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German Shepherd Heat Cycle and Heat Signs

german shepherd heat cycle

Summary: Have you ever wondered what the signs of a German Shepherd heat cycle are? This article will review the 4 stages of the German Shepherd heat cycle. It also discusses the signs you should be watching for to tell if your German Shepherd is in heat. You can have less worry about unwanted puppies and know what to do if you are not planning to have your German Shepherd spayed.

What are the Signs of a German Shepherd Heat Cycle?

One of the problems that many female German Shepherd owners will deal with is preventing unwanted puppies. If you have an intact male (Sire), along with a female (Dam or Bitch) that has not been spayed you must be very careful or prepare to find a surprise of puppies hiding under their mom’s coat. The main responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancy lies with owners of all German Shepherds. However, the majority of the effort is on the part of the bitch’s owners.

In order to prevent or prepare for pregnancy, it is important to know when your German Shepherd can become pregnant. Your Shepherd can get pregnant during her heat cycle (called the estrus stage). German Shepherds DO NOT go through menopause the way people do. As German Shepherds grow older they become less fertile, however, it is possible for your older German Shepherd to become pregnant.

German Shepherds typically have two heats per year; however, Shepherds can go in and out of cycle with greater frequency. Some will go into their heat season every four and a half to five months. Each German Shepherd may differ in length of the heat, discharge amount, messiness, and personality changes. Watch your German Shepherd and learn the specific signs of her heat cycle. If you are wanting to breed your Shepherd, you should wait until she is in her third heat cycle before breeding her. Before breeding her she should be vet checked and definitely up-to-date on all of her shots. Choose her mate carefully, focusing on improving the German Shepherd. Require that the sire is vet checked and up-to-date on all of his shots as well.

Four Stages of the German Shepherd Heat Cycle

  1. Proestrus Stage
  2. Estrus Stage
  3. Diestrus Stage
  4. Anestrus Stage

Your female German Shepherd is not fertile during the first days of the proestrus stage. However, do keep in mind that male sperm can live for several days inside of the female. It is important to watch her closely. You may want to consider buying some appropriately sized dog diapers or dog pants to protect her from mating with unwanted suitors. Unwanted pregnancies can compromise your Shepherd’s health and the genetics of the puppies.

Dog Diapers for German Shepherds to Prevent Pregnancy

There are several types of dog diapers and pants available for larger dogs such as the German Shepherd. Using dog diapers can help in the preventing of stained carpet and furniture during her heat cycle. Dog Diapers may be a great way to protect your Shepherd from unwanted pregnancies as well. Dog diapers also can mean a lot less cleanup for you. There are several types of dog diapers to choose from. There are the disposable and reusable (washable) dog diapers. Each one has benefits of its own.

Some pet owners prefer to use disposable just for their convenience. The reusable dog diapers can be washed and reused. Reusable dog diapers come in assorted fabrics, colors and patterns. Pet Parents makes a washable dog diaper available at Amazon that comes in a 3 pack. It has 3 different sizes (small, medium, and large). This product works very well for the intended purpose and is even listed as ‘Useful for female dogs in heat.’




Washable Dog Diapers for German Shepherds (Large 3 pack) from Amazon

If you prefer a disposable dog diaper for controlling your German Shepherd heat cycle, then try the Simple Solution Disposable Diapers for Dogs. These disposable dog diapers come in 5 sizes from x-small to x-large.



Simple Solution Disposable Diapers for the German Shepherd Heat Cycle – Large, Pack of 12

Other products that are well worth considering are dog wipes, that deodorize and clean. Our favorite is the Nature’s Miracle Deodorizing Spring Water Wipes for German Shepherds There are products to use in the yard that may help deodorize the yard.

4 Stages of the German Shepherd’s Heat Cycle

It is so very important to know when your Shepherd is coming into heat and going out of heat. Some of the signs are clear and there are some subtle clues. Pay attention to your own female and learn her behavior. This will help in understanding what’s going on when she ‘does’ come into heat.

Proestrus Stage for German Shepherds

This stage of the female heat cycle can last from 4-20 days. The average is usually 7-10 days. There are 4 common signs for a German Shepherd in heat during this stage:

  1. Swollen Vulva: This is one of the better ways to spot the start of a German Shepherd heat cycle. Her vulva may become 3-4 times its regular size. You will notice the swelling is a significant difference over the normal appearance of her vulva. Her teats may also swell slightly, but this can be tricky to spot.
  2. Discharge: Your female German Shepherd may begin spending a lot of time licking to clean herself. German Shepherds are quite good at keeping themselves clean. If in doubt about the discharge, take a tissue and wipe her vulva. If you notice red discharge, and her vulva is swollen, that is a pretty good indicator that she is definitely coming into heat. It is important to check for this, because timing is everything when it comes to a pregnancy. The first day you notice the bloody discharge is “DAY 1”. It is best to mark it on your calendar or make sure to remember.
  3. Suitors: A female German Shepherd in heat produces a substance called pheromones. It is this substance that attracts all male dogs. This third sign of a Labrador in heat is not found on your dog, but it is in the presence of other dogs. You may notice neighbor dogs frequenting your house. Due to their incredible sense of smell, they can smell your German Shepherd’s heat cycle even a mile or more away.
  4. Behavior: During this time the female Shepherd will not show interest in mating. She may become somewhat clingier to her owners and can become much more excitable. If a male should attempt to breed her she may show agitation and growl, she may sit down or run away. She may even snap at him.

Estrus Stage for German Shepherds

The Estrus Stage of the German Shepherd Heat Cycle typically lasts from about 5-14 days. During this time your German Shepherd is fertile (her actual heat). During this stage, the discharge usually changes from red to more of a straw color. In many Shepherds, it is still somewhat pink, but you will notice a definite change in color from the beginning of the proestrus stage. The change usually will occur around days 8-9. Your female will also be willing to accept a sire during this stage. She will move her tail to the side signaling that she is ready for action. She might whimper and want to be outside more. Your Shepherd is following her instinct to breed. Now it is the most important time to keep a close eye on her.

Shepherds can be tricky and even if she is in a kennel, she can still end up pregnant. Male dogs have been known to impregnate a bitch through the holes in a chain link fence – so be very cautious where you keep your German Shepherd. Otherwise, you are going to be ordering DNA testing kits to determine the authenticity of your purebred puppies. To determine the German Shepherd’s due date, use the German Shepherd Pregnancy Calendar Calculator.

German Shepherds can get very creative during this stage. If you notice strange males in your yard, keep your female away from them. Bring your dog inside and wait for the males to leave. When male dogs are anxious to breed, they can be much more likely to bite. Do not take your German Shepherd to the pet store or the dog park because you can inadvertently cause problems that you do not want. It is best to just keep her secluded at your home.

Diestrus Stage for German Shepherds

The Diestrus Stage of the German Shepherd heat cycle most generally begins around day 24. This stage can last from 60 to 90 days. Your Shepherd is no longer fertile at this point. Her discharge will change from straw colored to red and then will completely stop. However she still has a scent which will attract unwanted attention, so wait until she has completely stopped bleeding before taking her into public places.

Anestrus Stage for German Shepherds

The Anestrus Stage is the fourth and final stage of the German Shepherd’s heat cycle when your German Shepherd’s body returns to normal. This last stage can last from 60-90 days, when it is over, the entire heat cycle will start all over again.

Summary: German Shepherd Heat Cycle

Remember to pay attention to your German Shepherd. Begin to understand what her heat signs and behavior signify. To know where she is at all times during her fertile times will help you prevent an unwanted Sire from mating with your Shepherd. Make certain to have her vet checked and be sure that you are willing to go through all the work necessary to raise German Shepherd puppies responsibly BEFORE breeding her. If you do have a male and have no interest in using him as a stud dog, please have him neutered.

Photo by Pauls Imaging Photography



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