A dog’s heat cycle is a mysterious thing to many dog owners. If your female will be coming into heat, how long dogs are in heat, how long dogs are in heat, how to recognize it, and what you should do during that time.
How long are dogs in heat?
Dogs are typically in heat for 2 to 3 weeks, though it can last as little as 1 week and as much as 4 weeks. During that time, you’ll notice your dog’s vulva is swollen (I’ll spare you pictures, but that’s the external opening to a dog’s vagina). A bloody discharge will come from that area. She’ll probably lick herself a lot to clean herself. Female dogs may also hump other dogs or whatever strikes her fancy.
Dogs typically have their first heat sometime between 6 months and 12 months of age. Typically, smaller dogs will get it earlier and larger dogs will get it later, often well into their second year of life. An unspayed female will go into heat every 6 to 8 months, or roughly twice a year.
What should I do while my dog is in heat?
Be very, very careful about taking her outside your home. Female dogs in heat give off a scent that is like catnip to male dogs. Stories abound of dogs in heat being let into the backyard, then becoming pregnant unexpectedly after a determined neighborhood male found his way into the yard. Do not take her to a dog park or other communal dog area, as competing for a female in heat may lead to fights. Walk your dog on leash and watch carefully for other dogs.
The bloody discharge can stain carpets and other surfaces. To minimize staining and clean-up, you have a few options. During her heat, you may choose to limit your dog to an easily cleaned area such as a tiled bathroom. Alternatively, you can get these Pads For Dogs In Heat for your dog to wear. They let your dog wander the house as normal with the protection of a pad so you don’t find spots to clean.
Should I let my dog have a heat cycle before spaying?
No. If you’re not planning to breed your dog, there’s no need to wait. While the old wisdom was to let your dog have one heat cycle before spaying, we now know there’s no medical reason to do so. In fact, spaying a dog before her first heat reduces the chances of complications later like mammary cancer. Talk to your vet before your dog’s first cycle about when would be right to spay your dog and what kind of spaying is best for your dog (uterine only or uterine and ovarian removal).
Spaying before your dog’s first heat cycle prevents the possibility of your dog accidentally becoming pregnant. Pregnant dogs, as well as newborn puppies, take a lot of work and care. While everyone loves puppies, bringing them into the world is best left to experienced, professional breeders.
Spaying before your dog’s first heat cycle also prevents the mess and nuisance that heat brings.
How long are dogs in heat? 2 to 4 weeks at a time, twice a year. That's a big chunk of time, and it requires special care and concern. Make sure you know the signs of a dog going into heat so you can be prepared when your dog hits it. And please, spay your dogs to prevent unwanted litters.
Did this answer your questions about female dogs in heat? Don't miss another answer-packed post. Subscribe to weekly updates in the green box at top right.
Read more about dog health care:
Cost To Spay A Dog And Other Spay/Neuter Questions Answered
Arthritis In Dogs Home Remedies
Paw Protectors For Dogs
Photo credit: Tonamel