Do Dogs Have Periods? How To Care For A Dog During Heat

Do dogs have periods? No, but they do bleed. But for different reasons compared to humans. 
Unspayed female dogs have estrous cycles, commonly known as heat, or being in season, not 'periods'. During which they bleed, and the vulva swells in preparation for being fertile. After the bleeding, the bitch will then be ready for breeding. 
Only primates (including humans, gorillas, lemurs, orangutans, etc.) bleed if egg goes unfertilized (known as a menstrual cycle, rather than estrus cycle). The unfertilized egg then passes out through the vagina, and this is a period. When a dog's egg is unfertilized, it is reabsorbed back into the body. 
Busy? Get Your Hands Paws On The Answers Quickly…

How Long Are Dogs In Heat?


A dog's heat cycle is around 180 days (6 months) on average. Smaller dogs may have shorter cycles of approximately four months, and larger dogs can have cycles of up to 12 months. 

Cycle Name and Length

Phase Name
Average Length
7 - 10 days
5 - 14 days
Metestrus or Diestrus
50 - 90 days
60 - 90 days
This is the first stage of heat. The vulva will begin to swell, and the dog will start 'spotting' which is a red, bloody discharge. The female dog will also start to attracting male attention, but she is not yet ready to mate and may show this by giving off aggressive signs.
During this phase, the female dog becomes fertile. Her vulva will become softer, and the discharge will decrease slightly and be less bloody and pinker. She will still be attracting males, but will now be receptive to them. If you are planning on breeding your dog, this is the time to do so. If not, it is essential to keep your dog on a leash or inside. In this stage, she may be more lethargic in preparation for pregnancy.
Metestrus or Diestrus:
This stage lasts for around 50-90 days if the bitch was not successfully mated, or if she was, until birth. If the egg has gone unfertilized, the body will reabsorb it. During this stage, the swelling of the vulva decreases, and any kind of spotting will cease signaling the end of the cycle. 
This is the longest phase; it is the time between the cycle ending and beginning again. The length of time can vary from dog to dog. The hormones will balance, and the dog is no longer fertile. During this time, the uterus can prepare for the next potentially pregnancy.

How To Care For A Dog In Heat


Keep Secure - Not only will males want to mate with your bitch, but your bitch may try escaping to do the same. Make sure she is safely secured in the house.
Take Short Leash Walks - It is still important to exercise your dog during heat. Keep your dog on the leash, even the most obedient of females in heat may not come back when called. It is also recommended to drive for a walk rather than walking directly from your house, as females give off potent pheromones and mark during heat, meaning you may get males turning up at the door! 
Attention - A bitch may become needier during heat and want to be with you. Ensure you give her adequate care, including playing and cuddling, to keep her content.
New Toys and Chews - Heat can be uncomfortable for dogs, making sure she has something to distract her can help. Dogs like to chew when they're uncomfortable or stressed, so providing new toys and chews can be a great distraction for her, and relief from constant attention seeking for you.
Spaying - If you are not planning on breeding your bitch, you can consider spaying. It is something a lot of people recommend for both ease (no longer have to think about heat, puppies, etc.) and for potential health benefits. If you are considering this, talk to a vet and do extensive research on the pros and cons related to your breed and dog size.

Signs Of Heat


Swollen Vulva - This might be difficult to tell on certain dogs, and as it is not an area often inspected. However, the vulva will be considerably enlarged and may darken in color. 
Tail Position - During the first stage (proestrus), your bitch might hold its tail between its legs. This is a sign that she is not ready to breed. However, when she enters the estrus cycle phase, she will be making herself more available for male dogs. She may show this by holding her tail up or moving it to the side.
Appetite - Although not always, a bitches appetite may increase while they're in season.
Bleeding - This is one of the easiest and most obvious ways to tell if your bitch is in heat. Vaginal discharge is red to light pink, and you may notice this in spots around the house. If you are concerned about the blood getting on the carpet or furniture, you could purchase doggy diapers or keep her in space with wooden or tiled flooring. However, make sure she is not secluded from the family.
Urinating More Frequently - During heat, a bitch will give off strong pheromones to attract a mate. It is not uncommon for her to start marking areas of the house, yard, and while walking. This will let the males know she is fertile.
Continuous Cleaning - To keep herself clean, a dog tends to lick themselves more frequently to clean up the bleeding and discharge. 
Panting, Pacing, and Whining - A bitch may seem in discomfort and agitated, this is normal. It usually is a sign she is frustrated that she cannot mate. Make sure she gets adequate exercise and has some new, exciting toys and chews to keep her entertained.



Can dogs get pregnant in their first season?
Yes. Once a dog comes into heat, they have reached sexual maturity and could carry puppies. However, this is not recommended. Most bitches have their first heat at six months so are merely puppies themselves, they are not fully matured, and therefore we advise strongly against breeding in the first season.
How often do dogs go into heat?
A dog comes into heat twice a year on average. Smaller dogs may experience heat more frequently, every 3-4 months, whereas larger dogs could be as infrequently as 12-18 months.
Do spayed dogs have periods?
No, they shouldn't experience bleeding after being spayed. However, if any ovarian tissue was left behind in the surgery, they may show signs of being in heat. If you suspect this, please contact the vet.
Do dogs get period cramps?
Intact bitches can experience pain and discomfort during their cycle. 
Do dogs have menopause?
Unlike humans, dogs don't go through menopause, and once they have their first heat, they will be fertile for the rest of her life (unless spayed) although the length of time between each cycle does increase with age.
Do female cats get periods?
They do have a heat cycle, but it tends to be less evident due to the limit or lack of bleeding. Cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they come into heat several times during a few months.
Can a dog be in heat and not bleed?
All dogs are not alike, some bleed a lot, and some a little. It is possible that your dog is in heat but does not bleed much and cleans herself more.
Are dogs seasonally polyestrous?
No, they are monestrous, which means they have one estrous per year.
What can I give my dog for menstrual pain?
Just be sure to give your dog a lot of love and affection, they may experience pain and discomfort during their cycle which could make them act out of character, but generally, as long as they feel warm and safe, they will be able to look after themselves. If the dog seems in a considerable amount of pain, contact the vet.



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Disclaimer: Each dog is different, and every circumstance is different. All efforts have been made to provide accurate information. However, it is not provided by a qualified Veterinarian, Veterinarian Surgeon, or Behaviorist. The information provided is purely educational. The information should not be used as an alternative or substitute for medical care. If you have any health or medical concerns, contact a qualified Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinarian immediately.


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