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How Long Do Dogs Bleed When In Heat? A Vet Explains - PawSafe

How Long Do Dogs Bleed When In Heat? A Vet Explains

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how long do dogs bleed when in heat

As someone deeply involved in rescue work, I’ve encountered numerous cases of females in heat. It’s a natural part of a dog’s life cycle, but it can also be a challenging and stressful time for both the dog and the caretaker. Most pet parents will only experience this when a puppy goes through her first heat cycle, before she’s spayed and so this is a common question.

Through my rescue endeavors, I’ve dealt with many canines experiencing their cycles and coming into season. It’s crucial to understand this process, as it’s often safer to spay a dog after the completion of a reproductive cycle. The duration and intensity of bleeding can vary greatly among different dogs and breeds, making close observation and care essential during this time.

In this article, we will explore how long females typically have bloody discharge when they are in heat and discuss the best practices for managing this period. The insights and advice from Dr. Marthina L. Greer, DVM, will guide us through this sensitive topic, ensuring that we provide the most accurate and helpful information.

This cycle typically happens twice a year, but it can vary depending on the dog’s breed, health, and size.

Dr. Greer, a respected veterinarian, emphasizes the importance of understanding the nuances of a dog’s reproductive cycle for proper care. She advises that while the average period for bloody vaginal discharge is 7 to 10 days, some dogs may experience shorter or longer cycles. Monitoring your dog’s specific cycle is crucial for effective management and planning for procedures like spaying.

For many outside the dog community, hearing the words, “My dog is on her period”, may be met with utter shock. I remember the first time I mentioned it to my friend, and they were surprised for a good two minutes. This is because bloody discharge from our female canines is just simply not something the average dog owner has to worry about, as most of us spay our dogs early.

But, for some dog owners, this is nothing new. They know the handy doggy diapers involved in keeping your home clean at this time. Also, if you’ve ever wondered whether your dog gets cramps on her periods, check out our article. Spoiler: they probably don’t, but we can never know for sure.

A review of the estrous cycle in dogs establishes the stages of this cycle as proestrus, estrus, metestrus and anestrus. Understanding this cycle will help you know when to expect the bloody discharge to start and end.

Remember, if your dog’s bleeding during their estrous cycle is excessive or lasts for longer than three weeks, or if they are exhibiting other symptoms, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to ensure their health and well-being.

Warning: This article contains some pictures and videos of a dog in heat, like the one below. So be prepared.

Understanding Canine Reproductive Cycle & Discharge

Female pups go through a heat, also known as estrus, which typically occurs every six to eight months (or twice per year). Understanding the different stages of the cycle can help dog owners better care for their pets.

The Proestrus Stage

The proestrus stage is the first stage of the heat and lasts for about 7 to 9 days, it can last as short as 2 to 3 days or as long as 3 weeks. During this stage, the female dog’s body prepares for mating by producing estrogen. The dog’s vulva will begin to swell, and this is when she typically gets the heaviest bloody discharge.

As the discharge increases, their private parts may feel puffy and warm, and their behavior may change. They may become restless, drink more water, pee a lot, and try to get the attention of male dogs. However, they will not mate at this stage and will snap at any male that tries.

Below is an image of what a dog’s vagina looks like when she is in heat with bloody discharge.

The Estrus Stage (the mating period)

The estrus stage is the second stage of the reproductive cycle and lasts for about 5 to 10 days, according to the Dr. Harry Momont, DVM. During this stage, the female is receptive to mating and will actively seek out male dogs. 

During the estrus stage, which is when the dog is fertile and can mate, the blood droplets will slow down and eventually stop. The bloody discharge will become lighter in color, and the dog’s vulva will still be swollen.

The Diestrus Stage

The diestrus stage is the third stage of a dog being in season and lasts for about 60 days. During this stage, the dog’s body prepares for pregnancy. If the dog has not mated, her body will begin to reabsorb the uterine lining. The dog’s vulva will return to its normal size, and the bloody discharge will stop.

Basically, the dog’s body prepares for pregnancy if mating was successful or returns to normal if not. Our article on can dogs get pregnant when not in heat explains that dogs can’t get pregnant at this stage.

The Anestrus Stage

The anestrus stage is the final stage and lasts for about four to five months. During this stage, the female dog’s body rests and prepares for the next heat. It is important to note that not all dogs follow a strict reproductive schedule, and some may experience irregular cycles.

Signs of Dogs in Heat

When a female goes into heat, a few signs may indicate she is in heat. These signs include:

  • Swollen vulva: The vulva will become swollen and may appear slightly larger than usual.
  • Bleeding: The amount of blood can vary from dog to dog, but it typically lasts around 2-3 weeks.
  • Increased urination: The dog might urinate more frequently than usual.
  • Changes in behavior: The dog might become more restless or irritable. She may also become more affectionate or seek attention from her owner.
  • Flagging Tail: The tail might be held to the side or lifted, exposing the swollen vulva. This behavior, known as “flagging,” is an invitation for potential mates during the estrus stage.
  • Attracting Male Attention: Females in heat emit pheromones that attract male dogs. This may result in increased attention from male dogs, both in the immediate vicinity and from a distance.
  • Licking and Cleaning: Females in heat may lick their genital area excessively as part of the cleaning process. This behavior is a natural response to the changes in their body.

It is important to note that not all female puppies show the same signs when in heat. Some dogs may show only a few of these signs, while others may show all of them. It is also important to keep in mind that females become pregnant during their heat cycle, so it is important to keep them away from male dogs unless breeding is desired.

This Doberman is not happy about coming into heat:

Managing A Female Dog in Heat

Dogs in heat require extra care and attention from their owners to ensure their health and comfort. Here are some tips for managing dogs in heat:

Hygiene Measures for dogs in season

When in heat, dogs experience bloody vaginal discharge that can last for up to two weeks. It is important to keep your dog clean and hygienic during this time to prevent infections and unpleasant odors. Remember, dogs have very specific vaginal microflora that can easily cause infections in the urinary tract (UTIs) and even infections in the uterus (pyometra), which can be very dangerous.

  • Use dog diapers or sanitary pads to collect the blood and prevent staining on furniture and carpets.
  • Change the diapers or pads frequently to avoid bacterial and fungal growth and irritation(at least every 4 hours).
  • Clean your dog’s genital area with warm water and mild soap to prevent infections.
  • Avoid excessive shampoo-bathing of your dog when she is in heat, as it can disrupt the natural balance of hormones and the PH in her private parts  and increase the risk of infections like UTIs.

Behavioral Changes

Dogs in heat may exhibit some behavioral changes that can be challenging for their owners. Here are some tips to manage these changes:

  • Keep your dog on a leash when outside to prevent unwanted mating and aggression from other dogs.
  • Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to help your dog cope with the hormonal changes.
  • Avoid taking your dog to public places such as parks and beaches where other dogs may be present.
  • Consider spaying your dog to prevent future heat cycles and reduce the risk of certain health problems.

Managing dogs in heat requires patience, diligence, and a good understanding of your dog’s needs. By following these tips, you can help your dog stay healthy and comfortable during this natural process.

When to Consult a Vet

In most cases, a dog’s heat lasts for about two weeks. During this time, it is normal for the dog to experience some degree of bloody discharge. However, if the discharge is excessive or lasts for longer than three weeks, it may be a sign of a more serious issue.

If a dog is leaking blood heavily or for an extended period of time, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian. The vet can perform a physical examination and run tests to determine the cause of the excessive bleeding.

Additionally, if a dog is exhibiting other symptoms, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or a high fever, it may be a sign of an infection or other underlying health issue. In these cases, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

It is important to note that while some blood during a dog’s heat  is normal, it is not normal outside of their cycle. If a dog is leaking blood outside of their heat or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 4 stages of a dog in heat?

The four stages of a dog in heat are proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. Proestrus is the first stage, where the female dog’s vulva swells and she starts to have bloody discharge from the vulva. Estrus is the second stage, where the dog is fertile and receptive to mating. Diestrus is the third stage, where the female’s body prepares for pregnancy, and anestrus is the final stage, where the body returns to a non-receptive state.

How long does the bleeding phase last in dogs in heat?

The bleeding phase in dogs in heat typically lasts for 7-14 days. However, it can last up to 21 days in very few cases. After this phase, the female dog enters the fertile phase of estrus.

How long after bleeding is a dog fertile?

A female dog is typically fertile for 5-10 days after the bloody discharge phase ends. However, the exact timing can vary from dog to dog. It’s essential to monitor your dog’s behavior and signs of fertility, such as a swollen vulva and a change in behavior.

Is it normal for a dog to bleed for 4 weeks?

No, it’s not normal for a dog to bleed for four weeks. While this phase can last up to 21 days, if your dog is leaking blood for more than three weeks, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian. Prolonged bleeding can be a sign of an underlying health issue.

What to do when your dog is in heat for the first time?

When your dog is in heat for the first time, it’s essential to keep her away from male dogs to prevent unwanted pregnancy. You should also provide her with a comfortable and safe space, avoid taking her on walks in public areas, and keep her on a leash when outside. It’s also essential to monitor her behavior and contact a veterinarian if you notice any unusual symptoms.

How often do dogs go in heat?

Dogs typically go in heat every six months to a year. However, the frequency can vary depending on the breed and individual dog. It’s essential to monitor your dog’s behavior and schedule regular check-ups with a veterinarian to ensure optimal reproductive health.

Final Thoughts

The length of time that a dog bleeds while in heat can vary depending on various factors. However, the average duration of a heat is around 2, perhaps 3 weeks. During this time, the blood should gradually decrease in intensity before coming to a complete stop.

References:

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.