Hund liegt auf Boden und schaut in die Kamera

Heat in the bitch

The first heat in female dogs in particular can be unsettling - your female dog suddenly bleeds from her vagina, her behavior changes and male dogs are very interested in her when they meet her. Here we explain when female dogs come into heat and how you can deal with the situation. 

When do dogs come into heat for the first time?

In small dogs, the first heat can begin as early as six months of age, while in large breeds it can take much longer. 

A bitch's cycle is made up of four different phases. During heat, bleeding from the vagina occurs. The color and amount of this bleeding shows which phase of heat the bitch is in. The first sign that it's about to start is that the vagina slowly swells and has more blood flow. 

At the beginning the dog bleeds a lot and the blood is dark red. She is in preestrus (proestrus) . In this phase of heat, male dogs are already showing strong interest, but your bitch is not yet ready to breed and rejects them. This phase lasts an average of ten days. 

If the blood becomes lighter and more watery, estrus has begun. They are also referred to as “standing days” because the bitch tolerates the male dog and is ready to breed. If you are not sure whether she is already at this stage, you can scratch her at the base of her tail - if she puts her tail to the side, this is an indication that estrus has begun. This phase can last between three and 10 days, of which your dog will only be ready to breed for around 3 to 6 days. 

If the bleeding stops, your dog will go into post-estrus (metestrus) . She can no longer be mated and the male dogs are slowly losing interest in her. This phase can last nine to twelve weeks. 

This is followed by the hormonal rest phase (anoestrus). 

Dogs can go into heat up to twice a year, so after the hormonal rest phase, pre-estrus occurs again after a few months. 

How is heat expressed?

It is possible that your dog will experience her heat without any significant behavioral changes, but she will often exhibit some unusual behaviors. 

During heat, your dog may... 

  • urinate more often 
  • lift their leg differently when urinating - similar to a male dog 
  • Pay more attention to male dogs
  • Change her behavior - sometimes she becomes stubborn and difficult to respond to, withdraws or generally seems listless 
  • be more in need of love 
  • become lazier or more active

A silent heat cycle can also occur. This means that your dog has no discharge and does not show any of the behaviors mentioned. Then it's quite possible that you won't even notice that she's in heat. This occurs more often in older dogs.

What can you do?

First of all, you should ensure peace and quiet in your household. This time is stressful for your four-legged friend and is therefore stressful enough. Pamper her with treats and their favorite food and make sure that you use paths where there are as few male dogs as possible when walking. The choice of time can also be helpful here. Your dog should be kept on a leash during this time to avoid unwanted offspring. To still give her the feeling of freedom, a towing leash is very suitable. You should warn oncoming dog owners so that they can get their dog on a leash in good time.
Caution: If a male dog has scented your bitch, it can happen very quickly. 

For those cuddly sessions on the sofa, there are special panties for dogs that stop the bleeding. Of course, your dog has to get used to wearing pants first. Therefore, plan some lead time and practice wearing it before the first bleeding. Alternatively, you can also lay out blankets or towels.  

If male and female dogs live together in the same household, you should think in advance about how you will structure the period of heat. Is it possible for you to separate the animals spatially? If necessary, it can be less stressful for the dogs if, for example, the male dog stays with another trusted person during the heat period.  

Can heat be suppressed?

It is possible to give hormone injections that suppress heat. However, they carry the risk of causing uterine infections and possibly also mammary tumors (tumors in the teat area). That’s why Dr. advises Schlotterbeck urgently advises against this.  

If bitches and male dogs live in the same household, it is advisable to find a longer-term solution for the period of heat, as living together with a male dog and a female dog in heat means great stress for both of them. There is the short-term option of a hormone chip, but it is only effective for a maximum of a year and is expensive.  

As with male dogs, female dogs can be castrated. During this operation, the ovaries are removed from the abdominal cavity under general anesthesia. Possible side effects include urinary incontinence and an increased tendency to obesity.  

According to animal protection law, a healthy female dog may not be castrated without reason. Heat is not a disease! This must be taken into account when considering castration.

If you plan to have your dog neutered, the procedure should, if possible, take place during the resting phase (anoestrus). So it's best to do it three months after the end of the heat cycle.