Dogs in season

28th March 2022

We are often asked for guidance for dogs in season and with the help of our in-house vet, Dr Sophie Bell from Animal Love, we have put together some informational advice on best practices  for when your dog is in season.

Stresses and behaviour

It can be a very stressful time for a bitch in season. They can show some changes in behaviour and personality, just before and during their season. It’s common for them to feel anxious and become more attached towards their owners, wanting more attention. Alternatively they can show more aggressive signs and want to be left alone.

You may also notice changes in their eating habits, they can become ravenous or they might lose their appetite.

Not only can a bitch in heat suffer from behavioural changes, but it can cause unwanted behaviour in unneutered males. Intact males can smell the scent of a bitch in season from up to 3 miles away. This can lead to very risky behaviour as the bitch will become his entire focus. They can become aggressive and much harder to control as they will have a great desire to escape and seek a mate. This can ultimately lead to very dangerous and unsafe situations for the dog.

Advice for owners

Avoid interactions with other dogs. When your dog is in heat it is highly recommended that you do not allow her to interact with other dogs. This means avoiding parks or outdoor walks. Instead, you should make use of your garden or take them to a very quiet spot where you know they’ll be very few, if any, other dog walkers. If you do decide to venture outside of your home or garden then you must keep your dog on a lead at all times.

Petpals guidance
Please note: To ensure the welfare of all dogs some of our franchises may refuse to accept bitches in season. This is due to the potential risk of mixing unneutered dogs and bitches.

Signs your bitch is in season

  • A swollen vulva
  • Bloody or straw-coloured discharge from the vulva
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Agitated, nervous, aggressive or nesting behaviour
  • Urinating more frequently

What is a heat cycle or a bitch’s season?

An unneutered bitch (female dog) will come into season at the age of between 6 and 9 months, but this can vary based on breed and size. A bitches season is also commonly referred to as ‘being on heat’. Whilst a bitch is in season she can get pregnant.

The stages of a bitches heat cycle are demonstrated here:

There are 4 stages of a bitches heat cycle.

Proestrus stage – Bleeding and swelling of the vulva (6 – 21 days)
Oestrus stage – Your dog is fertile and ready to mate (6 – 21 days)
Diestrus stage – Pregnant or not, the dog is no longer fertile (56 – 58 days)
Anestrus stage – The dog is getting ready for the next cycle (4 – 5 months)

How long will it last for?

A bitches season on average lasts for between 14 – 21 days but can vary by a few days.
It is during the Oestrus stage, once the bleeding has usually stopped, that female dogs are fertile and can be highly attracted to male dogs. This stage can cause severe behavioural changes and your bitch will have a high desire to seek a mate. Therefore they must be kept on a lead at all times and you should avoid interacting with other dogs during this stage.

How often do dogs go into heat?

Unneutered bitches usually go into heat about every six months. This can vary depending on several factors, for example, smaller breeds may have more than two cycles a year, whereas larger breeds may only have the one. Young or older dogs may also have more irregular cycles. An interesting fact is that Besenji’s only have one season a year!

If you would like to learn more about the unneutered female dog then you can sign up to Dr Sophie Bell’s webinar here: EDUCATIONAL WEBINARS | Animal Love (

Topics include: Hormones and their role, Phantom pregnancies, Understanding seasons, To spay or not to spay & Recognising a Pyometra, along with any other related questions you may have.

Alternatively, you can find more information on dogs in season here: