Pet Tips

Tip 57 – Dog in heat – signs your dog is in heat – the Estrous cycle

Once a female dog reaches puberty it begins its regular cycles of Estrus or heat which allows the dog to release eggs and reproduce. Most females have 2 cycles per year. Signs that your dog is in heat include vaginal discharge which is clear, bleeding and swelling of the vulva. There is increased restlessness and there may be increased urination. You also may notice stray dogs hanging around your house, though the female will not accept mating at this point. This early period of heat called Proestrus, lasts between 4 -15 days depending on the size and breed of the dog along with other factors.

The next stage in the estrous cycle is the actual Estrus/heat where the dog will accept a mate and can get pregnant. Unless you are a professional dog breeder you should spay the dog before before her first heat.  Some vets will spay a dog during its first heat. This Estrus lasts between 4 – 8 days and signs include the discharge stopping, ovulation (the eggs are released) and pregnancy is possible. If the dog becomes pregnant the gestation time is 58-63 days. There are no visible signs until the last 3 weeks of pregnancy when the teats will enlarge, the belly will swell and finally the birth will occur. It is a COMPLETE myth that female dogs benefit in any way from having “just one litter”. This myth contributes to the massive overpopulation and euthanasia of tens of millions of dogs each year.

The 3rd stage of the cycle is called Diestrus and lasts 6 – 10 weeks. Many hormonal changes take place and the uterine walls thicken. Dogs that haven’t become pregnant go through ‘false pregnancy’ where their mammary glands may enlarge and produce milk. They may mother toys, moan or whine, prefer extra attention or extra solitude and will show no interest in mating. The last stage in the cycle is Anestrus and will last for 15 weeks. There won’t be any hormonal activity, milk production, or interest in mating. If the dog had become pregnant, the birth would have already occurred and the mother will be lactating and engaging in typical mothering behaviour until she is ready to wean her puppies.

57 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar kathy says:

    i have a dog in heat and want to know if i can take her for her walks like we do everyday when shes not in heat.and still protect her from getting pregnant.she still wants to go for do i still give her some excisce.hope i spelled that right.i want to take her for her walks.can i do that
    my dog is a little girl
    thank you

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Unless you are a professional breeder, imo, you should spay your dog. Accidents happen all the time…..

      In terms of walking though, so long as you are 100% sure that you can keep your dog ON-LEASH 100% of the time, then i do not see a problem.

  2. Avatar Sue says:

    Is it ok to bring a dog in heat (or about to be) to a groomer? I have a toy poodle who I bring to the groomer to get her nails clipped. I do them myself every now and then.

  3. Avatar Tom says:

    I have a female boxer mix approx 1 year old that we rescued from the pound a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday she started trying to hump my leg while was sitting in a chair. I know thats a trait for a horny male dog but is it normal for a female.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      It is also normal for some spayed female cats as well, though it does tend to occur more frequently in males as far as I know.
      Often it has zero to do with “horniness”, it’s just a way some cats show affection. Your vet should be able to confirm this.
      Good luck.

  4. Avatar penny blair says:

    Hi,i have a 7mth old shitz x pom she is the runt of the litter i was wondering if shes in heat she swaying here butt and shes acting fistey and she supposed to go in get fixed blood etc… i hope u can answer me let me know if its ok to still take her to get fixed?

    Thank you
    Penny Blair.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I believe that you can spay a dog in heat but some vets choose to wait until the heat is over. Since you already have an appointment, why not just call your vet and ask.
      Obviously keep the dog away from all other intact males during the heat.
      Good luck.

  5. Avatar eric says:

    My yellow lab is 1year and 4mos and im not sure if she is on her second heat but her vagina seems like its larger than usual but i havent observed any she in heat?or is this normal or anything?any advice?i would be grateful :)

  6. Avatar April says:

    a dog wandered up to my house. im pretty sure shes a pit bull. her tits are kinda swollen looking and im sure they contain milk, but they dont leak. she dont leave no matter how long shes outside so i dont think she has puppies n e where. her stomach isnt very flabby but kinda firm. she has had sum reddish discharge. could she be pregnant?

  7. Avatar LeeAnne Nelson says:

    I have a 10 month old boxer shepard mix and i have not a clue if she has already gone into heat i havent seen any of the signs except using the bathroom alot. But today she got out of the yard with one of our males that isnt fixed and they were gone for about an hr and a half. What do you think can i use a human test on her??? I only ask cuz ive been told u can but that i would need to wait another couple of weeks to find out? Is this true

  8. Avatar Tbear says:

    My black lab is 5 months. She has a very strange body odor on her sleeping blanket. Has to be washed daily. We have a very old male dog that lives at the farm across the street. He licks her private parts alot. My vet stated that she will not come into her first heat until she is 1 yrs old? I am not sure he is right . What to do?

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I am not a vet but in my opinion, Please spay your dog NOW.
      The age of the first heat is 100% variable…As far as I’m concerned your vet is beingg way too strict with this 1 year guideline.
      Nearly ALL vets that I personally know say the proper age is around 6 months. I’d either go back to this vet and spay the dog now, OR I would go to another vet and spay the dog now.
      This is an easy one Tbear – jut spay the dog now and you’ll have no worries.
      Good luck

  9. Avatar kathy says:

    can you give your dog gravel.for an up-set tummy.and i think shes in pain with this heat

    thank you

  10. Avatar khen says:

    Thanks for the useful info. I have 3 female dogs. This is my first time caring female dogs. As of now, one of my female dogs is in heat.

  11. Avatar Petra says:


    I am very worried about my 6 month old boxer mix. As somebody told me “his balls are dropping” and it is obvious.
    But he has an upset stomach since 2days, doesn’t eat and hardly drinks. He also only lays with me (I am bed ridden) almost 24 hours a day where he usually goes out in the backyard or wants to play.
    Somebody please give me an answer soon I don’t have the money to bring him to the vet, but I think I have to if he is not better by daytime today. Thank you so much

  12. Avatar crystal says:

    we had planned on breeding our akc registered chi but never did due to shes too much like family almost 5 yrs old shes went into a heat and acts normal will let me rub top part of belly but not lower is this cause shes in heat and in discomfort. ive never noticed before but to be honest when shes in heat im usually putting diapers on her n not ever rubbing her belly.

  13. Avatar kmitch says:

    I have a 6 month old female ShitZu she is in heat and now urinating and pooping in house? Is this normal?

    • Avatar Marko says:

      No this is not normal. Please consider taking her to a vet to treat this and hopefully have the dog spayed.

  14. Avatar Leah says:

    Hi I have a Labrador she’s 3 years old and ive only noticed her in heat once I would love for her to have a litter of puppies but she won’t go into heat any suggestions??

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I don’t recommend this. It’s hard on their body, overall spayed females have less incidence of cancers… and it’s hard on them when the puppies leave.
      There is no good and useful biological reason for your dog to have a litter. It does not help them in any way at all.
      That plus millions of healthy dogs are put to death every year because there are not enough homes for all of them.
      They will have puppies that I’ll assume also won’t get spayed/neutered – and this process will multiply itself exponentially.
      It is a huge problem in Canada and the USA. And at the end of the problem are dead, healthy dogs and PUPPIES, yes puppies….. that died (meaning they were given a lethal injection by someone at a humane society or local shelter) SIMPLY because no one wanted them.
      Please help solve this problem and not add to it buy spaying your pet.
      Good luck.

  15. Avatar Aaron says:

    Hi so my dad said he saw my dogs stuck together she was suppose to gey spayed next week but is it safe now?? Anything will help :)

  16. Avatar Claire says:

    My 10 month old girl is in her first season. Shes due to be spayed 3months after her first season.She doesn’t appear to be bleeding anymore but she has become very Whiney and scratching my arm for her belly to be rubbed but doesn’t seem to be able to get comfy. If I don’t stroke her belly she grumbles n barks at me until I do. Also she growled at me yesterday when she had a bone and I went towards her, she has never done this before as she’s very soft natured. Are these behaviours normal and is there anything I can do to ease her? How long will this last? :)

  17. Avatar amanda says:

    i have a 9 month old boxer, she hasnt had her first heat yet.. but yesterday her face and vulva was swollen up and she had welts all over her body. almost like an allergic reaction .. could this be anything to do with her going into her first heat?

  18. Avatar kaylene says:

    Hi so I rescued a pitbull, she has been bred a lot, I noticed that she is lactating! We got her spayed a week after getting her now now she’s bleeding all over the house… She was in heat when she was spayed but not bleeding yet. When will this madness stop!? She’s fixed and leaking milk and blood everywhere. Her urine smells like toxic ammonia and basically want to know when will I get relief?

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This question is better posted on the forum for a better back and forth as others will have questions for you before replying.
      Good luck.

  19. Avatar Bonnie says:

    I have a 1 year old Rottweiler that is producing milk. Is this a sign of being in heat? It has only been 4 months since her last heat. My mother-n-law has a 2 year old weiner dog that produces milk during her heat or so I have been told. I am wanting to breed my Rottie, so I am wondering if I need to put her with the mate.

  20. Avatar Fran says:

    My dog is seven months years old and she is panting all the time like she is in heat. Is this possible to be so soon?

  21. Avatar julia says:

    have a female dog i rescued from pound. they said they fixed but it looks like shes in heat. found blood around house and shes rubbing belly on floor what gives thought female didn’t bleed once they was fixed.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Obviously if she is bleeding and you do not know why, you should call your vet.
      You are correct normally dogs that have been spayed do not bleed – so this indicates a potentially serious problem.
      Good luck.

  22. Avatar Stephanie says:

    Hi, I have a rottwiler Shepard mix about 3 years old for the past few weeks she has been carrying hiding licking and crying with her squeaky animal toys .. She hides them cries un Barry’s them gathers them and sleeps with them? Why would she be acting so strange with the toys? And what do I do??

  23. Avatar Arlene says:

    Hi, my dog face is swollen and we dont know what the cause is..her vagina has discharge coming out and a little bit of blood I think she may of started her period but I dont know why her face is swollen she acts the same but we think she maybe have gotten bit by a bug?

  24. Avatar Dororhy says:

    Just bought a small dog for my grandmother. Was told she is about six months and I’ve contacted people we got her from but no deffinate answers if there a chance she can be pregnant. She has discharge and nipples more promenate sleeping lots . her valva is swollen too…
    Did we adopt a pregnant dog ?

  25. Avatar Jay says:

    Hello I have a 13 month old pit bull and she’s now on her 2nd heat cycle. I keep her locked in cage half of the time because if I don’t then she’s bleeding everywhere. I was told to speed her cycle up to put very little salt in her water to help her. Don’t know if it’s true or not but what are you suggestions? Thanks in advance

  26. Avatar kunal says:

    Hii i have 2 months old bullmastiff male..sometimes he is very horny and starts pushing his pillow or it normal??

  27. Avatar Irina says:

    I also have a problem that may or may not include pregnancy. My female dog is a mix of pointer and labrador and because we agreed so , I keep her outside, in our garden. But since shes 10 months old now , we believe shes already on her period because she is urinating more frequently, she licks herself down there and the vet told me she is probably in the second phase of the period. But the problem is we are not sure because i havent noticed blood anywhere and as its really hard to notice that , we are only assuming. So now it has been three days since we cant sleep all night because she is consantly barking and we dont seem to know whats the problem.. I assume shes scared of other dogs coming and doing her harm but nothing can stop her and we are getting really desperate.. please help , thanks

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I don’t get the question here. Sounds like your dog may be in heat and is barking to attract males.
      Time to get her spayed and the heat behaviour will go away.
      Good luck.

  28. Avatar missy says:

    My boxer just had puppies in Oct 2013. She is more whiny than usual, her vulva is not swelled. Could she be going into heat already? Also have been seeing alot of different dogs around my house. Is it possible they know she may come in heat soon?

  29. Avatar Karam says:

    Hi..I have a husky-german Shepard mix 16 months old female ..I didn’t notice if she’s in heat but yesterday she went out and returned after seven hours! Could she be now pregnant? Can I do something ? Because I don’t want a litter now ..i can’t..
    Is there anything to be done?

    • Avatar Marko says:

      If you don’t want a litter………..spay your dog. Today.
      Yes, if she was in heat and was out for 7 hours…she may be pregnant.
      If she is pregnant, you can elect to abort the fetuses.
      Good luck.

  30. Avatar jfbdbd says:

    My dog is a coonhound she is 10 months old she’s in heat and she is bleeding alot. But she won’t eat very much and her vulva is very huge, she like wobbles to walk in the back. I was going to get her fixed before she went into heat but never got the money until now. Worried about her not eating and her stomach cramping. You can watch her stomach and abdomen squeeze up. And she’s very swollen in her vulva I know thats normal but it’s alot bigger then most pictures I’ve seen or anything..

  31. Avatar sunny says:

    Hi I think my dog is going through the Dietrus stage and the false pregnancy because she is presenting all the symptoms above but is it normal for her not to have appetite? She hasn’t been eating and its staring to worry me

  32. Avatar anant says:

    my female dog she is 2 yr old didn cm on heat yet. she is labradour and very healthy. what should I do now for her ?

  33. Avatar ShibaOwner says:

    I have a 6 month old Shiba Inu. She has not yet gone into heat but I am looking for signs. She is urinating more frequently (at first I thought she had a UTI), but nothing is enlarged. Her attitude is the same and even though she has been house trained for over 3 months tonight she had an accident in our bedroom. She will be spayed in a couple of weeks but until then…
    Are accidents normal for dogs about to go into heat? Attitude changes?

  34. Avatar Tim Galbreath says:

    I have a 10 month old Shih-Poo in heat but I don’t wanna breed her now because I think she is too young. What is a good age to allow her to mate?