Female Labradors will normally go into heat unless their owners decide to get them spayed. If you have an intact Lab girl knowing as much about the Lab heat cycle as possible can make your and your Lab’s life much easier.
Labradors usually go into heat two times a year. The heat cycle may last from 2-4 weeks. During this period Labradors go through a series of physical and behavioral changes. The most obvious ones are the swollen vulva and bloody discharge. Mammary glands are enlarged. Labradors in heat may become more affectionate but also more nervous. Increased urination and lack of energy are also pretty common. Labs in heat are easily distracted and more alert than usual. Changes in eating habits are also possible.
What Are The Signs That My Labrador Is In Heat?
- Swollen vulva ( the vulva might swell up to three times its normal size)
- Nipples are clearly visible and appear darker in color
- Vaginal discharge. At the beginning of the heat cycle, it may be pale pink, later on will become deep red and then the color of discharge lightens again. This coincides with the vulva being very swollen so this is the moment when the chances of getting pregnant are at the highest point for your Lab. Even when the bleeding has stopped, your Lab might be in the heat for a couple of days more, so take precautions.
- Excessive urination, as well as develpoment of marking behavior. Your Lab may urinate small amounts on various objects to mark the territory and invite males to approach.
- Your Lab in the heat may feel tired and sleepy more then usual
- Some Labs in the heat may have appetite loss while some others may have increased appetite, especially at the beginning of the heat cycle ( Proestrus stage).
- She licks her intimate area intensively ( self- grooming)
- Your Lab will crave attention, seeking more of your company
- She might show some nesting behavior, starts collecting toys and food and putting them in some safe area. Let her do that.
- Increased moodiness is also characteristic for this period. Although your Lab become clingy during heat cycle, she might start growling at some humans and also picking fights with other dogs. During the second phase ( Estrus stage) your Lab receptive to males, during that phase she might become hostile towards female dogs.
When Does My Labrador Go Into First Heat?
The first heat may happen when the puppy is about 6 months old. That is considered as early heat but the average range for this first heat is 9-12 months of age.
If your Lab has never been in the heat before, early signs are easy to miss. Signs may appear one day or a couple of days before the breeding cycle starts. These are:
- slightly swollen vulva
- enlarged nipples which appear to be darker in color.
How Long Does My Labrador Stay In Heat?
The heat cycle usually lasts for 18-21 days. But this is average length and heat cycles may vary widely ( 2-4 weeks)
How Often Do Labradors Go Into Heat?
Usually, Labrador dogs come into heat every six months which means twice a year. What may happen is that the heat cycle lasts shorter than usual ( for example 2 weeks) and then the next one comes in less than 6 months.
In that case, your Lab may go in heat even three times in one year.
The older dogs may go into heat only once a year. Don’t worry, this is completely normal. Anywhere from 1 to 3 times a year is ok for a Labrador.
Dogs are born with all eggs they will ever have. Over the years, those eggs will start to lose their effectiveness and die off.
The fewer eggs your Lab has, the fewer hormones it will produce. This means that she will have longer pauses between two heat cycles. But she will go into heat during her whole life.
What Is Split Heat in Labradors?( and other heat cycle abnormalities)
Split heat is a heat cycle that happens in two distinct periods split by a break. This means that the heat cycle starts, lasts for a couple of days, and then stops. Duration of the break may vary but usually lasts for a few days to even 3 months and then resume and finish.
Split heat in Labradors is characteristic for a younger age. Fortunately, split heat shouldn’t be happening more than once or twice in a lifetime.
If this problem becomes chronic and continuously repeated, you should ask the vet for help. He might run some tests in order to rule out Hypothyroidism and some other conditions.
There are other abnormalities in heat cycles that you may face :
- Absent heat – your Lab doesn’t go into heat at all, missed heat
- Silent heat – your Lab goes into heat but obvious signs are missing
- Prolonged heat – your Lab goes normally into heat, but it lasts longer then average
- Prolonged or shortened Interestrus interval – too long (more then 15 months) or too short ( less then 4 motnths) window between two heat cycles
Sometimes Labs can have an irregular heat cycle, but in some cases, irregularity is a clear sign of some illness so you should consult your vet in any case.
What If I Notice Lumps During or After the Heat Cycle of My Labrador?
The lumps on your Lab’s nipples or around them may occur at any time but there are more obvious during or right after the heat cycle.
The lumps in that area may indicate the presence of mammary gland hyperplasia. What does that mean? Mammary gland hyperplasia is a benign overgrowth of mammary epithelial cells.
The problem is that those lumps may also be breast cancer which is malignant. The only way to discover if the lumps are benign or malignant is to get them removed by operation and let them be examined.
You need to take every lump very seriously, as according to statistics 50% of tumors in Labradors are diagnosed as malignant.
Pay special attention if heavy vaginal bleeding occurs in your Labrador. If bleeding lasts for more than 40 days, you should rush to the vet.
Do Labradors Have Menopause?
Labradors ( dogs in general ) don’t have menopause-like humans. Actually, Lab females stay fertile for their whole life unless they are spayed.
As mentioned before, the heat cycles of older dogs may be shorter or longer than normal ones. The pause between heat cycles becomes longer as time passes. The fertility starts to decrease as the Lab girl gets older.
Should I Spay My Labardor?
Most of the vets agree that you should get your Lab spayed unless you want to use her for breeding. The spaying procedure ideally should be done before going to the first heat cycle.
It’s important to know that if you miss the moment and haven’t done the procedure on time, make sure it passes at least 6 weeks after the last day of the Lab’s heat cycle before you take her to the vet who will perform a spaying procedure.
Some people may raise the question of how wise it is to put your Lab through this procedure but science has proven many benefits of it.
For example, spaying procedures may significantly reduce the possibility of your Lab getting ovarian or breast cancer. The sooner you get your Lab spayed, the greater her chances are that cancer will never occur.
Do Male Labradors Go Into Heat?
Someone will say ” Lab boys are in heat all the time!” As a matter of fact, they are just responsive to the females being in heat, it’s not the same thing.
Once the male Labrador reaches sexual maturity, he is sexually active all year around.
As soon as the male senses the female in heat, he will change his behavior. The male Lab will become agitated, even aggressive trying to get to the female.
It’s just a call of nature, he needs to fulfill the natural-born duty – to impregnate the female.
This may seem like your male is in the heat but in fact, he is just responding to the female in heat. As soon as the source (the female)of his strange conduct has been removed, he will start acting normally again.
So it’s pretty clear that this is not a heat cycle since he can get back to normal so quickly.
If you know that some female dog from the neighborhood is in the heat, try to keep your dog inside as much as possible.
If you are in the dog park and you notice that your pet is sniffing some female that might be in the heat, leave the park as soon as possible.
The problem is that males can sense females in the heat at far distances ( up to 3 miles) so some people tend to cover the smell with some natural products such as mint oil. I heard that some owners dab a small quantity of this product on windowsills and door frames.
Since every dog is different, you can try different things to cover the smell. The point is that you should never use strong chemical products and never put any product on your dog. The idea is to make your house heat-proof and not your dog.
Your Lab may go into heat at 5-6 months of age. It can also happen later. Labradors go into the heat usually twice a year. The heat cycle lasts for 3 weeks but anything between 2 and 4 weeks is considered normal.
Unless you have decided to breed her, get her spayed before she hit the first heat cycle. If you want to breed her, it’s recommended to let the first heat cycles pass and then to breed her.
The Lab in heat may require extra attention from your side. Try to be as kind and loving as you can be. Avoid harsh tones and yelling at her.
She may eat far less than usual, make sure she gets all nutrients she needs. Try to keep her distracted with a new toy or game.
Heat cycles repeat in dogs during their whole life. In older dogs, the pause between heat cycles may be longer as the fertility starts to decrease as your Lab is getting older.