Do dogs have periods? If you own an unspayed female dog, you may notice blood and discharge from her vagina and may think that your pup is having a period. To say dogs have periods is not entirely true. Female dogs who aren’t spayed, go through a state of heightened sexual arousal twice a year. They experience ‘heat’, which is the span of their life when they are most fertile.
During heat season, their vagina discharges blood, and other fluids that we commonly think are dog menstruation. This is an unfitting name. The correct name is the Estros cycle. (Do not confuse it with the Estrous cycle, which is a much broader term that represents the entire heat cycle.)
What are the signs of a dog having a period? How long do female dogs bleed for? And what should you do if your dog is going through a heat cycle? Here is an informative article that answers all these questions.
What Is Heat Cycle?
The estrous cycle, also known as the heat cycle, is the main reproductive cycle of female dogs. This is when a female dog experiences intense sexual arousal and a high temptation to mate with a male dog.
The heat cycle consists of four major phases: Proestrus, Estrus, Diestrus, and Anestrus. It is in the second phase, the Estrus when female dogs bleed heavily from their vagina.
To understand what happens in the estrus cycle, we have to understand all the phases of the Estrous Cycle.
Phases of Estrous/Heat Cycle
Proestrus is the first phase of the heat cycle when a huge amount of estrogen is produced in female dogs. It can last from three to seventeen days. In this phase, vaginal bleeding is started which is dark red in color. Female dogs are also seen urinating more than usual. The hormones in the blood and urine are what attract male dogs for mating.
Estrus is the shortest phase of the heat cycle which lasts from four to seven days. In this phase, bleeding and other vaginal discharges continue to become heavy, the color turning to a lighter tint of red. This phase is the prime stage of mating and fertilization in female dogs. They tend to sleep more and are less likely to play, as their body is solely anticipating mating and pregnancy.
Diestrus is the third phase where the vaginal bleeding and discharge stops, whether or not a female dog gets pregnant. If she is pregnant, the phase can last up to 65 days, which is the pregnancy span of female dogs. However, if she is not pregnant, the nutrients that have gathered in her body primarily for litter are reabsorbed by her own body.
This is the final phase of the heat cycle. Anestrus lasts for two to three months and during this time, a female dog is hormonally and sexually passive.
When Does Heat Cycle Start in Female Dogs?
Most dogs reach puberty by the age of 6 months, but this varies from dog to dog. The same is the case with female dogs and their age of heat cycle. They are typically 6 months old when they get their first heat cycle. It generally happens twice a year and can last for two to three weeks. However, in the beginning, it may take some dogs 18 to 24 months to progress into a regular cycle. The heat cycle also depends upon the size of your dog. Small dogs can face heating season up to 4 times a year while some large breeds may only experience heat once a year.
If you’re thinking of breeding your female pooch, it is considered best that you do it only after her third heat cycle.
Also, check out How Often Do Dogs Get Their Periods?
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Experiencing Heat?
It is quite difficult to tell if your dog is in a heat cycle. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that you can look out for.
- Inflammation of the vulva.
- Feeling of pressure on her lower back.
- Urinate more often.
- Raises her leg in a different way when she is around a male dog or while urinating.
- Is more responsive around male dogs. (E.g. sniffing or licking the vulva, wagging of tail).
- Becomes lazier than usual.
- Seems uncomfortable and is chewing on her paws or licking her underbelly excessively (this could be because of the levels of estrogen in her body).
- Rolls around on the grass, sand, or other surfaces that are out in the open
- Might even refuse eating food or drinking water as her drive is completely focused on mating.
If you are in doubt, you can always consult your veterinarian. Your vet can do a Vaginal Cytology test to examine the vaginal smears and find out if your pup is in the heat cycle.
How To Take Care of Female Dogs in Heat?
There are two key concerns when your dog is in her heat cycle.
1. To get rid of male attention
The short cycle of a dog in heat can cause problems with females that reside in a small space. Male dogs will get excited and try to mate her again even before she is done resting. The male might even try to sneak into her sleeping area or follow her around when she goes out for walks. This behavior can become annoying and frustrating. While there is no absolute solution, here are some ways you can help your female dog get rid of male attention:
- Never let your dog out in public spaces or yard alone. She is bound to get a lot of male attention and might end up getting pregnant.
- Consider using a leash all the time. If she is trained to walk on a leash, she is less likely to wander off alone.
- You can put some menthol on the tip of her tail to cover the smell of the vaginal discharge.
2. To control the bleeding
As if a dog period is not enough, most dog owners still worry about the safety of giving them tampons and pads during their heat cycle. You may have heard of dog diapers. They are very well-known for their usage during the dog’s menstrual cycle. In fact, the “dog diaper” can be a really helpful item for the female dog. These diapers are made to protect your female dog from coming into contact with urine and feces during her heat cycle.
You can find these at any pet supply store or retailer that sells litter boxes and other products that are intended for dogs. It is best if they come in sizes for small dogs (these usually come in packages of three or more) so you can cut and trim them to fit your female dog’s size.)
There are three types of dog diapers in the market.
1. Reusable dog diapers
If you are economically sensible, reusable diapers are perfect for you. They are washable and are available for all sizes of dogs. They come in various colors and prints to choose from and are environment friendly too.
You can buy Pet Parents Washable Dog Diapers for comfort and durability.
2. Disposable dog diapers
We can understand if washing used diaper makes you uncomfortable. If so, you can easily find disposable dog diapers in the market. These diapers also come in small, medium, and large sizes and are secure and comfortable.
3. Full-body dog diapers
Full-body dog diapers are also available for those dogs who struggle to keep their diaper in place. They are super comfortable and you don’t have to worry about any leakage.
The female dog will need to wear her “dog diapers” for a few days to a few weeks while she is in heat. She will usually have a period that lasts for about two to four days and then it will stop. The females that go through this cycle can be quite sensitive to the smell of urine while they are wearing these, so you should only allow them out with you or in an area where there is no other dog or any other smell (such as cat litter).
You should also make sure that the female dog cannot get into areas where there are small animals or other sources of chemicals because it can cause irritation and irritation will lead to irritation in their skin (which may result in a painful heat cycle).
There are a few other things that you can do for the female dog that is in heat to help her cope with the stress of the time. You can take her for walks or leave her outside. You can use a mask when she is around machines or loud noises (such as watching TV, riding in an elevator, riding in a car). Another good idea is to play with your female dog while she is in heat; play tends to relax them and soothe them during this time. You should also give her plenty of water and do not let her go out too often (it can make her more uncomfortable during this time).
Do Dogs Go Through Menopause?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions. The answer is no. Dogs do not go through menopause. Their reproductive cycle is active throughout their life and so, female dogs continue to get heat cycle and become pregnant throughout their life.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Getting Pregnant?
It is really hard to prevent your female dog from getting pregnant. After all, sexual drive is natural and completely normal. But, it is your decision if you want your dog pregnant or not. The best way to ensure your dog never gets pregnant is to get her spayed. A surgical procedure called ovariohysterectomy can be done to remove both her ovaries- the uterine horns, and the body of the uterus.
You can also consult with your vet and use mismating injections if you want to end the pregnancy of your dog. Discuss with your vet thoroughly any risks associated with this process and do it only if you are 100% sure.
Female dogs go through a menstrual cycle and it is just like in humans but shorter. Unspayed female dogs do bleed from their vagina but the process is not called periods or menstruation. It is called the Estrus cycle which happens during the heat cycle.
Thank you for reading the article.
Explore more articles that we have covered on the dog period here.
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