Dogs Mating Season: Estrus Cycles in Dogs

If you are the proud parent of a canine furbaby, then chances are you’ve got questions about dog mating and the Estrus cycles in dogs. Most responsible pet owners will want to learn how to recognize any sign that their pet is approaching its season for mating and explore all of the options available to ensure that no unwanted litter will be born.

How can you determine whether your dog is approaching their estrus cycle or mating time? Will a simple internet search give you the details you seek and clarify your options? In this article, we will explore Estrus cycles and learn how to tell when your pet is nearing that time.

Is My Dog Going Into Heat?

One of the most common questions about the Estrus cycle in dogs is, “How can I tell if my dog is going into heat?” You can look for several signs that will alert you that your dog’s time is approaching. You may notice that her vulva is swollen, and she might have a bloody discharge. 

She might need to urinate more often when first going into heat and may lick her genital area much more than normal. Dogs going into heat also tend to become more aggressive towards male dogs

Their agitation can be increased in general, towards anyone and anything, but it is especially seen when a male dog approaches her. During the beginning stages of her cycle, the female will not be willing to mate and will often tuck her tail between her legs and try to ward off any suitors.

The Four Stages of Estrus in Dogs

There are four different stages for dogs when they are in heat. These stages are known as Proestrus, Estrus, Diestrus, and Anestrus. Each phase has its own signs and symptoms that you can look out for to know if your dog is in her cycle.

The Proestrus Stage

The beginning stage of a dog’s heat cycle is known as the Proestrus stage. This is when her body is preparing to get ready for mating. The Proestrus preparation lasts from three to seventeen days, with most dogs falling into a nine-day stage.

During this part of the Estrus cycle, dogs exhibit certain personality changes. As mentioned, they tend to become more agitated and act aggressively toward males. She might also become extra needy and clingy towards her owners.

Her appetite might also be affected during the Proestrus stage. She may demand more food than usual and need to eat more often. You should adjust her usual rations to keep up with this demand.

Your female dog will also tuck her tail or sit down to guard her private area if any other dog comes near her. She may scoot her rear end around quickly to move it away from other canines and even try to keep you from examining her. She may have a dark, bloody discharge.

The Estrus Stage

This phase of the breeding cycle is the period when your female dog will be most receptive to the male dogs’ attention. Her frequency of urination will increase, and even if she is well-trained, she might begin urinating inside, marking her territory on furniture, rugs, or floors. 

Her discharge might change colors to become more watery and pink or slow down a bit during this stage because of hormonal changes. A female dog will often hold her tail to the side as if she is inviting males but will become more aggressive to other female dogs during this stage.

The Diestrus Stage

This is the longest phase of a dog’s heat cycle and may last anywhere from two to three months. It is during this phase that your dog will be the most fertile. If she mates with a male dog during Diestrus, her puppies will be born about two months later.

This is the most optimal phase of the heat cycle for owners who are hoping to breed their female dogs. For those who do not wish for their dog to have puppies, she should be kept away from male dogs during every phase of her heat cycle, not just this one.

The Anestrus Stage

The Anestrus stage of a dog’s heat cycle is the final one. This is the “normal” period between your dog’s heat cycles when she is not in heat. It usually lasts for around three to four months, during which your dog will show no signs of wanting to mate.

Any hormonal behavior changes that are usually seen during her heat cycle will not be present during the Anestrus stage. She will typically be her normal, calm self, with no physical or emotional signs of being in heat.

It is important to note that a female dog not meant to be bred should be kept away from all male dogs for the entirety of her Estrus and not just while she is most fertile. A dog can become pregnant during any of these phases, and sperm can live up to a week inside the female.

Breeding Dogs

For responsible pet owners who are not breeders, it is best to take precautions and ensure that your dog does not become pregnant. The most effective method for this is to have your dog spayed or neutered.

For those who wish to breed their dogs, it is essential to be aware of the signs to look for to know when it is time. Once her discharge changes from dark and bloody to pink and watery, she is getting ready to breed.

If your female dog accepts a male that is trying to breed with her, they will engage in coitus and become “locked” together. Known as a “tie,” this is meant to keep the sperm from leaking out of the female and help ensure that pregnancy ensues. 

You should not try to separate your dogs during this time. It will usually take five to twenty minutes for a tie to loosen on its own. You should be aware that a female can get pregnant even if there is no tie, and in rare cases, may not become pregnant even with one.

Must-Know Info

A dog in heat may smell pretty strongly, even to humans. While the heat smell is most apparent to other dogs, her discharge may give off an unpleasant odor to people. 

A heat cycle can be messy with some dogs. While many female dogs will clean themselves and prevent their discharge from becoming messy, others may not. Keeping towels and blankets down in her bedding area is crucial during this time.

Your dog might feel pain and confusion during this period. You should speak to your vet about whether or not she will need any pain medication. You may also want to be extra attentive to her needs while she goes through this phase.

A dog usually goes into heat twice a year. Her heat cycles normally start about 6 months apart, although her first year may be unpredictable. After a year or two, however, she will settle into a pattern, and you will better understand how her cycles present.

How To Prepare, How To Help

Dogs who normally suffer from anxiety may show signs of it increasing during their heat cycle. She may need extra attention and love from you during this time. Especially during the first heat, the hormonal and physical changes might be overwhelming for her.

You can bring her healthy snacks and new toys to help distract her. Allowing her to exercise is a great idea, but it is not advisable to take her for walks where other dogs will have access to her. 

If you have a fenced-in yard, you may walk her on a leash inside the area. You should always stay with her while she is outside because female dogs in heat will often try to escape their yards to find a mate.

Inside your home, it is still important to ensure that other dogs cannot get to your female. If a male dog has access to her, she will become pregnant. If a female is allowed near her, they will likely fight and could become injured or even killed.

When Should I Spay?

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the best time to spay your dog is different for various breeds and circumstances. While it used to be recommended that you spay as soon as possible after the first heat, that is no longer the case.

With some dogs, spaying too early can increase the risk of several health conditions, such as various cancers and joint issues. For this reason, it is best to speak with your veterinarian to find out when is the best time to spay your dog.

Final Thoughts

Knowing when your dog will come into heat is important for those who wish to breed their pets and those who do not. If you have no desire to ever breed your female dog, having her spayed is the best solution to ensure that no unwanted litter will arrive.

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