Health & Care

How long do female dogs stay in heat? What you need to know backed up by scientific facts

how long do dogs stay in heat

The heat cycle in female dogs

Heat in dogs is referred to as estrus cycle. This is the stage when a female dog becomes receptive to mating.

Average period in female dogs happens approximately once every six months.

When a female comes into heat, their body is preparing to produce a litter. As an owner of a dog, it is necessary that you know the females heat cycle to determine the best time for your dog to have puppies or prevent mating from taking place.

A male dog can detect that a female is in heat from as far as three miles away. This is the reason why you will notice that a lot of male dogs will be getting closer to your female dog as soon as her cycle starts.

Dogs in heat should stay away from male dogs for about 3 to 4 weeks in an owner is not a professional breeder.

Remember that dogs know when they are in heat and fertile and when they are not.

It is, therefore, your responsibility to understand the reproductive cycle of your unspayed dog.

Pay considerable attention to the dog throughout the heat cycle to ensure their comfort and safety and energy levels.

How long do dogs stay in heat?

Heat in female dogs usually lasts for 2 to 4 weeks. The heat cycle can be shorter or longer. The best indicator that the period is over is when no more bleeding or discharge occurs, and the vulva returns to its normal size. However, only an unsprayed dog can experience the heat cycle.

What are the stages of the estrus or heat cycle?

Four different stages form up the estrus cycle:

Proestrus(first stage)

This stage lasts for about 7 to 10 days. It is during this stage that your dog bleeds. A female dog also urinates frequently, and it has a swollen vulva.

Estrus(Second stage)

This is the second stage when the dog is more willing to breed. This stage lasts for approximately 5 to 9 days.

This is the stage when the dog usually moves its tail to the side when touched to attract male dogs for mating.

It is the real heat and period when ovaries begin to release eggs for fertilization.

Diestrus (third stage)

This stage usually lasts for about 6 to 10 weeks and only very few outward signs because everything that happens in this stage is internal. Much of ovarian activities occur during this stage.

If a dog is already impregnated, diestrus stage lasts from the end of estrus till puppies are born.

Anestrus(fourth stage)

This is the last stage which lasts for about 15 weeks and where there are no hormonal activities taking place. It is the most extended phase of the heat cycle. Also known as resting stage.

When does heat cycle in female dogs start?

According to Dr. B. Eilts from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, a female dog will come into heat from about six months of age all through the rest of her life.

This may not be the case for some giant bleeds which will not go into heat until they attain 18 to 24 months of age.

Thus, estrus cycle occurs earlier in small breed dogs and later in large breed dogs.

However, it is recommended that an owner should avoid breeding young female dogs on their first and second cycles because their eggs are not yet mature.

How can an owner of a female dog identify when the dog is on heat?

There are some symptoms that you can check to determine when your dog is in heat although they vary throughout the cycle. Some of the signs of heat in a female dog include;

Change in behavior

A dog becomes restless and demonstrates an aggressive behavior which consists of a pushy behavior and trying to dominate. The dog also appears nervous and easily distracted and more alert.

Increased appetite

Most of the dogs will have an increase in appetite due to the additional amount of energy required in their bodies.

However, some of the dogs which become less active during the heat will show a decrease in appetite.

Swollen vulva

Frequent urination, and a bloody discharge. The dog also frequently licks her vulva.

According to Dr. Margaret Gruen, A female dog may also initiate sexual interaction with male dogs by elevating her hindquarters when male dogs approach, deflecting her tail to one side and tensing her rear legs.

How long does a dog in heat experience bleeding?

Bleeding is the first stage which is referred to as proestrus. This stage lasts for about ten days and it the scene when your dog will bleed from the vaginal area. This is usually a pregnancy preparation stage.

However, the dog will not want to mate during this time.

How long does each cycle last?

Heat lasts for 2 to 4 weeks. Early in the cycle, a female is not receptive to male dogs. However, some female dogs are responsive throughout the period.

according to Dr. Whiteley, an indicator that the cycle is over is when no more discharge or bleeding occurs, and the vulva returns to its average size.

The phase during which a female dog is more fertile is relatively small, and it may commence 9 to 10 days after the heat cycle begins. This phase lasts for about five days.
However, pregnancy is possible until the end of the cycle.

How can a pet owner take care of a dog in heat?

As a responsible pet owner, do not leave a female dog outdoors on their own when they are in heat.

This is because the male dogs will become aggressive and want to mate.

It is preferable that you keep your female dog indoors while in the heat to prevent siring of an unwanted litter.

It can also be trouble keeping a female dog on heat indoors due to the messy and smelly discharge.

Therefore, keep your female indoors but in a confined area where it will be easy to clean up. Baby gates are an excellent way to restrict dogs.

In case the dog is experiencing a heavy flow, purchase dog panties for them which contains special sanitary napkins for absorbance.

It is also possible that you clean your dog to minimize smells that attract males.

Is heat a lifetime experience in dogs?

A female dog will experience estrus cycle all through her lifetime. Menopause in dogs does not exist. However, the estrus cycle in female dogs lengthens as they grow older.

It is also likely for estrus cycle in dogs to take time before it becomes regular after it begins. Some dogs can even take up to 18 months for their period to become routine.

What can a dog owner feed his dog when in heat? 

Dr. Daniel says that since many female dogs will lose their appetite during the heat cycle, it is recommended that you give your dog some extra treat such as giving her some meat baby food.

Make sure to drain fats from the menu or give her more boiled foods to avoid diarrhea.

However, do not force your dog to eat because most dogs won’t skip a day or two without eating something.

Do dogs have to be in heat to get pregnant?

This is a yes Dr. Coger says. Estrus stage in a dog is the stage where eggs are released. It is only during this stage that pregnancy can result because it is the actual heat period.

It is the period when the female is receptive to males and will show physical signs of readiness.

Is it possible for a dog to get pregnant if they have a silent heat cycle? 

Dr. Lynne Baker explains that the silent cycle is a situation where one is unable to realize that a dog has cycled because no signs of a regular or regular heat cycle were exhibited.

This is a possible indicator that here the reproductive system is suppressed.

It is very possible for the female to get pregnant during the silent heat. Thus be keen to watch out for any male dogs because they can detect quiet heat.

How often will a dog go in heat?

Majority of the dogs will go in heat at least twice per year which means approximately every six months.

Intervals, however, vary in different breeds of dogs. Small breeds in dogs can experience their cycle up to 3 times in a single year.

Giant breeds will only experience their cycle once for every interval of 12 to 18 months. The period is usually irregular during the first times.

How can I prevent my dog from going into heat or getting pregnant?

To prevent estrus cycle or unwanted pregnancy in dogs, it is highly recommended that you get your female dog spayed by Dr. Sara Chapman. This involves surgical sterilization. It is recommended that you spay your dog before she experiences her first estrus cycle.

It is somehow difficult to determine when she will have her first cycle and therefore perform the sterilization just before the dog attains 6 to 7 months of age.

Spaying will have some significant advantages will include reduced risk of mammary cancer and also a great way to control the homeless pet population.

What are some of the characteristic abnormalities in the dog heat cycle? 

A female dog can experience some abnormalities in its cycle which include; 

Shortened inter estrous interval

This is too short window period between two heats.

Prolonged interestrus interval

This is too long window period between two cycles. The leading cause is an ovarian cyst that will start producing progesterone.

Absent heat

This is when a female misses its heat. There is a complete failure for a dog to experience the cycle due to malnourishment or ovarian hypoplasia(a condition where the ovaries are unable to reach sexual maturity and unable to produce right amounts of estrogen. Tumors in ovary can also cause this.

Silent heat

This is where heat in a female dog is undetectable. The female shows no interest in males.

Split heat

This is a condition where temperature happens in two distinct periods of time split by the break. Commonly occurs in younger females. Female dogs start her heat, stops for several days and then finishes it.

Prolonged heat

This is where the heat period is too long compared to their medium heat. The leading causes include an estrogen-producing ovarian cyst.

Premature ovarian failure

This is where the functioning of the ovary lessens or stops at an early age.

Do not think that everything is okay once the bleeding stops. The cycle lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.

Bleeding only occurs during the first two weeks. Fertile period is usually when the bloody discharge begins to subside.

Thus, do not think that a dog is out of heat when discharge ends or swelling of the vulva ends. It is the prime fertile period.

Can heat cause a dog to fall sick?

Being in heat can cause some dogs to get a stomach upset according to Dr. Daniel A..

This is because of the hormonal changes that can mess the digestive tract, especially in sensitive dogs.

They lead to mood changes that cause the mild gastrointestinal upset. Dogs can also get diarrhea and vomit when undergoing their heat cycle. It is usual for dogs to get nausea which subsides after a few days.

An infection in the uterus called pyometra can result in vomiting. A puppy can get into heat sooner than you expect.

It takes approximately six months for the puppy to experience their first heat cycle.

Dr. Kutzler advises that get your puppy spayed to prevent her from going through the estrus cycle.

There is no perfect reason for allowing your puppy to go through heat and sire one litter of puppies.

Consult your vet

It is essential to consult your vet when your dog is on heat to know the things you should take care of to prevent unexpected trouble. Also, ensure to balance between rest and exercise.

During the heat period, different dogs react differently. Some feel tired all day long while some become restless. Thus, choose the right schedule for the dog based on its behavior.

In case a dog on heat runs away to search for a mate, use a tractive GPS tracker which will show the exact location of the dog. This is an excellent way to find her and bring her back as fast as possible.

In some cases, a dog may become pregnant even if the owner tries his best to confine their pets.

Some of the signs that a dog may be pregnant include decreased appetite and vomiting, sudden decrease in activity, change in nipple color, breast development.

It is also important for an owner to differentiate between false and real pregnancy because both conditions are almost the same.

According to Dr. May, for a false pregnancy, you won’t notice any signs until after at least four weeks after the cycle ends.

In the right pregnancy, Dr. Coger explains that the majority of the symptoms are notified within the first two weeks in gestation.

Always make regular visits to the vet to ensure that the some of the signs in heat are not a result of illness.

Keep stress to the animal in heat at a minimal.