The reproductive stage when a female Labrador Retriever is ready to mate is commonly referred to as being in heat or estrus.
During the cycle, their body increases in hormonal levels thereafter a sudden decrease which is followed by a readiness to mate and become pregnant, for an unspayed female.
So, when do Labradors go into heat? What are the signs? And how do you care for your female Labrador ?
Read on to learn more on when Labradors go into heat and all you need to know about the Labrador ‘s heat cycle.
When do Labrador Go Into Heat?: Labrador First Heat
The Labrador’s first heat starts between the age of 6 to 12 months of age. This time depends on an individual dog’s body chemistry, genetics, overall health, age, size, and height.
Understanding The Labrador Heat Cycle
The Labrador’s heat cycle is a period in which a female Labrador goes through a series of hormonal changes which prepare her for reproduction.
The start of the first heat marks the beginning of reproductive maturity and the cycle repeats every 6 – 12 months for the rest of her life.
During the heat cycle, a female Labrador experiences four phases as her body changes. These phases are:
This is the start of the heat period of a female and it is where her body starts to prepare to mate. Signs of this stage include:
- Swollen external reproductive organs
- Blood-tinged vaginal discharge
- Excessive licking of her genital area
- Clingy behavior
- Tucking her tail
- Aggression towards male dogs
The Estrus phase is the main mating phase where a female is in heat meaning they are ready to mate.
A Labrador in heat is receptive to males and this occurs when her vaginal discharge decreases. This is when the discharge changes color to a pink/ brownish or straw color.
In this phase she:
- Urinates frequently leaving marks indicating to males that she is ready to mate
- Aggressively seeks male dogs
- Approaches males with her tail on her side (flagged tail)
- Aggressive to other female dogs
After the Estrus phase, a female dog’s body either returns to normal or develops into pregnancy if she successfully mated.
Her discharge stops completely and her genital areas return to their normal size. Her fertile window has closed at this stage.
This is the last phase of the heat cycle where a female’s body is completely normal and with no signs of sexual behavior or hormonal changes taking place.
It is the period of inactivity where her body gets ready for her next cycle which is again expected in another 6 – 12 months.
How long does a Labrador stay in heat?
A Labrador ‘s heat cycle, also known as estrus, usually lasts for approximately 3 weeks but this can vary from dog to dog.
The length of the heat cycle can depend on the individual dog, and it may also change from one cycle to the next.
The heat cycle is considered to begin following the first signs of swelling of the vulva, her attention to her vulva, and the appearance of vaginal discharge. The cycle ends when the discharge completely stops and the vulva resumes its usual size.
It is important to keep a close eye on your Labrador during this time to prevent unwanted breeding and to ensure that she receives appropriate care and attention.
How Often Do Labrador Go Into Heat?
Female Labradors go into heat every 6 to 12 months after the first heat. She continues to go into the heat cycle throughout her life.
As a Labrador owner, it is important to keep track of the heat cycle to better care for them as well as prevent breeding.
If you are considering breeding your Labrador , it’s important to wait until she has fully matured and to consult with a veterinarian or a reputable breeder for guidance.
Signs of a Female Labrador In Heat
The heat cycle presents changes in a female Labrador which are observed in various phases of the cycle. When you are trying to identify a Labrador in heat, look out for the following signs:
One of the first signs of a female Labrador in heat is the swelling of the vulva. The vulva becomes red and swollen which indicates she has started the heat cycle.
Increased attention to her vulva
Following the swelling of the vulva, a female Labrador will have an increased interest and attention to her vulva. She will be sniffing and licking it a lot more than usual.
Blood-spotted vaginal discharge will be produced. Some Labradors have a heavy discharge while some have minimal discharge.
To prevent your home from being soiled by the discharge, I recommend getting a dog diaper that they can wear.
There are washable and disposable diapers available in different sizes which also have an allowance for your dog’s tail.
During the heat cycle, a female Labrador will constantly urinate. This is normal during this time.
The urine contains pheromones and hormones that give a scent to male dogs signaling that she is in heat and ready to mate.
When a female Labrador Retriever is in heat, you will notice a change in behavior from her and she will want to mate when the vaginal discharge decreases.
She will be more distracted and nervous than usual and will try to get pregnant at any cost.
She will also be more receptive to male Labrador by courting them, initiating the mating position by raising her behind towards them or moving her tail on one side which is known as “flagging”, to enable mating.
To prevent breeding during this time, walk her on a leash when outside your home where she may meet male suitors, and also keep her contained in your house or backyard to prevent access to male dogs.
A Labrador in heat will also have clingy behavior toward its owners.
This behavior change is temporary and she returns to her normal self after her heat cycle ends.
See Also: Why is my Labrador crying? (Explained)
How to care for a Labrador In Heat
If your Labrador is going through her heat cycle, it is best to be well prepared on how to care for her to keep her comfortable.
The following are the different ways you can do this:
Allow her to have extra rest during her cycle. A female Labrador needs energy as she goes through the motions of the whole cycle.
Therefore allow her to have enough rest by easing her activities such as her exercise routine by taking shorter walks.
Do not let her off her leash during walks to prevent her from running off to a male dog that she may encounter.
Keep your dog comfortable by keeping her environment calm and away from noise or other triggers of stress.
This helps to keep her calm, happy and it also distracts her from the discomfort of her hormonal changes
Keep her from your furniture or carpeted areas during the bleeding phase to prevent her from creating a mess on the surfaces. Dog diapers are essential during this time.
If she needs to lick herself while in a diaper, remove it temporarily to allow this natural process.
Feed her well with plenty of drinking water to keep her healthy and to have energy from her food sources.
Isolate her in your home or backyard away from male dogs. Supervisor her when in the backyard because she will have the drive to look for a mate and might try to escape to achieve this.
Consult with your veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness. Female Labrador may develop a bacterial infection from the remains of their thickened uterus after their cycle.
This uterine infection also known as pyometra, is life-threatening therefore ensure to observe your dog for signs of illness which include:
- Excessive drinking of water
- Excessive urination
- Loss of appetite
- Production of thick discharge from her genitals
- Abdominal pain
After her heat cycle plan to have her spayed. If your intent is not to breed your dog, this is the next step to consider so that she will not reproduce.
At what age should a Labrador be spayed?
Most veterinarians recommend spaying a female Labrador between the ages of 6 to 9 months, however, the appropriate age to spay a Labrador can vary depending on various factors, including the individual dog’s health, size, and maturity level.
Spaying is a surgical procedure in which the female dog’s ovaries and uterus are removed, making them unable to reproduce.
Spaying has several health benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain reproductive cancers, preventing unwanted pregnancy, and avoiding some behavioral problems associated with heat cycles.
It is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best time for your Labrador ‘s spay surgery, as the decision should be based on the individual dog’s health, medical history, and lifestyle.
When a female Labrador matures sexually, they go through a cycle where they are ready for mating which is commonly known as being in heat.
This is a stage where you will notice both behavioral and physical changes that will confirm they are in a heat cycle.
As a Labrador owner, being aware of these signs helps you to be more prepared in terms of their care as well as prevent breeding.
Also, talk to your veterinarian about spaying your female Labrador and neutering your Labrador male dog.
I hope this article gave you an insight into when Labradors go in heat and what you can do to care for them during their cycle.