As a veterinarian, I’m often asked ‘Do dogs get cramps when in heat’? Many owners worry for their female when she is in heat. This is especially true when she is going through her first season. Owners can be surprised to find that their young dog is not acting herself and they’re concerned she could be in some pain. Let’s take a closer look at what is going on with your female dog when she is in season, and what things we can be doing to help her.
About dogs getting period cramps
It is hard to know for sure if females experience uterine cramps in the same way that female humans do, during their heat cycle. We know that some females can show signs that could indicate they are in discomfort. Do dogs get period cramps? Expert opinions are divided. Indeed, there has been no definitive study confirming that these cramps occur.
Many owners will confidently state their bitches do experience period cramps, due to how they act when in heat. This can include whining, being lethargic and refusing food. However, it is possible that these signs are more related to hormonal changes or anxiety than any specific pain.
How do I know if my dog is in pain on her period?
As owners, we want to do the best by our dogs and, at a bare minimum, want them to be free of pain or discomfort. Thinking that our dogs could be hurting is an awful thought.
Realistically, you cannot always know for sure if your dog is in pain when in heat. Any signs she’s displaying could be more hormonally driven than pain driven. However, in case she may have some abdominal pain or uterine cramping, it is a good idea to do what you can to make her more comfortable.
Some of the more typical signs of a dog being in pain would include: Shaking, refusing to play or exercise, sleeping more, standing in a hunched posture, panting and being over-reactive or aggressive when touched.
What are other symptoms associated with period cramps in dogs?
Signs that some owners report would include:
• Abdominal bloating. You may notice your bitch’s stomach is tender, more round or perhaps even making noises. This may be due to gas build up within the intestines, which can be caused by her hormone levels changing.
•Lethargy. A female will often sleep more when in season. This can include waking up later during the day and taking more naps. We should encourage this, and not try and wake her unnecessarily.
• Panting. As mentioned, while panting could indicate some pain, it is also something we know to be caused by hormonal changes. Panting is a very common symptom during a female’s heat cycle, but one that tends to worry owners.
• Whining. Whining, barking and being more vocal is very common behavior for females in estrus. This is thought to be them ‘calling’ for a nearby male, rather than anything to do with pain. Indeed, most dogs are quiet when in true pain and it would be unusual for them to lay there and whine.
However, if your female whines only when you touch her belly, this would make us more suspicious of abdominal discomfort.
• Food refusal. Bitches in season can go off their food for a few weeks. Interestingly, they do not tend to lose weight. This may be because of a lower calorie requirement, as they are less active. Dogs tend to experience the most inappetence during their first and second cycle. If they go more than 48 hours with no food, contact your local vet.
•Exercise intolerance When in season, many females are content with a short walk locally and are not keen to go on long hikes. This is likely due to them feeling tired and a little out of sorts. Do not force exercise or play time, and go at their pace.
What can I do relieve my dog of her period cramps?
Whether or not your dog is experiencing period cramps, it won’t do any harm to try and help her out, and to try and relieve any period pain. We’d hope that if there is any discomfort, the below methods may provide some respite.
Use of heating pads.
Just like a human may use a hot water bottle to help with their period cramps, we can use a heated teddy or similar to place on our bitch’s lower abdomen. If we do use a hot water bottle, this must be wrapped in a thick towel to avoid burns. If your dog moves away from the heat source, do not put it back on, as she may find it uncomfortable.
Consistent hydration and encouraging her to eat.
Even if your female shows little interest in food and water, try to keep her eating and drinking, which will help give her energy and prevent dehydration. This can mean offer tempting food like chicken and rice alongside rehydration solutions.
Some females like their owner to gently massage them while in season. However, others dislike being touched and may growl or even snap. Take the lead from your dog, and don’t insist on a massage if they’re uninterested.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
It is a great idea to take your bitch’s mind off any discomfort with distractions like Kongs, chews and food puzzles. If she has something to do and to keep her busy, this can help her feel more calm and settled.
Keeping other pets away.
Don’t forget to keep any boisterous pets away, as your female won’t likely be in the mood to play or be social. Of course, any intact males must be kept far away, ideally in another home until her season has finished.
Is frequent display of cramps a reason to be concerned?
The signs that are often thought of as meaning a dog has period cramps, are signs that are normal when in season. This includes things like whining, lethargy and food refusal.
This is a normal part of a female’s cycle and is not concerning.
What should you do when your dog gets her period?
Unless your female has been spayed, coming into season every 6-12 months is to be expected. We should not panic, and just support her the best we can.
This means encouraging rest and keeping her comfortable and well hydrated. It can also help to offer some nice distractions, such as food puzzles.
What not to do when dog is on period
When your female is in season, do not have her near any males. This means only bringing her for walks on a lead at times when there are not many other dogs out.
Never be tempted to give your dog pain relief that has not been prescribed for them, as you could do more harm than good. Many human pain relief is highly toxic for our furry friends.
When to seek veterinary help about period cramps or other issues
Some owners will be distressed when they see their female panting, whining and not acting themselves. They will book a vet appointment, to discuss how to relieve period cramps.
For most bitches, their physical exam will all check out normal. It would not be expected for these dogs to require any medication. However, your vet can discuss things to do at home, to help keep your female as comfortable as possible.
If being in season is something your bitch finds distressing, consider having her neutered before her next one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are period cramps frequent in dogs?
Well, do dogs have period cramps? This is debated, however, it is quite possible. Hopefully with newer methods of detection, we’ll soon have more concrete answers and if cramps do occur, we would be able to detect them and to determine how frequent they are and how long they last.
How long do periods last in dogs?
A season typically lasts two to three weeks.
Is there any over-the-counter medication that can help?
No, there are no over the counter medicines we should be turning to here. The heat cycle should not require medicating. However, if you are very concerned for your female or think she could benefit from e.g. some anti nausea medicine or pain relief, this is something to be prescribed by her vet.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.