“Do dogs have periods?”
Many owners don’t consider this question before they decide to keep a female dog, or how to handle things when she is in heat.
Messed up carpets and floors, unexpected behavior and surprise litters. Whether or not to spay your dog, i.e. surgically remove the uterus and ovaries can be a major decision for both you and your pet.
So clearly, it’s something any owner of a female dog should know about.
So, do female dogs have periods?
The short answer – yes.
However, the function is quite different from women’s menstrual cycles. All mammals, apart from humans, undergo what is known as estrus, or the estrus cycle among the females.
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The estrus cycle in dogs begins when they hit puberty, and their body gains the ability to conceive puppies. It’s similar to menstruation in that it involves a bloody vaginal discharge.
The Beginning of Her Estrus Cycle
When we say that a dog is in heat, it essentially refers to the beginning of her estrus cycle.
Now having answered the question “do dogs have periods?” you might be wondering how it’s different from menstruation in humans.
While the reproductive organs among mammals are largely common, the differences in structure and constitution naturally means that there are differences in their manner of functioning.
The estrus basically consists of four phases:
- Proestrus – lasts 3 to 17 days, and involves heavy release of hormones and pheromones in the body with a dark red vaginal discharge
- Estrus – lasts 4 to 7 days, with light colored vaginal discharge, and general inactivity of the dog as she “prepares” for her pregnancy
- Diestrus – lasts about 65 days (approximate duration of pregnancy), with no vaginal discharge. If the dog isn’t actually pregnant, the nutrients accumulated up till this point are reabsorbed by the body.
- Anestrus – period of sexual inactivity lasting 2-3 months
The first two phases are the ones that involve vaginal discharge of blood and fluids, with the discharge being heaviest during the proestrus.
So unlike in women, where the menstrual discharge is essentially the expelling of the unfertilized egg from the uterus, with dogs, the discharge marks the onset of fertility and originates, rather than the uterus.
The estrus cycle among dogs is far less frequent than the monthly menstrual cycle in humans.
Depending on the breed, a dog may experience estrus 2-3 times a year,
Smaller breeds tend to go through estrus thrice a year, and larger breeds twice, or at times even just once a year.
Also, unlike humans, there is no “menopause” among dogs, which means they can get pregnant at relatively much older ages too.
Caring For Your Dog During the Estrus Cycle
You should expect to do some extra cleaning up once your dog goes into heat.
But there are also some other important considerations during this period you’d do best to keep in mind if you want to avid unexpected/unwanted pregnancies:
1. Precautions While Taking Her on Walks
Letting her go out on her own or even walking her off-leash is a bad idea.
Male dogs can pick up the scent of a dog in heat from miles out, and things can get pretty frenzied if you’re not careful.
Don’t leave trails back home. Try taking her in the car to a place away from home before you begin walking.
Another way to mask the trail and her scent on the walk is dabbing some menthol on her tail.
2. Keeping Her Calm
Plenty of exercise, play and, of course, rest is important to keep your dog calm when she’s in heat to keep her calm and occupied.
3. Avoid Socializing with Male Dogs
This means no, or at least limited trips to the park, day cares and especially events like shows.
Events such as dog shows can be well ruined by just a single dog in heat who can leave all that training and focus of the other dogs in tatters.
So that answers your question – “do dogs have periods?”. We hope this will help you make the right choices for your dog, and that the tips and suggestions makes things easier when she goes into heat. Do share your own thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!