Whether or not you plan to breed your English Bulldog, it’s useful to know all the details of her heat cycle. A female English Bulldog who has not been spayed will typically face a variety of physical and behavioral changes throughout her lifetime.
Being prepared for all of these changes during their heat cycle will make the whole journey much easier for both of you.
I am going to start off this introduction to the English Bulldog heat cycle with some very quick pointers on how often it happens, how to tell, and how long the heat will last. I will then go into each aspect of the heat cycle in more detail.
How often do English Bulldogs go into heat?
Unless you have spayed your English Bulldog, she will enter her first heat (also known as a season) at around six to eight months of age.
How often do English Bulldogs go into heat? After her first heat at 6 to 8 months, your English Bulldog will then go into twice a year, typically every 6 months. Initially, her cycle may be sporadic, but after the first year or two, you should notice her reproductive cycle settling into a regular pattern.
The average English Bulldog will go into heat once every six months. Occasionally, your Bulldog may show signs of going into heat between these regular cycles, but she will typically be infertile during these additional seasons.
Once an English Bulldog reaches six years of age, her fertility will start to slow down. Fertility will continue to drop off until roughly ten years of age when her ability to reproduce typically ceases altogether.
That said, unless spayed, a female English Bulldog will continue showing signs of going into heat for the rest of her life.
How do you know when your English Bulldog is in heat?
You will know your English Bulldog is in heat due to a range of signs including:
- Swollen vulva.
- Bleeding from the vulva.
- Increased mounting behavior.
- Licking her genital region.
- Obvious nervous or agitated behavior.
- Increased urination.
The English Bulldog heat cycle length in detail
The reproductive cycle for dogs is made up of four distinct stages, each with its own physical and behavioral changes. Read about each stage below, including the English Bulldog heat cycle length and what to expect.
1. The Proestrus stage
Typically, this is the stage that most people are referring to when they say that their English Bulldog is in heat. On average, this initial stage of the reproductive cycle lasts nine days for most dogs, but it can last anywhere up to twenty-seven days in total.
During this stage of the reproductive cycle, estrogen levels will begin to peak in your dog, and the follicles (eggs) will start to develop. Most owners may start to notice male dogs showing an interest, although the female English Bulldog will not reciprocate during this time.
If anything, she may even seem more on edge than usual. It’s not uncommon to see dogs holding their tails close to their body and becoming a little clingier with their owners during this first stage.
Physical signs include a swollen vulva and a blood-tinged discharge. Although many dogs will keep this area clean, English Bulldogs tend to have a hard time reaching this area. To avoid any messes, many owners recommend using diapers (see which they recommend).
You may also notice your dog urinating more often during this stage.
Handy Hint: If you suspect your English Bulldog could be pregnant, then please go through this checklist of pregnancy signs to look out for.
2. The Estrus stage
This second stage can last anywhere from four to twenty-four days in total. On average, however, the Estrus stage only tends to last nine days for most dogs and marks the fertile window in a dog’s reproductive cycle.
Attention from male dogs will continue, but now the female English Bulldog will be receptive to these advances. One of the most common ways your dog may show her availability is by “flagging”, where she lifts her tail up or to one side.
Physical changes will include an enlarged vulva and brown or clear discharge.
With the pheromones she emits during this period, the attention she receives from male dogs will be heightened.
It may also result in aggression from females, which can sometimes escalate into fights. If you have no intention of breeding your Bulldog during this period, it will be necessary to keep her away from other dogs as much as possible during this time.
3. The Diestrus stage
During this stage, your dog will once again lose interest in reciprocating male attention. On average, this third stage of the reproductive cycle will last two months.
Physical changes include her vulva returning to normal, and an absence of any discharge.
There are instances where she may act as though she is pregnant, even if she isn’t. If this happens, you may notice your dog exhibiting the following behaviors:
- Reduced appetite
- Nesting (may involve digging bedding or moving it around)
- Nursing (may show increased attachment to a favorite toy)
Aside from these behavioral changes, you may also notice several physical changes. Even though a loss of appetite is common during false pregnancies, the female Bulldog may stay at the same weight, owing to fluid retention.
Other physical changes include a swollen belly and enlarged mammary glands that may or may not lactate.
If you suspect that your English Bulldog is pregnant, it would be best to take her to see your vet as soon as possible. Pregnancies in English Bulldogs must be carefully monitored from the onset due to the health risks involved, both for the puppies and the mother.
4. The Anestrus stage
During the fourth and final stage of the reproductive cycle, the body will begin to prepare itself for the next season.
Typically, this final stage lasts an average of four months for most dogs, although for certain breeds it can take a lot longer. During this time, there are typically no physical symptoms or behavioral changes.
Handy Hint: There are some ways that breeders use to make their female dogs come into heat faster.
Can a spayed dog still go into heat?
The process of spaying a dog means removing all the reproductive organs, including the ovaries and uterus. As this eliminates the possibility of reproducing, it also means that her heat cycle will usually stop as well.
However, if you do notice your dog showing signs of going into heat once spayed, this may be an indication of ovarian remnant syndrome.
If the surgeon misses some of the ovarian tissue during the surgery, this can result in the remaining ovarian tissue still producing estrogen. If this happens, it will continue to trigger your dog’s usual heat cycles.
It can be annoying, since this may only become obvious several months after the initial surgery. However, it is a non-threatening condition, and also relatively easy to remedy.
If you notice that your dog is showing signs of going into heat once spayed, you will need to get your dog booked in to see your vet again. Typically, ovarian remnant syndrome can be treated with a simple operation to remove any remaining ovarian tissue.
Breeding English Bulldogs
When it comes to breeding, English Bulldogs are some of the most challenging, time-consuming, and expensive dogs to breed.
Owing to the many health problems this breed faces, owners must be present through every stage of the pregnancy and delivery. Owners will also need to keep a very close eye on the litter for the initial few weeks of development to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
You can expect a female English Bulldog to have an average litter size of four puppies. Although it may be possible for an English Bulldog to give birth naturally, most experts strongly advise against this owing to the risks involved.
Handy Hint: If you are thinking about getting an English Bulldog puppy, please read my guide to what questions you need to ask the breeder, and what to look out for.
As a result of this, most English Bulldogs will give birth via C-section. The cost of this, as well as the costs involved with the regular veterinary visits you will need to make, can cost anywhere from £1,000 to £6,000 in total.
Why it’s essential to use C-section with English Bulldogs
Although it may be tempting to try and reduce the cost of breeding by opting for a natural birth, most experts advise against this.
The health risks involved with a natural delivery for this breed makes it a dangerous option, not just for the mother, but for the puppies as well. Some of the most significant risks include:
The size of the puppies
English Bulldogs have been bred to have large heads, broad shoulders, and narrow hips. Owing to the puppy’s large head and stout shoulders, it often can’t pass through the mother’s narrow pelvis.
Overheat and stress
As the English Bulldog is a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed, owners must be cautious of any over-exertion. Owing to how these dogs have been bred, they have a harder time breathing and are more prone to heat exhaustion as a result.
In light of this, it’s important to note that C-sections will help to reduce the intense stress of delivering puppies for the mother.
Canine dystocia is an umbrella term used to describe any birth difficulties faced during labor and the delivery of puppies. Typically, the most common birth difficulties faced by English Bulldogs include:
- Small pelvis: This occurs where the mother’s pelvis is too narrow to deliver puppies naturally.
- Fetus position: Where a fetus is abnormally positioned in the womb, this can also cause complications.
Also known as Bulldog Water Puppies, this is, unfortunately, a very common condition faced by newly born English Bulldog pups.
Water Puppy Syndrome is a potentially fatal condition that can be found in most flat-faced breeds. You can read more about it on WagWalking.com.
Puppies born with this condition suffer from an excessive accumulation of fluid in the organs, body tissues, and cavities.
As a result of this, Bulldog Water Puppies can often be two-to-four times as big as a healthy puppy. They appear swollen, especially in the face, where the eyes and nose can appear sunken.
Unfortunately, most puppies born with Water Puppy Syndrome will pass away immediately after delivery, or they will be stillborn.
If they survive, they will typically be afflicted with a range of health conditions. Issues such as cleft palates and vertebral column defects are not uncommon.
If even one in the litter has this condition, they will often be too big to deliver naturally. As a result, an Anasarca puppy has the potential to block up the delivery passage, and a C-section will be necessary.
How to prepare for your Bulldog being in heat
Now you know how long and how often your English Bulldog will be heat, it’s time to get prepared. By doing so, you can guard against your girl getting pregnant unexpectedly, leaving messy blood spots on the floor, and even possible changes to behavior including aggression.
Here’s how you get prepared using some inspiration I found on Chewy.com.
1. Track her heat cycles
On the day your English Bulldog starts her heat cycle, place a note on your calendar. I’d use your phone’s calendar as you can record day 1, and then put a reminder in that it could come again in 6 months’ time.
Set the reminder up a week before the 6-month point, as that gives you time to prepare again.
2. Buy dog diapers
A dog in heat will leave blood spots and mess on her bedding and the floor. You can mitigate this by using specialist dog diapers. I did some research into what the best ones are for this breed, and you can see those listed on my English Bulldog Heat Diapers page.
If you don’t want to spend this money you can use human baby diapers but will need to cut a hole out of the back of them for the tail to come through.
3. Think about security
Some dogs will try to escape during their heat cycle and can show aggression. If this sounds like your English Bully, think about keeping her secured using door gates, or just being more vigilant than usual – perhaps an off-leash walk isn’t a good idea during this period!
My wife and I recently looked after a female English Bulldog who came over to play with our Frenchie, Claude. The female hasn’t been spayed yet, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she started to show signs of going into her first ever heat cycle very soon – she’s 7 months old.
When that happens, our friend will need to be prepared, as the English Bulldog heat cycle can be quite a shock if you’ve never owned a female dog before.
I’ve told them to be prepared for some changes to her personality!