To say dogs have periods is not entirely true. When we think of menstruation, two things come to our mind: heavy bleeding and lots of mood swings. But, this is not what happens to a female dog. She definitely bleeds, but not as human women do.
There is no short answer to the question “Do dogs have periods?”. 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 is 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.
Estrous Cycle/ 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.
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 the 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 litters 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?
By the age of 6 months, most dogs reach the stage of puberty. This can vary as every dog is different from one another. The same applies to 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 breed may only experience heat once a year.
It is considered best that you breed your dog only after her third heat cycle.
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).
- Becomes lazier than usual.
- 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 she 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
- Never let your dog out in public spaces or yard alone. She is bound to get male attention and end up getting pregnant.
- Consider using a leash all the time. If she is trained to walk in 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
- 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 is environment friendly too.
You can buy Pet Parents Washable Dog Diapers for comfort and durability.
- 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.
- 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.
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 about any risks associated with this process and do it only if you are 100% sure.
Well, the answer to “Do dogs have periods” is technically no. Unspayed female dogs do bleed from their vagina but the process is not called period or menstruation. It is called the Estrus cycle which happens during the heat cycle.
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