In 2015, an artist posted a photo of herself on Instagram in bed with a period stain, and the post went totally viral, but was was deleted because it allegedly violated the site’s censorship policy. Now, there’s a new gang of badass bitches brazenly chronicling their menstrual cycles on social media: dogs. A quick search of the hashtag, #dogperiod on Instagram, shows you an adorable thread of menstruating puppies curled up in balls looking positively pissed off wearing period panties. Like this doggo:
Really brings you back to the first time you tried to wear a pad, right? When you manage to look beyond their big, brown eyes (we get it, they’re cute) it raises a question: Are dog periods like human periods? Like a lot of viral photos, there's way more to the story. Chances are you haven't heard of a dog period, because most female dogs get spayed (a vet will remove the ovaries and uterus) before they can have their first menstrual cycle, which is called estrus for dogs. Veterinarians actually aim to spay dogs that aren't planning to be bred before they get their first period, around four to 12 months, explains Ari Zabell, DVM, a veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital. "The benefits of spaying before your dog's first heat cycle are significant, because it removes the hormones that cause mammary cancer in dogs," says Dr. Zabell. Small breeds tend to get their first period sooner than big breeds, which can take up to two years, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Some vets will also wait a little longer to spay certain large and huge dog breeds (think: Great Danes and Mastiffs) so their bones can fully develop, says Dr. Zabell. And in case you weren't convinced that your dog has a better life than you, dogs only get their periods twice a year. "Their reproductive tract basically goes dormant when they're not in heat," says Dr. Zabell.
Puppy periods can last two to three weeks, and come with a slew of other fun symptoms — specifically, dogs will be really aggressive and really trying to have a puppy. This isn't like how you might feel a little horny when you have your period: Your once-cuddly pooch could be tempted to fight with a male dog so he has sex with her — the hormonal changes are that drastic. "Dogs are animals, so when the hormones related to them going into heat become more dominant in their bodies, their one focus is getting bred and getting puppies," says Dr. Zabell. She'll probably pee more than usual on walks when she's in heat, because she’s trying to alert all the male dogs in the area that it’s Go Time. This can get kind of dangerous, because dogs don’t discriminate at all when they’re looking for a partner; so a lady dog could accidentally have sex with her brother or father just because they were around. They may also bolt from your house or yard because they need to get some ASAP. Bloody discharge happens in the beginning of their estrus, and then your dog's vulva will swell or change shape. "The bleeding happens right at the beginning, because the vulva is changing shape and opening up," says Dr. Zabell. Like humans, every dog’s flow is different, and if your dog has dark fur, you might not notice they’re bleeding. Dogs don’t have all the options for birth control or period products that humans do (although researchers have developed a way to give a male dog a vasectomy, nothing exists for female dogs yet), so most owners just let them wear reusable diapers. According to Dr. Zabell, if you're using doggy diapers, you have to clean them frequently, because they can cause infections. Some dogs also have a bad habit of eating their diapers, which then have to be surgically removed. Woof.
These doggies in diapers are insanely cute, yes, but Dr. Zabell says it's really important to remember that there's no need to let your dog get her period. "Pet overpopulation is a huge issue around the world, and it's your responsibility — unless you're certain you have a plan for breeding and finding solid homes for all the puppies and kittens — to have them spayed," he says. So, you're not a bad dog owner for spaying your dog. It's actually really good for them and the planet. As for the responsibly menstruating doggies out there: Do you need a hug? We gladly volunteer.