Much like humans, you can expect female Great Danes to start having menstrual cycles as they mature. Many Great Dane owners wonder when these heats will begin and what they can expect. So, when do female Great Danes go into heat?
Female Great Danes experience their first heat between the age of 6 to 24 months, with the majority having their first heat around one year in age. A full heat cycle lasts for approximately 3 weeks and will occur every 12-18 months thereafter.
What Is A “Heat”?
Heat is a term commonly used to refer to the estrus portion of a female dog’s reproductive cycle. During this period, a female dog can and will actively try to become pregnant.
Her body will produce pheromones and hormones that males dogs can smell from up to three miles away. So it can be difficult and it requires vigilance to prevent a female dog from becoming pregnant when she is in heat.
Unless you are planning to breed your dog, it is probably best to have her spayed.
How To Handle A Great Dane In Heat
The most important thing to remember is that your female Great Dane will be actively trying to mate. Both she and her potential suitors will do just about anything to get together.
This includes jumping tall fences, digging under enclosures, and chewing through doors to get to one another. Dogs have even been known to mate through fences and other obstacles.
Not much can stop a determined Great Dane, so you need to prepare an escape-proof area before your dog’s cycle begins.
It is best to limit the amount of time your dog is outside while she is in heat, and you should never leave her outside alone. It is absolutely essential that you keep her away from intact males in order to prevent pregnancy.
Dogs have no problem mating with close family members, so this includes her father, sons, uncles, etc. as well.
Baby gates and closed doors are not much of a challenge for Great Danes. So you may need to use crates to keep unaltered males and females separate.
You should also be cautious about walking her on a leash in open areas. Male dogs can and will attempt to mate with her while she is on a leash.
She may also attempt to run or break free of her leash if she senses a potential mate in the area. It is best to keep her in confined areas if at all possible, even while leashed.
If you are concerned that your Great Dane may have accidentally gotten pregnant, make sure to take a look at our guide that explains some of the common early signs and symptoms of pregnancy.
Exclusive Bonus: Download our free Great Dane heat checklist for a quick and easy reminder later. This will save you from trying to remember all these details down the road or find this page again. Plus – it’s nicely formatted so that you can print it!
Some dogs bleed very little and are able to keep themselves clean, but many have a heavier flow that leaves a mess. Dog diapers are perfect for keeping blood off of your floors, walls, and furniture.
Your dog may already be a bit grumpy while she is in heat, so it’s best to teach her to wear one early. Get her used to wearing it and comfortable with it before her first cycle begins.
While disposable diapers might be tempting, it’s tough to find ones that are both large and flexible enough for a Great Dane. Washable female dog cloth diapers provide a much better fit, and even have precut holes for their tails!
They also have stretchy elastic straps that let you cinch it up just right so that your Dane is still able to comfortably move around.
We found these to be a complete game-changer, and are the only option we plan on using for our Dane’s in the future! The large size fits most Great Danes, however, if yours is on the smaller side they may need the mediums. Refer to their sizing chart if you’re unsure which size to get.
Still not convinced? Take a look at the two images of Gus below during her last heat. She’s wearing a disposable diaper in one, and a washable cloth diaper in the other.
Which one do you think she looked more comfortable in? 😉
A women’s menstrual pad can be used with the diaper as well if your dog bleeds heavily. Just keep an eye on her and make sure that she does not try to eat it.
It is not uncommon for some dogs to have much heavier bleeding, but you should always ask your veterinarian if you have concerns. They will be able to determine if your dog’s cycle is abnormal and indicates a possible medical problem.
For more information about caring for your Great Dane, make sure to take a look at my simple guide “The Great Dane Puppy Handbook“.
What Happens During Heat?
The reproductive cycle as a whole is called oestrus. It includes four different stages marked by changes in hormone levels.
Unless they are spayed, female dogs begin this cycle when they reach sexual maturity, and it repeats for the rest of their lives.
It is important that you know what happens and what to look for when your dog is in heat.
Phase 1 – Proestrus
During the first stage, proestrus, your dog’s estrogen, and progesterone levels begin to rise as her body prepares for a possible pregnancy.
Her vulva will likely appear swollen and red, and she will begin bleeding from her vaginal area. This bleeding will range from hardly noticeable to a steady flow, depending on the individual dog.
Phase 2 – Estrus
The second part of the cycle is the heat or estrus portion. Her bleeding will lessen and appear to be a light pink color. Eventually, the bleeding will stop and ovulation will occur.
She will be highly fertile and actively trying to find a male dog to mate with. This is the part of the cycle that most people are referring to when they talk about a dog being in heat.
Phase 3 – Diestrus
Next is the diestrus phase, which your dog will experience whether she has become pregnant or not. Her uterine walls will thicken and her mammary glands will probably be enlarged in preparation for milk production and feeding.
Some dogs experience false pregnancies during this time, and they might even begin to produce milk.
Phase 4 – Anestrus
The final period is called anestrus. This is the portion of the cycle that your dog is in the majority of the time.
During this phase, hormone levels drop and your dog’s reproductive system essentially goes dormant. She will remain in anestrus until her next active estrus period begins.
When Do Great Danes Get Their First Heat?
Most dogs reach sexual maturity and experience their first heat at around six months of age. However, this varies greatly by breed and size.
Toy breeds can reach puberty when they are just a few months old. Meanwhile, Great Danes and other giant breeds may not have their first heat until they are two years old!
However, every dog is unique, and some Great Danes reach puberty before they are even a year old.
Often, dogs show none of the usual symptoms during their first estrus cycle. This is sometimes referred to as a silent heat.
Dogs are less likely to get pregnant during their first heat, so most breeders wait until the second or third cycle to begin breeding. However, it can still happen, so it is important to know the signs and be prepared for your dog’s first heat.
This will help you to recognize its onset and take the necessary precautions to prevent pregnancy.
Signs That Your Great Dane Is In Heat
Sign #1 – Bleeding or licking
The most obvious sign that your Great Dane is going into heat is vaginal bleeding. However, before she begins bleeding, you will likely notice some redness and swelling in her genital area.
She will probably begin to lick her vulva more than usual as well. Many dogs become more protective of their genital areas during this time.
SIGN #2 – Increased urination
Increased urination is another sign of the onset of heat. Her urine at this time contains high levels of pheromones and hormones, so she may begin marking more often.
This is her way of letting nearby males know that she will soon be fertile. Males can smell these markings from miles away, so you may begin to see more male dogs hanging out around your home.
SIGN #3 – Personality changes
The changes in hormone levels may result in temporary personality changes as well. If your dog is normally more independent or aloof, you may notice that she wants your touch and attention more than usual.
She may also have less patience for other dogs and become a bit snippy. While this type of behavior certainly should not be encouraged, refrain from over correcting her given the hormonal state.
The behavior is only temporary, and you don’t want to make her feel unsupported by her family.
SIGN #4 – Nesting behaviors
Many dogs display nesting behaviors and begin preparing a place for their puppies.
Some even show increased attachment to toys and stuffed animals, caring for them as if they are puppies. This usually occurs during the diestrus phase, after ovulation.
How Long Does A Great Dane Heat Last?
Proestrus typically lasts for about 10 days, and the estrus period lasts anywhere from 5-9 days. The diestrus portion generally goes on for 6-10 weeks. There can be some overlap in the phases of the cycle.
Your dog may still be showing proestrus symptoms around the time of ovulation. So, it is important to keep her away from un-neutered males for a full 21 days at the start of the cycle.
This will help prevent any accidental pregnancies.
How Often Does It Occur?
While most dogs go into heat twice a year, Great Danes typically only experience estrus once every 12-18 months. Keep track of your dog’s cycle on a calendar, so that you are prepared and know when to begin looking for signs that it is starting.
Some dogs have irregular cycles, and this is not usually a cause for concern. Your dog will repeat this cycle her entire life, as dogs do not go through the canine equivalent of menopause.
Considerations For Spaying Around A Heat
A Great Dane should never be spayed during the active stages of her cycle. This includes the proestrus and estrus periods, as well as the diestrus portion. Her elevated hormone levels during this time leave her at a higher risk of developing blood clots, which can be fatal.
Unless it is an emergency medical situation, you should wait at least two months after she comes out of the heat.
Smaller breeds can be usually spayed or neutered as early as three to six months of age. However, Great Danes should not be altered until they are at least one year old.
Spaying or neutering too early can negatively affect their growth, and it is vital that their bodies develop correctly in order to support their large adult size.
Many owners wait until their dog experiences her first heat before having her spayed. However, even if your dog matures early and begins her cycle before she is a year old, it is important to wait until the one year mark to spay her.
TIP! In addition to their heat, there are many specific questions and topics that owners of Great Dane puppy’s need to be aware of. If you’re looking to find all of this information in a single simple guide, then you need to take a look at the Great Dane Puppy Handbook!