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Dogs in Heat: What to Look For and How Long it Lasts

Dogs that are not spayed will go into heat, as it is essentially their fertile window. If a dog in heat mates with a male dog, she can get pregnant and have puppies. This begs the question for many dog owners: how do I know if my dog is in heat and how long will it last?

Typically, dogs in heat will show strange behaviors such as anxiety, distraction, and friendliness towards male dogs. Additionally, a dog in heat will also urinate more and will have discharge from their vulva. In most cases, the heat cycle can last 2 to 4 weeks in dogs.

In this article, we will be providing you with some more useful information about a dog’s heat cycle and answering some other commonly asked questions about caring for dogs that are in heat. Let’s get right into it!

is my dog in heat winter haven fl

What Does it Mean for a Dog to be in Heat?

When a female dog goes into heat, they are fertile and are able to become pregnant. During this time your dog may become overly friendly with male dogs and more territorial with females in an attempt to mate. You will also likely notice some vaginal discharge from your dog as well.

When Does a Dog’s First Heat Cycle Come In?

Dogs can go into heat anywhere between four months and two years old. Larger dogs tend to go into heat much later than smaller dogs. The larger the dog is, the later in life they tend to experience their first heat cycle.

How Often do Dogs Go Into Heat?

Most of the time, sexually mature dogs will go into heat around every six months. However, young dogs may have a somewhat abnormal heat cycle in the beginning. This is pretty normal and it is nothing that owners of young, intact, female dogs need to worry too much about.

Additionally, very large dog breeds tend to have longer heat cycles than other dogs. It is not uncommon for a very large female dog to only go into heat once a year.

What are the Four Stages of a Dog in Heat?

There are four stages of a dog’s heat cycle. They are proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus.

1) Proestrus

Proestrus lasts anywhere between 4 and 20 days. This is a signal that the heat cycle is just beginning, and the dog is not at their most fertile point yet. Your dog will likely need to wear a diaper due to bloody discharge at this time.

2) Estrus

Estrus lasts anywhere between 5 and 13 days. This part of the heat cycle is the most fertile time for dogs, and when they are most receptive to mating. At the beginning of Estrus, vaginal discharge will appear pink, and it will turn white over a few days.

3) Diestrus

During diestrus, the dog is no longer fertile and no longer willing to accept a mate. If the dog is pregnant, then the stages of pregnancy will progress. If not, the vulva will start to shrink and the dog will begin to act normal again. The diestrus stage lasts for around 2 months.

4) Anestrus

The anestrus period of a dog’s heat cycle refers to the time where the dog acts normally and is not actively fertile. Usually, this stage lasts for around 4 months, but it can last as long as 8 months in some cases.

The Signs That a Dog is in Heat

signs that a dog is in heat

There are some signs to look out for when a dog is in heat and is in their fertile window. These signs include:

  • Vaginal discharge (will first appear bloody, then pink, then white in color)
  • Increased urination
  • A swollen vulva
  • Increased anxiety
  • More easily distracted (training can become more difficult)
  • Increased friendliness toward male dogs
  • Attempting to mate with male dogs

How do You Know When Your Dog’s Heat Cycle Has Ended?

You know when a heat cycle has ended when the vulva starts to shrink back to normal size and your dog begins to behave normally again. They will stop attempting to mate with male dogs and they shouldn’t have any vaginal discharge after their heat cycle is over.

How Often do You Need to Change Your Dog’s Diaper When She’s in Heat?

You will need to put a diaper on your dog at the beginning of their heat cycle. This will help prevent bloody discharge from being spread throughout your house. You should change your dog’s diaper around every four hours during the day.

At night, it is best to put your dog in a fresh diaper just before going to bed. Then, it is best to change this diaper first thing in the morning.

Can You Walk a Dog When They’re in Heat

can you walk a dog while they are in heat

Yes, you can walk a dog when they are in heat. However, you will need to be extra cautious. You should always keep your dog on a leash when walking them during their heat cycle. This is because a female dog in heat will often escape in an attempt to mate with male dogs.

Additionally, you will also need to be careful about walking your female dog around off-leash male dogs when they are in heat. This is because they will likely come up to your dog out of interest, and they may even attempt to mate with her.

Can You Bathe Dogs When They’re in Season

Yes, you can bathe a dog that is in heat. In fact, bathing your dog when they are in heat is beneficial for the dog. This is because dogs will emit a lot of discharge during their heat cycle, and this discharge can get in their fur. Bathing your dog and regularly cleaning their underside will help keep your dog clean and comfortable during their heat cycle.

What Should You Feed a Dog That’s in Heat?

You do not necessarily need to drastically change your dog’s diet when they are in heat, especially if you are not planning on breeding your dog. However, increasing nutrients during this period could help your dog if you are breeding them in that cycle.


Typically, a dog’s heat cycle will last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks. While in heat, your pup may exhibit vaginal discharge and increased urination, as well as increased anxiety, distraction, and friendliness towards male dogs.

If you have any questions about your dog and their heat cycle, Veterinary Healthcare Associates in Winter Haven, FL is here to help. Reach out at (863) 324-3340 or book an appointment online!

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About Veterinary Healthcare Associates

Veterinary Healthcare Associates in Winter Haven, FL, was established over 30 years ago as Maxwell Animal Clinic by Dr. John Maxwell. Maxwell Animal Clinic was a one-doctor general practice offering preventive care, dentistry, and standard surgical services to the community. As the years passed, Maxwell Animal Clinic evolved into a thriving 10-doctor general, specialty referral, and emergency veterinary practice.