Whether you already have a female dog or are looking to adopt one, knowing how their reproductive cycle works can make life together more enjoyable for both of you. Part of a female dog’s reproductive cycle includes the estrus cycle, which is essentially a dog period.
While female dogs don’t menstruate the same way humans do, if you know when she’s in heat, you can give her the extra love and care she may need during that time. Read on to learn more about the estrus cycle, how to manage it, and how to tell when your dog is in heat.
Dog periods happen during the estrus cycle — the part of the reproductive cycle when a female dog can become pregnant. It can more commonly be referred to as “being in heat.” A female dog will have her first estrus cycle when she reaches puberty, typically around 6 months of age, but it varies by breed.1
Larger breed dogs may not reach puberty until 18 months – 2 years of age, while smaller breed dogs can reach puberty before 6 months of age.1 But once they’ve started their estrus cycle, how long do female dogs have their period? The estrus cycle can last around 1.5 – 2 weeks, but it may be shorter or longer depending on the dog.1
Dogs typically start with irregular cycles, and it may take up to 2 years before they become regular.1 Once they’re regular, most dogs can come into heat about twice a year. However, some smaller breed dogs, like Pomeranians, may cycle three times a year, while giant breed dogs, like Great Danes, may only cycle once every 12 months.1
Female dogs typically show physical and behavioral signs when they’re in heat. Some of these signs include:2
- Swelling of the vulva
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- More frequent urination
- Exhibiting “flagging” (presenting their backside or placing their tail to one side) to court a male dog
- Exhibiting “marking” behavior when urinating3
If your pup is showing any signs of discomfort during her estrus cycle, chatting with your vet can help you figure out why and how to relieve it. Consider reading up on what medicines you may be allowed to give your dog to help with any pain or discomfort.
When a dog is in heat, bloody vaginal discharge varies depending on the individual dog and the time in their estrus cycle. Discharge may not be apparent as soon as the cycle begins. Also, the color and appearance will typically change as the cycle progresses — starting with a heavier, reddish discharge and gradually becoming lighter in color and amount.1
Your dog’s estrus cycle can be messy if you don’t know how to manage it. They do make dog diapers for females in heat to help keep messes at a minimum. If you opt to use diapers, make sure you change them frequently and keep your dog’s skin and fur clean and dry.
Since your dog may urinate more frequently during her estrus cycle, making sure she’s able to go out to relieve herself more often can help prevent accidents or discomfort. You may also want to keep your dog leashed or secured when outdoors, especially if you frequent dog parks. This can help prevent an accidental pregnancy from happening. Spaying your female dog is another way to prevent pregnancy.
The sterilization procedure for female dogs is called an ovariohysterectomy, but most people know it as a spay operation.1 Spaying ensures your female dog won’t go into heat or be able to get pregnant. The topic of spaying can be an emotional one for many pet owners and veterinarians. As with any important decision regarding health, there are both positives and negatives.
Some positive reasons to spay your female dog include:4
- Reducing the risk of mammary, uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancers
- Nearly eliminating the risk of pyometra (a specific uterine infection)
- Potentially decreasing the desire to roam to find a mate (because they won’t go into heat)
- No unplanned pregnancies
- Potentially increasing their lifespan
Some possible risks that can come with spaying your female dog are:5
- Increasing the risk of certain cancers
- Increasing the risk of developing joint problems
- Increasing the risk of urinary incontinence
- Increasing the risk of obesity6
These risks vary widely between dogs, and it can be hard to tell if your pet may have an increased risk of developing health problems from a spay procedure.5 Breed, age, health, lifestyle, and environment are variables that must be considered when weighing the risks and benefits of spaying your dog.
If your dog isn’t spayed yet, talk with your vet to see if they recommend it. You may be able to get some of the cost of spaying your dog covered with a MetLife Pet dog insurance policy.7
Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance. We’ll reimburse you for covered and approved expenses, which can make getting the best care more affordable. Get your free quote today and see how a policy can help you save money.