Dogs in heat

Not even dogs can avoid the dreaded periods! However, the similarities to a human period pretty much end here and as such if you happen to have a female dog, this article should help you with knowing what to do and how to recognise the first signs.

When do female dogs have their first season?

dog heatpadsJust like humans, dogs are unique, so it varies. Smaller breeds tend to have it sooner, anytime between 6-8 months whilst larger breeds tends to go through it later, sometime between the age of 10-16 months.

How to recognise if your dog is in heat?

Again this can be wide-ranging but the most common signs include:

  • more frequent urination
  • being more interested in male dogs
  • becoming flirty and more affectionate
  • resting more

How long is a dog in season?

Most commonly the dog season lasts around 21 days but it can be a bit longer for some dogs.

The dog period is often broken down into 4 stages and dogs behave differently in each stage.

  1. Proestrus stage

    This first stage can last from 3 to 17 days but most often lasts 9 days. The most obvious sign is the swelling of the vulva and it is impossible to miss this sign.

    Signs and behaviour changes:

    • some female dogs become more affectionate, whilst others can become more grumpy
    • some dogs lose their appetite whilst others might become hungrier during this phase
    • the vulva will be swollen, in some dogs it is VERY obvious, less so in others
    • bleeding will start and again for some dogs this will be quite light whilst for others it will be quite heavy
    • most dogs will start guarding the vulva by tucking their tails between the legs or sitting down when another dog approaches
  1. Estrus stage

    This usually lasts on average 9 days but for some dogs, it could be as long as 21 days! This is the dangerous phase when your dog is fertile and more than willing to accept the advances made by the male dogs!

    Signs and behavioural changes:

    • the bleeding becomes more light coloured
    • the vulva becomes a little less swollen
    • no more tail tucking, quite the opposite! Female dogs become very flirty and actually turn their rear toward male dogs and holding the tail high and out of the way
    • your girl will wish to be outside a lot which she will signal by sitting by the door unless you live in the middle of nowhere and she knows there are no male dogs around to let them know of her fertile window.

      If you don’t want to get your girl pregnant, during this stage you are best to avoid meeting male dogs. You need to keep your dog on a lead. Some dogs can’t even be let out in the garden on their own as they might make a run for it!

  1. Diestrus stage
    This stage marks the end of the fertile window and lasts around 60-90 days. During this stage, the vulva slowly goes back to its normal size and your female dog will no longer be interested in flirting.
  1. Anestrus stage
    This is the final stage which is basically lasts form the end of one period until the beginning of the other. It can lasts around 100—150 days but again it can be different for all dogs.

If you are a more visual person, check out the infographics on the different stages.

Should I get some dog heatpads?

Heatpads are available to buy these days and these can be quite useful if your dog happens to be a heavy-bleeder. If you want to use them, you need to get your dog used to it prior to her period. Try to put it on her for 5 mins at a time.

However, it’s not an essential item as most dogs will clean themselves very meticulously.

Tips for the dog heat period

  1. No off-lead walking – even if your dog is very well trained and obedient, you should never let your dog off the lead when in heat. It is their natural instinct to mate and they will try as hard as they can!
  2. Good balance of exercise and rest – if your dog sleeps more whilst in heat, don’t exhaust her walking too much. Observe your dog and just go with the flow.
  3. Peppermint oil on the tip of the tail – when out and about if you want to keep male dogs away, you could put some peppermint or eucalyptus oil at the very tip of your female dog’s tail

Should your dog start mating with another dog by accident, don’t try to separate them! You can easily harm both dogs.

Should an undesired mating/pregnancy happen, consult your vet immediately as there are abortion shots available but they are not without any risks.

Of course, another option to keep your dog safe from unwanted pregnancies is to have her spayed but it is not recommended before the first season as they go through some major hormonal changes.

However, if you are planning to have some puppies, there are a host of things you need to be aware of, starting with the fact that dog gestation period lasts on average 3 months. There are many more things to consider, which will be the subject of a separate article.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.


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