How Long Are Dogs In Heat?

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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 short answer – How long are dogs in heat?

While it may be different with each dog, on average, a dog will be in heat for 2 to 4 weeks.

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 in your dog’s behavior, such as playfulness or depression.

During the proestrus stage, 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 and receptive to male dogs during this stage. 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 to mark its scent and attract a future mate.

Throughout estrus, the change in mood of an intact dog 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 dogs in heat

How Long Are Dogs in Heat?

Despite the fact that the female heat cycle has four stages, the actual symptoms and conception occur during the proestrus and estrus stages, 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.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms That Tell You Your Dog Is In Heat?

Dogs in heat generally exhibit some telltale signs. For example, your dog may be urinating more often than normal, may have a large, red, and swollen vulva, may be licking their back end more often, and there may be bleeding from the vulva that can have a yellow, red, or brown tint.

Additionally, you may also begin to notice some behavioral changes, such as your dog becoming more receptive to male dogs, their decision to roam to find a male dog, and mounting and humping.

What Should I Do When My Dog Is In Heat?

If your dog is experiencing her first heat cycle, you may find that it is a strange situation for you as a pet owner and the dog. To help ensure a better and smoother process, we have a few tips to follow when your dog is in heat.

Supervise Your Dog

Don’t let your dog wander the yard unsupervised. If a male dog senses a female in heat, they will do whatever they can to reach her. Your dog is going to be emitting breeding pheromones. If you leave her outside unsupervised during this time, don’t be surprised if you walk out there to find a male dog close by.

Keep Your Dog On a Leash

When your dog is in heat, it is a good idea to keep them on the leash. Even if they had been trained and typically show great obedience skills, her hormones may influence her more during this time, and she will throw her training out the window in the effort to find a male companion.

Update Microchips and Information

If your dog escapes while in heat, you want to be sure her microchip and all the information are up to date to help you find her and bring her home.

Consult With Your Veterinarian

If you notice anything unusual or just don’t know what to do when your dog is in heat, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian. Some dogs can experience health issues while in heat or after a heat cycle. For example, the uterine lining may remain thickened and produce more fluid.

When this happens, it creates the ideal environment for bacteria to grow. This can lead to pyometra, which can be life-threatening, or a uterine infection.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from pyometra, you may notice she is drinking more, urinating more, producing a thick vaginal discharge, or has a decreased appetite. These signs can also be accompanied by lethargy, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Dog Behavior While In Heat

To understand what happens during a dog heat cycle, you should be able to recognize the different behaviors and hormonal changes she may exhibit. Since each dog is different, they may all have different reactions to the process.

One of the earliest signs that a dog is in heat and at the start of their estrus cycle is a sudden change in their personality, energy levels, or aggressive behaviors. Some dogs may become more reserved and friendly, while others become much more aggressive before going into heat.

Whenever there is a sudden change in your dog’s behavior that you can’t explain, it may be a sign that the estrus stage is about to begin or it has already begun.

Dog Behavior After Heat

Female behavior following the dog heat cycle typically goes back to normal. However, your female dog will continue to show a heightened interest in male dogs until the estrus stage is completely done.

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 during a dog heat cycle.

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 and 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. This 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.

how long are dogs in heat

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, uterine infection, 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 fewer health issues than dogs who have not been spayed.

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