Your female French bulldog will usually experience their first heat cycle at around 6-9 months of age.
During this time your Frenchie will be fertile and can become pregnant so as an owner your best plan is to be prepared. Your job is to not only protect your Frenchie, but to keep her from having an unwanted litter of puppies.
Although puppies may be a lot of fun to have around (and boy are they cute), they are a lot of work. Finding a suitable home is a challenge in itself, not to mention the havoc puppies can wreak on their surroundings.
Not only are puppies difficult on your carpet and chair legs, but your Frenchie as well as it can stunt her growth and leave her body in a puppy like state.
If you choose to breed your Frenchie, it’s ideal to wait at least two heat cycles before doing so, letting your Frenchie grow and mature before she becomes a mother.
Once a dog is old enough, it’s then that you look at who would be the best to mate with her:
- What stud carries the best genes?
- Does she carry the best of the breed standards?
- Have they been gene and health tested?
- Are they healthy?
- Can I afford to care for all the puppies should I not find homes?
All these factors go into why you need to keep a close eye on your dog when she is in heat.
In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know from how to recognize the stages of a dog’s heat, how to get through it, and how to be prepared for the first time.
How Often Will My French Bulldog Go Into Heat?
When and how often a female dog will go into heat differs based on the dogs size, age, and breed.
In general, female French Bulldog first going into heat between 6 and 12 months of age (some as late as 14 months but this is rare) and repeat the cycle approximately twice per year. The heat cycle lasts about three weeks, but the female French bulldog is only fertile for a few days during this period.
If you have more than one unaltered female in your home, you should be prepared for them to eventually “cycle up” like humans can and will go into heat at approximately the same time.
Recognizing Signs of the French Bulldog Heat Cycle
Here are some signs of heat that you should be aware of:
Stage One: The Proestrus Stage
Your dog will start to have a change in behavior to become either more affectionate or possibly grumpier. Her appetite could change to either not want to eat or an increase in appetite so be sure to make note of any changes. The biggest change will be the swelling in her vulva and the possibility of a slight bloody discharge. This is the time to fit her with a diaper and possibly suspenders as French bulldogs have no tail to keep them up. She will also do what is known as tail tucking, which is simply the act of protecting herself from male dogs by lowering her body or sitting to keep them from smelling or approaching her.
Stage Two: The Estrus Stage:
This is the time in your French bulldog’s heat cycle where she will be fertile. This stage will last between 3 and 21 days with an average of 12 days and is considered her active heat. Where her discharge was bright red before, it will now appear to be bright pink, and she will appear to welcome the company of male dogs even inviting them by pushing her hind end into their face.
Tips to Handling a French Bulldog in Heat
Here are a few tips for dealing with a French bulldog in heat:
She Should Always Be Supervised
Whether in your backyard or on a walk, she should never be out of your sight. Dogs are capable of unimaginable things when their hormones are involved and cannot be trusted alone at any point during your Frenchie’s heat cycle. If you have a doggie door, it will need to be temporarily closed off until she is out of heat. When on walks, she must remain on a leash and you need to remain vigilant of other dogs. This is the time when she is more likely to run off or be approached by another dog.
Separation Is Key
If there are other dogs in your household, especially intact males, now is the time when they will always need to be kept separate . This may be the hardest part of the heat cycle as they both will be driven by their hormones, but it is essential to preventing unwanted litters. Some females may also become aggressive towards other dogs in the family so a close eye may need to be kept to see if separation from all dogs is necessary. Baby gates, crates, or even bathrooms are often enough to keep each dog away from each other and safe.
Keep Her Area as Clean as Possible
Cleaning after your Frenchie during this time is a full time job. Diapers are sometimes necessary to keep both your area and theirs clean. Some Frenchies may be able to clean themselves, but choosing to diaper her for your own comfort is a personal preference. Bathing or specialized pet wipes between diapers can help you keep her clean if she needs the assistance.
Make Sure She Has up to Date Information
If she is going to escape, this is the time. A Frenchie who otherwise has no interest in escaping will suddenly turn into an escape artist while in heat so now is the time to ensure her collar is secure with an up to date tag attached. If your breeder or rescue did not include a microchip, ask your vet about having one implanted and make sure that you keep the information up to date and registered. If your city or town requires registration, make sure you have that included and attached, and you have a record of all required immunizations. No one thinks that their dog will get out, but it only takes one time for the fines and fees to add up or worse, to not be reunited because you could not be found.
Signs to Look for That Your French Bulldog’s Heat May Be Abnormal
Here are a few abnormal things that you should keep an eye out for:
An Absent Heat
If your Frenchie reaches 13-15 months and still has not had her first heat cycle, there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. It could be as simple as she is undernourished and needs a change in her diet, to something more sinister like hypothyroidism. Whatever the case, it is crucial that you reach out to your veterinarian for testing, to determine the cause, and treatment.
A “Silent” Heat:
Some dogs may go into heat and their owners may not even be aware. The dog will show little to no interest in male dogs or breeding and clean themselves so well that you could not tell that they have any discharge at all. This is more common in smaller breeds such as the French bulldog, and can happen for the first one to two heat cycles as the dogs get to an age where they’re more prepared to breed. If you’re intending to breed your dog, you should discuss testing of your dog’s hormones with your veterinarian to determine her heat cycle. If your intentions are to spay your Frenchie, no actions are necessary.
While there is no harm caused by it, a split heat is when a dog will start her heat then stop before she goes into her second stage where she is fertile. Although this does not need treatment, it does need to be observed if you’re intending to breed your dog.
Should I Spay My French Bulldog?
Wondering if you should spay your French bulldog? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Check Your Contract
Most breeders will state in their contact whether you have breeding rights or not including the type of registration (full or limited) that you will have with the American Kennel Club with purchase of your Frenchie. Some will even stipulate at what age you can spay your dog, so before you schedule that appointment, look into your contract to see. Some may state you must wait a year to let your dog fully develop before they are spayed.
Will I be Breeding?
Breeding is a big commitment for any breed, but with French bulldogs there is a lot more that is involved since many litters must be delivered via cesarean section among other health issues. It’s something that needs to be researched completely before you enter into a breeding program, contact someone with a reputable program (start with the American Kennel Club site for references) for mentorship before you make the leap.
Pyometra and Other Health Concerns
If you do not plan on breeding your French bulldog, please discuss your spaying options with your veterinarian. Pyometra and other health problems can cause expensive medical and health problems for your dog if they are not spayed, so it is usually the best option if she will not be bred.