Close this search box.

Pitbull First Heat and Cycle: What to Expect

Last Updated: February 19, 2024

As you embark on the journey of Pitbull parenthood, a pivotal moment awaits: navigating your Pitbull’s first heat. This significant milestone in your furry friend’s life is not just a sign of her maturing physically but also marks a period where your understanding and support are essential.

A Pitbull’s first heat and cycle occurs between 6 and 12 months of age. Your Pittie is now fertile and ready to mate at this time. Your dog will then cycle every six months after that. There are 4 phases to a Pitbull’s heat cycle, although the heat or estrus phase only lasts 4 to 15 days.

If you’re feeling a mix of anticipation and uncertainty about how to best care for your Pitbull during this time, you’re not alone.

From spotting the initial signs of her entering this new phase to ensuring her comfort and health throughout the cycle, this blog post has it all covered.

We’re here to walk you through every aspect of the “Pitbull first heat,” equipping you with the knowledge and strategies to make this experience as positive as possible for you and your beloved pet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn to identify your Pitbull’s first heat through changes like vulva swelling, bleeding, and behavior shifts to ensure she gets the care she needs.
  • Keep your Pitbull comfortable and healthy during her heat by maintaining cleanliness, providing a peaceful space, and adjusting her physical activity. Protect her from unwanted male attention.
  • Early veterinary consultation is pivotal for understanding your Pitbull’s health and making informed decisions about spaying or breeding.

Let’s get started!

A Pitbull resting on a blanket

The Stages of a Pitbull’s Heat Cycle

A Pitbull’s heat cycle or reproductive cycle is when a series of hormonal changes occur. The time of the first heat marks the onset of fertility. It means your dog is receptive to mating, and she will release mating hormones.

The heat cycle is repeated every six months for the rest of your dog’s life. While some age-related variations will occur during your dog’s life, a Pitbull’s heat cycle typically happens in four stages.

Proestrus Stage

The proestrus stage in a Pitbull heat cycle is the initial period of the cycle and lasts around 4-20 days. The following signs characterize this period:

  • Frequent urination.
  • Swollen vulva and teats.
  • Bleeding, which may be more noticeable in some dogs than others. 
  • Attracting male dogs, but not necessarily ready to mate.
  • A darkened lower abdomen.
  • Tucking in the tail to keep away male dogs by covering her vulva.
  • Signs of restlessness whereby your Pittie may become more quiet or anxious.
  • A loss of appetite.

Some dogs may also clean themselves as part of self-grooming, making it hard for you to notice any bleeding. It’s essential to be vigilant during this stage to be aware of changes.

Estrus Stage

Estrus is the main stage in the canine reproduction cycle. It’s the heat period or ‘season’ and the fertile phase of the cycle when ovulation occurs. At this point, your dog will naturally follow her breeding instinct and be ready to mate. 

Estrus lasts between 4 and 15 days and is characterized by the following: 

  • Change in the color of the discharge. This is a pinkish/brownish liquid and not the blood-stained discharge of the proestrus stage.
  • A ‘flagged’ tail, raised and no longer hiding the vulva. This is a direct indication your Pittie is getting ready to mate.
  • Searching for male dogs. If your dog has become more active and aggressive in seeking out other dogs, this could be a sign they are in the estrus phase.

Learn About The Canine Heat Cycle In This Video…

Diestrus Stage

The diestrus phase in a Pitbull’s heat cycle is marked by a rest period following potential mating.

If your dog hasn’t conceived during the estrus period, her body will rest in preparation for the next heat season, and her progesterone levels will be high.

Diestrus in Pitbulls lasts around 60 days. Although your dog may still carry the scent of the heat period, her fertile window has closed at this point.

Anestrus Stage

The last phase of a Pitbull’s heat cycle is the anestrus stage, which lasts around 90 days. This is the period when your Pitbull gets ready for her next cycle, which will resume once more with the proestrus stage. 

If you’re planning to neuter your Pitbull, the anestrus period is considered the most opportune time to do so. My dog was spayed in this stage of her first heat cycle, as advised by her veterinarian.

Pitbull Wrapped In a Towel.

When Does a Pitbull Come Into Heat?

Pitbulls come into heat between six and eight months of age. A Pitbull’s heat cycle typically starts with a bloody discharge that slowly turns into a pinkish-red color over the following days.

This can last up to 17 days, and you can expect your dog to urinate more when in season.

Pitbulls may also come into heat at a later age. Some Pitties will even go into heat at 18 or 24 months. These variations are all within the norm, as it’s very much an individual thing.

If your dog is coming into heat, this doesn’t automatically imply that she is ready for breeding.

In fact, experienced Pittie breeders know it’s better to wait until the second heat, preferably the third. This gives the dog time to come fully into the cycle before breeding. 

Your dog’s eggs are not fully mature for reproduction at the first heat, and waiting for the second or third heat ensures a healthier pregnancy. Your dog’s body will also be fully developed for gestation by this time. 

Duration of Bleeding During The Heat Cycle

A Pitbull bleeds for up to 17 days when in heat but can bleed for as little as 3 days. The length and severity of its bloody discharge can vary and correspond to the heat cycle’s estrus stage.

During these days, your Pittie is fertile and can get pregnant if she mates.

Note, however, that a female Pitbull can get pregnant if she happens to mate before the estrus period. This is because canine spermatozoa are motile in the female’s genital tract and can potentially survive for around 11 days.  

You may have read that a dog’s initial and subsequent heat seasons continue for two to four weeks. This is because many people believe the proestrus and estrus stages of the heat cycle should be included in the heat period.

However, strictly speaking, a dog’s heat period is the estrus phase. This is when she’s ready to mate and is fertile enough to get pregnant. If your dog is in heat for over three weeks, you should take her to the vet for a check-up.

Black Pitbull laying on a wood floor

Signs Your Pitbull Is In Heat

To know when your Pitbull is in heat, check for specific physical and behavioral signs, including light to heavy blood spotting, excess urination, a swollen and red vulva, and mood changes.

Your Pittie might seem nervous or agitated, a common symptom associated with natural hormonal changes.

You should know when your Pitbull is in heat as she’ll act differently and experience various unusual mannerisms.

Let’s break down a handful of things to expect below.

  • A swollen vulva. Your Pitbull’s vagina will be red and quite swollen. Just how swollen the vulva becomes is individual to the dog.
  • A change in the color of discharge (pinkish instead of blood-stained). Pitbulls start spotting, bleeding heavily during their heat cycle, changing to a more pinkish color.
  • Frequent urination. Since your dog’s vulva is swollen, it applies pressure on her bladder and makes her pee. Hormonal changes also increase the likelihood of your Pitbull constantly peeing throughout the day.
  • A tail set to the side (flagging). Allowing her tail to hook to the side lets male dogs know she is receptive by giving access and is ready to mate.
  • Nervous or agitated due to hormonal changes. When her estrogen spikes, your dog will react much differently (the severity of their hormones and attitude varies from one Pittie to another).

Your bestie may also be more aggressive to fellow females and exhibit extra interest in male dogs.

Frequent licking of the genitals, agitation, and urine marking indicate a readiness to mate.

If you have an intact Pitbull and don’t intend to breed her, you should keep your pet on a leash during walks, as your furry friend will actively seek a sexual partner. 

How To Care for a Pitbull In Heat

Caring for a Pitbull in season requires extra love and attention. As a consequence of the physical and emotional changes your Pitbull will undergo during heat, you’ll need to take special care of your dog.

Here are some things you should do when caring for a Pitbull in heat:

  1. Keep your dog busy to distract her from the discomfort of hormonal changes during the heat period. Playing games, offering treat-filled toys, or taking short, frequent walks can help keep your dog happy and calm.
  2. Keep your Pittie away from male dogs at home and outdoors if you don’t intend to breed her. This entails keeping her on a leash during walks, not leaving her unattended in the backyard, and keeping her in a separate room in the home. 
  3. Keep your Pitbull from carpeted areas, bedding, and soft furnishings during the bleeding phase of the heat cycle. Alternatively, you can use dog diapers to stop the blood from staining carpets and your dog’s bedding. Choose the Simple Solution Disposable Dog Diapers from Amazon as they have a better fit due to the stretchable fabric, which fits perfectly around your dog. If your Pittie is trying to lick her genitals while in a diaper, consider temporarily removing it to allow her to self-groom.
  4. If your Pitbull shows the need for extra rest, always allow this. It would be best if you also eased your dog’s exercise routine during the proestrus and estrus phases of the heat cycle, as she may feel a bit low-energy and under the weather.
  5. Ensure your dog gets all the recommended nutrients in her meals during heat, including enough fresh drinking water. If your Pittie prefers a different meal, consider giving it to her to boost her appetite. However, you should consult your vet about changing your dog’s diet, even just for a few meals.
  6. Keep the surrounding environment calm and free of extreme noise or disturbance. Your dog is sensitive to any form of stress during this period.
  7. If your Pitbull shows extreme discomfort or signs of pain in the swollen vulva, use heating pads to give some relief. I like the RIOGOO Pet Heating Pad as it has an auto power-off function for extra safety, is waterproof, and is machine washable. Stay vigilant if your dog shows any signs of aggression, and consult a vet if the uneasiness or pain doesn’t seem typical.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Your Pitbull may show unique characteristics and needs during heat. Be attentive and consult your vet about any unusual signs you do not know how to address.  

White and Brown Pitbull.

How Often Do Pitbulls Go Into Heat?

Pitbulls go into heat twice a year, approximately every six months. Keep a calendar to know when your Pitbull’s next heat cycle is so you know when to expect the next one.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) states most dogs go into heat every six months, and Pitbulls are no exception.

This may change depending on your dog and her body clock. How often your Pitbull goes into heat may vary and is contingent upon the following factors:

If they miss a period, they could be pregnant or experiencing health issues.


After a Pitbull’s first heat cycle, subsequent heat cycles may be a bit irregular initially but will become more consistent with time.

If your dog is experiencing irregular cycles, you may want to talk to a vet to determine if this is normal or if there are underlying causes. 

Instead, older Pitbulls will have slowed cycles with fewer heat seasons. Despite this, your dog will still experience estrus her entire life and can still get pregnant despite the reduced estrus seasons.


As happens in humans, gestation delays menstrual periods and fertility seasons. Similarly, dogs’ interestrus interval, or the period between estrus seasons, is prolonged after whelping. 

A study of various dog breeds reported they had a regular 6-month estrus interval under normal circumstances, but the interval was prolonged in dogs who went into gestation.


Seasonality is generally considered a non-factor in estrus frequency in dogs, but it is not an impossibility.

This study of different breeds found fewer estrus incidences in summer and consequently fewer occurrences of fertility and conception. 

Side note: If you plan to breed your Pitbull, you should wait until her second season, preferably her third, to allow her eggs to mature sufficiently.

Keep in mind that your dog won’t go into heat once spayed. If you’re considering spaying your Pitbull, proceed to the next section to learn some must-know tips.

A Pitbull on a bed hiding under a blanket.

When Should I Spay My Pitbull?

There’s a huge difference of opinion as to exactly when you should spay your Pitbull.

Some believe that spaying a Pitbull too early can cause severe health issues such as joint conditions, while others think that spaying them too late can lead to cancer, slow or delayed healing, and more.

Fortunately, you’re in the right place to find the perfect timeframe.

Pitbulls should be spayed within six months of age (or before their first heat cycle). Most vets advise neutering before their second cycle at the latest, although some breeds can be spayed or neutered much later.

However, the later the surgery, the higher the chances of complications.

Let’s evaluate this a bit more.

  • You should spay a Pitbull before her first heat cycle. I recommend contacting your vet to know how your Pitbull will handle spaying. Nevertheless, most experts suggest they get spayed before their first period.
  • Most professionals recommend spaying no later than the second heat cycle. Once your dog is too old, she won’t be able to recover from the surgery as easily. Her body is used to going through heat and can relocate recourses to healing a wound much quicker when younger.
  • Your local vet might have weight requirements for your Pitbull to be spayed. Some vets suggest dogs should weigh a certain amount before surgery to handle the anesthesia much better. The requirements differ between dogs and vets, so it’s best to ask first.
  • Spay education. Pitbulls make up the largest number of dogs in US shelters, resulting in hundreds of thousands being euthanized yearly. Pitbulls have been overpopulated due to excessive and unregulated breeding and are known to have large litter sizes. There are many organizations committed to education on the benefits of spaying Pitties.

So, why all the differences in opinions? And what is the latest scientific advice?

The risk of joint problems like hip dysplasia and cancer varies based on the dog’s breed and neutering age. This latest study on the age of neutering found that when to neuter a dog is breed-specific.

The evaluation of 35 breeds found that delaying neutering until after 11 or 23 months of age may reduce the chance of developing joint problems and cancers in standard to giant-sized mixed breeds and several dog breeds.

But what about Pitbulls?

This evidence-backed research found that there was no noticeable increase in joint disorders or cancers with spaying dogs at various ages, whether spaying was done less than 6 months of age, between 6–11 months, 12-24 months, or 2–8 years, or even if the dog was left intact.

This meant those wishing to spay their Pitbull should decide on the appropriate age. In light of this latest evidence, I would always recommend consulting with your vet for an individualized opinion.


Pitbull sleeping

Is a White Discharge Normal During a Pitbull Heat Season?

A white discharge during a Pitbull estrus isn’t normal and could be a sign of an infection in your dog’s reproductive tract, such as Pyometra, which is believed to be caused by bacterial involvement.

Get your Pittie checked by a vet if you notice any discharges different from a blood-stained discharge during proestrus and a pinkish or brownish discharge during estrus. 

Must My Pitbull Have an Estrus Before Being Spayed?

Your Pitbull does not need to have her first heat to be spayed. However, it’s important to know that sex hormones are a core factor in your dog’s development.

In fact, some studies have shown that spaying your dog before maturity (6 months) can predispose your dog to joint disorders like hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as some types of cancer like mast cell tumors and lymphoma.

Do Pitbulls Experience Menopause?

Pitbulls don’t experience menopause. Once your Pitbull’s first heat happens, your dog will have heat cycles throughout her life. Nonetheless, the estrus phase of her heat cycle will become less regular and last fewer days as your dog ages.

If your dog misses an estrus, talk to your vet to rule out any triggering medical conditions.

Final Thoughts

Your Pitbull’s first heat marks the onset of your dog’s sexual maturity. Once your Pitbull has had her first heat, the heat cycles are repeated every 6 months for the rest of her life.

Now that you’re familiar with your Pitbulls’ heat cycle, you can be extra attentive and know what to expect. Like humans, Pitties can experience mood changes, rushes of hormones, discomfort, and other symptoms.

The best course of action is to be patient and kind with her throughout this phase, and if your Pitbull is intact and you don’t want to breed her, keep her away from male dogs during estrus.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

Leave a Comment

Image for Newsletter Signup

Rehabilitate. Repeat.

Get the best in dog rescue news, care, and health tips, and be a part of the rescue dog revolution.