Dogs Menstrual Cycle

Do Dogs Have Periods?

It may seem like a silly question but it plays an important role in the reproduction of dogs. It’s very important to understand the reproductive operation of the canine body so that you know what to expect as a dog owner and how to avoid complications, health issues, and how to address menstrual cycles of your dog, known as heat cycles, with as few problems as possible.


Do Dogs Have a Regular Menstrual Cycle?

Yes, a female dog is typically going to have a cycle every 6  months of her life unless she is spayed. Spaying is the human equivalent of having her tubes tied. A young dog can come into her first heat cycle at any time in the first year, but generally after 6 months of age. Some will have 2 cycles in their first year but this is rare.


Some females will self-groom and keep themselves so clean that you would barely know except for her swollen vulva. As the female starts to come into heat, you will notice swelling between her legs. It gets very large and almost takes on the shape of a donut. Once she is fully swollen, she will likely begin to bleed. There are diapers made to place on her that will help you keep your home clean during this time.


Keeping her outside without your constant supervision is highly unadvisable. A male can smell a female in heat from as far as five miles away. Even if she is inside a fence, once she has reached her most fertile time and is accepting of the male’s advances, she will back up to a fence and allow him to breed her through a fence.  A male can become almost frantic to get to a female in heat and will dig, climb, and break into areas to get to her.


You should also be aware that your female will likely be a bit grumpy and may act more so if she is aggravated during this time. She will lack her normal patience and is very hormonal at this time. She will also be likely to try to escape and make her way to a male at this time. All of her instincts will drive her to want to mate when she is fully into her cycle and ready to mate. At first, she will rebuke the male who finds her scent irresistible. Only when the time is right and instincts let her know she most fertile, will she accept his advances and begin shifting her tail to the side to invite him. That is when you’ll know she is ready to breed if you are wanting to breed her.


Why You May Wish to Spay Your Female Instead of Breeding Her


  • She will likely live longer and healthier. Spaying reduces uterine infections and breast cancer in dogs.
  • She will never come into heat again, which is a real challenge to manage and messy too. Most people do not enjoy having a female that isn’t spayed. Neutering a male will also be far less obnoxious to live with.
  • It saves you money in the long-term as they have fewer health issues and you won’t have worries with injuries due to breeding aggression and escape attempts. Puppies are also a cost that can become hard to handle with a female who has multiple litters.
  • You will help reduce the problem with pet overpopulation. No one needs to breed dogs unless they are breeding champion dogs with very deep pedigrees. If you are that person, you would not be reading this because you’d already be keenly aware of how breeding and reproductive systems work.


Females who give birth are also prone to pyometra which is a uterine infection that can be deadly. This is a nasty discharge seen at the vaginal opening, usually with a strong smell. It must be treated immediately as it will kill your dog. She is also more susceptible to uterine cancer and other complications of birth. Typically, it is far more simple to spay her and it will prolong her life with you and your family.


When to Spay?

It used to be common practice to spay and neuter puppies within the first six months of age but many veterinarians are now recommending that it is better for their health in the long-term if spaying and neutering are done at one year of age.


There seems to be some correlation with cancer risk in doing early surgeries on tiny puppies and the practice of micro-surgeries is typically no longer practiced. This was doing the surgeries on 8-week old puppies before they were adopted at pounds.


Spaying is a routine procedure. Your dog will be given stitches both internally and externally in most cases. They will likely be given pain medication before they come home but you won’t’ get more unless you specifically ask for it. Most dogs do not appear to need it. Some dogs will need a few days to one week to recover from their surgery. Other dogs will come home as if nothing happened. Generally, you are to keep them from jumping up and down from furniture and calm for several days. No fast running and no wrestling with other pets.


If your dog insists on licking and chewing her stitches, she’ll come home with a cone to put over her head so she cannot lick herself. This is somewhat problematic as it takes a lot of room and they tend to hate it, but it will only be needed a few days. They will be back to normal in a week in most cases.

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