Cycle and heat in the bitch [Part 1]

The dog's cycle is an exciting topic that helps us better understand our dog's behavior. Behavioral changes are normal during a cycle and are influenced by changing hormones. With the help of the dog cycle series, you will get to know the cycle and its phases, as well as the typical behavioral changes. We explain the differences false pregnancy and false motherhood, the Changes that a bitch goes through over time and what they are Aids Help during heat and false pregnancy. Tips for yours will follow later Household with a female dog in heat and dealing with male dogs. 

cycle of the bitch

An intact one Female dogs usually come into heat for the first time between 6 months and 24 months of age. The timing depends primarily on size and breed:

  • Small dog breeds come into heat earlier, i.e. from 6 months of age.
  • Medium-sized breeds come into heat between 8 and 13 months of age.
  • In very large breeds, heat starts later.

Already A bitch can become pregnant during her first heat. Although the cycle only levels off with the second or third heat, this does not change fertility. Special forms like that “quiet heat” and the "Split-Austria" can also occur. Female dogs usually come into heat in spring and autumn. The first two heats in particular cause a lot of uncertainty for bitches. They behave atypically and very differently. We therefore recommend that you be considerate of your bitch, especially during the first two heats. You will notice that your dog's third heat is already going more solidly. In subsequent heats, behavioral problems also occur due to hormonal structures and changes, which are completely normal to a certain extent: 

  • Reduced general condition
  • loss of appetite
  • Increased marking
  • Intense sniffing
  • restlessness
  • Poor basic obedience
  • Increased need for rest
  • More need for contact with people
  • Aggressive behavior may increase
  • But more about that in the blog post about the behavioral changes during the false pregnancy. 

    The cycle is the cycle that a bitch goes through from one heat to the next. The cycle of an intact bitch lasts usually 7 months, with individual cycles between 4 months and even 12 months also occurring. The bitch's cycle is divided into 4 (or 5) phases: 

      1. Proestrus
      2. Oestrus
      3. Diestrus
      4. Anestrus
      5. (Pre-proestrus)
      Attention: For some bitches, the first heat is a little atypical because their cycle has to settle down first. Behavioral changes, heavier bleeding or barely visible signs of heat may occur.

      Proestrus – preparation for pregnancy


      The proestrus and the estrus are colloquially referred to as the “heat” or the “heat” of the bitch.

      Proestrus is also called pre-estrus and lasts about 9 days. During this time, the dog's eggs mature in the ovaries and the dog's uterus prepares for possible pregnancy. You can easily recognize proestrus from the outside, because the dog's outer vagina (vulva) swells significantly and is reddish. This is particularly noticeable in female dogs with short fur. There is also bloody discharge from the vagina. In particularly clean female dogs, the discharge is hardly noticeable. It also goes undetected more often in female dogs with long fur in the rear area. Bitches who do not clean themselves regularly can be supported with positively trained heat pants.

      Danger! Please be sure to practice beforehand, because heat pants, like all aids (muzzle, harness, collar, etc.), must be positively linked.  



      • The bitch's body is preparing for pregnancy
      • Duration approx. 9 days (approx. 3-20 days possible)


      • Vulva swells
      • Bloody vaginal discharge
      • Increased marking
      • Intense smell


      • Male dogs show increased interest (also neutered male dogs)
      • The female dog sometimes fights off the male dogs violently
      • Intense sniffing
      • Basic obedience may temporarily decrease
      • Normal or increased activity
      • Increased marking
      • Licking the vagina and/or vulva

      Tip: Since bitches and their cycles are very individual, you should not rely on the bitch's defensive behavior to prevent pregnancy. 

      Oestrus – Willingness to mate and ovulation

      After poestrus comes estrus, which lasts about 7 to 9 days. In this phase the bitch ovulates (ovulation) takes place. This means that the bitch can become pregnant during mating during this phase. The exact determination of the days of frustration is determined with the help of a veterinarian based on the LH peak. The discharge now becomes lighter and significantly less. In some bitches it is then barely noticeable. The vulva is now slowly swelling. With estrus, the bitch shows a willingness to cover, which is why this phase is often called “standing heat”. 

      • The bitch is ready to mate and can become pregnant
      • Duration approx. 8-10 days (approx. 3-14 days possible)
      • Vulva swells slightly
      • Vaginal discharge subsides and is less bloody
      • Own odor decreases
      • Female dog shows willingness by “offering” by spreading her hind legs and raising her tail
      • Activity decreases
      • Heavy panting is possible
      • Licking the vagina and/or vulva

      Diestrus - pregnancy or pseudopregnancy

       After the heat, the diestrus phase begins, which lasts 2-3 months. This is when diestrus occurs, regardless of whether the bitch is pregnant or not. This means that even in a non-pregnant bitch, the hormone progesterone is produced, which is intended for the implantation of fertilized eggs and maintenance of the pregnancy. It comes to “false pregnancy“. The dog's body breaks down progesterone after 9-12 weeks. If progesterone decreases, the production of the hormone prolactin increases. In some bitches, the release of prolactin leads to a very pronounced “False motherhood“. 

      You can find out more about false pregnancy and false motherhood here

      Every bitch becomes falsely pregnant. The course and intensity of the course is different. Pseudo-motherhood in particular is a problem for most bitches. 

      In a false pregnancy, the dog goes through a hormonal “pseudo-pregnancy” even though she is not pregnant. The false pregnancy lasts just as long as a pregnancy, i.e. approx. 63 days. The gel body hormone is responsible for this because the corpus luteum continues to release progesterone even after ovulation. During false motherhood, the hormone prolactin causes changes in the bitch. It takes place approximately 2 months after estrus (still heat). Prolactin is also colloquially called the “parent hormone” and lasts 2-4 weeks.


      • Pregnancy, false pregnancy, false motherhood
      • Duration approx. 2-3 months


      • Possibly pregnancy
      • Swollen nipples
      • Possible milk discharge from the breasts
      • Increase in circumference


      • Sluggish behavior
      • Apathy or depressive mood
      • Nest building
      • Attachment and search for positive social contacts
      • Protecting toys (especially stuffed animals) as puppy substitutes
      • Increased need to eat or loss of appetite


      Anestrus – resting phase

      After the bitch has gone through many hormonal changes, the hormonal balance now stabilizes and with anestrus the rest phase of the cycle begins and the normal state returns. The dog is now “her old self” again and the hormones progesterone and estrogen remain constant (or show only minimal changes).  


      • Rest phase and regeneration of the body
      • Duration approx. 4-6 months


      • No


      • Typical behavior of the dog

      Pre-proestrus – preparation for heat

      The preparation for the cycle is clearly noticeable in some bitches. 


      • Preparing for heat
      • Only lasts 1-3 days


      • Vulva has more blood flow and is redder
      • Mild swelling of the vulva begins


      • Constant urination
      • restlessness
      • Indicates she wants out 


      Special forms: Silent heat or heat & split estrus 

      The silent heat or quietly heat sometimes too white heat, becomes one not noticed heat called the bitch. Typical symptoms are very weak or barely noticeable. The vulva neither swells nor does the typical bleeding occur. Nevertheless, the dog is hormonal ready to mate and if necessary shows typical behavior according to their cycle. Silent heat occurs more often during the first heat and then goes unnoticed. Male dogs usually still notice the hormonal change and show a keen interest in the female dog. In adult bitches, silent heat can take place if a heat should actually take place but visually does not occur. Especially then you should monitor your dog's behavior closely. If you want to be sure, silent heat can be diagnosed using vaginal swabs and blood tests. 

      (Younger) bitches can also have one Split-Austria experience. The bitch's heat begins, will then last for a certain period of time paused and starts again. In the meantime, male dogs are vehemently rejected, only to show offering behavior again a few days later. 

      With both special forms there is no need to be concerned at first. Observe your dog carefully and respond to any behavioral changes and needs accordingly. If you observe closely, you will be able to recognize both forms of heat. Pay particular attention to pushy male dogs with these two special forms. 

      You can download the recipe for the salmon bites for free. All you need is access data to our free member area. No hidden costs, just content and a lot of knowledge.