When a female dog is in heat or “in season,” it means that they’ve reached sexual maturity and are ready to start the reproduction processes.
Whether you are preparing your female dog for breeding or just want to inform yourself on the topic, this guide to the female heat cycle will tell you all you need to know to care for your furry companion.
The Heat Cycle
Although a female dog’s heat cycle is often called their “estrus cycle,” the estrus stage is actually a quarter of the actual process.
The heat cycle is divided into four parts:
This initial stage can last from as little as three days to as long as three weeks in some breeds.
Although the female dog will not be receptive to males during this time, she will experience an increase in estrogen, which will attract male dogs to her location.
Due to the change in hormones, you might see a slight change to your dog’s behavior, such as playfulness or depression.
It is during the proestrus stage that the dog will begin to discharge a blood-tinged liquid.
For some breeds with long, dark hair, the discharge might be difficult to spot, but your dog will show signs of having begun discharging by frequently sniffing or licking her vulva.
The female dog will be most fertile during this stage and will be receptive to male dogs. The bloody discharge will go from a red, thick substance, to a pink, watery substance.
The female dog might exhibit territorial behavior and urinate on things in order to mark their scent and further attract a future mate.
Throughout estrus, the change in mood becomes more apparent, as your dog becomes more nervous, alert, and easily distracted. This stage, on average, lasts nine days.
During diestrus, the female dog is no longer attracted to male dogs.
Pregnancy cannot be determined until well into the diestrus stage, as sperm can survive up to a week in the reproductive tract and most dogs start showing after the first three weeks of pregnancy.
Sometimes, dogs will enter into a state of “false” pregnancy while in diestrus, where they will show common signs of gestation such as swollen nipples.
Diestrus usually lasts two to three months.
Anestrus is the resting period before the dog goes into heat again and usually lasts one to six months, depending on the dog’s breed.
During this time, the dog’s uterus will recover, nipple and vulva swelling will go down, and vaginal discharge will be minimal.
How Long Are Female Dogs in Heat?
Despite the fact that the female heat cycle has four stages, the actual symptoms and conception occurs during the proestrus and estrus stage respectively.
On average, a female dog will stay in heat for two to four weeks.
At What Age Do Female Dogs Go Into Heat?
Typically, female dogs reach sexual maturity when they are six months old; however, this number can change depending on the breed.
Larger dog breeds such as Great Danes, St. Bernards, and German Shepards can take from twelve to twenty-four months to go into heat.
How Many Heat Cycles Can a Female Dog Have a Year?
A female dog will typically have two cycles a year, once every six months.
Smaller dogs can have up to three cycles a year, while bigger dogs can go into heat once a year.
Unless you are an experienced breeder, talk to your dog’s veterinarian to track your dog’s heat cycle.
The video below shows tips on having a female dog in heat.
How to Prevent the Heat Cycle in Your Female Dog
To avoid unwanted breeding or mis-mating, it is highly recommended you spay your dog, which can be done after eight weeks of age.
Caring for a litter of pups is a tremendous task that requires a lot of time, money, and patience, and it is best to go with spaying unless you are a breeder who knows what to do.
However, if you cannot spay your dog before she goes into heat, there are some tricks to make the process smoother for both you and your dog.
Mask the Scent
When female dogs are in heat, the odors emitted from the female will attract male dogs within a three-mile radius.
You can decrease the number of male dogs who come from afar to mate with your female by masking the scent she emits.
Rubbing a bit of menthol on the tip of her tail is the best way to go about it, as the pheromones are mostly released from the dog’s posterior.
You can also ask the veterinarian for scent masking perfumes as well as give your dog liquid chlorophyll to help absorb the odor.
These methods will help calm down any male dog in the area while your female dog is in heat.
Keep Your Dog Apart From Others
Another way to avoid breeding is isolation. Keep your pet inside the house and away from other dogs.
This can have a negative impact on your dog’s mood, however, especially if they are accustomed to regularly playing outside.
They are already experiencing a change in hormones, so imagine how they’ll feel if they don’t get the exercise and playtime they need for a few weeks. Which is why you should…
Care for Your Dog
During your dog’s heat cycle, it is important to take special care of her. Playing with her will be beneficial no matter what sort of mood she’s in while in season.
If your dog tends to get depressed during her cycle, playing with her will cheer her up. If she’s a fluffy ball of nervous energy, it will help her release some tension.
If you need to take her out on walks, always do so with a leash and with the scent masking solutions.
In the End
A female dog going through her heat cycle can be a tiring process for you and your dog.
The best thing to do would be to spay her, as this prevents mammary gland tumors, uterus infections, and sexually transmitted diseases in dogs, such as brucellosis.
Female dogs that have been spayed before their first heat tend to live longer and suffer from less health issues than dogs who have not been spayed.