If your beloved girl is going through a heat cycle, it’s only natural to wonder, “How long does a dog stay in heat?” Dogs in heat might seem uncomfortable, or unusually irritable. Just try to remember that this is a natural occurrence, and it will likely be over in about two to four weeks.1
Here’s some information on how you can tell when your dog is entering her regular heat cycle, what to expect, and what you can do to help make her more comfortable.
How Do I Know My Dog Is In Heat?
Female dogs that are not spayed will go through heat at least once a year. The smaller the breed, the more often they’ll go through their reproductive cycle. Giant breeds and larger breeds usually go into heat every 12 months, while smaller dogs can go into heat two or even three times a year.2
A female in heat may or may not be receptive to male dogs at the start of the heat cycle. During this time, her body will release hormones. These hormones serve as a signal to male dogs that the female is ready to conceive a puppy. A dog’s regular heat cycle comes in four stages – proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus.3
Here’s a quick look at some of the changes you’ll see in your dog during each stage of the heat cycle.
- Proestrus – This is where the female’s body starts preparing for the estrus phase. You might begin seeing a bloody discharge.
- Estrus – The estrus period is the stage when your dog can become pregnant (if she’s fertile, of course). Her ovaries will start to release eggs to be fertilized. She may start to “flirt” more with any male dogs who may be around.
- Diestrus – During diestrus, dogs in heat will no longer be in the fertile period. They won’t be as “flirtatious” toward males, and discharge will stop.
- Anestrus – The anestrus phase signals the end of heat. It’s basically your dog’s “normal” stage, where the reproductive cycle rests until it’s time to once again go into heat.4
How Often Does A Female Dog Go Into Heat?
As you learned earlier, a dog can typically go into heat anywhere from one to three times a year. There can also be differences regarding when a dog will start experiencing a heat cycle. In most cases, though, these cycles will start when a puppy reaches puberty, at about six months of age.5 But it can take some dogs as long as a year or two.6
When Does A Dog Stop Going Into Heat?
Female dogs don’t go into menopause like women do. They’ll continue to have a regular heat cycle for as long as they live. The only way to stop a dog from going in heat will be to have her spayed.7
As you’ll find out later, there are a lot of ways spay surgery may help protect your dog’s health.
What Should I Do When My Dog Is In Heat?
As you learned earlier, this is a very natural process, and there’s nothing to be worried about. There are, however, a couple of things you’ll want to do.
The first priority is making sure your dog does not get pregnant. Taking care of this will be fairly simple. If you have a male dog that is not neutered, you’ll need to keep them away from the female in heat. When you take her for a walk, always keep her on a leash. Never leave her alone in the yard, even if you have a sturdy fence.
The bleeding will be another matter entirely. You could keep her in the bathroom or laundry room, areas that are fairly easy to clean. You could also keep her in a crate. But most pet parents won’t want to take those kinds of measures. They want to be able to comfort their dog instead. If you fall into this category, you could use doggie diapers you can find at your local pet store.
Try to be as loving as possible while your girl is in heat. Give her as much affection as you can, and remember that she might be feeling a bit irritable.
Taking Care Of Your Dog Afterward
Once your dog is no longer in heat, she should be completely back to normal. She’ll want to play, nuzzle, and do everything she normally does. If you’d rather not go through this again, however, the best option is to spay your pet. Always wait until her heat cycle is over before doing so. The uterus grows quite a bit during this time, and that could make spaying more difficult.
There are other advantages to spaying other than ensuring your dog will never again experience a heat cycle. One of the biggest benefits is that you’ll help her avoid a health issue known as pyometra, a uterine infection which can strike non-spayed dogs.8
Other Reasons To Spay Your Dog
Avoiding heat cycles and the risk of pyometra are both great reasons to spay your dog. Here are a few more to consider with your vet.
- A potentially longer life – Research shows that on average, spayed female dogs live more than 20 percent longer than dogs who are not spayed. Possible reasons include a reduced risk of not only pyometra, but other potential health issues as well. In addition, spayed dogs are less likely to roam, reducing the risk they’ll be struck by a vehicle or suffer some other type of accident.
- Reducing indoor urination – A spayed female is also less likely to urinate inside in an effort to mark her territory. This type of behavior is typically associated with unneutered males, but some females do it as well.
- Reducing costs – If you don’t spay your dog and she develops pyometra or another severe illness, you’ll be looking at veterinary bills in the thousands of dollars. Spaying costs a fraction of that amount.9
Talk to Your Vet
If you’re having problems dealing with your pet having a heat cycle, your veterinarian can tell you exactly what’s happening and give tips on how to best handle the situation. They’ll also let you know how the spaying process works and how to take care of your dog before and after the procedure.