Dog in heat? Here’s everything you need to know.

Do you have a male or female dog, which has not yet been spayed or neutered? In this case, knowing the signs of a dog in heat is very important for both male and female dog parents. This can help you to do the following:

  • be better prepared for the experience
  • prevent unwanted pregnancy/new puppies
  • plan for puppies when you do want them
  • avoid dangerous situations; dogs in heat can be very unpredictable and even run away from home
  • keep track of your dog

So what are the most common symptoms of a dog in heat? What can you expect when your dog is in heat? Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions on dogs in heat.

Female dog period: What you need to know

The first thing to know is that all mammals have a period which is equivalent to the human female period. However, the female dog period is different than that of humans. A female dog will experience her first period once she has reached puberty.

On average, most dogs reach puberty by the age of six months, but this can vary. The same applies to the regularity of the female dog period. Most female dogs will have have their first periods irregularly, but the cycle tends to normalize in the first two years.

Normally, female dogs are in heat twice a year, for a period of two to three weeks.

How to recognize if your dog is in heat

Know the following signs and symptoms of a dog in heat. Your female dog might …

  • urinate more often
  • raise her leg differently while urinating – or when she sees a male dog
  • pay more attention to male dogs
  • become more affectionate
  • become lazier or aroused
  • handle her heat period well by herself or not really know how to react
  • run away, to practice hiding from male dogs

Your male dog might even neglect opportunities for food or water, since his instinct is very much focused on mating. Here are four creative tricks on how to persuade your dog to drink water in order to avoid dehydration.

Dog behavior while in heat

To better understand the signs of a female dog in heat, it’s best to break down the various stages of the average 21-day heat cycle. Keep in mind that the 21-day cycle is just a guideline and every dog is different.

Dogs typically have two heats per year, but each dog differs in length of heat, discharge amount and hormonal changes.

Interesting facts show that some female dogs in heat even run away from home. But they are not the only unpredictable actors in this process. Male dogs are also affected when a female dog is in heat. Very often, they sense the heat cycle of a female dog and start to track it. Once discovered, there is no fence high enough for your male dog. He will find a way to get away! What can you do about it?

Learn the 4 stages of the dog heat cycle

1. Proestrus stage

The first stage of the dog heat cycle is called proestrus. This stage can last from 3 to 17 days, but many dogs experience about 9 days in proestrus. The first sign of this stage is the swelling of the vulva. This is one of the best ways to spot the beginning of a dog heat cycle. During the proestrus stage, you may notice the following symptoms:

A personality change:
Changes can range from quite mild to more severe. Sometimes a female dog will become more affectionate and clingy with her owner, other times she may seem a bit grumpy.
Appetite changes:
It’s not unusual for a dog to go off her food a bit during this first week, or she may get hungrier. Whatever the change is, taking note of it can be a significant clue that the heat cycle has begun.
Swelling of the vulva:
The amount of vulva swelling varies from dog to dog. Some dogs swell just a bit, while others swell quite a lot. Bleeding also varies, but typically bleeding is light during the first few days and grows a bit heavier mid-week.
Tail tucking:
This is a reaction to guard the vulva, either by tucking the tail between the leg or sitting down whenever another dog approaches.

The 4 stages of dog in heat2. Estrus Stage

The estrus stage typically last from 3-21 days and lasts 9 days on average. This is the time your dog is fertile (her actual heat) and where the ovaries begin to release eggs for fertilization. During this stage the female dog will be willing to accept male company. She will switch her tail to the side and she might try to be outside more often than normally. She is following her instinct to breed. During this period, symptoms include:

Lightened discharge:
Previously bright red, the discharge now lightens to be somewhat pink.
Softening of the vulva:
Initial swelling subsides just enough to make the vulva soften enough for penetration.
Whereas she previously tucked her tail to push away male company, she now begins to behave flirtatiously. E.g. inviting the male by turning her rear toward him and holding the tail high and out of the way.



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