Women dread them and have to endure them for most of their lives; periods. But what about our canine companions, do dogs have periods? In this post, we will take a look at the female dog's cycle (heat/estrus) the signs of her "period" and the stages she will go through during this time.
Do Dogs Have Periods? What is "Heat" or Estrus?
Although, all female mammals will go through a cycle that will set their bodies up to receive fertilization of the egg, the way in which the body handles this cycle is different. In humans, a female will have her period about every 28 days. Our female canines, on the other paw, will go through estrus that can last up to 180 days.
Another difference between a human's period and a dog is the way the body handles the unfertilized egg(s). In a woman, her uterus builds up nutrients in the preparation of the fetus. When the egg goes unfertilized, her body expels that "wasted" material. A female dog's body will not expel it, but rather absorb it.
Signs of Estrus in Dogs
Any woman that has ever experienced raging PMS knows the symptoms of it: crabby, bloating, irritable etc. In our female pooches, the signs of estrus are very different. They can include:
- Easily distracted
- More alert than usual
- Changes in the vulva
- Discharge from vulva
Your dog can go into heat anywhere from six months-of-age up to two-years-old depending on her breed, size, and health (smaller dogs usually experience earlier estrus than larger dogs).
Stages of Estrus in Female Dogs
A female dog will go through four stages of estrus. These include proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. The physical and hormonal changes in your female dog will differ throughout the course of each of these stages. Let's explore these further.
This is the first stage of the dog's "heat." It can last anywhere from 4 to 20 days, but the average is between 7 and 10 days. This phase is your dog's body getting ready for the fertilization of the eggs. Signs of proestrus in female dogs include:
- Swelling - your dog's vulva and teats will begin to swell up.
- Discharge - the female may spend a lot of time licking herself. You may notice a slightly red-tinged discharge from her vulva.
- "Suitors" - there may be a number of male dogs hanging out around your home, as they can smell your female in heat.
- Tail tucked - female dogs in the first stages of estrus will keep their tails tucked as they are not ready to mate.
The second stage of your dog's "period" is estrus, which marks her availability to conceive. This phase can last from 5 to 14 days. Her body and body language will also change during estrus. These signs include:
- Discharge - around day 8 or 9 of estrus the color of your female's discharge will change from pink to a straw-colored.
- Tail position - the female will untuck her tail and hold it out to the side of her body.
- Urgency - the female wants to follow her instinct to procreate so she may whimper and want to get outside more often.
Be cautious at this stage of your dog's estrus that she doesn't inadvertently escape from your home unattended. Also be cautious around unaltered male dogs as they can get very aggressive when a female is in heat.
This third stage of your female's heat can last from 60 to 90 days and usually begins at about day 24 of her cycle. You will notice her discharge has changed back to pink or red in color, then it will stop altogether.
However, even though she is no longer fertile, males can still smell the lingering odor of her estrus, so keep her safely away from unaltered males until her bleeding has stopped altogether.
The last stage of the female's heat is anestrus where your dog will be her normal self again. However, this stage will only last for about 60 to 90 days before she starts the cycle all over again.
Have Your Dog Spayed to Stop Estrus
Even though many people are under the misconception that allowing their female dog to have one batch of puppies is the "best" thing for her, there is no scientific backing for this argument. With all the shelters bursting at the seams with unwanted puppies and dogs, it seems unfair and also illogical to create more.
If you don't want to put your female dog through the stages of estrus, or raise puppies, then the best thing to do is have her spayed. This routine surgery will keep your female dog happy and healthy and a few more canines out of the shelters.