Are Dogs in Pain When They Go Into Heat? What to Know

Updated June 21, 2022
French Bulldog dog wearing fabric period diaper pants

Of course, you always want to keep your dog as comfortable as possible, and the time they spend in their heat cycle is no exception. So, if you're wondering whether your dog is in pain when they go into heat, the answer is, it's unlikely. Dogs can certainly feel anxious and agitated during heat, but they don't generally experience pain during the cycle. However, here are several ways you can provide support for your dog during their heat to make them more relaxed and at ease.

Do Dogs Feel Pain When in Heat?

Many owners express concern that their dog may experience cramps or pain when they go into heat, similar to what humans experience during menstruation. This is not the case, because canine estrus and human menstrual cycles are quite different.

Experts believe that heat is not painful for dogs, though it's not uncommon for dogs to appear agitated, anxious, or whine excessively when they come into heat. Other normal changes you might notice include more frequent urination, bloody vulval discharge, licking the genital area, nausea, and changes in appetite.

Caring for Your Dog During Their Heat Cycle

caring for dog in heat cycle

Even though your dog is not in pain, the heat cycle can be a confusing and unnerving time for your canine friend. Make your pup more comfortable with the following techniques.

  • Make potty breaks more frequent, as they tend to urinate more frequently during the heat cycle.
  • Continue exercise and walks to keep your pup mentally and physically stimulated. This can be a great way to calm any possible agitation. However, keep your dog on leash and away from male dogs.
  • Try calming aids to reduce their anxiety, such as safe chew toys, chew treats, or a Thundershirt.
  • Many dogs in heat become more clingy than usual, so be sure to provide extra TLC.
  • Use dog diapers to manage bleeding and prevent messes. Change them frequently to keep your dog clean and comfortable.
  • Closely monitor their appetite, water intake, bowel movements, and demeanor throughout the heat cycle and report any concerning signs to your veterinarian. Keep a close eye on your dog for several weeks following their cycle to watch for possible complications.

Canine Heat Complications

A dog's heat cycle lasts around two to four weeks if no breeding takes place, and the signs associated with heat should resolve after this period. However, if your dog appears to be in pain or ill between two and eight weeks after their cycle ends, this could indicate a serious problem. Due to hormone level fluctuations in the body after heat, it's possible for a pyometra to develop.

Pyometra is a life-threatening infection of the uterus. During estrus, when the cervix is relaxed, bacteria can make their way into the uterus. The uterus then fills with pus and, if left untreated, this condition can lead to organ failure, sepsis, shock, and, eventually, death.

The best way to treat a pyometra is to remove the infected uterus in a spay surgery, although medical management may be an option for breeding dogs, depending on the severity of the condition. If you notice any of the following signs, particularly a few weeks to months after your dog's heat, it's important to seek immediate veterinary care.

Additional signs that your dog may be experiencing an abnormal heat cycle and may need medical attention include:

  • Prolonged bleeding (for longer than two weeks)
  • Copious amounts of blood emanating from the vulva
  • Bleeding that forms blood clots

Human Menstruation Vs. Dog Heat

While some of the symptoms a dog experiences during heat may be similar to those of a human during their menstrual cycle, dogs don't get periods cramps the way humans do. Humans experience bleeding following ovulation when the lining of the uterus is expelled. The uterus contracts to help shed this lining, which leads to cramping and pain.

Dogs, on the other hand, begin bleeding during the proestrus phase of their heat cycle, which occurs before ovulation. Their discharge is not true blood, but instead a blood-tinged or pink discharge secreted by the endometrium.

Dog Heat Cycle Problems

Dogs may be susceptible to injury or illness at any time, including during their heat cycle. If your dog exhibits severe signs of pain while in heat, it may be unrelated to their cycle and warrants a visit to your vet. Provide your dog with intentional care and close monitoring during and following their heat cycle to identify early signs of complications.

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Are Dogs in Pain When They Go Into Heat? What to Know