s fertile varies greatly from a human menstrual cycle. Let’s discuss some facts about dogs in heat — and why it’s important to spay your female dog!

How to tell if your dog is in heat

Do you know these important facts about dogs in heat? Photography ©Cynoclub | Thinkstock.

1. A dog heat cycle only happens once or twice a year.

The canine estrus cycle (commonly referred to as the dog heat cycle) occurs every 6 to 12 months.

2. A puppy can go into heat sooner than you think.

The earliest that most dogs will experience their first heat cycle is at 6 months of age.

3. Dogs in heat should stay away from intact male dogs for 3 to 4 weeks.

This means that dogs in heat should not visit dog parks or do any doggie day care visits. “Anytime a dog is in heat, assume it’s going to be at least a month and keep them away from male dogs during that time,” says Nancy Kelso, DVM, medical director at VCA Columbia Animal Hospital at Hickory Ridge in Columbia, Maryland. “Generally, neutered males are fine, however, it’s also stressful for intact males to live in the same house as a female in heat so we usually recommend totally separating them.” If possible, send one of the dogs to stay with a relative or friend for a month or so.

4. Don’t think you’re in the clear once the bleeding stops.

With dogs in heat, each dog heat cycle lasts 3 to 4 weeks, but you will only see bleeding during the first 2 weeks. “The fertile period is actually when the bloody discharge starts to subside and it becomes pink or clear and there’s much less of it,” Dr. Kelso says. “Even the swelling of the vulva goes down substantially so a lot of people think the dog is out of heat, but no, that’s actually the prime fertile time.”

How to tell if your dog is in heat

Dog pants, like this fun polka-dot option from Glenndarcy, are great for dogs in heat. Photography courtesy of Glenndarcy.

5. The bleeding from dogs in heat isn’t as bad as you might think.

“Fortunately, in most dogs it’s not a large amount, it’s relatively small,” Dr. Kelso explains. “Some people will use sanitary diapers for dogs.” With some dogs in heat, you won’t really notice the bleeding.

6. Don’t delay scheduling your dog’s spay.

Many people don’t ever experience dogs in heat since it’s best to have your female dog spayed prior to her first heat cycle. If your new rescue dog goes into heat before you can get her spayed, your vet might suggest waiting until she is done before spaying her. “It can be done while they are in heat or immediately after, but it’s not the ideal time because the uterus is much larger and much more vascular at that time,” Dr. Kelso says. “If we have the luxury of time, then the perfect scenario is we wait about two months after they’ve been in heat to spay them, but if we need to get it done because they’re getting adopted out then we’ll definitely spay shortly after heat or when we need to.”

7. Spaying your dog decreases her chances of developing mammary cancer.

Mammary cancer is the equivalent of breast cancer in dogs. Check your female pup regularly for lumps in her breast tissue (from her armpit to her groin). If you feel something suspicious, schedule an appointment with your vet.

8. Pyometra is another danger for female dogs who aren’t spayed.

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus. It can be deadly and almost always requires an emergency spay surgery. If the infection is “open” (meaning the cervix is open) it can be easier for veterinarians to diagnose because there is usually foul-smelling discharge from the vaginal area. “Dogs can also have a variety where the cervix is closed, so the pus is actually building up inside the dog and those dogs get really sick,” Dr. Kelso says. “They don’t eat, they don’t drink and they run a high fever. If you see any of those symptoms, you should bring her in to a veterinarian.”

9. Dogs in heat know when they are in heat and fertile — and when they are not.

“Dogs know when they’re ready to be bred,” Dr. Kelso says about dogs in heat. “They get a little more flirtatious. Sometimes they might be a little grumpy at the beginning of heat. If a dog tries to mount them or something, they’re basically saying, ‘I’m not ready.’”

This is the stage where she becomes ready to breed. The vaginal discharge may change from bloody to a clear or brownish discharge. You may also see your dog move her tail to the side, making herself available to a male dog. This is known as “flagging” and is a sign that she is fertile.

How many days will a female dog let a male mount her?

The vulva becomes very enlarged and soft, and the bitch will be receptive to the male. This stage may last 3 or 4 days or as long as 7 to 11 days. The female may be receptive a day or two past the time when she would still be fertile.

How long after a dog goes in heat can she get pregnant?

There’s a relatively small window when your dog is most fertile during the heat cycle; it may begin about nine or ten days after she goes into heat and lasts about five days. However, she can become pregnant until the end of the cycle.

Can a dog get pregnant while bleeding?

Other signs your dog is able to get pregnant include: Vaginal Bleeding. Swollen Vulva.

How many days after a dog starts bleeding is she ready to breed?

From the beginning of the heat period, she will be attractive to male dogs, but will usually not be receptive, or allow mating until about 7 to10 days into the cycle. As the cycle progresses, the color and appearance of the discharge change.

How do you separate two dogs stuck together?

Getting stuck together is normal. Do NOT ice them to get them apart. The male is supposed to swell up and get stuck inside the female for two to 30 minutes. At this time if you feel the sire and dam in this area you will feel pulsating.

Will my dog get pregnant the first time she mates?

A whopping 40% of female dogs will fall pregnant after just one mating session!

Does a dog bleed the whole time in Heat?

The proestrus stage is the first stage of a heat cycle and it lasts approximately 9-10 days, during this time she will normally be bleeding. Sometimes you don’t see the blood if your female is very good at keeping herself clean. But you would notice her cleaning herself more.

Why does my female dog refuse to mate?

A common mating problem is when a dog refuses to mate with another dog. For example, a female dog might refuse a male dog because he is her housemate. Submissive males, on the other hand, might refuse to mate with dominant females. If your dog refuses to mate with a particular dog, try using another mate.

How do I comfort my dog when she is in heat?

Keeping Your Dog Comfortable While In Heat

  1. Pups tend to get quite snuggly during this time, so set aside some extra slots for lots of cuddles.
  2. Offer a safe, chew resistant toy that she can nudge up against.
  3. Never scold your pup if she happens to make a bloody mess, just calmly reassure her while you clean it up.

How do you tell if a female dog has been bred?

The most obvious sign that your dogs mated is that your female becomes pregnant. If her heat cycle ends, her nipples begin to swell, and she shows less interest in food within the first week or two after the suspected mating, contact your veterinarian as there’s a strong chance she is now pregnant.

What are the stages of a dog in heat?

The canine estrous (reproductive) cycle is made up of 4 different stages. These are proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. Each stage has differing signs related to behavior, physical or clinical changes, hormonal changes, physiologic changes, and cytologic (vaginal smear) changes.

Will a female dog stop bleeding if she is pregnant?

During the first 10 days, she will usually have bleeding and vulvar swelling and will smell enticing to males. However, during this time, most females are not receptive to the male and will chase him away. During the second 10 days, the bleeding usually slows or stops completely and the female is receptive to the male.

How many times should dogs tie when breeding?

How many times should she mate to become pregnant? Answer: Once may be enough. However, to ensure that all of the eggs released by your Lab are fertilized, I always let my dogs mate every two days while the female will stand to be bred. Usually, it is 3 or 4 times.

Can dogs only get pregnant in heat?

NO! Female dogs have four stages in their reproductive cycle, which denote their ability to breed, successfully fertilize, and birth puppies. We may be familiar with the term “in heat” or ovulating, but to veterinarians, being in heat or “season” is referred to as the “estrus” cycle.

It’s not a fun time for either of you—it’s messy, lengthy, and not too comfortable for your pup either. However, until you have baby girl spayed, she will go into heat.

The canine heat cycle (estrus cycle) consist of various stages: a mash up of bleeding, behavioral changes, and high fertility. So, while your vet can provide you with medical advice during this time, we are here to offer tips to keep your furry one comfortable, and you sane.

Heat Cycle Cleanup Tips For Dogs

The first thing that might be an indication your dog is in heat, is blood. Maybe there will be a spot on the bed, or maybe you have a breed that leaves joyful red sprinkles all over new carpets.

Here are a few ways to handle this:

  • Invest in a good doggy diaper. On some pups, these will slide right off, so suspenders or a comfy bodysuit will work. You can find disposable options, or reusable ones with liners, on either Amazon, or at general pet stores. The AKC offers directions on how to use doggy diapers.
  • Designate a special blankie for her use during this time, and place it wherever she is about to cuddle up—on the bed at night, on the couch, etc. By the end of the cycle, (hopefully) only one blanket will need washing.
  • Quick cleanup is best. Keep disposable wipes on hand so you can rapidly swipe across furniture or hard floors. If carpets do become soiled, the PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner is a miracle worker that’s affordable, and small enough to fit in a coat closet.

Keeping Your Dog Comfortable While In Heat

Being in heat for the first time can be a confusing experience for your girl. She’s going to need extra love and attention.

  • Pups tend to get quite snuggly during this time, so set aside some extra slots for lots of cuddles. Maybe consider a lap desk so you can work and snuggle simultaneously.
  • Offer a safe, chew resistant toy that she can nudge up against. This too will provide a sense of security.
  • Never scold your pup if she happens to make a bloody mess, just calmly reassure her while you clean it up.
  • Make sure she’s eating well and drinking plenty of water.
  • Provide extra potty breaks, as there is a lot going on down there and she may feel the urge to relieve herself more often.

Preventing Pregnancy While Your Dog Is In Heat

There are special considerations to be made when your dog is in heat. Simple steps can reduce risk of pregnancy or any aggressive interactions. Keep these important things in mind.

  • Male dogs will be on the hunt, and the smell of hormones given off by your dog, can be detected by instinctual noses from far away. Monitor her at all times during outside potty breaks, and keep your own male dogs separate if not wanting any puppies on your hands.
  • Male dogs can also become quite aggressive when they sense a nearby female in heat. So, anticipate that you may have to be extra vigilant in preventing mishaps—especially on walks, dog parks, etc.
  • Just because she’s stopped bleeding doesn’t mean her cycle is over. Another phase follows, where she becomes extra fertile and may produce an unnoticeable discharge.
  • Watch for any changes in your dog’s health, as any major events such as this could create a health issue. If you suspect something is off, go to your vet.

Having your dog spayed will prevent complications down the road, such as uterine infections which can be life threatening. And as a bonus, you nor your girl will have to deal with the hassle of dreaded “in heat” moments.

Editor’s Note: Is spaying and neutering pets helpful or harmful to their health? Here’s what you need to know about spaying or neutering your dog—from benefits to myths and post-surgical expectations.

Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.

Dog’s first heat cycle is another phrase I commonly see in dog forums, especially from first time owners. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding heat cycles, especially regarding when they should happen. It can be a bit stressful when their dog doesn’t go into heat when they think they should or when it happens “too early”. However, there’s generally nothing to worry about. A dog’s first heat cycle can come at different times based on breed size. Let’s talk a bit about what to expect, shall we?

When Does a Dog’s First Heat Cycle Come

Heat cycles come at different times for different dogs. Small breed dogs come into heat sooner – often times much sooner – than large breed dogs. That being said, there are generalities you can expect for when your dog will come into heat. The average age of a dog having her first heat is about 6 months of age, but that’s not always the case. Remember, even generalities have exceptions, and your dog may not get her first heat cycle in the time that you expect.

Small Breed Dogs

Small breed dogs come into heat sooner than larger breed dogs. In fact, some small breed dogs can go into heat as early as four months of age. It seems counter-intuitive that these dogs would go into heat sooner than larger breed dogs, as small breed dogs tend to have the longest lifespans.

Medium Sized Dogs

Medium sized dogs like Labrador Retrievers generally go into heat in that 6 month range, however it can be up to a year before they have their first heat.

Large Breed Dogs

Owners of large breed dogs tend to be the ones that have heat cycle scares. That’s because large breed dogs may not have their first heat until two years of age. Again, it seems counter-intuitive that the shortest lived dogs would have the latest starting cycles, but that’s how it happens. While a dog’s first heat cycle occurring first at two years is rare, it’s not unheard of.

How long does the first heat cycle last?

Once your dog comes into her first heat cycle, the next big question is how long will it last? Again, this varies from dog to dog, but you can expect her to be in heat for about two to three weeks on average. If you have a short-haired breed, her swollen vulva will often be the first sign that she’s gone into heat. After that, you may notice some blood-tinged spotting. The bleeding may get a bit heavier, but if you have a furry pooch, you may not even notice it. About 7-10 days into her heat cycle, the bleeding will ease up and turn into a pink watery discharge again.

During her heat cycle, your dog will need to go outside to pee more often. Keep in mind that she is marking her territory and sending out “hey, guys, here I am” signals. You’ll want to keep a very close eye on her, even if you have a fenced in yard. Male dogs can smell her pheromones from great distances- much further than you might expect- and they’ll do just about anything to get to your girl. While she’s only technically fertile during the watery discharge stage of her heat cycle, male dog sperm can live up to a week in her reproductive system.

A Dog’s First Heat Cycle Isn’t an Exact Science

The time it takes for a dog’s first heat cycle can vary greatly depending on their size and even their breed, and while there’s generally nothing to worry about, there are times when a trip to the vet might be in order. If your dog’s first heat cycle hasn’t come at around 8 months of age, but you don’t see any signs of sickness, don’t worry. However, if your dog hasn’t had her first heat, and she appears off in any way, it’s a good idea to take her in to see the vet. Always err on the side of caution. Chances are your dog’s first heat cycle is on the horizon, but it never hurts to check. At the very least, your vet may be able to give you a better idea of what to expect regarding your dog’s first heat and give you a little piece of mind.