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How Often do Dogs Go Into Heat?

What is "in heat"

Going into "heat", also known as the estrus cycle in female dogs, is the stage in which the dog enters the reproductive cycle. This is the time period that the dog can be bred and become pregnant. Female puppies usually experience their first estrus cycles when they hit puberty (reached sexual maturity), which is at about 6 months of age.

The age at which female dogs hit puberty varies by breed. Typically smaller breeds will reach sexual maturity at an earlier age, whereas large and giant breeds might not experience their first estrus cycle until 18 months to 2 years of age.

How often do dogs go into heat?

After dogs experience their first estrus cycle, they will continue to go into heat approximately every 6 months. This can also vary from breed to breed. Smaller breeds might cycle three times a year, while larger breeds might only cycle once a year. During the cycle, dogs will be in heat for about 2-3 weeks. Similar to humans, dogs can also have irregular cycles at first. It can take a dog up to 2 years to develop a regular estrus cycle. As your dog gets older, the time in between cycles will grow longer.

Signs of being in heat include:

  • Swelling or engorgement of the external vulva- depending on how furry your pup is, this might not be that obvious.
  • Bloody vaginal discharge- some dogs only experience a small amount of discharge and some may bleed heavily.
  • Marking (urinating more frequently)- urine contains pheromones and hormones that signal your dog's reproductive state and attracts male dogs to the female.
How to prevent your dog from going into heat

In order to keep your dog from going into heat, you can spay her. Spaying is a surgery that removes the ovaries and uterus. Not only does spaying prevent your dog from going into heat, it prevents accidental pregnancies and protects her from breast cancer and diseases of the reproductive system. If spaying is not an option, Megestrol, a prescription medication that contains a synthetic chemical similar to progesterone, can be used to postpone the estrus cycle and help end a false pregnancy.