Dog’s first heat cycle is another phrase I commonly see in dog forums, especially from first time owners. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding heat cycles, especially regarding when they should happen. It can be a bit stressful when their dog doesn’t go into heat when they think they should or when it happens “too early”. However, there’s generally nothing to worry about. A dog’s first heat cycle can come at different times based on breed size. Let’s talk a bit about what to expect, shall we?
When Does a Dog’s First Heat Cycle Come
Heat cycles come at different times for different dogs. Small breed dogs come into heat sooner – often times much sooner – than large breed dogs. That being said, there are generalities you can expect for when your dog will come into heat. The average age of a dog having her first heat is about 6 months of age, but that’s not always the case. Remember, even generalities have exceptions, and your dog may not get her first heat cycle in the time that you expect.
Small Breed Dogs
Small breed dogs come into heat sooner than larger breed dogs. In fact, some small breed dogs can go into heat as early as four months of age. It seems counter-intuitive that these dogs would go into heat sooner than larger breed dogs, as small breed dogs tend to have the longest lifespans.
Medium Sized Dogs
Medium sized dogs like Labrador Retrievers generally go into heat in that 6 month range, however it can be up to a year before they have their first heat.
Large Breed Dogs
Owners of large breed dogs tend to be the ones that have heat cycle scares. That’s because large breed dogs may not have their first heat until two years of age. Again, it seems counter-intuitive that the shortest lived dogs would have the latest starting cycles, but that’s how it happens. While a dog’s first heat cycle occurring first at two years is rare, it’s not unheard of.
How long does the first heat cycle last?
Once your dog comes into her first heat cycle, the next big question is how long will it last? Again, this varies from dog to dog, but you can expect her to be in heat for about two to three weeks on average. If you have a short-haired breed, her swollen vulva will often be the first sign that she’s gone into heat. After that, you may notice some blood-tinged spotting. The bleeding may get a bit heavier, but if you have a furry pooch, you may not even notice it. About 7-10 days into her heat cycle, the bleeding will ease up and turn into a pink watery discharge again.
During her heat cycle, your dog will need to go outside to pee more often. Keep in mind that she is marking her territory and sending out “hey, guys, here I am” signals. You’ll want to keep a very close eye on her, even if you have a fenced in yard. Male dogs can smell her pheromones from great distances- much further than you might expect- and they’ll do just about anything to get to your girl. While she’s only technically fertile during the watery discharge stage of her heat cycle, male dog sperm can live up to a week in her reproductive system.
A Dog’s First Heat Cycle Isn’t an Exact Science
The time it takes for a dog’s first heat cycle can vary greatly depending on their size and even their breed, and while there’s generally nothing to worry about, there are times when a trip to the vet might be in order. If your dog’s first heat cycle hasn’t come at around 8 months of age, but you don’t see any signs of sickness, don’t worry. However, if your dog hasn’t had her first heat, and she appears off in any way, it’s a good idea to take her in to see the vet. Always err on the side of caution. Chances are your dog’s first heat cycle is on the horizon, but it never hurts to check. At the very least, your vet may be able to give you a better idea of what to expect regarding your dog’s first heat and give you a little piece of mind.