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How long does a dog stay in heat? Here’s how you’ll know her cycle is over

What to know about your pup's menstrual cycle and how long each phase can be

Noticing when a dog enters heat can be rather easy: Even just a spot of bloody discharge will tell you what you need to know. Of course, it can help to know when your dog is estimated to reach puberty, too!

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

20 minutes

What You Need

  • This article

  • Readiness to learn

  • Some extra TLC for your pup when she's in heat

  • Doggie diapers and/or potty pads

Still, many dog owners find themselves asking, "When is the end of my dog's cycle?" Learning to spot these subtle signs isn’t as obvious as other changes — like the transition from puppyhood to adulthood, for example — but we’re here to show you what to look for.

We’ll address questions such as:

  • When do female dogs begin their first heat cycle?
  • How long does a dog stay in heat?
  • How can I tell when my dog is no longer in heat?
  • What does each phase of the cycle look like?
  • Do dogs go through menopause?

So, read on to learn everything you need to know to keep you and your pup as relaxed as possible during her heat cycle. With just a little TLC, and maybe an extra homemade treat or two, it’ll be a piece of cake!

Dog and owner snuggling under a blanket on the sofa
N K / Shutterstock

What happens when a dog is in heat? Here's a phase-by-phase breakdown

At around 9 months of age, a female dog will experience her 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. In fact, she can be rather against it! This stage lasts an average of 9 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. If you're ever worried, you can always consult your vet!

A Papillon dog wearing a diaper sits in front of a background
Reshetnikov_art / Shutterstock

How long does a dog stay in heat after her bleeding stops?

By the time she reaches diestrus, your dog will stop bleeding. This is the final active phase of the heat cycle, but it marks the end of the female’s willingness to mate. She will not be receptive to males during this time, though many hormonal and physical changes are still happening in her body. ECVV states that this stage lasts around two months and is a time when the body prepares itself to either carry a fertilized egg or get ready for the next cycle.

Here’s the catch: Although a female dog may still be experiencing symptoms of being in heat, her only fertile period is during the estrus phase. These nine days (on average) will be when she wants to mate as well. So, while your dog may not be fertile when bleeding begins, she will no longer be able to conceive by the time the discharge ends.

Dog with a blanket wrapped around them
eva_blanco / Shutterstock

How do you know when dog heat is over? Look for these signs

The very same changes that mark the beginning of canine heat are also signs of the end of the cycle. You will know your dog is no longer in heat when her vulva returns to its normal size and there is no more blood-tinged discharge.

In total, a dog will be in heat for two to three weeks per cycle. The length between cycles depends on her breed, size, and age, though on average a pooch will go through two cycles per calendar year. Some larger breeds, especially Northern breed dogs like huskies and malamutes, tend to go into heat once a year, while the miniature breeds can experience as many as four cycles a year.

A sleeping Jack Russell terrier snuggles into the arms of a woman with a blanket on her lap
Albina Gavrilovic / Shutterstock

How do you care for a dog in heat? Our best tips to keep her comfortable

Step 1: Don’t spend too much time outdoors.

The comfort and safety of your dog should always come first, so be sure to keep an eye on her at all times while she’s socializing with other dogs. In fact, many canine health pros recommend not leaving your pup outside while she’s in heat, as she can attract some unwanted attention. It's best to skip the dog park this time around!

Step 2: Increase bathroom trips.

Your dog may need to urinate more often, so she will thank you for adding an extra bathroom trip to your daily routine. This is when doggie diapers can come in handy while you're indoors, too.

Step 3: Spend time with your dog.

You may also want to schedule some additional snuggle time, as pups can be extra affectionate and clingy while in heat. Moodiness happens whether you want it to or not–-human women totally understand!

Step 4: Be smart about cleaning.

If you invest in doggie diapers for your pet’s estrus cycle, you may not need to worry about cleaning. Whatever you choose to do, though, be sure not to punish your dog for any bloody stains — she can’t help it. It may help to use a dog or baby gate to confine her to an easy-to-clean portion of the house if she doesn’t like diapers. When in doubt, potty pads are a great investment!

Small dog in a diaper
smrm1977 / Shutterstock

At what age do dogs' heat cycles begin?

On average, you can expect a young female dog's first heat cycle to begin around 9 months of age. Of course, every dog is going to be slightly different, so there's no need to panic if your 12-month-old hasn't had her first cycle yet. Many factors play a role in your pup's estrus cycles, but remember — a veterinarian visit is always the best way to ensure your dog's health is as it should be.

VCA Hospitals explains that small dog breeds, like Chihuahuas and dachshunds, can reach puberty and start their first heat cycle as soon as 4 to 6 months of age. Larger dogs, on the other hand, may not be fully mature until 18 to 24 months. That's a big difference! Knowing what to expect can help ease your mind, but keeping up with your puppy's vet visits is vital to her health and your peace of mind.

A sleepy beagle naps on their owner's bed, with sunshine coming through the window
Przemek Iciak / Shutterstock

Do dogs have menopause? Will a dog's cycles stop after a certain age?

Because the canine menstrual cycle is different than humans', terms like "menopause" don't really apply. PetMD's Michael Kearley, DVM, explains that while an older dog's cycle may not cease altogether (in fact, you should take your dog to the vet if she's stopped having heat cycles completely without being spayed), they will become more and more infrequent as she ages.

Dr. Kearley also cautions against pregnancy in senior dogs. Many risks, such as puppy death or labor complications, can occur when a mother is older. It's not worth the risk to her or her pups!

All in all, the heat cycle can be a stressful time for a pup (uterus owners unite!), so a little love from her favorite person can go a long way. Whether she’s feeling grumpy, frisky, or lazy, it’s all just part of the process. Don’t worry! A few weeks from now, everything will be back to normal.

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Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
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