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How long is a dog in season? Learn everything about it here!

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Many dog owners wonder how long is a dog in season. This process is complex and will often start from the age of six months old and will continue for the rest of her life.

By Daniel Mar

Female dogs will normally go into "heat" or oestrus twice a year. The age at which their cycles begin as well as the duration of the cycle varies greatly depending on the physical characteristics. If you are planning to breed your dog in the nearby future, it is important for you to learn her oestrus cycle. A dog in season has a very narrow breeding time! Likewise, if you don’t want to breed your dog, you might want to consider spaying her. In this pet parent guide, you will find important information regarding this topic! In the end, you will feel much more knowledgeable about the oestrus cycle in your dog.

When does the oestrus cycle begin?

Dogs can go into heat as early as four months in smaller breeds. Generally, though, the average indicates about six months old. Some giant breeds may take more time. These go into their first heat after 18 months of age (sometimes after 2 years!). Pretty much every vet is strongly against breeding a young female dog during her first and second cycle. According to research, her eggs are not yet mature and the dog hasn’t reached full maturity.

How long is a dog in season?

The heat cycle usually lasts between 2-4 weeks. Early in the cycle, female dogs are not receptive to male dogs. Nevertheless, there may be exceptions since some cases have reported that female dogs in season have been receptive through the entire cycle.

This cycle can be shorter or longer. You will know when your dog’s vulva returns to its normal size and there’s no more bleeding. Identifying this is very important because after this happens, there’s a relatively small window when your dog is most fertile during the heat cycle. Usually, the fertile period begins about nine days after she goes into heat. Fertility lasts for about five days.

Stages of the heat cycle

There are four important stages of the heat cycle:

  1. Proestrus: in this stage, there is a lot of vaginal discharge. Males begin to feel attracted to females. Length: 4-20 days.

  2. Estrus: its primary sign is the swollen vulva. It can be accompanied by a yellowish vaginal discharge. If you want to breed your dog, then mating occurs during this phase. Length: 5-13 days.

  3. Metoestrus: this is the name given to the period of time that passes after mating. Length: 60-90 days. It is in this stage of the process that the female dog in heat gets pregnant.

  4. Anoestrus: this last stage is mainly a period of inactivity between oestrus phases. Length: 2-3 months.

Does this process occur for the rest of a dog’s life?

Once oestrus begins, it can initially take a while for the cycle to become regular. Usually, this takes up to eighteen months until their cycle becomes regular. Once it does, your dog should get the heat cycle every six months. Unlike humans, female dogs experience oestrus throughout their whole lives, but the time between cycles will get longer making heat cycle very sporadically common.

There is a level of controversy here because, with the exception of breeders of purebreds, a lot of pet owners choose to spay their female dogs before the first heat. In fact, some experts believe this reduces the risk of mammary cancer and other conditions. While others think that this procedure has harmful long-time effects on their bodies.

Precautions when dealing with a dog in heat

Dogs can get pregnant during their first heat cycle, but this is not advisable because complications for the mother and the puppies can arise.

Lately, many dog owners are supporting the decision of spaying their dogs before the first heat. This eliminates the risk of accidental pregnancy and reproductive diseases later on in life. Nonetheless, as it was already stated, recent studies indicate that early spaying and neutering may indeed have adverse health effects later in life. Early neutering is a complicated issue which needs to be discussed properly beforehand.

Sometimes, owners decide to spay a dog in heat (or pregnant), but this is not only inhuman but also extremely dangerous. By doing this, you are placing additional risk on your dog’s life due to the engorged vessels and tissue of the reproductive tract.

Final considerations

If you have a dog in season, you'll need to be prepared for it. Fortunately, it is very similar to a woman's menstrual cycle except that it only happens twice a year. With this guide, you now know what to expect when you are expecting. This process is very interesting!