People often anthropomorphize their pets by attributing human characteristics to them. Some dog parents wonder if their pups experience guilt or embarrassment, while other want to know if our pets watch us during intimate moments — which, of course, would imply that they are capable of comprehending complex human behaviors.
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While we've investigated if dogs know when their owners are menstruating, the question often arises: do dogs have periods themselves?
Do dogs have periods?
Dogs do not have periods. At least, not as humans define the word. While human females have monthly menstrual cycles that are commonly referred to as "periods," un-spayed dogs have estrus cycles that typically occur only twice a year.
How frequently do dogs get periods?
Most dog breeds experience their first estrus cycles between 8-11 months of age. Female dogs typically go into heat twice a year or every six months, but the frequency and length of estrus cycles can vary depending on breed. Some smaller breeds may enter estrus four times a year, and larger breeds like St. Bernards estrus every 12-18 months.
How do you know if a dog is having her period?
It's easier to spot signs of estrus in dogs through physical symptoms, as all dogs will react differently to the start of their estrus cycle. Un-spayed dogs discharge vaginally during their estrus. The discharge can be bloody, pinkish, clear or a brackish brown, depending on the breed and whether a dog is in proestrus or estrus stage of their cycle.
- Vulva may become swollen or saggy
- Vulva may change in color to a vibrant pink or bright red
- Nipples may swell and deepen in color
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Sudden behavioral shifts
How long is a dog's period?
A dog's estrus cycle is comprised of four stages.
Proestrus: This initial stage of estrus is characterized by discharge and swelling in the vulva that typically last 9-11 days, but can be as short as three days or as long as 21 days. Females will urinate more frequently during proestrus, and the scent will attract males.
Estrus: Often referred to as "being in heat," females will accept mates in estrus, which lasts an average of 9-11 days — with extremes of three days and 21 days. Females' vaginal discharge will tinge pink with blood, but soon turn clear.
Diestrus: Pregnant females will give birth to puppies at the end of a 63-day diestrus stage. Females who are neither pregnant or spayed will have diestrus periods of 60-90 days. Discharge ceases and progesterone levels fall in diestrus females.
Anestrus: The 4-5 month anestrus stage gives females time to rest, recover and prepare for the next estrus cycle. Sex hormones are low during anestrus, and the desire to breed is gone.
How to care for a dog during her period
Estrus can stress dogs out. They often experience behavioral shifts and physical changes that cause discomfort. Pamper your best friend during the proestrus and estrus stages of her cycle to let her know that you care.
- Diapers for Dogs: Disposable or washable doggie diapers will not only keep your un-spayed dog comfortable during estrus, but they will also keep furniture and flooring free of discharge.
- Bathing: Regularly bathing your dog during estrus will comfort her and reduce the amount of attention she attracts from male dogs.
- Extra Attention: Dogs can become clingy and vocal during estrus, so spending more time grooming and speaking to them can calm anxious dogs down.
- More Playtime: Additional playtime can distract females from their sexual needs during estrus.
The benefits of spaying your dog
Spaying your female dog provides a variety of benefits including preventing life-threatening cancers, curbing behavior problems and helping to reduce the population of homeless pets. It's important to spay her so that she doesn't give you a surprise — or several of them! There are many benefits to spaying your dog beyond unplanned pregnancies.
Most veterinarians recommend spaying female puppies between 6-7 months of age, but it's important to evaluate all dogs on an individual basis.
While dogs do not experience what humans understand as menstruation or a period, un-spayed dogs do have a similar reproductive cycle called estrus. Dogs undergo significant physical and behavioral changes during the four stages of their estrus cycle, and it can cause discomfort. Be sure to give your best friend extra love and attention during this time. Better yet, get her spayed.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.