Table of Contents
Do dogs get periods?
Technically speaking, no, dogs don’t have a period. They have a heat cycle known as estrus.
How to tell if a dog is in heat?
When your dog goes into heat, they have increasing levels of estrogen in the body. This hormone causes changes in your female dog and outward signs that you can identify.
So, what signs of heat would you notice? Some dogs, especially on their first or even second heat cycles, show no obvious clinical signs. Sometimes a female dog may lick her vulva (private area) more than normal, and she may also appear swollen in that region.
Additional clues that your pet is in heat
- Varying colors of vaginal discharge
- Increased urination
- Urine marking (leaving her scent) – can occur on walks or even in the home environment
- Increased sleeping, tiredness, or a lack of energy
- Appetite changes – some get hungrier while others eat less
- Behavioral changes – Some dogs may be more snuggly and friendly, while others may be more standoffish
- Trying to escape or run away
- Flirty around men – Presenting her rump to male dogs; or carrying her tail differently
One thing to keep in mind is while all signs above can occur during heat, many may also occur with underlying disease. Suppose your pet isn’t due for a heat cycle, and you see these signs. In that case, this could signify a health issue such as an infection in the uterus (pyometra), urinary tract problem, or systemic illness. Seek veterinary care any time if these signs do not occur when expected or if you are concerned.
What is estrus & what Are the signs?
To better understand the symptoms of heat in dogs, it may help you to understand the heat cycle or estrus. Estrus refers to a female dog’s reproductive cycle since dogs do not actually get a period. Having a period is purely a primate phenomenon (human and non-human primates).
Normally, dogs go into heat (and can potentially get pregnant) every 6 to 8 months. Though some small breed dogs may cycle 3 x per year while some giant breeds only 1 x per year.
Dogs will have heat cycles until death. However, these cycles may become less frequent or obvious as a dog ages, with less bleeding and even years between cycles.
- Proestrus – (7-10 days) This stage is when you first see a bloody discharge, often from a swollen vulva. Female dogs may flirt with male dogs and show interest in their company during proestrus. While female dogs may show interest in male dogs during this stage, they do not permit them to breed.
- Estrus – (5-10 days) During phase 2 of the estrus cycle, the bloody discharge shifts to a light blood tinged to beige-ish color. The transition from proestrus to estrus usually signals ovulation (releasing the egg), priming the body for pregnancy. During this stage, females will start to allow breeding and can become pregnant.
- Diestrus – (10-140 days post heat) in this stage, a dog thinks they are pregnant, fetus, or not. For 63 days, a dog’s body prepares as if it were to have puppies. If not pregnant, there are no outward signs that the dog is in diestrus unless things go awry.
- Anestrus – The period of hormonal silence or inactivity between each heat cycle
If your dog does get pregnant, that 63 days represents the normal gestational period of a dog, or how long your dog likely will remain pregnant until whelping (delivering puppies).
How long does estrus last?
How long a dog stays receptive to a male dog or demonstrates signs of heat varies with the breed and individual dog. Generally speaking, estrus lasts about three weeks in most dogs, from the onset of proestrus until they enter diestrus. However, signs of outward heat range from 1 to 2 weeks.
But all dogs, regardless of if they breed or not, go through a pseudopregnancy (or pseudocyesis). In other words, their bodies think they are pregnant even if they are not. About 63 days after breeding or between 40 and 63 days after they stop their cycle, a female dog’s body thinks it is pregnant. Unless they develop a true false pregnancy, dogs will not show any abnormal signs during this stage.
When do dogs first go into heat?
Generally, most dogs go into heat from 6 months to about 8 months. The smaller the breed, the more likely they will go into heat younger, while giant breeds may take up to 18 months to reach puberty. The first heat cycle occurs when a dog reaches sexual maturity.
Do dogs get cramps during heat?
This isn’t something that can easily be answered but generally speaking, dogs do not appear to be in pain during estrus or when in heat. That said, signs of abdominal pain vary and can include a decreased appetite, stretching more, looking at the belly, appetite changes, and other pain symptoms.
How to relieve dog heat cramps?
If you think your dog is painful during their heat cycles, talk to your veterinarian about safe, appropriate pain medications that can be given to your pet during this time. Do not give over-the-counter medications or human prescription medications as many are toxic to dogs.
What to do when your dog is in heat?
First and foremost, unless you want your dog pregnant, limit your dog’s activities. Take your female dog outside only on a leash and always have her supervised around other dogs (male and female). Ideally, unless you are planning to breed her, do not allow your dog to have any contact with male dogs during this time.
For dogs, breeding occurs quickly, and you cannot interrupt them once they start. If they are tied, you cannot safely break that apart; you must let them breed. When dogs mate, the male and the female eventually end up rear to rear. During this time, the male penis is swollen and locked in the female; if you separate them, you can injure both, including fracturing a dog’s penis.
So, if you don’t want little puppies running around in about 2 months, keep male and female dogs separated when your dog is in heat.
Additional steps include
- Use of female dog diapers – but ensure they are changed frequently to prevent infection, soreness, and irritation
- Monitor the vulva and teats – monitor your pet’s vulva for discharge that looks white and thick as this could signify infection; also note any teat (nipple) enlargement or discharge and if observed, seek veterinary care
- Feed her separately from other animals and monitor her appetite
- Have patience, heat can be a messy time, but you cannot blame your dog for what happens naturally
- Read your pet’s body language. If she doesn’t want affection, do not force it. While dogs do not get a period, they still have similar hormone fluctuations that humans do. Mood changes must be expected and accepted.
When considering hygiene, consider cloth diapers or store-bought disposable lined diapers. Suppose your dog’s blood flow is heavy. In that case, you can even use a maxi pad for humans inside the diaper for added absorbency. However, always monitor dogs closely while wearing any type of clothing or pads. Dogs put anything in their mouths, and that sanitary pad or clothing could become a foreign body in your dog’s intestines, requiring surgery.
What to remember about dogs in heat
Dogs may start going into heat between the ages of 5.5 to 18 months of age, depending on size and breed. No, dogs do not get a period. Instead, dogs go through an estrus or a heat cycle, which has three stages. For a period of about 1-2 weeks, your dog could become pregnant. Some dogs may have 2-3 cycles per year while others, only one.
Make sure you keep track of when your dog is in heat. This way, you’ll be able to tell whether your dog is in heat when she shouldn’t be; if so, you may need to take her to the vet to make sure she doesn’t have a medical issue.
Understanding what behaviors your dog may demonstrate when in heat helps you know when to be more careful with your pet around other dogs and what to expect during that time.
No. A dog’s body needs to have the right set of hormones active to be both receptive to a male dog and to get pregnant.
Dogs go into heat because of hormones produced by the ovaries and the brain. This cannot happen once properly spayed. Spaying removes the ovaries or the ovaries and the uterus. Rarely, if some of the ovary was improperly removed, a dog may show signs of heat.
When a dog goes into heat, they bleed. Other dogs can sense not only the smell of blood but the different pheromones (chemical signals) that the body produces that announce to other dogs they can and are willing to mate.
Unlike people and non-human primates, dogs don’t suffer from menopause. If you don’t spay your dog, your pet may have a heat cycle 1-2 times per year for life. However, like humans, their ability to get pregnant declines with age.