Realising that your dog is in heat can be a little alarming for those who have never handled the symptoms before. In particular, your mind may be filled with questions, including what it means exactly when your dog’s in heat or even how long it may last. After all, it can be confusing enough to deal with our own menstrual cycle, the first time it happens. Let alone an estruous cycle!
If you’re looking to find out more about your female dog in heat, or are simply curious and are looking into breeding your dog, you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ll answer some of the more common questions and take an in-depth look into what happens when your dog is on their “period”.
What does “in heat” mean for your dog?
While us humans deal with a menstrual cycle, dogs have what is called an estruous cycle. There’s huge number of differences between these but possibly the biggest one is that, while our period signifies the end of our cycle, a dog’s period actually means that their cycle is just beginning.
This is the proestrus cycle and this, along with the estrus phase, is what is commonly referred to as being “in heat”. There’s a couple of symptoms that run alongside the bleeding, which typically include:
- A swollen vulva
- A more timid or nervous bitch, which can cause them to be slightly more aggressive
- Dogs will certainly be interested in your female!
- Frequent licking of their vulva
- A noisier dog, whether that be communicated through barking, or whining.
- More frequent urination
- Sleeping more
During the estrus phase in particular, your dog will be much more fertile. As such, if you aren’t looking to breed your pup, now is the time to hide them away from the nosy dog-neighbours who might suddenly show a little more aggressive or sexual behaviour toward your bitch. The huge surge of pheromones released by your female dog are released through their sweat and their urine (hence the increased need to wee) and is insatiable to their male counterparts.
There are two other phases of the dog cycle, in which your female dog will no longer be in heat and you can relax a little. The third phase will happen regardless of whether or not your chosen dogs have had a successful mate and, if your dog in heat isn’t bred, the hormones will be reabsorbed into your dog’s body during the fourth and final phase.
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How long will my dog’s cycle last?
On average, your dog’s cycle will last for around 180 days in total. This can depend on a number of factors, however. So do speak with your vet is you have any concerns about the length of any phase, or any questions about your dogs estruous cycle, at all.
In terms of your dog’s period, the average dog period will last from anywhere between 5 days, right up to 55 days! That’s just a tad longer than our own periods, as a comparison, which usually lasts between 5 and 7 days.
Are dog’s period regular?
Again, like humans, your bitch’s cycle may take a while to even out and become steady. Of course, if you feel that your dog is bleeding too frequently- or not frequently enough- it may be time to take them to the vet to ensure that their hormones are well-balanced and there aren’t any underlying problems with your dog in heat.
When do dogs go into heat?
Each dog, like ourselves, is naturally going to be very different and there are a few factors that come into this. Things like dog breed, size and heritage come into play, alongside various environmental factors. The average time for a dog to first come into heat is anywhere between 6 and 18 months. That said, there some dogs that come into heat for the first time at a much later date than this, so don’t assume it won’t happen if it hasn’t happened yet!
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When is my dog ready to breed?
As above, this can depend on many factors. The most important of which is that you dog is safe, happy and healthy. To get more specifics, it is always important to speak with your vet to ensure your dog is at their peak wellness, before breeding.
It’s always a good idea to let your dog’s first cycle pass without being bred- and preferably not during their second cycle either. This allows your pup to grow into maturity without placing too much of a burden on their body, too early on. It also means that any puppies born are much more likely to be happier and healthier, too. After all, isn’t a happy, health dog what we all want?
Is my dog in pain, when in heat?
It’s likely that your dog in heat will be experiencing some of the same unpleasantries as we do, when dealing with their preotrus and estrus phases. For example, the cramping, mood swings and generally feeling uncomfortable are very likely to happen. That said, we can’t know for sure whether our dogs are in pain when in heat, simply because there’s no definite way of knowing what they’re thinking or feeling.
Even so, it’s never a bad idea to give your dog some extra cuddles (if they want them, that is!), just in case they’re feeling a little sorry for themselves.
How can I help my dog in heat?
The best thing to do is to observe your canine companion. If they want to be left alone, and slink away into corners to have a little peace and quiet, then it’s a good idea to let them do just that. Likewise, if you dog wants a lot of affection and cuddles, then do just that! Similarly, some dogs may wish to have a little more exercise and want longer walks, while others suddenly don’t want to leave the house at all. It’s important to get to know your dog and their likes/dislikes during their periods. Particularly in the first few cycles, when your dog may become more hormonal and anxious, it’s a good idea to let them know you’re still around and they’re still good dogs.
On top of this there are few different, holistic methods that have come to the forefront of the dog community recently. These include using CBD (the kind without THC) to help ease anxiety, using weighted dog coats which allow your dog to feel comforted and there’s even essential oils and scents available online, that are designed specifically for your female dog in heat! It’s difficult to determine which of these may work best for your dog but it’s important to note that you know your dog best, so I’m sure that- no matter what you choose- it will be in your dog’s best interests!
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If you think your dog is on their period, don’t panic. Dogs are super-intuitive to our emotions and can easily pick up on our stress, which makes them feel more vulnerable and stressed themselves. There’s lots of options out there for dog owners who are looking to help their dog in heat, so do a little digging and a little research to find the best option that works for your family.
The most important part is that, if you aren’t looking to breed your dog (in a safe and healthy way), then your best option is to spay/neuter your pet. Most vets recommend waiting for at least one cycle to pass before doing this, as this is the healthiest time to have your dog spayed. Otherwise, we hope you have found this article helpful and remember- if you have any doubts at all, be sure to make an appointment with your local vet for professional, personalised advice.