Dog in heat wearing diaper

Key takeaway

A dog may experience a sort of “period” when they’re in heat, which is part of the estrous cycle. Dog “periods” typically last about 2-4 weeks, but that duration can vary a bit depending on your dog. During this time, your dog may try to attract male dogs and mate. If you’re not sure what to do when your dog is in heat, consider talking to your vet about whether you should have your dog spayed.

Female dogs have a “period” just like humans do, although the timing is a little different in dogs. Typically, a dog period lasts 2-4 weeks, but the duration can vary from dog to dog. A dog’s “period” is also known as the estrous cycle, and you may hear people refer to this as a dog “being in heat.” These terms are all interchangeable, so the information in this article applies to all these terms.

So, how long do dog periods last and what should you do when your dog has started their estrous cycle? In this article, we’ll talk more about your dog’s estrous cycle, including how long it lasts, how often it occurs, how you can recognize a dog in heat, and what to do if your dog is in heat.

Graphic stating that dog periods typically last 2-4 weeks

What Is The Estrous Cycle?

The estrous cycle is the female reproductive cycle that many animals go through, including dogs. An estrous cycle is essentially the animal equivalent to the menstrual cycles that humans experience. So, how long do female dog’s periods last? The answer lies in the four parts of the estrous cycle: proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus.

The proestrus stage is the beginning of the process, typically lasting 7 to 10 days. During this time, you may notice swelling of the vulva in addition to bleeding. Male dogs may show increased interest in your female dog during this time, but she won’t be ready to mate during proestrus.

Graphic showing order of the estrous cycle (proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus)

Estrus is the actual mating period of the estrous cycle, which typically lasts for between 5 and 10 days. During this time, you may notice that bleeding has reduced significantly or even stopped, and your dog will be ready to mate. 

After estrus comes the diestrus stage, which can last anywhere from 10 to 140 days depending on whether or not your dog is pregnant. If your dog isn’t pregnant during the diestrus stage, they’ll use it as a period of rest.

The final stage is the anestrus stage, which is essentially the period of downtime that occurs between heat cycles. This stage generally lasts about 6 months.1

If you don’t want to deal with your dog’s heat cycle, you may consider getting your dog spayed. In addition to not having a period, there are many benefits to getting them spayed, including, health and behavioral benefits, as well as helping to reduce overbreeding.

When Do Dogs Start Their ‘Period’?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the estrous cycle in dogs, how long do periods last for dogs and when do dogs actually start their period? Typically, female dogs reach sexual maturity at the age of about 6 months, which is when they have their first heat cycle. This typically lasts for about three weeks, and during this time estrogen levels will increase, then decrease sharply. In some cases, this first heat cycle is as short as 2 weeks or as long as 4 weeks.2

It’s your job as a pet parent to recognize when your dog is starting their period, that way you can give them the gentle care they need. We’ll talk more about what you should do when your dog is in heat later in this article.

How Often Do Dogs Get Their ‘Period’?

Now that you know how long dog periods last and when you can expect your dog to start their period, you might be wondering how often your dog will experience this heat cycle.

In most cases, female dogs will have an estrous cycle twice each year, with cycles occurring about 7 months apart on average. Keep in mind that your dog may have another heat cycle in as little as 4 months, or it could take as long as 13 months for your dog to be in heat again. The gap between heat cycles depends on several factors, including the size and breed of your dog.1

How Can You Tell Your Dog Is In Heat?

As a pet parent, it’s important to know how to recognize the signs of a dog in heat. Dogs in heat require special care, and there are telltale signs that can help you spot a dog in heat. If your dog is in heat, you may notice both physical and behavioral signs.

Frequent urination is one of the signs of a dog in heat. Dogs in heat tend to urinate more than usual, so there’s a chance your dog may be in heat if they’re suddenly urinating everywhere.

You may also notice that your dog has swollen vulva as well as the presence of a blood-tinged discharge. These are common symptoms for dogs to experience during the estrous cycle, so your dog may be in heat if you notice these symptoms.

As far as behavior goes, you may notice several changes in your dog. Dogs who are in heat may seem nervous or distracted, and they’re typically more receptive to male dogs than they normally would be. You may notice that your dog is initiating sexual contact by raising her rear into the air and moving her tail to one side. This is known as “flagging.” Your dog may exhibit this sort of behavior around male dogs until their heat cycle is over.2

What To Do When Your Dog Is In Heat

Making a plan for when your dog is in heat is important as a pet parent. The most important thing you can do is make sure your dog has the care they need during their estrous cycle.

Dog diapers can be very helpful when your dog is in heat. Since dogs in heat typically have a bloody discharge as well as increased urination, dog diapers can help keep your dog from making a mess of their bed and the rest of your home. During your dog’s heat cycle, it’s important to make sure they’re comfortable and taken care of.

It’s a good idea to pay a little more attention to your dog while they’re in heat, that way you can make sure they’re doing alright. Dogs in heat don’t typically experience pain as a result of bleeding and swelling, but they may be uncomfortable. Keep an eye on your dog and try to spend extra time with them to keep them comfortable.

Make sure you’re taking your dog for walks when you get a chance because exercise is important when your dog is in heat. Dogs need plenty of exercise to stay healthy both physically and mentally, so you should be taking your dog for regular walks throughout the day. That being said, it’s important to find the right balance between rest and play because your dog may not have the energy to take frequent walks when they’re in heat.

If you don’t want your dog to have puppies, make sure you keep her away from other dogs during her heat cycle. Dogs follow their natural instincts when it comes to mating, so there’s a good chance your dog will get pregnant if you let her hang around intact male dogs during her heat cycle. If you want to avoid pregnancy, make sure you’re not leaving your dog around other dogs when she’s in heat, and don’t leave her outside alone unless you’ve got a fenced yard to keep other dogs out.

Dog and owner snuggling on the couch

Final Notes

Recognizing your dog’s heat cycle and keeping them safe during it is important if you want to avoid a dog pregnancy. If your dog is in heat, you should keep them in a safe place away from other dogs to prevent pregnancy and supervise your dog as much as possible.

If you need help handling a dog in heat, you should talk to your vet. With Dutch, you can connect with vets in your area to get the help you need from the comfort of your home. Try Dutch and schedule an online video chat with a vet today.

References

  1. Davidson, Autumn P. “Management of Reproduction in Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 17 Feb. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/reproductive-disorders-of-dogs/management-of-reproduction-in-dogs?query=reproductive+cycle+in+dogs

  2. Driver, Saige. “Do Dogs Have Periods?” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 31 Dec. 2019, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/do-dogs-have-periods/.