There is no evidence to suggest that female dogs have cramps when in heat. Although she may be uncomfortable from the changes happening in her body, there is no evidence of muscle contractions that would lead to cramps. Behavior changes are a normal part of the female heat cycle.
Many dog owners worry that their female dog is in pain when she is in heat. Some dog’s cry or moan during this time.
In an attempt to understand our four-legged best friends, we try to explain their behaviors with our own human experiences (an act called anthropomorphism).
It turns out that a female dog’s reproductive cycle differs greatly from a human’s, so the answer is no, your dog is not having menstrual cramps while she is in heat.
We’ll explain why, but first, let’s start with the basics.
What Does it Mean for a Female Dog to be in Heat?
An intact female dog has not been spayed and can still have puppies. When she is in heat, she is fertile and is at the point in her reproductive cycle to mate.
How Often Are Dogs in Heat?
Although it depends on the breed and the size of your dog, most dogs will go into heat twice every year.
This starts when she reaches puberty, usually when she is around 6-months to a year old. Since larger breeds mature more slowly, they will typically have their first heat later than their smaller breed friends.
A female dog will be in heat for about three to four weeks on average, but it is different for every individual dog.
Unlike humans, female dogs will continue to go into heat even when they get into their older years, unless they get spayed.
Should I Get My Dog Spayed?
Unless you’re planning on breeding your dog, it’s a good idea to get her spayed. Although it used to be recommended to wait until after the first heat cycle, it is now recommended to spay before the first heat.
This means many owners never have to worry about an accidental litter of puppies or caring for their dog while in heat.
The standard spay procedure is a form of surgical sterilization called an ovariohysterectomy. In this procedure, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are removed, preventing her from reproducing and stopping her heat cycle.
Spaying can also help prevent certain diseases, so some owners decide to spay their female dogs later in life after their breeding career is over.
Pyometra, an infection of the uterus, can be deadly for your dog if not caught and treated quickly. It affects about 25% of intact female dogs.
Although it can occur in dogs of all ages, it is most common in older dogs that have gone through numerous heat cycles. Spaying also reduces the risk of breast cancer in female dogs.
How Do I Know If My Dog is in Heat?
Whether or not you want your dog to have puppies, it is important to know when she is in heat. There are several stages within this portion of her reproductive cycle, but they start with changes in her appearance and behavior.
Swelling, Bleeding, and a Change in Personality
These are your first clues that your dog is in heat. The vulva appears swollen and you’ll see a bloody discharge. In the first stage of heat, dogs tend to tuck their tail between their legs to protect the swollen vulva or sit down whenever another dog gets near.
She may need to urinate more often and start acting like she’s glued to your hip (even more than usual). Dogs at the beginning of their heat arare more affectionate and needy toward their owners.
Some also seem on edge or jumpy during this time and might have changes in their appetite. This first stage of your dog’s heat will usually last about a week or two.
Seeking a Mate
In the second stage of her heat, your dog is ready to breed. This will last another one to three weeks, depending on your dog, and is the time when she is actually fertile.
The bloody discharge will usually turn into a clear or brownish color, and she will show interest in male dogs.
Female dogs in heat do a distinctive act called flagging when they are around male dogs. Unlike the first stage, where she was tucking her tail between her legs, she now moves her tail to the side to invite a male dog to mate.
End of the Heat
At this point, your dog is no longer interested in mating. Her heat is over and she is not fertile anymore. The vaginal discharge stops and the swelling goes away.
The next stage in her reproductive cycle is the resting stage, which will last about 100-150 days until her next heat. If, however, your dog got pregnant during her heat, you can expect her to give birth to her puppies after about 60 days.
Is She Having Cramps? Or Is She in Pain?
Although your dog might moan or cry while she is in heat, it doesn’t mean that she is having cramps. At least not like the typical menstrual cramps that people assume.
In humans, the period is the end of the fertile cycle, and cramps are due to the body trying to get rid of the uterine lining that has built up.
For dogs, bleeding is the start of their fertile stage. Their bleeding during heat is a more passive event. Changes in hormone levels cause the blood vessels in the uterus to become more permeable. This is part of the swelling you see while your dog’s body is getting ready to create a home for her puppies.
There is no evidence of muscle contractions that would lead to cramps. There are changes taking place in her body during the heat cycle, which might make your dog uncomfortable, which could be part of why she is crying.
We can’t say for sure that your dog isn’t having some minor pain or discomfort during this time. We can’t ask them after all, but we can say that it’s not a typical human period cramp.
Many dogs seem uncomfortable and agitated, but they do not experience the same cycle that women go through.
Often the moaning or crying behavior that your dog exhibits during this time is her seeking attention. She might be trying to get some extra affection from you, or even signaling to any nearby male dogs that she is ready to breed, similar to a mating call.
Even if your dog isn’t experiencing cramps during her heat, she might be uncomfortable and feel the effects of her changing hormone levels. You can still try to make the experience a little better for her.
What Should I Do For My Dog While She’s In Heat?
The most important thing you can do for your female dog in heat, assuming that you aren’t actively breeding her, is to keep her away from other dogs.
If you don’t want her to have puppies, then definitely keep her away from intact male dogs. The fluctuating hormones cause female dogs in heat to give off pheromones that will drive the boys crazy.
Male dogs can smell a female in heat from miles away, and there is very little that will stop them from getting to her.
But it’s a good idea to keep her away from other females as well, because they can become aggressive toward her during this time. Don’t let her outside alone or let her off-leash on your walks while she is in heat.
All female dogs act a bit differently while they are in heat. If your dog seems up for it, continue to give her regular exercise. Decide what the right amount of exercise is for her during this time by monitoring her behavior. And if all else fails and you have no idea what she needs or why she is crying, give her a little more attention and affection.
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