When and How Often Do Pit Bulls Go into Heat?

Two Pit bulls touching noses

If you’re thinking of breeding your Pit Bull or you want to learn more about why her behavior changes during certain times of the year, you have to understand your Pit Bull’s heat cycle. Whether she mates or not, her heat cycles will still occur, but when should you expect it?

When and how often do Pit Bulls go into heat? Pit Bulls will go into heat at six to 24 months old. Their cycle will last between 18 and 21 days. Heat cycles occur about every six months, which is roughly twice a year. If a Pit Bull lives for 12 years, she could have 20+ heat cycles throughout her life.

You may have more questions about the average Pit Bull heat cycle, and I’m here to answer them. In this article, I’ll discuss more on the age female Pits start going into heat and how many times per year it occurs. I’ll also tell you the signs your Pit Bull is in heat so you’ll be ready.

Let’s get started!

At What Age Do Pit Bulls Start Going into Heat?

First, I want to talk briefly about what it is when a dog–Pit Bull or otherwise–goes into heat. This informal term refers to estrus, a period in which an animal is receptive to sexual advances. Many female mammals experience estrus, dogs included.

Before estrus is proestrus, the preceding nine-day period that prepares a Pit Bull for a potential pregnancy. At this point, she’s not sexually receptive, but she’s getting ready to be.

If you’re going to see bloody discharge from your dog, it will occur during proestrus, not estrus.

During estrus, a Pit Bull’s estrogen levels will increase. Estrogen is a sex hormone that we humans have as well.

Your dog’s ovaries, which contain an egg, will release that egg once it’s mature. Once estrus comes to an end, your Pit Bull’s hormones will return to normal levels until the next heat cycle.

Two additional phases of a dog’s heat cycle occur post-estrus: diestrus and anestrus.

In diestrus, your Pit Bull will stop producing discharge. Any vaginal swelling will abate as well. When she reaches anestrus, your Pit Bull is completely back to normal. Well, until the whole process begins again, which it will.

Now that I’ve touched on the stages and given you a little foundation to work with let me be as clear as possible regarding how old your pit, or dog can be when they become sexually mature and are able to go into heat for the first time.

While it’s very common to take eight to 12 months, some Pits may go into heat early, as young as six months old. Others will be closer to two years old, or about 24 months. It all depends on the speed at which your dog becomes sexually mature, which varies from dog to dog.

While the main factor in how fast your dog may become sexually mature depends on genetics, to a lesser degree, outside environmental factors such as physical health and nutritional diet can also play a role.

The indicators that your Pit Bull is in heat are pretty hard to miss, trust me. I’ll talk about this more later, so make sure you keep reading!

When your Pit Bull goes through estrus, the whole cycle doesn’t last just a few days, but for weeks. The shortest amount of time she may be in heat is about 18 days. Sometimes the heat cycle extends to 21 days.

How Many Times Per Year Does a Pit Bull Go into Heat?

Let’s say that your Pit Bull is in anestrus, so she’s done with her heat cycle. How long will it be until it happens again?

I’ve seen some estimates that a dog can begin her heat cycle every five to eight months. The consensus is it occurs every six months. That’s what the American Kennel Club says.

At that rate, you can expect your Pit Bull to enter estrus and “go into heat” about twice a year.

How Many Times Can a Pit Bull Go Into Heat In a Lifetime?

The total number of times your dog can go into heat will depend on four factors:

  1. The age at which your Pit Bull starts estrus,
  2. How regular her heat cycle is,
  3. Her size
  4. Her lifespan.

Let’s go over these factors one by one and then do a basic calculation to determine how many heat cycles your Pit Bull may have during her whole life.


First, there’s the age when she first goes into heat. For some dogs, this is before their first birthday while for others, they’re two years old. Thus, we’d have to subtract at least one year but possibly two years from your Pit Bull’s overall estrus estimate since she’s not in heat during those years.

Cycle Regularity

The second factor is heat cycle regularity. The American Kennel Club notes that, when dogs begin estrus, it can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months for her cycle to regulate.

This means that your Pit Bull may go into heat slightly more often than she should or even more seldom. It’s hard to say, but that’s more than a year and potentially two years in which her heat cycle will be unpredictable.

Size of Dog

Third, the size of a dog matters very much regarding how often she’s in heat. The bigger the dog, the more infrequent her heat cycles are.

These dogs enter estrus just about once per year. Smaller dogs may have estrus cycles anywhere from three to four times annually.

Pit Bulls are not large dogs, nor are they small. I’d say you can expect an average heat cycle pattern from Pit Bull breeds.

Lifespan of Your Dog

Speaking of Pit breeds, that’s my fourth point, their lifespan. Depending on the Pit Bull breed, your dog’s life may be slightly longer or shorter. Staffordshire Bull Terriers live for 12 to 14 years while American Pit Bull Terriers live between eight and 15 years.

The American Bulldog has an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years and the American Staffordshire Terrier between 12 and 16 years. The longer the life of a Pit Bull, the more heat cycles she can theoretically have.

Okay, so now that we have all that information, let’s put together an estimate of how many times your Pit Bull may go into heat for her whole life.

Let’s say your Pit Bull lives 12 years, which is about the average life expectancy across the Pit Bull breeds. I’ll also say, for example’s sake, that your Pit Bull went into heat after turning a year old and her estrus cycles have been regular all her life.

Since it took your Pit Bull a year to reach sexual maturity, I’m only calculating for 11 years of estrus. At twice a year for 11 years, she’d have upwards of 22 heat cycles across her life.

If you have an American Staffordshire Terrier and she lives for 16 years, then again, that’s about 15 years of calculating heat cycles assuming your Pit Bull started estrus after about a year and has been regular ever since.

At two heat cycles per year, your American Staffordshire Terrier would have about 30 heat cycles her entire life.

Do Pit Bulls Stop Going into Heat?

You may wonder why I calculated every year of a Pit Bull’s life outside of that first year or two when she’s not sexually mature. Doesn’t a Pit Bull lose her ability to reproduce as she gets older?

While a dog will reach an age when she’ll no longer be able to reproduce, dogs continue having a heat cycle all their life. Only two things will prevent her from estrus: being spayed (which I’ll talk about later) or dying.

That said, her estrus cycle slows down significantly the older she gets. But, how slowly?

Again, it’s hard to say, as it varies from dog to dog. So yes, the average pregnancies per lifetime that I talked about in the last section are only estimates since they assume that a dog’s heat cycles don’t slow down at any point, which they definitely will.

Dogs don’t have menopause like humans do. If you don’t plan on spaying your Pit Bull, you’ll definitely want to keep in mind that she won’t stop having heat cycles at all.

How Do You Know Your Pit Bull Is in Heat?

All this talk about proestrus and estrus has you wondering when your Pit Bull is in heat. How do you know? As I alluded to earlier, the symptoms are pretty overt. Here’s what you want to look out for.

Hiding More Often

Remember, a heat cycle has four distinct stages. If your Pit Bull is in proestrus rather than estrus, she may not want much to do with male dogs.

Thus, you may notice that she hides around your home when she’s normally out in the open. This is often a way to avoid male dogs.


When estrus is in full swing, your Pit Bull may prepare for what motherhood would be like by building a nesting area in the house.

If you leave any clothing or towels out from unfolded laundry as well as blankets or other soft materials, your Pit could steal them for her nest.

Acts Nervous and Agitated

The behavior of your Pit Bull will definitely change when she’s in heat. She could be anxious and agitated.

I recommend leaving your dog alone as much as you can during estrus, as her behavior can turn aggressive if you’re not careful.

More Affectionate

Your Pit Bull, in her heat cycle, ideally wants attention from male dogs, but you will do in the meantime. She may vie for your affection much more often than she usually does.

Even if your Pit is typically a cuddle buddy, she’ll be all the cuddlier during this time.

Mounts Things

Just make sure she doesn’t start mounting or humping your leg, which could happen! If not you, then your Pit Bull will attempt to mount other items around the house, such as stuffed toys, the couch, her bed, or whatever is in reach.

This is one of the more common and uncomfortable side effects of estrus for many dog owners.

Increased Urination

Be prepared to take your Pit Bull out a lot more often during her heat cycle. It’s not necessarily that she’s eating or drinking more frequently, but rather, your Pit Bull wants to get outside and urinate as a means of communication.

It’s important to remember that her pee is full of pheromones that will send interested male dogs her way to mate.  

Licks Genital Area a Lot

Your Pit Bull doesn’t regularly tidy up her vaginal area with a tongue bath, but she has been lately. This is another side effect of estrus. Do make sure she’s not licking obsessively, as she could irritate her vagina and dry out the area.

Appetite Changes

One of two things will happen to your Pit Bull when she’s in heat. Either she’ll eat ravenously, or, during the proestrus phase, she won’t care about food much. This disinterest is temporary, but you still want to encourage your dog to eat at this time as best you can.

Seems Interested in Male Dogs, Perhaps for the First Time

Your Pit Bull was once indifferent to other dogs, perhaps even scared of them. Now she has a special interest in all dogs she sees, especially the male ones. This is a surefire sign that she’s sexually mature and in heat.

Vaginal Discharge, Including Possible Bleeding

Check your Pit Bull’s vulva often during her heat cycle, as a lot of changes are afoot. She may release discharge that’s beige or brown like straw. In proestrus, she may also bleed. Many dog owners put a diaper on their Pit Bulls during this phase to prevent messes around the house. Just make sure you change the diaper at least once a day.

Raising Her Leg

Although your Pit Bull isn’t a male dog, she may begin acting like one when in heat. Whenever she’s outside peeing, she lifts her leg up. Even when not urinating, if you two are out on a walk and a male dog passes, your Pit could stop what she’s doing and lift her leg to entice the male dog.

Swollen Vagina

Between all the licking and her arousal, your Pit Bull’s vulva will be swollen when she’s in heat. By anestrus, all swelling will come down.

Does Spaying a Pit Bull Reduce Behaviors Associated with Being in Heat?

Besides preventing your Pit Bull from reproducing, spaying also stops a dogs heat cycles as well as all the side effects. No more diapers because your Pit Bull is bleeding, no more uncomfortable humping, and no more moodiness or clingy affection from your dog.

Yes, that was a whole laundry list of ways your Pit Bull can temporarily change when she’s in heat. And they run the gamut from mood changes to behavioral and physical differences.

If you’re considering allowing your Pit Bull to get pregnant, whether because you’d like to start your own breeding business or you just want puppies of your own, then heat cycles are something you’ll have to get used to.

For those dog owners who don’t want their Pit Bulls to reproduce, you might want to consider getting her spayed. This surgery takes out your dog’s reproductive organs so she cannot get pregnant, including her uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

If spaying is something you’re considering for your Pit Bull, you want to do it earlier in her life, ideally when she’s at least five months old. This is right before your dog will begin her first heat cycle.

What if you adopted your Pit Bull when she was already a few years old? Maybe you had thought you were going to mate her but you’ve since changed your mind. Is it too late to get her spayed?

More often than not, the answer is no. Your Pit Bull should be in good health and also younger when she gets the surgery, but even older dogs can get spayed, albeit with minor risks.

You still want to track your Pit Bull’s heat cycle even if you do want to spay her, as having her undergo the surgery when she’s in heat could be very detrimental for her health.

According to Yarmouth Veterinary Center in Maine, when a dog is in estrus, her blood doesn’t clot as easily, which could lead to complications during the procedure. Pregnancy is another time when spaying your Pit Bull is not recommended.

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