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When and How Often Do Dogs Go into Heat?

Updated by Sheryl on Oct 14, 2021

There comes a time in your dog's life when your vet announces, "Congratulations, your dog is now ready to get married.” It can be overwhelming since your pet will start a new chapter of its life. Of course, you might be excited about the cute pups, wishing everything will be fine.

But, wait, are you aware of the hormonal changes that your dog will experience during this phase of its life? Do you know what is the heat cycle or estrous cycle in dogs? What are the signs, symptoms, and behavior of a dog in heat? When and how often estrous cycle starts in dogs? How long heat cycle lasts in dogs? What should you do for your dogs in the heat? 

Don't worry if you have no idea about the heat cycle in dogs. In this post, we will cover the answers to all of these queries. Plus, you'll learn the vet's approved tips to care for a dog in heat. Even if your mom dog is not spayed or neutered yet, knowing about the heat cycle is crucial to preventing unwanted pregnancies.

a dog talks with another dog

Just dive in to explore the details about the estrous cycle in dogs.

  • What Is Estrous Cycle in Dogs
  • When Do Dogs Go into Heat
  • How Often Do Dogs Go into Heat
  • How Long Does a Dog Stay in Heat
  • What Are Stages of Dog's Heat Cycle
  • 9 Signs of A Dog in Heat
  • Dog's Behavior in Estrous Cycle
  • How to Care for Your Dog in Heat
  • FAQs

The period when your female dog reaches puberty and is ready to breed is called the heat/estrous cycle in dogs. During this period, your female pet experiences hormonal changes and becomes receptive to a male.  As a consequence, it shows different physical and behavioral signs. Once a female dog reaches six months of age, it will go through a heat cycle every six months in its life.

However, the estrous cycle's frequency, severity, and length depend on your dog's age and its particular breed.

The exact timing of the onset of estrous in female dogs depends on the size of the breed. On average, the heat cycle starts in canines at six months of age. For example, smaller dog breeds experience heat at the period of 4 months old. On the other hand, the larger breeds go to their first heat when they are 18 to 24 months old.

Make sure to avoid breeding a dog at its first heat cycle. It can be risky for both mother and the pups. If you want your mom dog to give birth to healthy puppies, wait until the subsequent two heat cycles, as it will increase the chances of the birth of healthy critters.

Generally, dogs go in heat two times per year every 6 months. During this period, the female dog bleeds and shows lovemaking signs towards the male dogs. Mostly, female canines clean the blood spots by grooming themselves.

On average, female dogs exhibit estrous signs for nine days. However, it can be 3 to 21 days since this period differs in different breeds. As a rule of nature, all mammalian females experience a period. Female dogs experience their period when it reaches the age of puberty. It lasts for two to three weeks.

dog heat cycle stages

The heat cycle in dogs is a bit complex. It is not as easy as you think. There are 4 stages of the estrous process in dogs. Keep reading to know what these are:

Stage 1-Proestrous Stage

The first stage of estrous lasts for 3 to 17 days. Your female dog may experience swollen vulva, light bleeding, and mood swings at this phase. It can be more clingy or sometimes aggressive. Also, it can experience a lack of appetite or eats more food. It may display tail tucking behavior to guard the vulva in response to an approaching dog. In short, a female dog is not much ready to mate at the proestrus phase.

Stage 2-Estrous Stage

On average, this stage can be of 9 days or may last for 3 to 21 days. During this phase, a female dog allows the male dog to mate. As a result, its vulva softens enough to aid penetration.  In addition, the female is more fertile in the estrous stage since ovaries release the eggs for fertilization.  

Stage 3-Diestrous Stage

It is the end of the fertile period. The female is no more interested in the male dog. If the female dog conceives, this stage lasts from 60 to 90 days until the pups are born.

Stage 4-Anestrous Stage

It is the final, longest, and resting stage of the heat cycle in dogs. It can be of 100 to 150 days until the next heat cycle starts.

During the estrous/heat cycle, dogs may experience these symptoms:

  • Frequent Urination
  • Enlarged, red, swollen vulva
  • Blood tinted discharge from the vulva
  • Seeking male dogs
  • Over affectionate towards other dogs
  • Confused or nervous
  • Trying to mount on other dogs
  • Becomes lazy and aroused
  • Hides from male dogs

Usually, female dogs are not in pain due to bleeding. Only, they are uncomfortable. If your pet loves to stay clean, you'll not find any bleeding spots in the house. However, if your pet shows the symptoms of pain, don't hesitate to consult a vet.

dogs in heat

The dog's behavior changes when they are in heat. However, the behavior of different dog breeds differs significantly. Some female dogs escape from the house. Therefore, you should keep your pet on a leash to avoid this happening. Male dogs can easily detect a female in heat. They start to track her for doing their business. The common female dog's behavior during the heat is here:

  • Turning tail to the side
  • Odd reaction upon seeing a make dog
  • Over affectionate to other dogs
  • Mounting on other canines

You might be wondering about what to do when your dog is in an estrous cycle? Here are some vet-approved easy tips that you should do to care for your dog in heat:

  • Put your dog on a leash when it is in heat, as male dogs can quickly identify a female in heat by scent glands.
  • Don't force your pet to do exercise if it is feeling tired during the heat cycle.
  • Make sure that your canine friend is taking the proper amount of hydration.
  • By applying menthol on the tail tip, other male dogs won't detect heat in a female. It will help you go on walks.
How long does a dog in heat bleed?
A dog in heat bleeds for only half days of the total heat cycle. For example, if the duration of estrous is 21 days, your dog will experience bleeding for 7 to 11 days.
What are the symptoms of the male dog in heat?
Male dogs don't experience an estrous cycle. They can mate year-round once they reach puberty. Only female dogs show the symptoms of the heat cycle.
Sheryl is an editor from iPetor, owns extensive pet care experience. As a professional writer, she can provide useful pet care tips for all "parents".
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