9 Signs of a Dog in Heat and How to Help Them Feel More Comfortable

1. What is a Dog in Heat?

Dog in heat (also known as estrus) is a completely natural instinct. Unlike cats, female dogs produce more fluid during their reproductive cycle. Typically, dogs go into heat twice a year, for a period of two to three weeks.

The first heat cycle begins when the female dog reaches puberty. Small breeds may go into heat as early as 4 months old, while larger breeds may have to wait until they are 2 years old. On average, most dogs will have their first heat cycle between 6 and 15 months old.

Mùa động dục của chó
Mùa động dục của chó

During the second stage of the heat cycle (Estrus), female dogs will exhibit signs of being in heat for an average of 3 to 21 days or 9 days. Dogs go into heat twice a year, about six months apart. Some females may have irregular cycles, especially if they are still very young or old.

Smaller breeds may have three cycles a year, while larger breeds may only have one cycle in a year. Unlike some other species, a dog’s heat cycle is not dependent on seasons, sunlight, or temperature.

2. Signs of a Dog in Heat

a. Male Dogs

Unlike female dogs, male dogs do not have a specific heat period. Instead, they have the ability to mate year-round, starting at around 4 to 6 months old. Although males do not go into heat, they can be influenced when nearby females start their heat cycle.

Động tác chó giao phối
Động tác chó giao phối

When a female dog is in heat, she releases a pheromone called Methyl p-hydroxybenzoate, which stimulates the male dog’s sexual desire. If an intact male dog detects the scent of a nearby female in heat, that female dog will become the main focus of the male’s attention. It may lose appetite, increase marking of territory, become more aggressive, and show obsessive behavior towards following the female throughout her cycle.

b. Recognizing a Female in Heat

The more you understand about your female dog’s heat cycle, the better prepared you will be for any changes in behavior and physical signs that may occur during the process. In each stage of the heat cycle, you will notice different changes. Signs of a female in heat may include:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Increased vaginal bleeding
  • Heightened interest in male dogs
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Restlessness, anxiety, or aggression
  • Frequent urination
  • Changes in tail position
  • Unusual leg lifting when urinating or when spotting a male dog
  • Becoming more affectionate
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By observing the physical appearance and behavior of your female dog, you can determine which stage of the heat cycle she is experiencing. During the heat cycle, dogs go through four stages, which are characterized by different changes in their bodies and behaviors. The four stages of a female dog’s heat cycle are as follows:

Stage Description
Proestrus The first stage of the heat cycle is called Proestrus. This stage can last from 7 to 10 days, with most dogs experiencing about 9 days in heat. The first sign of this stage is a swollen vulva, which is one of the best ways to detect the start of the heat cycle. During this stage, dogs may exhibit changes in personality, ranging from mild to more severe. Sometimes a female dog will become more affectionate and clingy to her owner, while other times she may seem a bit irritable.
Estrus The second stage, Estrus, typically lasts from 5 to 10 days, with an average of 9 days. This is when your female dog is ready to mate and where the ovaries begin releasing eggs for fertilization. During this stage, the dog will present herself to the male by holding her tail to the side, turning her back towards the male, and raising her rear. However, she may become aggressive towards other females. You can also determine this behavior by gently scratching the dog’s rump. If she stiffens her hind legs and moves her tail to the side, it’s a sign that she is willing to mate.
Diestrus This stage can last from 10 to 140 days. During this time, the dog is no longer capable of reproducing. If the dog has been successfully impregnated, this stage will last from the end of the Estrus stage until the puppies are born (around 60 days). At this point, her vulva will return to its normal size and vaginal discharge will disappear; no more interest in mating.
Anestrus Anestrus is the final stage of the heat cycle, also known as the resting period. This stage is the longest in the heat cycle, lasting around 180 days. When this stage ends, the dog’s heat cycle begins again from the start.

3. What to Do When Your Dog is in Heat

What should you do when your female dog is in heat? If it’s her first heat, it can be a worrisome situation for both you and your dog. Follow the tips below to ensure a smooth heat cycle for your dog:

a. Cleanup

During the heat cycle, your dog will produce fluids and bleed. This can last for 7-10 days, creating a mess for you. Here are some ways to handle the situation:

  • Invest in good-quality doggie diapers or comfortable bodysuits. For some small dogs, diapers may slip off, so a harness or comfortable bodysuit can be used instead. You can find disposable or reusable diapers for dogs. Make sure to read the instructions before using them.
    Chó động dục làm sao? Dùng tã lót loại tốt
    Chó động dục làm sao? Dùng tã lót loại tốt

  • Place a blanket for your dog to use during her heat cycle wherever she lies: on the bed at night, on the couch, etc. By the end of the cycle, you will only need to wash a blanket.

  • Clean up quickly before any stains spread throughout the house.

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b. Provide Comfort for Your Dog

Your dog’s first experience in heat can be confusing for her. She will need extra love and attention from you.

  • Dogs are often affectionate and like to cuddle during this time, so spend more time petting and comforting them. If you work from home, you can consider getting a folding table so you can work while hugging them.

  • Provide a safe chewing toy for your dog. This will also provide a sense of security.
    Ôm chó động dục để chúng thấy thoải mái
    Ôm chó động dục để chúng thấy thoải mái

  • Never scold your dog if she causes a mess; just calmly reassure her while you clean it up.

  • Ensure your dog eats a complete diet and drinks plenty of water during the heat cycle.

  • Take them out for potty breaks more often than usual.

  • Your dog needs regular exercise, such as going for walks. Alternate between rest and exercise time for your dog.

  • Give your dog treats and play soothing music to reduce stress and calm their spirits. You can use herbal remedies or pheromone diffusers to help relax anxious dogs. Ensure a quiet environment and lower the volume on the TV.
    Bộ khuếch tán hóc-môn giúp chó bình tĩnh trong kỳ động dục

c. Preventing Pregnancy

  • Never let your dog outside alone. Do not underestimate the male dog’s ability to detect the scent of a nearby female in heat. If you allow your dog outside alone, you may find her mating with another male. Why do dogs get stuck together? You can find the answer in the article “Why Do Dogs Get Stuck Together?”

  • Do not lead your dog in heat outside without a leash. Even if your dog has excellent obedience skills, their behavior can be influenced by their natural instincts.

  • Male dogs in heat can become quite aggressive when they sense a nearby female in heat. So, be cautious and be prepared for any potential risks, especially when taking walks or going to the park.
    Không dẫn chó động dục ra ngoài mà không có dây xích
    Không dẫn chó động dục ra ngoài mà không có dây xích

  • Use odor-reducing dog shampoos and bathe your dog more frequently than usual to maintain hygiene and reduce odor. You can also apply a mint-scented substance to her tail to make it difficult for male dogs to detect her scent.

  • Ensure your dog wears a collar with complete identification information. If the unlikely event occurs and your dog runs away from home, you can be reunited with her through her collar.

  • Maintain a balance between exercise and rest: different dogs react differently to the heat cycle. Some dogs may feel tired all day, while others may become restless. Observing your dog’s behavior and choosing appropriate resting and exercise times is crucial to keeping them comfortable.

  • Consult a veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness. Sometimes, females may experience health issues after their heat cycle when the uterine lining thickens and produces more fluid, creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth. This can lead to life-threatening conditions such as uterine infection or pyometra. Pets with pyometra may drink excessively, have a fever, vaginal discharge, loss of appetite, or lethargy.

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4. Preventing Dog Heat

a. Spaying

The best way to prevent a dog from going into heat or becoming pregnant is by spaying. Spaying, also known as ovariohysterectomy, involves removing the female dog’s uterus and ovaries. To prevent unwanted pregnancies, most veterinarians recommend spaying before the dog reaches 6 to 7 months old, as it can be difficult to predict when the first heat cycle will occur.

Triệt sản là cách ngăn ngừa chó động dục tốt nhất
Triệt sản là cách ngăn ngừa chó động dục tốt nhất

Spaying not only prevents dogs from going into heat, avoiding unplanned pregnancies, and prevents them from wandering away, but it also contributes to their overall health. If you cannot afford to spay your dog, you can seek assistance from animal welfare organizations or low-cost clinics.

b. Contraceptive Injections

Hormonal methods can prevent dogs from going into heat. However, this is not recommended as a means of preventing heat. Long-term use of contraceptive injections can lead to uterine infections and even cancer.

Ngăn chó động dục bằng thuốc ngừa thai có thể gây ra hậu quả nghiêm trọng
Ngăn chó động dục bằng thuốc ngừa thai có thể gây ra hậu quả nghiêm trọng


It is completely normal for dogs to go into heat. You can recognize whether your female dog is in heat by signs such as a swollen vulva, vaginal bleeding, increased interest in male dogs, excessive licking of the genital area, restlessness, increased urination, changes in tail position, unusual leg lifting, and becoming more affectionate.

When your dog is in heat, do not let her roam outside without a leash, maintain a balance between exercise and rest, and provide comfort through food, music, or artificial pheromones. Be patient with your dog during this time. They may make your home messy, exhibit unusual behavior, or be more bothersome. But don’t scold or get angry with them because this is a natural instinct of animals. With a little patience and care, you can help them overcome the stress and discomfort.

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