Before you get a dog, it’s important that you’re ready to be a responsible dog owner. From getting a properly-sized dog crate to setting up puppy vet visits, there’s a lot of preparation to do. And if you have a female dog, that includes getting ready for your dog’s “periods” — or more accurately, her estrus cycles. Dogs don’t menstruate in the same way human females do.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to take care of your dog during her estrus cycle, including when dogs go into heat, how often, and products you’ll need to help manage the physical signs.
When Do Dogs Get Their ‘Period’ and How Often?
Female dogs typically reach sexual maturity around six months old and that’s when having their first “heat” or estrus cycle. During this stage, there’s an increase in estrogen levels, then a sharp decrease, and then her ovaries release eggs. Their estrus cycles typically last three weeks but can range between two and four.
While six months is the average age of a dog’s first heat, it can vary between dogs. Some dogs may go into heat at four months, but bigger dogs may be as old as two years before their first heat. It’s considered best practice to wait until your dog’s third heat to breed her. However, your vet can perform genetic testing and tell you when your dog is ready.
Dogs typically go into heat on average every six months, but this varies especially in the beginning. It can take some dogs around 18 to 24 months to develop a regular cycle. Small dogs usually go into heat more often — as much as three to four times a year. Large breeds such as Great Danes and St. Bernard might only go into heat once a year.
Dogs will continue to have cycles, but the length of time between estrus will increase as she gets older.
How to Tell if Your Dog is in Heat?
When your dog is in heat, there are both physical and behavioral signs. For example, she’ll typically urinate more than usual, and there will be a blood-tinged discharge and swollen vulva.
Your dog may also seem nervous, distracted, and be receptive to male dogs. She may initiate sexual contact such as raising her rear and deflecting her tail to one side, which is called ‘flagging.’ Your dog will likely actively court males dogs until the cycle is over.
The heat cycle lasts about three weeks. The discharge starts as frank blood and then gradually lighten to pinkish in color. A dog can usually become pregnant around the end of the first week until after the second week, sometimes longer.
How to Manage Your Dog’s ‘Period’
Now that you know more about your dog’s estrus cycle, here are some products that will help you manage it. Whether reusable or disposable, you’ll want to get some diapers before your dog goes into heat.
Reusable diapers are ideal for dog owners who are economically or environmentally conscious. While being absorbent with multiple layers, they’re also washable. These reusable dog diapers are available for small, medium, and large breeds. Plus, you’ll get the chance to choose from neutral colors or trending prints. Along with fun colors, the diapers are both hand and machine washable.
With more than 4,700 reviews and a 4.5 out of five-star rating, it’s clear other dog lovers find these diapers effective, helpful, and that they work great. Price: $13.59
If washing diapers isn’t your thing, consider buying disposable dog diapers. These diapers are also available for small, medium, and large breeds. The diapers are designed to be leak-proof, absorbent, comfortable, and secure.
The more than 840 customers gave an average of 4.3 out of five stars. Reviewers called the diaper a “lifesaver,” and noted they recommend the item and it fits their dogs great. Price: $18.94
Your dog struggles to keep her diapers on, check out full-body dog diapers. These diapers were designed by a veterinarian and are used by other veterinarians, trainers, and pet trainers. From small to extra large long, these diapers come in a lot of different sizes and are designed to be secure. They are also antimicrobial, which helps keep your dog safe from germs. In addition to different sizes, these come in multiple colors including pink, blue, red, and purple.
The more than 1,200 reviewers mostly praised the diapers and gave an average of 4.4 out of five stars. They called the diapers “well made,” a “lifesaver,” and that they highly recommend the product. Price: $25.44