Before getting a dog, you must be prepared to become a responsible pet parent. From dog-proofing your home to making appointments for veterinary visits, it’ll be a long yet, rewarding journey.
If you are adopting a female dog, you may be thinking, “do dogs get periods?”. They do, but not similar to a human period. Female dogs undergo a regular cycle and will bleed once they reach maturity if they are not spayed. It may seem frightening and messy at first, but with better understanding, you will be able to help your furbaby.
Generally, all mammals undergo a similar period to a human female period. However, a female furbaby’s period is different from a human. In this article, we will be discussing in-depth the fertile portion of a female dog’s reproductive cycle. So sit back, and take notes to give your furbaby what they need if they are on their period.
The Similarities and Differences of the Estrus Cycle in Dogs and Humans
- The uterus lining swells and thickens and prepares the implantation and nourishment of an embryo during this time.
- Hormones are produced, and an egg is released. Such hormones are estrogen, ovulation, luteinizing hormone, and post estrus are similar in all mammals.
- Humans experience a monthly cycle, while most dogs experience estrus approximately twice a year.
- In dogs, the uterine lining is absorbed by the body if pregnancy does not result, while in humans, it is shed and released, resulting in menstruation.
- Humans are sexually receptive regardless of the phase of estrous they are experiencing. Most female mammals, including dogs, are only responsive during their heat or estrus phases. We will discuss in a while what these phases are.
When Do Female Dogs Get Their Period?
A dog period is appropriately called an estrus cycle. You may have heard some of its more colloquial terms, “dog in heat” or “dog in season.” Female dogs usually reach their sexual maturity when they are at six months old, and this is when they have their first “heat.” Smaller breeds may even reach their maturity earlier, while larger breeds may take a year or more.
During this season, a dog’s estrogen level will increase by mid-stage, decrease rapidly, and then release eggs from their ovaries. These cycles usually go on for two to four weeks.
On average, female dogs go into heat every six months, but this can still vary, especially during the first cycles. It usually takes around 18 to 24 months for some dogs to develop a regular period.
Smaller dog breeds are more likely to go into heat that generally takes three to four times of full estrus cycle a year. In comparison, larger breeds may only go into heat once a year. Dogs will have persistent periods, but the time between the estrus cycle will increase as your furbaby gets older.
Hormones Involved in the Estrus Cycle
Before we discuss the phases of your dog’s estrus cycle, it is vital that we know and understands the hormones involved: estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone.
Estrogen is a steroid produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and placenta. This steroid is responsible for a lot of biological processes in a dog’s body, which includes the production of the egg cells and the adjustment of your furbaby’s behavior, especially around male dogs.
Similar to estrogen, progesterone is produced in the ovaries and placenta. It is responsible for the preparation and maintenance of the uterus during a dog’s pregnancy and alternating the immune system to prevent your furbaby’s body from rejecting the developing puppy in your pet’s cervix.
Luteinizing hormones are primarily produced in the pituitary gland. It’s a signaling hormone that triggers your furbaby’s body to alter the level of the other hormones present.
The Phases of the Estrus Cycle
Now that we are familiarized with the hormones involved, let’s get to know the phases of your furbaby’s heat period. Keep in mind that even though the duration of the stages for dogs is different, they still have the same pattern.
This phase is hard to miss as your furbaby will be showing highly visible changes. Their vulva will become swollen and will secrete bloody vaginal discharge. But don’t panic! This sign is healthy and not painful for your furbaby. In the next section, we will be discussing how you can deal with your furbaby.
This phase usually lasts nine days, but in some cases, it can last from three to seventeen days, which is normal. Even the severity of the bloody discharge may differ, some dogs will have an unnoticeable discharge, while some will have a heavy flow to the point of staining your floor.
One more prominent sign that your furbaby is in the pre-estrus phase is the increased interest from male dogs. This is due to the hormonal scent female dogs secrete that are tempting to male dogs. However, female dogs will repel and reject the male dogs surrounding them by barking and being aggressive toward them.
During this phase, female furbabies will drastically change their rejection behavior towards male dogs. They will begin to show in some interest and be more open to the male’s advances. This is a definite sign that you have to be more attentive to your dog, as this is a warning that she is fertile and ready to breed.
If a male dog approaches this phase, a female dog will remain standing and begin to wag her tail from side to side, known as a “standing heat.” This phase may last for about nine days.
The visual cues you can check are the vulva lessens its swelling, and the discharge will become more water and, sometimes, more mucus-like. If reproduction happens during this phase, there is an excellent chance of impregnation.
After nine days of the estrus phase, post-estrus begins. The swollen vulva and vaginal discharge will start to disappear, and the visual cues will be unnoticeable. Although gradual hormonal processes will occur, and different changes will happen inside a female dog’s body.
Also known as the rest period, after weeks of intense hormonal alterations, it will gradually stop and return to normal levels. It can last for several weeks up to a couple of months and ends with the onset of pre-estrus, which is a new cycle. During this rest period, female dogs will not show any signs of fertility or being in heat.
Dealing with Your Furbaby’s Discharge
During your dog’s estrus cycle, the discharge will vary depending on the breed and their age. Some dogs will have an unnoticeable discharge, while others may leave red spots on your floor or their bed. The discharge will often be reddish initially and will fade into a yellowish, paler color later on.
Cleaning up this discharge can be a mess, but there are diapers for dogs on periods available in most pet shops. If you’re going to purchase and use a diaper, you must change them frequently to keep your furbaby’s skin in the genital area clean and dry. Urinating more often is associated with discharge, making doggy diapers serve two purposes in one.
These symptoms can be uncomfortable for dogs, especially for those experiencing it for the first time, and some dogs can become grumpy and moody while in heat. It is crucial to give them more love and attention to make their heat season more bearable and smooth.
Three Types of Doggy Diapers
There are many doggy diaper brands you can choose from when picking the perfect diaper for your dog. They vary from size and materials used but serve one purpose: to manage your doggy’s discharge while in heat. Here are the three main types of diapers:
Reusable Dog Diapers
For pet parents who are environmentally and economically conscious, this is the perfect diaper for your furbaby. It is a washable diaper with multiple layers, guaranteed to absorb all the discharges and pee your furbaby releases efficiently. They are available in various sizes and come in plain colors or trendy prints.
Disposable Dog Diapers
If you’re a busy pet parent and don’t have time to wash doggy diapers, you should consider getting a disposable doggy diaper. These diapers are made to be leak-proof, absorbent, secure, and, most importantly, comfortable for your furbaby. They are also available from small to large sizes, so it is perfect for any breed.
Full-body Dog Diapers
Some dogs will have a harder time keeping their diapers on, that’s why full-body diapers exist. These diapers were designed and created by a veterinarian and are also recommended by veterinarians, so you know they are effective. They are available from small to extra-large, so dogs of all sizes can securely wear it.
What Should I Do If My Furbaby is on Her Period?
During your dog’s first heat cycle, they can feel unsettled and uneasy. It is essential to follow these tips to ensure their first heat experience is smooth.
- Keep your eyes on your dog during a walk. The pheromones being secreted by your furbaby during heat season can be so strong that you will immediately get a male dog’s attention.
- Always keep your furbaby on a leash while she’s in heat. Regardless of whether your dog has mastered sit and stay commands, they may still be overcontrolled by their hormones in finding a mate. To avoid this, keep her on a leash during walks and in public areas.
- Apply menthol on the tip of their tail. When walking outdoors, applying menthol at the tip of your furbaby’s tail can hide the scent of the hormones they release. It is handy, especially in dog parks, with multiple dogs walking simultaneously.
- Keep your dog’s ID tags and microchip updated. If any unthinkable scenario happens and your furbaby manages to escape from your yard or her leash, make sure that you can find them easily with updated ID tags and the latest microchip contact information.
- If anything abnormal happens during your furbaby’s heat season, contact your veterinarian immediately. There are cases where a female dog experiences illness after a heat cycle due to the uterine lining remaining thickened and still producing fluid.
This excess fluid can become a risk for bacterial growth that is harmful to your furbaby and, in rare cases, can lead to life-threatening uterine infection, also known as pyometra. A dog with pyometra shows symptoms of fever, vaginal discharge, decreased appetite, and looking tired most of the time.
- Consider spaying your furbaby. Your veterinarian can recommend the appropriate age to spay your furbaby, and will likely suggest that you wait until she has completed her period to spay her.
To summarize every tip above, you can watch this short, informational video on how to deal with female dogs on heat:
Why Should I Consider Spaying My Dog?
If you don’t have plans in breeding your dog, there’s no reason for them to experience the estrus cycle. They could undergo surgical sterilization called ovariohysterectomy, more commonly known as spaying. There are multiple benefits for spaying your dog, including reduced health risks, more shy behavior, and will help in doggy overpopulation.
Make sure to ask your veterinarian about the proper nutrition for your furbaby before and after spaying. After the surgery, their metabolism usually slows down, so you may need to feed her specially formulated food for spayed dogs. The right nutrition will play a significant role in recovery and general health for your furbaby.
Just to set expectations, there are also a few setbacks when you spay your furbaby. Spayed dogs may suffer from obesity if not given the proper nutrition. Urinary incontinence in their adult age is also feasible.
Before deciding whether to spay your furbaby or not, list the advantages and disadvantages with the help and advice from your vet.
Now that we have fully understood our furbaby’s estrus cycle and the tips on how to deal with her, there’s no need to wonder: “Do female dogs have periods? And what do I do with them?”. Knowing our furbaby’s estrus cycle will give us the advantage of managing and helping them while they are on their period.
Are there any more tips about the dog’s period you want to share with our pet parent community? Comment down below!