What to do when your dog is in heat for the first time

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What to Do When Your Dog Is in Heat for the First Time

If you have a young female dog who isn’t spayed, then sooner or later you’ll encounter some changes as they come into heat for the first time. This is nothing to worry about, and a normal part of their development. 

A dog being in heat for the first time can be pretty tricky for pet parents to understand, so in this article, we’ll explain answers to the following common questions:

  • What are the stages of a dog’s cycle?
  • What are the common behaviors of a female dog in heat?
  • How long do dog periods last
  • What are dog period diapers?
  • How to comfort a dog in heat
  • How do you know when the dog heat is over
  • How long do dog periods last
  •  Why is my female dog peeing blood but acting normal?

Disclaimer: Please refer to the information in this article as a guide only. If you want more information about your pet’s behavior during heat, contact your veterinarian. 

What are the stages of a dog’s cycle?

Before we take a closer look at behavioral changes which dogs can show during heat, let’s take a quick look at what’s going on when it comes to a female dog’s reproductive cycle. Knowing a little about your pet’s cycle will help you to understand the behavioral changes we’ll explain later.


This part of a dog’s cycle lasts about 9 days but can be much shorter or longer and is the time when pet parents may notice a slight red discharge from a female dog’s vagina. In this stage, her vulva (the external part of a female dog’s reproductive system) will be a bit more enlarged than usual. Male dogs may be interested in her, but she won’t be interested in them,


In this next stage which lasts around 9 days, a female dog returns interest from males and is fertile. There may be slightly less blood in the discharge. 


This part of a dog’s cycle is around a couple of months, during which time the female dog won’t be interested in mating and there will be no discharge until the next proestrus in a few months.


Lasting for around 4 months, this part is the time when a female dog prepares the reproductive system for potential pregnancy in the next cycle.

Don’t forget, our pets are all different, and the specificities of the changes accruing in each stage vary from pet to pet. If you’re worried about your dog, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian.

You can read about dog care tips in our article How to Take Care of a Dog for Their Good Health: A Comprehensive Guide and Why Dog Dental Care Matters – A Comprehensive Overview.

What are the common behaviors of a female dog in heat?

Now we know the stages of a dog’s estrus cycle, let’s take a look at the common behaviors of a female dog in heat, associated with the various hormonal and physiological changes occurring in their bodies.

A dog’s heat (proestrus), may show some behavioral changes associated with the normal adjustments in her body during this part of the cycle. As we mentioned earlier, during proestrus dogs produce some discharge containing blood from their vagina, which may change in color and consistency. The color can vary from red to brown or yellow.

As a result, it’s common for a dog in heat to lick this area clean more often than usual. Additionally, you may notice that a dog in heat urinates more than usual and has a slightly decreased appetite.   

Aside from the above, dogs in heat will also often show other behavioral changes related to preparation for mating. For example, looking for male dogs, putting her tail to one side, and mounting objects. 

The behavioral changes we’ve discussed above may fluctuate during your dog’s season but usually aren’t anything to worry about. 

What are dog period diapers?

So you may be thinking, what can I do to minimize the risk of my pet making a mess in the house whilst they’re in heat? Well, you’re not alone in your thoughts! There is a special type of diaper available that your pet can wear.

They are usually adjustable and made of absorbent material, we’ve listed a couple of examples below:

How to comfort a dog in heat?

It’s difficult to know for certain whether being in heat causes a dog to feel uncomfortable or not. You don’t particularly need to change anything for your pet when they’re in heat, however, it won’t hurt to offer them extra cuddles, playtime and walkies if they want it.

If you have any reason to suspect your dog may be in pain, or unwell, then it’s best to consult your veterinarian for advice.

How do you know when dog heat is over?

When a dog’s heat is over, there will no longer be any discharge from her vagina. The external part of her reproductive tract (the vulva), will also reduce in size. Additionally the behavioral changes we mentioned earlier, will also stop.

How long do dog periods last?

The stage of your dog’s cycle in which you may notice some discharge, along with the behavioral changes we mentioned earlier, usually last around 18 days in total but can vary a lot between individuals. 

Why is my female dog peeing blood but acting normal?

If you notice a red color in your dog’s urine, then the best thing to do is take your pet to your veterinarian. Blood in the urine can be a symptom of a urinary tract infection.

These conditions are often painful and require treatment only available from a veterinarian, so even if your dog seems normal otherwise it’s important to take your pet to a vet as soon as possible. This will increase the chances of diagnosing the problem in its early stages when it’s often easier to treat, and less painful.

Additionally, it may be necessary to perform other diagnostics on your dog, to get to the bottom of why they are peeing blood.

If possible, bringing a sample of your pet’s urine with you, to your veterinary appointment, is often extremely helpful for your veterinarian, in diagnosing the cause of the problem.


Understanding our pet’s cycles and how to manage them can be a daunting prospect for pet parents. We hope that after reading this article you understand what to do when your dog is in heat. 

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