You’re two-legged and have just recently welcomed a female four-legged companion into your home?
You’ll be faced with a huge roadblock: Your dog’s first heat.
Not only will you learn what it is and how you both best cope with your dog’s heat, but you’ll also learn what to watch out for, how often the heat occurs, and more.
Your dog’s first heat will probably kick in around 6 months of age.
Some small breeds may have their first heat at 4 months whereas large breeds go into season at 18-24 months.
Yes, there are ways to make your life easier during your dog’s heat (trust me, the blood will flow).
Yes, you’ll need to keep your very attractive female leashed, especially once the bleeding stops as the heat is not over – interested males will poke their noses into your female’s business.
Yes, spaying is the only way to stop your dog’s heat (spoiler: there’s no menopause) but there are risks involved; more on that below.
But all that jazz aside, how long is a dam in that darn heat anyway?
Heat Check: Is a Dog’s First Heat Shorter?
There’s no evidence that a dog’s first heat is shorter than subsequent heat cycles. Anecdotes mentioning a shorter or longer first heat may be due to the lack of awareness about a female dog’s heat cycle.
This “the first heat is a quickie” myth has been going around for some time and while there are reports of shortened first heats, there may be an explanation for this.
A lot of the start and end of the heat cycle might just go unnoticed as long as there’s no blood.
Simply put, dog parents unfamiliar with the heat cycle will just think the first heat was short.
To counter this, I’ve read about reports where the first heat was extremely long.
This vent is all about how their dog surprisingly bled for 21+ days – which is pretty long, I should know as my female Rottweiler usually hits 19 days of blood flow.
By the way: The vet’s recommendation, in that case, to wait with spaying after the first heat cycle (or even more) is strongly supported by a lot of studies that mention increased joint issues and cancer risks with dogs that are spayed too early.
However, we don’t know how long the dog was bleeding in subsequent heat cycles in this particular case.
You’d need the four-legged owners to regularly track their pooch’s heat.
And so far, we do not have any large-scale studies that did just that – follow a dog through multiple heat cycles.
So to conclude, there’s sadly no scientific evidence to say that a dog’s first heat is shorter or longer, it all comes down to your individual dog and no two heated periods are alike.
Heat Retreat: How Long Is My Dog’s First Heat?
A dog’s estrus stage in the first heat (i.e. the bleeding) usually lasts 7-21 days with most dogs falling somewhere in the middle.
You’re not out of the woods just because the bleeding has stopped though.
I strongly suggest reading up about the 4 stages of canine heat to avoid any accidental mating.
Prepare for the behavioral changes as well as the blood flow by getting a fabric diaper (reusable, sturdier, and not at risk of being torn up).
Some dogs whose pooches bleed more than anticipated find themselves in an unlucky situation.
Grabbing loads of plastic diapers just to have your dog shred them up, not planning for regular floor cleanings, not clearing your calendar, or being caught off-guard by behavior changes are all common occurrences.
Heat Handling: How To Comfort Your Pooch In Her First Heat
Comforting your female dog during her first heat is essential as getting upset at a natural process won’t shorten the duration of your dog’s heat.
Although you can’t annihilate that pesky heat and all the issues surrounding it, you can definitely ease her burden.
- Provide adequate physical and mental exercise
- Provide her with a safe-haven
- Lots of cuddles and extra attention
- Maintain hygiene (replacing pads in diapers, washing bed and blankets, etc.)
- Employ calming techniques such as massaging, calming dog TV, or whatever floats her boat
The number one thing is that your dog needs to be adequately exercised.
Don’t go overboard with extremely long hikes but don’t sit around at home either just because some article told you going out with a female in heat is not a good idea.
Low-impact activities are perfect.
As tempting as it may be to get rid of excess energy, avoid dog parks until your dog’s heat is safely over.
Ask your vet if you’re unsure about contact with other dogs, and check when dogs can get pregnant during their heat.
As long as you keep the males at bay, you’re fine.
Set up a designated space for your female where she won’t be bothered. Fill the space with her bed, blankets, and favorite toys.
My Rottweiler is extra clingy and generally won’t leave our side during her heat.
If that’s your dog, you may opt for lots of attention and cuddles. Remember, your dog is going through these hormonal changes for the very first time.
Hygiene is extremely important and includes cleaning up after your furry friend, removing disposable diapers or washing reusable ones, and keeping her bed and blanket clean.
Some females do a better job at keeping themselves clean than others, but some drops of blood are bound to land on the floor or bed.
Sharing anecdotes on how long any female’s first heat was is totally fine and may be interesting to fellow dog owners but keep in mind that every individual is different.
Prepare and expect the worst – this way you can only be pleasantly surprised.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.