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Female Dogs in Heat: What You Need to Know

Not all dog owners are familiar with the female dog heat cycle and what it means. This is understandable, as it can be a confusing topic. 

It’s important for all Australian pet owners to recognize the signs that their female dog is in heat so they can make informed decisions about breeding their pets responsibly.

As female dogs reach sexual maturity, they go into heat and can become pregnant if not desexed. It is important to be aware of the signs of heat in your female dog as well as how to properly care for them during this time.

Understanding why she enters estrus and what to do when it happens is key in giving a female the best care possible. Of course, its recommended to have your female dog desexed to avoid many of the issues associated with the estrus cycle. 

This blog post will provide an overview of the signs, care instructions, and tips for caring for a female dog in heat. By understanding the physical and behavioural signs associated with heat cycles, you can ensure that your pup remains healthy and happy throughout her life!

What Does It Mean When a Female Dog Is In Heat? 

When a female dog is in heat, otherwise known as the estrus cycle, it means she has reached sexual maturity and is ready to mate. During this time, her body will produce hormones and release them into the bloodstream which will attract male dogs from miles away. 

The most common signs of heat include bloody discharge from her vulva and increased urination which helps spread her pheromones further. 

What Are the Signs a Female Dog is in Heat? 

The most common signs that your female dog may be entering heat are increased urination, changes in behaviour (such as being more clingy), swollen vulva, and bloody vaginal discharge. It is important to note that these symptoms can vary depending on the breed of your dog. 

Let’s take a look at what to look out for and what it means when your female dog is in heat. 

  • Bleeding – The most obvious sign of a female dog being in heat is bleeding or discharge from the vulva. While dogs don’t have periods like humans do, they can still bleed during the estrus cycle. The blood will start off light, but as the cycle progresses, it may become heavier and have more of a bloody appearance. You should also expect to see some swelling around her vulva during this time as well. 
  • Behavioural changes – In addition to physical signs, there will also be behavioural changes that you can look out for. When your female dog is in heat, she will exhibit certain behaviours that indicate she is ready to mate. These include increased whining, licking herself excessively, and urinating more frequently than usual (especially around males). 
  • Being more vocal – Female dogs in heat may become more vocal, with additional whining and whimpering; they may even try to escape from the house or yard if given the opportunity. Additionally, you may find that she becomes clingier than usual or starts exhibiting unusual behaviour such as trying to mount other animals or objects around her environment. 

If you notice any of these signs or if you are unsure about what is happening with your pup’s reproductive system, contact your veterinarian for advice. 

How Long Does a Female Dog’s Heat Last? 

The average length of a female dog’s estrus cycle is around 21 days, but this can vary depending on the individual. It can last anywhere from four days to three weeks on average. 

During this time your pup may display additional behavioural changes such as increased affection towards humans or other animals, restlessness or irritability, and excessive licking of their genital area.  

Once your dog has finished her heat cycle, she will be ready to mate with another animal after about 3 weeks—this period of time is known as the “standing heat.” During this phase, her body temperature will drop slightly and she may become less vocal than before. After mating, she will enter into what’s called “diestrus” where she won’t be receptive to mating again until after another cycle has passed (this could be between 6-8 months).  

When Does a Female Dog Have Her First Heat?

In general, a female dog’s first heat cycle will occur sometime between 6 and 24 months of age. This can vary depending on breed; small breeds tend to go into heat earlier than large breeds. 

For example, Chihuahuas can enter their first heat as early as 6 months old while larger breeds such as Great Danes may not experience their first heat until they are 18 months old or more. 

The climate where you live can also affect when your female dog goes into her first heat. Dogs living in warmer climates often experience an earlier onset of their reproductive cycles due to longer days with more sunlight. In Australia, this means that many female dogs will enter their first heat cycle sometime between 6 and 15 months of age. 

To be safe, always keep an eye out for the signs that indicate your pup has gone into her first heat—such as increased whining and licking—and contact your vet if you have any questions or concerns about the process. With the right care and attention, you can make sure your pup enjoys a safe transition through her very important first season!

How to Care for a Female Dog in Heat 

One way to keep her safe is by keeping her away from male dogs while she is in heat; this will help prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce stress caused by male attention. You should also take her on shorter walks and make sure she has plenty of fresh water available at all times since she may become dehydrated. 

Finally, it’s important that you monitor her closely for any changes in behaviour or health that could indicate an infection or other health issue related to being in heat. The RSPCA states it’s especially important to keep an eye on dogs during their first heat, as they could be more prone to urine infections, tiredness and a change in appetite. 

You should also monitor their behaviour closely – if you notice any changes or anything out of the ordinary contact your veterinarian immediately for advice on how best to proceed. 

Additionally, extra walks and playtime can help keep her distracted from male dogs that may be trying to catch her scent!  

Here are a few tips to help you better care for your female dog when she enters her heat cycle: 

  1. Make sure you have enough supplies on hand such as disposable diapers/pads and wipes; these will be helpful during cleaning up accidents due to increased urination frequency. 
  1. Keep her space clean by regularly changing bedding; this will help keep bacteria growth at bay which can cause infections if left unchecked during this time period. 
  1. Give her extra attention; this may be difficult due to the fact that she may not want much contact with people during this time but it’s still important that she feels loved and comforted during this sensitive period so try giving her extra toys or treats if possible! 
  1. Be patient; understanding why your dog is acting differently when they enter their heat cycle can really help minimise any frustrations you may feel towards them while they’re going through it!  


In summary, caring for a female dog while they are in heat requires special attention and patience from owners. Knowing the signs of when your pooch enters their heats cycle is essential as well as making sure they stay away from male dogs during this period of time! 

Additionally, providing extra attention and supplies such as diapers/pads and wipes can make cleaning up accidents much easier! Veterinarians and the RSPCA also urge dog owners to consider desexing their pets, as this can help to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the risk of cancer.

Related Questions

Is a Dog’s First Heat Shorter?

A dog’s first heat is typically between two and four weeks. The RSPCA said that while the average heat cycle lasts three weeks, some dogs could come into season as early as six months old and stay in season for just two weeks. 

Is It Normal for My Dog to Not Eat While in Heat?

Some dogs may also experience a decrease in appetite during their heat cycle. While this can be normal behaviour for some dogs, it’s important to make sure that your dog is still eating enough to stay healthy. 

If your dog is not eating as much as usual, try offering her small meals more frequently throughout the day. You can also try adding some wet food or canned pumpkin to her dry food to make it more appealing. If your dog continues to lose weight or doesn’t seem to be doing well, talk to your veterinarian. Heat can be a stressful time for dogs, and they may need extra support to stay healthy.


This article is published in good faith, for general informational and educational purposes only. Paws and More Vet Centre does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. This article should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice, including for diagnosis or treatment of a pet’s medical condition. Always consult a veterinary professional before making decisions on your pet’s health.