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Periods in Dogs – Stages of a Heat Cycle & What to Do

If you own a female dog, you must learn some terms and details, especially when you plan to breed your dog or prevent a pregnancy. Each dog is different, but you can find some similarities during its heat stages. This article will cover the details about your how long do dog periods last and highlight the noticeable dog in heat symptoms to look out for. We will walk through each stage of the heat cycle in this guide. 

What are the Signs of Heat in Dogs?

During the heating season, dogs undergo hormonal changes that cause highlighted differences. There are some evident behavioral and physical signs to determine whether your dog is in heat. Some of the signs of heat in dogs are:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Slightly swollen breasts
  • Tender nipples
  • Frequent Urination 
  • More attention to the vulva
  • Genital licking
  • Alert Demeanor
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding 
  • Aggressive behavior (sometimes)
  • Agitation
  • Flagging
  • Distracted approach
  • Increased anxiety or nervousness 
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She would also hold her tail to the side to invite male dogs. She would try to raise her rump in public. During this time, some female dog in heat signs are, your canine will exhibits marking manners; she will likely pee in public and on objects she wants to claim. The pee contains pheromones which signal to other male dogs that she is receptive to conception. This can make your house a competition zone for make dogs as they try to pee around your house to mark their territory. 

When Do Dogs Start Their Period?

If you want to know when do dogs start their period and How long do dog periods last? Here is the answer. Every female dog goes through the heat in their life after they are about six-eight months old. This is indicative of your dog’s mating season. Smaller breeds go in heat early in life—at four. Larger breeds start their estrus period between 18-24 months. The average age, however, comes down to six months. 

How to Tell If a Dog is in Heat?

Still confused about how to tell if a dog is in heat? The simple and early signs dog is going into heat are already mentioned. But there are four stages of dog heat cycle, each characterized by different physical, hormonal, cytological, and behavioral changes. The stages are described here as:

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#1 Proestrus in Dogs

Proestrus in dogs marks the beginning of dog heat bleeding. The discharge is bloody and pure red. It typically lasts for ten days. For different breeds, it can extend to 27 days. During this stage, the dog may urinate more, and the vulva will be enlarged or swollen. The estrogen levels will surge at this time, and the follicles will start developing. Males will be attracted due to pheromones, but females will not engage. 

#2 Estrus Cycle in Dogs

Estrus cycle in dogs is also known as “Full Heat.” It demands vigilance by dog owners as the dogs are completely ready to breed. Estrogen levels drop while progesterone increases in the body. This last for an average of 10 days as well. The discharge changes to a pink tinge instead of red, and the vulva softens. 

#3 Diestrus

This stage characterizes the end of the heat and can extend for about 6 to 10 weeks. Irrespective of your dog’s pregnancy, the progesterone graph shows a peak that eventually falls with the end of this stage. Dogs are not receptive while in this stage. 

#4 Anestrus

It is the time during which your dog does not have any hormonal activity. It is called the “Non-heat Period.” This is the preparatory time for your female to develop the uterus for possible pregnancy in the next estrus stage. The vulva returns to its usual size. 

How Long Do Dog Periods Last?

Want to know how long do dog periods last? The female dog heat cycle usually lasts around 2-4 weeks. While some breeds are known to be receptive during the entire cycle, most are not receptive initially. The most fertile period lasts for 4-5 give days. It begins around the second week of their heat cycle. Unlike humans—who go through menstruation for a few years before reaching menopause, dogs can continue having their periods for their entire lifetime.

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It takes some time (around 18 months) for the heat to become regular. Once it does, smaller breeds experience set more frequently than larger breeds like Great Danes and St. Bernards. The difference between two consecutive cycles may be 3-18 months. The duration between two cycles gets extended with age, but it does not stop.

How To Prevent Your Dog From Going Into Heat?

It is a myth that a dog becomes more friendly and affectionate after she conceives and delivers a litter of puppies. If you want to breed your pet, you should wait for her second or third cycle. But to prevent your dog from going into heat, can follow these methods:

#1 Surgical Method

Spay operation is done before a dog enters her first estrus cycle. It should be carried out when your dog is about six-seven months old. Estrus cycles are not predictable, so proper attention and discretion are required. Spay operation is known to increase the life span of a dog. However, some larger breeds do better when spayed after dogs first heat cycle. The spaying process restricts unwanted pregnancies and the risk factors for various reproductive diseases. This operation involves two procedures:

Ovariohysterectomy (OVH):

Ovariohysterectomy is characterized by the removal of ovaries and the uterus. It was believed to prevent diseases like pyometra, cancer, and uterine tumors.

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Ovariectomy (OVE):

Ovariectomy is the surgical removal of ovaries. The uterus is left untouched. According to a 2014 study, OVE is better as it disturbs lesser internal organs. The removal of ovaries is enough to reduce the chances of any tumors or any such diseases. It allows speedy recovery and fewer complications. 

#2 Non-Surgical Method

It includes medications like megestrol acetate and mibolerone, which delay the heat cycle. Some medicines can permanently surprise he was because they are very strong. Megestrol acetate has a more than 90% success rate in delaying heat cycles. Before ingesting the pill or syrup, these are the prerequisite steps:

  • Heat cycle history has to be obtained. 
  • A vaginal smear should be taken for a cytological exam.
  • A physical exam must be carried out. 
  • Checkup for breast cancer. 

If your dog mates with another dog, you can contact your veterinarian to give your pet a dose of mismating injection. This injection is not devoid of risks. Mostly, it should be avoided. It is also useful if you keep her inside the house and close the doors and windows. Pheromones are highly active during the heat stage and are easily detectable by male dogs from a long distance. Closing doors and windows and keeping her in a closed enclosure can help contain her scent in the house and not invite unnecessary situations.

What Do you Do When your Dog Gets her Period?

  • So, what do you do when your dog gets her period is to get some diapers.
    • Disposable Diapers: These are ideal for amateur dog owners. It will not require cleaning and washing, and you can easily dispose of it. 
    • Reusable Diapers: These diapers are environment-friendly and economical. They can be easily washed by hand or washing machine. They come in various sizes, colors, and prints.
  • The thing to remember is that during dog menstrual cycle, your fur pal becomes agitated. You must ensure her comfort. Just like human mood swings, dogs can show signs through pacing and whimpering.
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  • Keep some wipes handy to sweep across the floor or any area where the discharge has been smeared. You can allocate soft and comfortable blankets for better relief.
  • Keep your aggression in check and be patient with her. Do not scold or yell at her. Give her more cuddles than usual. 
  • Increasing protein in the diet is advisable so give her more meat and salmon. Proper diet and nutrition are essential.
  • Always use a leash while walking your dog and be attentive. 
  • Increase your supervision and keep track of the activities of your canine buddy. The heat cycle can make them act in unpredictable ways. They can even run away from home. 
  • It is wise to keep track of heat spots on dogs and note the behavior change. The track record of vaginal discharge may be helpful when you go to a vet for an examination.


As a responsible dog owner, you must understand and consider the hormonal changes in your dog. A female dog in heat needs care and assistance. Now that you have learned the basics of the heat cycle in dogs, you can make informed decisions about whether to get your dog spayed or take care of her during that time. Managing the reproductive cycle of your female dog can be expensive and messy. Make sure to closely check your dog’s health and activities to administer the changes in her body.