Last Updated on July 19, 2021 by Marco C.
Watching your female lab deal with heat for the first time can be very stressful, so – how long do labs stay in heat and how can you best meet that challenge? Is this something that you even have to let your Labrador go through? Even if you plan on spaying her eventually? Let’s discuss this below.
Exactly How Long Do Labs Stay In Heat?
So, how long do labs stay in heat? Usually, somewhere between 3 and 4 weeks at a time. She won’t ovulate the whole time, however – that part usually lasts somewhere between 10 and 14 days. This is easy to notice as the color of her discharge will change from pink to colorless while she ovulates.
As for how long do labs stay in heat stages – mainly the proestrus and oestrus stages – that depends on the dog. We’ll cover those in more detail in a bit.
How Long Do Labs Stay In Heat – A Breakdown Of Each Component Of Their Cycle
A female dog’s heat cycle is the key period when her body is ready to reproduce. Hormones are typically raging through her like crazy but also – in very particular patterns. There are just a few notable periods that make up every heat cycle.
What Are The Different Components Of A Labs Heat Cycle?
These four parts of every heat cycle include:
- Anoestrus. This isn’t technically a part of your female lab’s heat – it’s the exact opposite of it. The anoestrus period is when your dog is not in heat which will be most of the time. A female dog cannot get pregnant during her anoestrus period and she isn’t “attractive” to male dogs either.
- Proestrus. This is the first part of your dog’s heat period. This is when your dog’s uterus or womb starts “preparing” for pregnancy. The vulva also starts swelling during the proestrus and the dog will start bleeding. During proestrus, your female lab will start being attractive to male dogs but she will almost certainly still be unwilling to do anything with them. The proestrus will usually last somewhere between 7 and 10 days.
- Oestrus. The second key part of the heat cycle is when your female lab becomes fertile. The oestrus starts right after the proestrus, after about 7 to 10 days. This period lasts until the end of the whole heat period and your lab will likely be willing to mate with male dogs every chance she gets. In fact, it’s entirely possible that your lab will even try escaping your home if she has the chance just so she can find a male to “play” with.
- Dioestrus. Like the anoestrus period, this isn’t technically a part of the dog’s heat cycle – it’s what follows after it. In other words, this is when your dog will go into pregnancy and whelping. Most dog owners try to avoid that part, however, so we’ll leave it for another article.
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Do keep in mind, however, that even if you’ve kept your lab from getting pregnant, false pregnancies are also possible. These are called pyometra and about a quarter of dogs go through something like this. The good news is that young dogs are much less likely to experience pyometra.
How Long Do Labs Stay In Heat When It’s Their First Time? When Does A Female Lab Have Her First Heat Season?
An unspayed female lab can have her first heat as soon as she gets near 6 months of age. However, the average is usually somewhere between the 9th and 12th months. Still, don’t get surprised if your lab starts grabbing the attention of the males around her as soon as her 6th or 7th month. Her first heat season will typically be of a standard length too.
How Often Does A Female Lab Get Into Heat?
Typically, a lab will go in heat twice a year – about every 6 months. This isn’t seasonal either – it depends on when your lab had her first and what’s her overall cycle.
Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of variations here between different labs. Some have their heat only once a year or every 12 months. It’s also normal for a lab to get her heat every 8 to 10 months. This can make the calculations on your part a bit more complicated but it’s still in the range of what’s normal.
Nevertheless, it is a good idea to talk with your vet about your lab’s heat if it’s not at 6-month intervals – just to be safe.
Should You Track Your Dog’s Heat Cycle?
It’s generally smart to track your lab’s heat – this can help you plan vacations and other events around it. Or, at the very least, you can be ready to help your lab feel as comfortable as possible during her heat.
What Are The Main Signs That Your Lab Is Coming Into Season?
Some of the key signs to watch out for include:
- Swelling and fluffiness of the vulva
- Change of the discharge’s color
- Increased licking and cleaning
You can also test if your lab is in heat by wiping a piece of cotton or tissue over the dog’s vulva and see if there’s a bit of pinkish staining on it.
Should You Wait For At Least One Heat Season If You’ve Decided To Spay Your Female Lab?
A lot of vets recommend that you wait for your dog to have her first heat before spaying her. Strictly speaking, this isn’t really necessary, however, it makes it easier to time the spaying.
That’s because it’s important that you spay your dog mid-cycle, meaning between her heat periods or during her anoestrus. Spaying a dog as she’s having her heat is a bad idea which is why it’s easy to just way for the first heat to come and go.
Is It A Good Idea To Leave A Female Lab Unspayed Even If You Don’t Want To Breed Her?
Most experts recommend spaying as the best thing you can do for your female dog if you don’t want to breed her. There are many reasons for this:
- Prevents the risk of an accidental litter
- Prevents the risk of pyometra
- Reduces the risk of stray dogs should your dog escapes unspayed
- Reduces the risk of ovarian cancer
- Increases the expected lifespan of the dog
- Prevents the risk of escape during heat
So, Should You Spay Your Female Lab?
In our opinion – definitely yes. Waiting for the first heat is not a bad idea as it can make timing the spaying even easier. But, unless you’re 100% sure you want to breed your dog, spaying her is just the smartest course of action.