Many pet owners are shocked when they see their female dogs bleed from the vaginal area and wonder:Do Dogs Have Periods? The answer is both “yes” and “no”. Technically their estrus cycle it is not known as having a “period” as it is unlike the 28-day cycle experienced by human females. They do bleed, but the canine menstrual cycle does differ vastly from the human kind.
On an average of once or twice per year, adult female dogs who have not been spayed will have an estrogen cycle, known as a “heat”. At the beginning of the female dog heat cycles, the vulva area enlarges and swells, often with noticeable discharge. This discharge can be clear colored, pink, or bright red. This can be accompanied by a metallic or fishy smell due to iron and proteins contained in the blood The amount of discharge can be so small that you would never notice, or copious enough to require a doggy sanitary pad that is worn in a halter type device for coverage.
Wearing a belt or halter with a sanitary napkin may seem like strange apparel for a pet; however, this prevents pets who often want to be cuddled during this part of the cycle from staining bed covers and upholstery. Wearing a pad; however, will not keep male dogs away or hide the scent from them, even if the sanitary pads are odor absorbing or have a fresh scent. The pads are treated to be aesthetically pleasing for humans, not as camouflage for a pet in heat. During this “proestrus” part of the heat cycle, that typically lasts 10-18 days, dogs will not want to mate, but they will want to rest, may eat little, and sometimes display “nesting” behavior by burrowing under blankets and seeking comfort and petting.
This is the “ready to get pregnant” warning for dog owners who don’t want their dog to have puppies. It is recommended that if the dog has not been spayed to wait until after the bleeding stops to have spay surgery. Dogs can have their first heat when they are only 6 months old so the first time for them, just like humans, can be confusing and particularly uncomfortable for them
During the next phase, immediately following proestrus, dogs can become pregnant if they are purposely bred or accidentally come in contact with a male dog who has not been neutered. A dog’s heat is like nature’s advertisement to male dogs in the area that the female is ready to be impregnated. If a dog is in heat and is walking around in a yard, male dogs will come calling unless you have your female fenced in properly or housed in a kennel when outside.
As dogs have a powerful sense of smell, dogs from quite a distance in a neighborhood might come calling. At times during the heat cycle, females may start spinning around and “presenting” to male dogs, even if the male dog she is petitioning is neutered and can’t service her. A neutered male may still try to mount her, and she may growl at him one minute and snuggle to him the next. This is all normal functions of nature, as is the vaginal bleeding.
If a dog has continuous bleeding that seems unusually heavy or if the dog appears to be in actual pain, seeking prompt veterinary help is essential. The vaginal bleeding cycle for female dogs or dog “period” during the heat is normal, but it’s best to see the vet if anything seems out of the ordinary.