How long does a dog stay in heat?

“How long do female dogs stay in heat?” is a common question that veterinarians receive. We can feel the desperation that lies in this question; even after a few days with a restless dog, it already seems like an eternity. But it continues and continues.

dog in heat stay for a long time
Photo by Lindsay Helms

So, how long do dogs stay in heat? On average it lasts for 21 days, but it depends from dog to dog. Good news, though is that not all of this time your female dog can become pregnant.

At the beginning of the heat, there is a period called “proestrus” – a time before ovulation in which female cannot get pregnant and won’t let a male jump on her.

Proestrus – when a female can’t get pregnant lasts for 3 to 17 days

Proestrus usually lasts about nine days. However, there is terrible news, as well. You can’t tell for sure when it ends, and your girl becomes willing to breed as proestrus may be as long as 17 days and as short as only three days. Which means that you cannot take a break and you have to watch after your girl almost from the first day you notice she is in heat.

One of the first signs of heat is yellow or red discharge from the vulva. If you notice it, equip yourself with patience. You will have to guard your girl against males, and one of the biggest challenges will be keeping her sane. Luckily, you can learn how to calm a female dog during the heat here.

Standing heat lasts for 7 to 9 days

After proestrus comes the second phase of the heat period — estrus. Sometimes it is called a “standing heat” because it starts when your female is willing to breed and stands up when a male is trying to jump on her. And it ends when she does not stand anymore. Simple, right? Well.

Female dog allows male to jump on her during estrus
Photo by resakse, cc

On average standing heat lasts for seven to nine days, but it can be as long as 20 days as well if it starts early in the heat period.

Beginning of standing heat can be confirmed only by the analysis made at a vet’s office. However, you can try to rub your dog’s back and see if she is standing up or sitting down. If she is standing, then obviously she is in the standing heat.

When standing heat begins (remember that without tests made by a vet, you cannot tell for sure when it begins), there are usually one or two days until ovulation. That is – the beginning of a period when a female dog can get pregnant.

This period continues during the whole standing heat. However, the most fertile days are when your dog is ovulating and the first days right after it. So this is the best time when you should breed her or be extra cautious to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

It ends when a female dog refuses to stand for mating. Male dogs now lose their interest in her as well. And this is when you can start to live for yourself again.

Do you need more information? Find our article series about dogs in heat!