If you have an unspayed female dog, you may wonder: do dogs have periods?
The answer is yes, but not quite the same way human women do.
Spaying is an important consideration, but if your dog is unspayed, then you need more than the answer to, “Do dogs have periods?”
You should also know how a dog’s period cycle works, and what the dog heat period is.
This article is all about those topics.
Going Into Heat and Dog Periods
If you’re concerned about a dog going into heat, you want to know what to expect and how to properly care for them.
You’ll probably be asking questions like these:
- Do dogs have periods?
- Do spayed female dogs have periods?
- How long does a dog’s period last?
We’ll answer all those questions, but first let’s start with some background.
An Estrus Cycle vs. a Menstrual Cycle: Understanding the Female Dog Period
Do dogs have periods the way that humans do?
Female dogs get periods, but a little differently than humans and other primates do.
Female primates have a menstrual cycle. In humans that cycle lasts about 28 days.
So when do dogs get their period? And how often do dogs get their period?
A dog’s estrus cycle actually lasts about one hundred and eighty days, and goes through four stages.
First, there’s proestrus which lasts anywhere from three to seventeen days.
During this time, a female dog’s body produces large amounts of the hormone estrogen.
Proestrus is also the time when you can expect bloody vaginal discharge to begin, as a result of estrogen production.
Dogs will also begin urinating much more during this time.
This is a natural reaction – it informs male dogs that the female will soon be ready to breed.
The second stage of the estrus cycle is estrus itself, which is the shortest section of the cycle.
It lasts four to seven days. During this time, the female is ready to mate.
Discharge will continue, but will likely lighten in both color and volume.
After estrus comes diestrus.
At this point, the discharge will stop.
Assuming her eggs are unfertilized, the extra nutrients produced by the female during proestrus and estrus are reabsorbed into her system.
Finally, there is anestrus, which is about a two month period when the dog is sexually and hormonally inactive.
This leaves the full dog period duration at about 180 days.
So, that’s the lowdown on the question, “Do dogs have periods?” Let’s talk about a few more specifics.
When do dogs get their first period?
Dogs have their first estrus cycle upon reaching puberty, usually at about six months of age, though this can change from breed to breed.
Small breeds tend to reach sexual maturity more quickly, while large breeds can take longer.
It may even be as long as two years in the case of extremely large breeds.
What are the signs of dogs on their period?
The earliest sign that your dog is entering heat is swelling around the vulva, but this won’t always be apparent.
Bloody discharge around the vulva or on furniture and carpet will likely be the first thing you really notice.
The amount of discharge varies a lot from dogs to dog.
Just like people, so dogs are blessed with very light discharge, whilst others bleed heavily.
Do Dogs Have Periods – Things to Keep In Mind
If you were wondering “Do dogs have periods?” hopefully this answered your questions.
Dogs do in fact have periods, but not really the way we think of them in human terms.
You can and should have your dog spayed if you aren’t planning on breeding them.
Long term, this is better for your dog’s health.
It helps to avoid accidental pregnancies and the difficulties of the heat cycle.
That’s about everything you need to know on the question, “Do dogs have periods?” but be sure to check out the resources below if you want to learn more.
How Do You Manage Your Dog’s Periods
Are you waiting for your pup to come into heat for the first time, or are you an old timer already?
What tips do you have for looking after your dog and your home during her heat?
Please share them in the comments box.
Sources & Further Reading
Eilts, B. “Normal Canine Reproduction.” Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, 2013.
Eilts, B. “The Normal Canine Estrous Cycle.” Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, 2013.
Feldman, E.C. & R.W. Nelson. “Canine and Feline Endocrinology and Reproduction.” Elsevier Health Sciences, 2004.
Rice, D. The Complete Book of Dog Breeding. Barron’s Educational Series, 2008.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website