If you plan on breeding your female dog, you’re going to have to learn a little bit more about how and when she goes into heat. All unspayed females go into heat around the time they hit puberty – usually between six months and two years old, depending on the breed – during which time they’re capable of reproduction. Though you absolutely shouldn’t think about bringing around a male dog until your female is in her third heat cycle, it’s never too early to start learning how long your dog stays in heat.
How Often Will It Happen?
The good news is that dogs don’t actually go into heat all that often. On average, a dog will go into heat about twice a year, though the actual cycle is going to vary quite a bit from dog to dog. Smaller breeds might go into heat as often as four times a year, for example, while the giants might only go into heat once a year.
One of the big reasons why many breeders tend to avoid breeding their dogs until their third cycle is that it can take a female some time to develop a regular heat cycle. Females below two years old can be very irregular, giving owners yet another reason to put off breeding.
How Long Does a Dog Stay in Heat?
This is the big question for many owners of unspayed dogs. While you can expect your dog to go into heat about twice a year, you might not know how long she is going to stay there. While this again varies by breed, you should expect your dog to stay in heat for about two and a half weeks. If she exits heats earlier or stays in heat for too long, you might want to contact your vet
Signs Your Dog is In Heat
If you’re a new dog owner or you have never had an unspayed female, you might wonder how to tell if your dog is in heat. Fortunately, the signs are actually fairly obvious. They include:
- Personality changes
- More frequent urination and marking behavior
- ‘Presenting’ to males
Preventing Your Dog From Going Into Heat
Honestly, there is only one real way to stop your dog from going into heat. While there are certain types of dog birth control that have at least some level of efficacy, the truth is that you’re going to need to get your dog spayed if you want to avoid these cycles.
Spaying is actually good for your dog’s health. It helps to prevent a few types of cancer and can actually help her to avoid certain types of infection. If you’re not going to breed your dog, there’s really no reason to avoid this process.
The Stages of the Heat Cycle
If you aren’t going to get your dog spayed, you should start to familiarize yourself with the various stages of the heat cycle. This will give you a better chance to prepare and to keep your dog healthy.
Proestrus is the beginning of the heat cycle, a stage in which your dog is not yet fertile. You’ll notice some physical changes and likely some discharge here, so get ready to spend some time cleaning up after your pet. There can be a fair bit of blood here as well, so you’ll need to train yourself not to panic. This stage will last a little over a week, at which time your dog will move into the fertile stage.
Estrus lasts for up to two weeks, and these are often your dog’s most fertile weeks. You might want to keep a bit of stain remover handy during this period, but your dog’s discharge shouldn’t be quite as strong at this time.
If you don’t want your dog to get pregnant, you need to pay attention. Male dogs can smell when a female is in heat and most will do their best to mate with her. You’ll want to be extra careful at this time as well, as male dogs do get significantly more aggressive if they are near a female who is in estrus.
Note that this is also a time when female dogs tend to turn into runners, so you’re definitely going to want to take a look into the proper kind of fencing for your dog before she gets here.
This is the third stage of heat, a time period in which your dog isn’t fertile but male dogs are still going to be very interested in her. Your dog will probably bleed a bit, so keep an eye out before you leave the house.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end. This is technically the fallow period between heat cycles, lasting until your dog next enters proestrus. Keep an eye on your dog to make sure that she stays healthy and that she doesn’t have any bad reactions if you did breed her during her heat cycle.
When Heat Ends
Technically speaking, the heat never really ends for dogs. She’ll be fertile for her entire life, though she’s much less likely to conceive as she ages. Instead, heat tends to end when pet owners decide that the risks involved with a dog pregnancy have simply gotten too great and it’s time to spay their dogs. Later pregnancies really can put your dog’s life at risk, so make sure that you weigh the pros and cons before you make any decisions during your dog’s heat cycle.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long does a dog bleed when in the heat?
Your dog can theoretically bleed during the entire heat cycle, so up to around eighteen days. Some dogs will stop bleeding a little earlier, but the heaviest bleeding is probably going to occur during the earliest stages of the cycle.
2. What are the stages of a dog in heat?
There are four stages of heat. There is proestrus when your dog is infertile but is ready to go into heat; estrus, when your dog is fertile; diestrus, the end period of the heat cycle when your dog is once again infertile but still has the attention of male dogs; and finally anestrus, which is the period between your dog’s heat cycles.
3. How do you know when dog heat is over?
It can be difficult to tell when your dog’s heat is over. The first thing you’ll notice is that your dog has stopped having any kind of discharge. The next big tell is that not only is your dog showing much less interest in being around male dogs, but male dogs are spending much less time around here in general. Finally, you should notice a marked change in your dog’s personality – she will likely be less nervous and will tend to be much more friendly to you in general.
4. Does a dog ever stop going in the heat?
Dogs don’t stop going into heat unless they have been spayed. While dogs will continue these cycles for their entire lives, it should be noticed that dogs don’t necessarily have an easy time conceiving as they get older. As such, it may be worthwhile for even those who breed their dogs to consider having their pets spayed when they reach a certain age.