Heat is the phase of life when a female dog first enters their menstrual cycle and becomes capable of breeding. Let’s not bury the lead here; most Poodles will experience their first heat at around twelve months old.
There are outliers, of course. Toy poodles tend to go into heat far earlier, at approximately four to six months.
As a Poodle expert I get asked often about breeding and heat cycles. You are not alone in wondering what to expect!
Whether you’re planning to breed Poodles or are simply a concerned dog owner who isn’t sure what’s wrong with your beloved pet and has a hunch, we’ll cover everything that heat entails and what to expect.
How Can You Tell?
One of the first questions you might be asking is, ‘How do I know my Poodle is in heat?’. Like anything else, there are plenty of signs to clue you in. Here are some things you should be on the lookout for around the end of your dog’s first year of life.
One of the more obvious signs that a dog has gone into heat is quite similar to when a human does. The presence of bloody discharge is often one of the first indicators to a dog owner that their poodle has gone into heat.
Similar to how a human first presents with estrus, the blood will be thicker in the beginning and thin out over the course of days. Can this be messy? Yes. Is it easy to keep under control and clean up if you’re diligent? Also yes.
There are some that suggest the use of canine diapers to help prevent a mess at this point in your dog’s cycle, and others who consider this practice invasive and unnecessary. Some dogs bleed very little. You should take the time to look into this to see if diapering is right for you and your dog.
In a female dog’s urine, there are pheromones that signal to nearby males that she is ready to mate. An early sign that your dog is going into heat could be that she starts having to go more frequently.
The frequent bathroom trips are similar to how some dogs want to mark their territory with urine. Dogs communicate a lot by scent, so when your female dog has to step outside more than usual, it can be a sign that she is flagging to the world that she is available and interested–even before she actually is. A male dog will pick up on these signals in the phase before your female is actually ready to mate.
It’s important not to stop her from doing this. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Just be aware of what’s happening if there are suddenly stray males hanging around your yard!
Grooming of the Genital Area
Another early sign of estrus in a poodle is more frequent grooming of the genital area. A dog in heat or about to enter heat wants to stay clean down there. There are also a lot of smells that come with all the pheromones that are happening.
The genital area may appear puffy as the blood flow around the area is increased. It’s awkward to check, I know, but having a look might do a lot to confirm that your dog has, in fact, gone into heat. Worry not– this swelling is not permanent! It should go back to normal within three weeks time.
Poodles can be irritated during their menstrual cycle. A lot of hormonal shifting and cramping is going on, so it’s crucial to be patient with your dog while she is dealing with something very emotionally difficult.
If your dog isn’t normally aggressive and suddenly begins acting so, that could be a good indicator that she’s going into heat.
How Often Do Poodles Go Into Heat?
Most Poodles go into heat once a season, or about four times a year, depending on a few factors. A poodle that is stressed out or not fed a proper diet might go into heat less often, and if that’s the case, it might be worth looking into some of the potential causes.
That said, some poodles only go into heat once a year. It can be perfectly normal for them. You will notice a pattern in your dog’s cycle and be able to track it once it’s been established. Any changes will be worth asking your vet about.
The specific kind of poodle you have also has an impact on how often she will go into heat. For instance, it isn’t uncommon for a toy poodle to menstruate earlier and more frequently than one of the larger breeds. It also does not impact on Poodle litter size.
Phases of Heat in a Poodle
Like any other dog, estrus has four phases in a poodle. If you know what to look for, it can be easier to track these and care for your dog while she is in each phase.
The first nine days of a dog’s heat cycle are the early signs like swollen vulva. The female dog is not so much interested in males at this point, though the males are very interested in her. The female’s estrogen levels are spiking, and her body is preparing to enter the more fertile part of her cycle.
There are a ton of interesting smells surrounding her right now and those are likely to intrigue other dogs. It’s important not to leave your dog unattended in the yard alone, even when she is only in this phase of her cycle.
Estrus is the fertile part of your dog’s cycle. She is still bleeding, but not as much as she was during proestrus. Estrus in a dog can last anywhere from four days to twenty-four, but typically it will be around nine days.
Your dog is at her most fertile at this time, so if you don’t want puppies, it’s best to keep a close eye on her and limit time spent outdoors to only with supervision.
At this point the female stops being interested in male dogs. Estrogen levels are tapering off, and this happens regardless of whether or not the female is pregnant. It’s the dog’s body coming down from the heat cycle.
Diestrus is typically about two months long. The female isn’t fertile, but there are still some hormonal shifts going on, so some of the behaviors displayed in previous phases will still be present.
Congratulations, your dog is no longer in heat. This is the part between the last Diestrus and the next Proestrus. In other words, your dog in a normal state of being. Typically, this phase lasts for about four months.
What to Do When Your Poodle is in Heat
All of these differences in your dog’s behavior can be alarming, and no one likes to see a beloved pet in obvious distress. Another question you might be asking yourself is ‘what can I do to make my companion more comfortable?’, and there are a few things to keep in mind.
Don’t leave your dog outside unattended. What she is going through while she is in heat will attract males, and you want to be there to make sure that doesn’t go anywhere. Aside from the obvious concern of your dog getting pregnant, you don’t want her to get hurt fending off the attentions of a male when she is in proestrus or diestrus and not interested.
If you do have to take her outside, make sure to do it on a leash. Even the most well behaved dog can be unpredictable when she’s in heat, and the scent of a male has been known to provoke escape attempts.
Let her rest as much as she likes. With all of the changes going on in her body, she is probably exhausted and should be left alone to sleep if she wants to.
When Can You Spay Your Dog?
Most veterinarians will be comfortable spaying a dog two months after her first heat cycle. This timing reduces the risk of missing an ovary, and makes sure that she is ready to have it done.
Of course, the concern of overpopulation is ever present, but there are many other reasons you might consider getting your dog fixed. Spaying your female dog entirely eliminates the risk of ovarian cancer and dramatically reduces the risk of breast cancer. It also reduces risky behaviors that could lead to unfortunate accidents.
If you have no plans to breed your dog it is worth considering getting her spayed as soon as possible.
There are many changes a dog undergoes when she enters her first heat. Between the signs to look out for and things that you can do to make this process more comfortable for her, you have a lot of things as a dog owner to familiarize yourself with.
With a little bit of luck and a lot of care, however, it is possible to come through this with your happiness intact–both you and your dog!