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How to tell if a dog is in heat? (8 signs you should know)

Are you looking for information on how to tell if a dog is in heat? Here, you will learn how to identify if a female dog is in heat by reading the signs.

Are you looking for a way to tell if a Dog is in Heat? This page describes what to look for when a Dog is in heat, what to do, and how to care for a Dog in heat.

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There is a time in the life of every female species when they are ready to get pregnant. 

In dogs, this period is known as being in heat, this is when the female dog is fertile and can become pregnant. 

This can be a very difficult period if you own a female dog that has not yet been spayed. 

In this case, knowing what to expect and the signs of a dog in heat is very important to you as a dog owner. 

This can help you better prepare for the experience and avoid unsafe situations.

So let’s immediately answer the question you’re here for.

How to tell if a dog is in heat?

During the different phases of your dog’s heat, you may notice different signs in your dog which may include:

  1. Swollen nipples and vulva
  2. Frequent urination
  3. Personality changes
  4. Nesting behavior
  5. Excessive licking of genital area
  6. Spotting (bloody discharge from the vulva)
  7. Receptive to male dogs
  8. Change in tail position

When does a female dog have her first heat?

The first heat cycle in a female dog can occur as early as four months of age, or as late as 12 months of age. The average first cycle is around six months. There are many factors that can affect this. These factors include the dog’s breed, its socialization, the living environment, nutrition, and exercise.

A female dog will have her first period once she reaches puberty. This period can be a chaotic and confusing time for both you and your dog, but if you have chosen not to spay your new puppy or if you plan to breed with her in the future, this is an unavoidable period to go through.

Let’s take a closer look at the dog heat cycle, to help you understand your female dog’s first season and how you can make things easier for her during this period.

The 4 stages of a dog heat cycle

How to tell if a dog is in heat? (8 signs you should know) 1

The dog heat cycle consists of 4 different stages; the stages are proestrus, oestrus, diestrus, and anestrus. Every stage has different signs that relate to physical change, behavioral change, hormonal changes, clinical changes, physiological changes, and cytologic changes. 

The following is the overview of the different stages and the changes related to each stage.

1. Proestrus stage

This is the first stage of the dog heat cycle; this stage is known as the proestrus stage. It can last between 3 and 17 days, but some dogs experience approximately 9 days in proestrus. The first signs of the proestrus stage in dogs are tail tucking and swelling of the vulva. 

These are the best ways to detect the beginning of your dog’s heat cycle. This is the stage a male dog will be attracted to the female, but she won’t be receptive.

2. Estrus Stage

The estrus stage can last about 21 days, but just like with proestrus, some dogs experience this stage for an average of 9 days. This is the stage when a female dog becomes fertile and her ovaries discharge eggs for fertilization

A female dog will not be ready to mate until she reaches this stage. Instead of the dog tucking her tail when the male advances, she will welcome the male advances.

3. Diestrus stage

This third stage lasts for about 2 months; it is the stage where the female dog is no more receptive to the male. If she has become pregnant, the body will continue with the pregnancy or back to rest, as her vulva goes back to its normal size and the discharge disappears. 

At this stage, whether the bitch is pregnant or not, she now lacks the conditions to mate and is no more interested in flirting.

4. Anestrus stage

Anestrus is the resting stage. It lasts from 100 to 150 days, making it the longest stage of the full heat cycle. Dogs in this stage are infertile until the anestrus stage ends, at this time the entire heat cycle will start from the beginning. 

The bitch’s body uses this period to let the uterus prepare for the next pregnancy.

What are the signs & symptoms of a dog in heat?

Caring for your dog while in heat can be very challenging, while it can be a bit frustrating and confusing at first, you need to know when your dog is in heat to enable you to do your part to make your dog comfortable. 

Knowing what to look out for can help you prepare for the experience. The following are the symptoms of a dog in heat:

  1. The earliest symptom is that your dog’s vagina will start to swell and she will start shedding blood.
  2. Dogs in heat will experience increased moodiness, will be growling at humans, and can start fighting with other dogs in the house, especially the unspayed female dogs.
  3. They will have an increasing interest in roaming or leaving the yard to find a male dog to mate with.
  4. Increased or decreased interest in human interactions.
  5. This period comes with frequent urination
  6. The dog will also change the tail position

What to do when your dog is in heat?

Dog first season - how to tell if a dog is in heat (1)

When a female dog enters her heat cycle, many dog owners approach this situation in one of these two ways. 

The first is to panic without knowing what to do. While the second way is to ignore the fact and treat your dog as if nothing has happened. 

The loving and smart dog owner learns about the situation and what they can do to help their dog stay comfortable. 

If your dog is going through her first heat cycle, the following tips will help you handle the situation properly.

1. Don’t let your dog go out of the yard alone

Protecting your female dog from a male and from unwanted pregnancy is the most important thing to do when she is in heat. It doesn’t matter if you plan to breed your dog or not. Don’t underestimate a male dog’s drive to find a female that is on heat. If not, you may be surprised to find a strange male dog tied to your dog outside.

2. Never let your dog off her leash when she’s in heat

Even when you consider your dog to have excellent obedience skills, no obedience training can outsmart natural instincts when a dog is influenced by her hormones and is determined to find a male. You can walk your dog when she is in heat, but always walk her on a leash.

3. Find the balance between exercise and rest

Dogs react differently during heat; some may become restless, while some may feel tired throughout the day. Monitoring your dog’s behavior and choosing the proper amount of exercise and rest is important to keep your dog comfortable.

4. Pay extra attention to your dog

Avoid any events where other dogs are involved. This is because the scent produced by a female in heat will distract the males and hamper their performance. Most male dog owners get upset if someone breaks this “rule” and shows up at a dog show with a dog in heat.

5. Put menthol on the tip of your dog’s tail

This technique is very helpful when walking your dog outside, it is a good trick to mask the scent. It can be useful if a male dog suddenly appears nearby, so he won’t detect your dog is in heat. Though, this method won’t work very well if he comes closer. Bathing your dog more often will help reduce the scent.

6. Use a GPS tracker 

If your dog suddenly runs away in search of a male mate, the tracker will show you exactly where she is going. This way you can easily and quickly find her again and protect her from unwanted pregnancy.

7. Consult your veterinarian

Although being in heat is not an illness, having a conversation with your vet about what to do during the heat period may help you when unexpected trouble happens. 

Sometimes a female dog may experience health problems after a heat cycle when the uterine lining still remains thick and produces more fluid, this creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and can cause uterine infection.

Frequently Asked Questions about a dog in heat

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How long does a dog stay in heat?

A female dog that is not spayed usually goes into heat first between the ages of 4 to 12 months. The first estrus tends to occur earlier in small dogs and later in larger dogs. Though the frequency varies by breed and individual dogs, dogs generally go into heat every six months or twice a year. Each heat period lasts approximately 18 days.

How many days does a dog bleed while in heat?

When it comes to dog bleeding when in heat, the situation varies. Some dogs bleed a lot, some don’t bleed at all, and some are so light that you won’t even notice it. As a general rule, large dogs tend to bleed more than small dogs. In all, a dog in heat can bleed for about 7 to 10 days.

How often will my dog go into heat?

The answer to this question also varies depending on the dog. In general, female dogs usually go into heat about two to three times each year. Big breed dogs experience heat once or twice a year, while small dogs can experience heat two to three times a year.

At what stage of the estrus cycle is the dog able to get pregnant?

For some female dogs, the best time to mate is between the 10th and 14th day of estrus. But some dogs can ovulate as early as the third or fourth day or as late as the 18th day. A female dog can get pregnant during his first heat or any next heat period.

Can a dog be in heat and not bleed?

Vaginal bleeding is the most recognizable and obvious sign of heat in dogs. This may not be obvious until a few days after the dog goes into heat. Some dogs have severe vaginal bleeding during estrus, while others have light bleeding.


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In this article I have provided you with information on how to tell if a dog is in heat. It is important to know this information before you plan to breed your dog or bring a new dog into your home.

As you can see, being in heat is not a health problem. It is a natural and normal part of a dog’s life. 

While it can be disturbing to watch your dog go through the heat, knowing when your dog is in heat can help you better prepare for the experience. 

Also, remember to take precautions to keep your dog comfortable and safe. But, if you don’t plan to breed her, you can just get her spayed to avoid the problem.

Thank you for reading and have a great day!

Until next time!

A big hug.

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Housam Ayouni
Housam Ayouni

I am an Italian blogger, lover of pizza, travel, and dogs. For several years, I've been studying and working with dogs; I immensely enjoy helping dog owners find peace and balance in their lives. My goal with this blog is to share with you everything I know and have learned through my personal experiences with my dogs.

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