Do dogs go into season throughout their lives?
Unlike humans, female dogs can go into heat throughout their lives – although the length of time between seasons will increase as they get older.
What happens when a dog is in heat?
At around 9 months of age, female dogs will experience their first heat cycle.
Step 1: It begins with the proestrus phase, when you may notice visible changes like a swollen vulva and bloody discharge. East Central Veterinary Hospital (ECVV) explains that this is when the female will become attractive to males, but she will not be receptive to mating. This stage lasts an average of nine days, though it can extend up to 27 days or even be skipped entirely.
Step 2: During estrus, the next phase, the female is releasing pheromones and is ready to mate. The American Kennel Club notes that she may even approach male dogs and initiate contact by offering her behind to be mounted. Her vulva will remain swollen but soften slightly, while her discharge will contain less blood. It can be more of a watery, tan, or salmon-colored liquid at this stage in the cycle.
This phase also lasts for an average of 9 days, with a much wider range of possible durations (4 to 24 days, according to ECVV). Remember, what’s normal for one dog may be totally different from the healthy cycle of another.
How often do dogs go into heat?
On average female dogs go into heat twice a year, or about every six months. But the frequency and interval can vary between dogs and among different dogs breeds. For example, very large breeds may go into heat only one time a year, while small dog breeds may cycle three times per year.
While a dog is still young, their heat cycle may be irregular. It can take up to two years for a dog’s heat cycle to become regular.
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There comes a time in the life of an intact female dog when theyâre ready to breed. This period is called being in heat. The stage of heat, also called estrus or season, has distinct physical and behavioral signs.Â
Many of the estrus factors, such as frequency, length of time, and severity, are dependent on your dogâs age and breed. Your dog may have symptoms that are particular to them.Â
Keep a leash handy, because your dog may have to urinate more when sheâs in heat. You may also observe that her vulva is large, red, or swollen with some bleeding or blood-tinted discharge.Â
Your dog will only bleed for around half of the total cycle, usually 7 to 10 days. Generally, bigger dogs bleed more than smaller dogs, but it varies between dogs. Some dogs bleed very little. If your dog prides themselves on their appearance and grooms themselves regularly, you probably wont find much blood spotting around the house.Â
Even though your dog will bleed, she isnt in pain during heat. However, being in heat can make your dog uncomfortable and fidgety. If her symptoms seem to be causing her pain, consult your vet.Â
Smaller dogs can go into heat as soon as they are 4-months old. Larger breeds may not first go into heat until they are 18 to 24 months old. On average, the first heat begins at around 6 months of age.Â
Even though they are old enough to get pregnant, your young dogâs eggs arenât yet fully matured. Waiting until after the second estrus cycle will promote a healthy pregnancy.