Can Dogs Skip Heat Cycles? Surprising Facts (and What to Do)

Female dogs sometimes experience some abnormalities when it comes to the duration or regularity of their heat cycles. It’s a perfectly normal occurrence and the cycle will usually regulate itself as the dog grows older.

However, it still causes many dog owners to wonder whether their dog has skipped the heat cycle altogether and whether this could be an indicator of an underlying health problem.

So, can dogs skip heat cycles? Dogs can skip heat cycles and it’s a condition commonly known as absent heat. This condition is caused by certain health problems such as hypothyroidism, ovarian hypoplasia, malnutrition, and ovarian tumors. If your dog doesn’t go into heat for over 10 months, you need to take it to a vet for a health check-up.

Keep reading to learn more about how often dogs go into heat, the common abnormalities with their heat cycle, and what to do if your dog doesn’t go into heat.

How Often Do Dogs Go into Heat?

dogs in heat sniffing each other to answer can dogs skip heat cycles

Dogs start their heat cycle once they reach puberty which is usually at 6 to 15 months of age, depending on the dog’s breed.

Dogs will normally go into heat twice a year, with an interval of 6 to 9 months between each heat.

However, there might be some abnormalities with the timeline of the dog’s heat cycle depending on the dog’s age, size, and overall health.

What Is a Silent Heat in Dogs?

One of the common abnormalities that occur with the dog’s heat cycle is silent heat which is a condition where the dog will go into heat, but its owner will not notice.

During a normal heat, they will exhibit various physical and behavioral signs that are hard to go unnoticed. However, during a silent heat, it will barely show any signs, if at all.

This condition can be highly inconvenient, especially for owners who want to breed their dog as it makes it harder to track the dog’s heat cycle.

Now, let’s take a look at the common physical and behavioral signs the dogs normally exhibit during heat, so you can have some idea of what to be on the lookout for:

Signs That Your Dog Is Going into Heat

  • It will start bleeding and releasing v*ginal discharge. It might often go unnoticed as it will be frequently licking its genital area.
  • Its vulva will start to swell gradually until it reaches 3 to 4 times its normal size.
  • It will start releasing pheromones which are responsible for the distinctive scent that attracts male dogs.
  • It will try to mount random objects around the house or other dogs. It will also welcome other dogs who try to mount it.
  • It will urinate more frequently than normal and it might also have more accidents inside the house even though it has been potty-trained.
  • It will display some nesting behaviors such as pawing at blankets, hiding in small spaces, and digging holes outside to make a safe space for any potential puppies.
  • It will experience frequent mood changes as it will rapidly go from affectionate and clingy to anxious and distant.
  • It will have an increased appetite as it will be trying to maintain its energy levels

You can learn more about the signs your dog is going into heat and everything else about heat cycles in dogs in this guide to the Pitbull heat cycle timeline.

What Is an Absent Heat in Dogs?

Another common abnormality that occurs with the dog’s heat cycle is absent heat which is a condition where the dog will not go into heat at all. It’s also known as skipped heat or missed heat.

This condition is less common than silent heat and it’s caused by certain health problems. So, if your dog doesn’t go into heat for over 10 months, you need to take it to a vet to make sure that it doesn’t have any health problems that you’re unaware of.

What Are the Health Problems That Cause Absent Heat in Dogs?

There are various health problems that might cause absent heat in dogs. Let’s take a closer look at them:

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the dog can’t produce enough thyroid hormones which affects the regularity of its heat cycle and stop it from going into heat at times.

Symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include hair loss, dry skin, rapid weight gain, and severe lack of energy. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, you need to take it to a vet right away for a diagnosis and to get the required treatment

Keep in mind that hypothyroidism is considered a hereditary condition and dogs diagnosed with it should not be bred as they will pass it on to their puppies.

Ovarian Hypoplasia 

Ovarian hypoplasia is a condition where the dog’s ovaries are not fully developed so they can’t produce enough estrogen hormones for the dog to go into heat or have a regular heat cycle.

Symptoms of ovarian hypoplasia also include underdeveloped vulva and mammary glands. If you notice any of its symptoms on your dog or if it frequently skips heat, you need to take it to a vet for a diagnosis.

Keep in mind that hypothyroidism is considered a hereditary condition and cannot be cured or treated.

Ovarian Tumors

Your dog might develop tumors on its ovaries for various reasons. These tumors, whether they’re cancerous or benign, will affect the regularity of the dog’s heat cycle or stop it from going into heat completely.

If your dog frequently skips heat, you need to take it to a vet for a diagnosis to determine if there’s a tumor and whether it is cancerous or not.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition due to a poor diet or any other health problem will also affect the regularity of its heat cycles and, in more severe cases, will stop the dog from going into heat completely.

Your dog’s diet needs to have high protein and fat content for its body to be able to produce the hormones needed to go into heat and have a regular heat cycle

Conclusion: What to Do If Your Dog Doesn’t Go into Heat?

If your dog doesn’t go into heat at the time it’s supposed to, then you need to determine first if it’s going through a silent heat or if it has completely skipped the heat cycle.

You can take your dog to a vet to test if it’s ovulating or not. If the dog is ovulating normally, then it’s going through a silent heat and not exhibiting any of the heat signs.

However, if the dog is not ovulating at all, then has skipped the heat completely or has an absent heat. In this case, you’ll need to run more tests to determine the cause of the absent heat.

Related Questions

Do Dogs Stop Going Into Heat?

Dogs do not stop going into heat once they start puberty. However, as they get older, their heat cycles will become more irregular or infrequent. They will also reach an age at which they will stop ovulating completely despite going into heat which means they won’t be able to reproduce.

How to Stop Your Dog from Going into Heat?

You can stop your dog from going into heat permanently by spaying it which is a surgical procedure that removes the dog’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. It’s best to spay your dog when it’s old enough to tolerate anesthesia, however, some owners spay their dogs before their first heat cycle.

Helpful Resources 

Understanding a Silent Heat in Female Dogs

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