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Labrador Retriever Heat Cycle (Signs of a Labrador in Heat)

labrador retriever heat cycle

Summary: Have you ever wondered what are the signs of a Labrador Retriever heat cycle? This article reviews the 4 stages of the Labrador Retriever’s heat cycle. It also discusses the signs of heat you should be watching for to tell if your Labrador is in heat. Don’t worry about unwanted puppies, know what to do if you are not going to have your Lab spayed.

What are the Signs of a Labrador Retriever Heat Cycle?

One of the problems that many female Labrador Retriever owners face is preventing unwanted puppies. If you own a male Lab (Sire), you may never know where your Lab has sewn his wild oats. If you have a female (Dam or a Bitch), you will certainly know about the pregnancy (a little too late though), especially when you suddenly find several puppies hiding under their mom’s coat. While the responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancy lies with owners of all Labs, the majority of the effort is on the part of the bitch’s owners.

To prevent or prepare for pregnancy, it is important to know when your Labrador retriever can become pregnant. Your Lab can get pregnant during her heat cycle (or the estrus stage). Labrador Retrievers DO NOT go through menopause the way people do. As Labs grow older they are less fertile, but it is possible for your older Labrador Retriever to become pregnant. Labs typically have two heats per year, however, each Lab differs in length of the heat, discharge amount, messiness, and personality changes. Watch your Lab and learn her specific signs of her cycle. If you are considering breeding your Labrador, you should wait until your Lab is in her third heat before breeding her. She should be vet checked and up-to-date on all of her shots. Choose her mate carefully, focusing on improving the Lab breed. Request that the sire is vet checked and up-to- date on all of his shots as well.

Four stages of the Labrador Retriever Heat Cycle

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

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

Dog Diapers for Labrador Retrievers to Prevent Pregnancy

There are several types of dog diapers and pants available for Labrador Retrievers. Using a dog diaper can prevent the staining of carpet and furniture during your Lab’s heat cycle. Dog Diapers can be a great way to protect your lab from unwanted pregnancies as well. Dog diapers aso can mean a lot less cleanup for you. There are several types of dog diapers there are the disposable and the reusable. Each one has benefits of its own. Some prefer disposable for their convenience. The reusable can be washed and reused and 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 (Large 3 pack) from Amazon

In case you would prefer a disposable dog diaper for controlling your Labrador Retriever 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 Dogs – Large, Pack of 12

4 Stages of the Labrador Retriever Heat Cycle Explained

It’s important to know when your Labrador Retriever is coming into heat and going out of heat.
There are some clear signs and some subtle clues. Pay attention to your Lab and learn her behavior. This will help you understand what’s going on when she ‘does’ come into heat.

Proestrus Stage for Labrador Retrievers

This stage of the Lab’s heat cycle can last from 4-20 days. The average though is 7-10 days. There are 4 common signs for a Labrador in heat during this stage:

  1. Swollen Vulva: This is one of the better ways to spot the start of a Labrador heat cycle. The vulva may become 3-4 times its regular size. The swelling is a significant difference over her normal appearance of her vulva. Her teats may also swell slightly, but this is not a great indicator for a Lab in heat and can be tricky to spot.
  2. Discharge: Your female Labrador Retriever may suddenly spend a lot of time licking to clean herself. Most Labs are pretty good at keeping themselves clean. Take a tissue and wipe her vulva. If you notice red discharge, and her vulva is swollen, that is a pretty good indicator that your Lab is definitely coming into heat. It is important to check for this, since timing is everything when it comes to a pregnancy. The first day you notice the bloody discharge is “DAY 1”. Mark it on your calendar or make sure to remember.
  3. Suitors: A female Labrador Retriever in heat produces a substance called pheromones. It is this substance that attracts male dogs of any breed type. This third sign of a Labrador in heat is not found on your dog, but 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 Labrador’s heat cycle even a mile or so away.
  4. Behavior: During this time the female Labrador Retriever will show disinterest in mating. She could become somewhat clingy to her owners and become more excitable. If a male should attempt to breed her she may show agitation or growl, sit down or run away. She may even snap at him.

Estrus Stage for Labrador Retrievers

The Estrus Stage of the Labrador Retriever’s Heat Cycle typically lasts from 5-14 days. This is the time your Labrador is fertile (her actual heat). At this stage, the discharge typically changes from red to a straw color. In many Labrador Retrievers, it is still somewhat pink, but you will notice a definite difference in color from the beginning of the proestrus stage. This change usually occurs around days 8-9. Your Labrador will also be willing to accept a sire during this stage. She will move her tail to the side. She may whimper and want to be outside more often than is normal for her. Your Labrador is following her instinct to breed. Keep a close eye on her during this stage. Even if she is in a kennel, she can still end up pregnant.

Labrador Retrievers get very creative during this stage. If you notice strange males in your yard, keep your Labrador 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. Don’t take your Labrador Retriever to the pet store or the dog park. You can inadvertently cause problems that you really do not want. It is best to just keep her secluded at your residence.

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 Lab. Otherwise, you are going to be ordering DNA testing kits to determine the authenticity of your purebred puppies. To determine the Labrador retriever’s due date, use our Dog Pregnancy Calculator.

Diestrus Stage for Labrador Retrievers

The Diestrus Stage of the Labrador Retriever Heat Cycle usually begins around day 24. This stage can last from 60 to 90 days. Your Labrador is no longer fertile at this point. Her discharge will change from straw colored to red and then will completely stop. She still has a scent which will still attract unwanted attention, so wait until your Lab has completely stopped bleeding before bringing her into public places.

Anestrus Stage for Labrador Retrievers

This is the fourth and final stage of the Labrador Retriever heat cycle when your Labrador’s body returns to normalcy. This stage can last from 60-90 days, at the end of which, the entire heat cycle starts all over again.

Remember to pay attention to your Labrador Retriever. Begin to understand what your Labrador’s heat signs and behavior signify. Know where she is at all times during fertile times to prevent an unwanted Sire from mating with your Lab. Have her vet checked and be sure that you are willing to go through all the work necessary to raise Labrador Retriever puppies responsibly BEFORE breeding her. If you have a male Labrador Retriever and have no interest in using him as a stud dog, please have him neutered.

Photo by tim-johnson



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