Dogs are generally in good health unless they sustain an injury while adventuring. However, there are times when your canine companion feels under the weather. Owners of an unspayed female dog may wonder, do female dogs get period cramps?
It is reasonable to assume that female dogs have pain during estrus or their period. Your female dog will be restless, anxious, fretful, and uncomfortable, parallelling the human female. There is no definitive sign of pain. As so often suggested, if you spay your female puppy, you avoid ever having to wonder.
This article will explore the female dog’s estrus cycle and what to do if you believe your dog is in pain.
Dogs and Their Period, aka, Estrus
There are many causes of pain for female dogs. There are none more challenging to diagnose than pain during the estrus cycle or, as we humans call it, their periods.
It has been a few months, about six, since you went to the breeder or shelter and picked out the perfect female puppy. Hopefully, your puppy is housebroken and well on their way to being a good citizen. They are not biting everything they can get their sharp little teeth on or tearing up every pillow in the house.
Although they may still be a puppy to you, your girl is now able to become a mom.
Perhaps you have decided not to spay your precious pup because you want adorable puppies just like them. If and when you make the decision to breed your dog and want information on separating her from her puppies, read “Do Dogs Miss Their Puppies?”
Or, you may have full intentions of spaying your girl but did not manage to get an appointment with the vet before the dreaded heat cycle. What then?
One of the first questions many first-time dog owners may ask is, will my dog get a period?
A Dog’s Period
Yes, your female dog somewhere around the age of six months will be getting her first period or estrous cycle. As defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, estrus is when mammals other than higher primates are in heat or are ready to mate (source).
The estrous cycle in non-primates — in this case, your dog — generally occurs twice a year with variations among small and large breed dogs. During this time, the female emits specific pheromones to attract the male.
Is My Dog in Heat?
There are a variety of signs that indicate your dog is in heat or having their period, and there are physical and behavioral changes (source).
Physical changes such as bloody discharge and arching her back when you push on her lower back are all signs your female is ready to go mate hunting. Along with the physical changes are behavioral changes.
Your dog will begin to court every male she comes into contact with while emitting pheromones. She may also become more vocal, increase her activity level, pee more often, and allow male dogs to sniff and lick.
Now that you’ve determined your female dog is ready to become pregnant, how can you tell she is uncomfortable or in pain?
How Can I Tell My Dog Is in Pain?
It is important to note that the historical perspective of many experts was that animals did not feel or recognize pain the same as humans. However, there is a greater understanding of pain in animals.
It has been established that dogs have comparable neural pathways and neurotransmitters to humans. As such, if humans feel pain, animals also feel pain (source).
There is no doubt estrus is a painful condition — ask any woman. However, your dog can’t just walk up to you and say, “Hey, I have my period, and I need some Tylenol.” As with any condition where pain is a factor, there are ways to determine if your dog is experiencing pain and whether that pain is mildly irritating or extreme.
Signs of Pain in Dogs
Your dog will give you specific signs they are in pain, such as twitching muscles, shaking, arching their backs, which is not something dogs usually do. They may hang their heads, dipping them below the shoulders.
Panting, albeit a normal behavior for dogs, has a different presentation when in pain. Suppose you find that your dog is panting excessively, even when resting. In that case, your dog is most likely experiencing some level of pain or discomfort.
You may find that your ordinarily friendly, cuddly lap dog — big dogs can be lap dogs too — doesn’t want to be touched or cuddled. Your normally content puppy may become restless, whiney, and may even seem somewhat aggressive without justification; chances are they’re in pain.
What Can I Do to Ease My Dog’s Symptoms?
Be sure to consult your veterinarian and rule out any other physical causes, such as an injury you cannot see. Pain could also indicate a serious illness, so it is best to see or speak to your veterinarian about giving your dog any medication, especially human medicine.
Limit how much exercise your dog is getting. After all, you don’t want to exercise when you’re in pain, and neither does your dog. Let your dog guide you concerning what they are up to doing.
There are medications such as NSAIDs that your vet can prescribe. However, never give your dog any medication, whether prescription or over the counter, without consulting your vet first. While both dogs and humans can take many of the same medications, the dosages will differ (source).
NSAIDs have very serious side effects, which, in the worst case, can lead to chronic conditions and even death. Some common side effects to look for are vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and a diminishing desire to exercise.
There are many similarities between dogs and humans, and pain is one of them. Dogs may only experience being in heat once or twice a year, but that time can cause cramping and discomfort. Thankfully, there is now a better understanding of the relationship between pain in dogs and medications.
You should make it a practice to consult your veterinarian before treating your dog for pain. Only they will be able to tell you what is safe and prescribe the appropriate medication for pain management.
Remember that your dog has a period about once or twice a year, and while you may worry they are in pain, you can safely relieve their discomfort.