Skip to main content Skip to footer
Post header Skip post header

Dog in heat? Everything you need to know about your dog’s heat cycle

If you have a dog it’s really important that you understand and can recognise the symptoms of when a female dog is in heat. This knowledge will help you prevent unwanted pregnancies and potentially dangerous situations that might occur when you’re out and about.

Whether you’re a first-time dog owner who has never experienced this or someone who just wants to understand their furry friend a little better, you’ve come to the right place.

What does it mean when your dog is in heat?

A dog in heat simply refers to the point at which a female dog becomes fertile and is ready to breed. During this time, she’ll release mating hormones to let male dogs know that she is ready to mate. This stage of being in heat is also called estrus and has some distinct physical and behavioural signs.

Common behaviours when your dog’s in heat

Excessive licking. A symptom of being in heat is a swollen vulva which can result in your dog licking their private parts more frequently.

Increased desire to roam. You might notice that your dog wants to go outside more often or is wandering further afield on their walks. This is because she is actively seeking males to mate with. If you’re worried about her escaping the garden or running off, simply pop a PitPat GPS Tracker on her collar so that you can find her quickly and easily.

Becoming more friendly with male dogs. When your dog is in heat she becomes more attractive to, and interested in, male dogs. You might notice an increase in interactions, tail wagging, or that she’ll even let them sniff or lick her vulva.

Frequent urination. You may find that your dog is urinating more than normal, that she raises her leg while doing so, or even that she urinates more around male dogs. 

Vaginal bleeding and discharge. As your dog comes into heat you may notice some light discharge or bleeding from her vagina. As she moves through her cycle this will become lighter in colour before dissipating completely.

Agitated, nervous or aggressive behaviour. While in heat your dog may become more anxious or aggressive towards humans as well as other dogs. This could make her normal walks difficult, so you may want to use alternative ways of exercising your dog, such as play. To make sure your dog is still getting the activity they need, get your paws on a PitPat GPS or a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor, which will help you ensure that they hit their exercise goal each day.

Changes in tail position. At the start of your dog’s heat cycle they’ll often keep their tail tucked in and close to their body, but as the cycle progresses they’ll start holding their tail to the side to indicate to male dogs that they’re ready to mate.

Mounting and humping. This behaviour is not just seen in male dogs. If a female dog is aroused they will mount, hump and thrust when ready to mate. It’s normal for them to enact this behaviour on both male and female dogs, as well as inanimate objects they might think is a dog.

Stages of your dog’s cycle

The heat cycle in dogs, or estrus, has four stages:

Proestrus stage

The first stage, proestrus, can last between 3 to 17 days. This is where the vulva will begin to swell. You may notice that your dog is less receptive to the company of male dogs, and there’s a change in her personality, appetite or behaviour.

Estrus stage

The second stage, estrus, lasts between 3 to 21 days, and it’s at this stage your dog will become fertile; her ovaries will be releasing eggs for fertilization, and she will seek canine male attention. It’s at this point you’ll most likely see a change in tail position, as well as her bleeding or discharge lightening or stopping altogether.

Diestrus stage

The third stage, diestrus, can last between 60 to 90 days and is where the heat cycle comes to an end. At this point, your dog will no longer be fertile and she’ll either be in a resting phase or will have become pregnant. If she’s pregnant, this stage will last until the birth of the puppies.

Anestrus stage

The final stage, anestrus, is also called the resting phase and can last between 100 to 150 days, at which point the heat cycle will begin again.

How long is a dog in heat?

A dog is considered to be in heat when they’re in the proestrus and estrus stages of their reproductive cycle. This usually lasts on average 2-4 weeks, but it could be longer depending on the dog.

How often is a dog in heat?

A dog will come into heat approximately once every six months. The exact time frames can vary depending on breed, size and age, with smaller dogs coming into heat more frequently and larger dogs less so.

As your dog gets older the frequency of her seasons may begin to slow down, but she will go into heat her whole life. This means even though she goes into heat less often, she can still get pregnant.

How much will my dog bleed when she’s in heat?

This can vary for each dog and between breeds, with smaller dogs bleeding less and big dogs bleeding more, but generally, bleeding will last between 8 to 13 days. In the beginning and end stages, the blood will normally be lighter, so if you notice a heavy flow for longer than 10 days it would be a good idea to talk to your vet.

When will my dog have her first season?

A female dog can have their first heat cycle when they are as young as 6-8 months, which means there’s a possibility they could get pregnant while they’re still growing. 

Again, the timing of their first season will depend on the dog and their breed, as smaller dogs tend to have their first season earlier, with it occurring in larger dogs a little later – sometimes as late as 18 months.

Can a male dog be in heat?

No, male dogs can’t be in heat like female dogs but, they are fertile all year round. Some dogs will be capable of siring puppies when they’re as young as 5 months old, but they’ll be most fertile when they reach sexual maturity at around 12-15 months of age.

Can dogs in heat be spayed?

Technically it’s possible to spay a dog while they’re in heat, but it does carry a higher risk than the operation taking place outside of your dog’s heat cycle. The general advice is to wait 2-3 months after their heat cycle is finished before spaying takes place. Of course, if you’re looking to get your dog spayed, the best thing to do is talk to your vet, who will be able to advise you further.

And if you’re a PitPat LIFE™️ member, don’t forget you can call FirstVet for a speedy consultation, free of charge, any time of the day or night.

What to do when your dog’s in heat?

Firstly don’t panic. Your dog going into heat is a natural occurrence, but there are some simple things you can do to make sure she gets the care she needs.


Exercise is just as important to your dog’s well-being when she’s in heat as it would be at any other time, perhaps even more so, as it’s a great way to help her destress. All dogs react differently to the first part of their cycle, with some having more energy and others having less, so follow your dog’s lead when it comes to the frequency and intensity of exercise you are doing. 

If you’re worried about getting the exercise balance right, use a PitPat GPS or a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor to make sure they’re getting what they need every day, without overdoing it. 

PitPat GPS even has the added benefit of location tracking, so whether your dog vanishes while out and about or even from the garden, you’ll be able to find her in two taps simply by using the PitPat app on your phone.

It’s also important to remember that you’ll need to be vigilant when walking your dog to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. This means keeping your dog on the lead even if they have great recall, as all that training may go out the window once a male dog is sighted. Having her on a lead will also give you greater control if she does come into contact with a male dog. You may even want to consider putting some menthol on the tip of her tail to disguise her scent and help give you a more peaceful walk.


You’ll want to make sure your dog is as comfortable as possible during her season, and that means creating a calm, safe environment for her at home.

Many dogs will exhibit nesting behaviours, and you can help with this by creating a nest for your pup. Simply ensure they have a quiet place with bedding to curl up in and their food and water nearby. Lots of dogs will become extra snuggly when in heat, so get those cuddles ready to dispense when your dog needs them.

You may decide to keep your dog in a smaller area of the home to preserve the carpets and sofa while they’re bleeding. If you do decide to do this, make sure you enrich their environment as much as possible, ensuring they have plenty to keep them mentally stimulated. You could hide treats around the room, invest in a puzzle toy or snuffle mat, or even make your own enrichment toys and games.


While your dog will keep herself clean by licking as usual, you may notice that there are parts she’s missing. You can give her a helping hand by spot-cleaning her when needed with this simple process.

Gather the supplies. You’ll need several dog-safe wet wipes or two wet and warm wet cloths to clean your dog.

Start with the body and face. Simply wipe clean any areas that are needed, make sure you always start with the face and that cloths that have touched other parts of her body are not then used on her face. 

Then move to the sanitary areas. Place your pup on her side or back and wipe between her back legs downward towards her bottom. There may be some spotting or bleeding while you do this, but just try to keep it out of her fur as best you can.

Use a spray bottle when needed. This is really useful for a quick clean or wipe down of her genitals, just make sure you’re using a fresh cloth or wet wipe each time.

Dry off with a towel. Once your dog is clean, dry off any wet areas with a towel as gently as you can, as she may be sensitive in certain areas.

It’s also a good idea to offer frequent toilet breaks as your dog may need to go more often. Even if you do this, your dog may have the odd accident, so remember to stay calm, and consider doggy diapers, or even keeping her to a smaller area within the home while her bleeding lasts.

With plenty of attention and the proper tools, your dog’s heat cycle can be easy to manage, and PitPat is with you every step of the way. Our devices will give you insights into all her activity, allowing you to take note of any changes and ensure your dog is as calm, happy and comfortable as possible throughout all stages of her season.

You might also like