Do dogs get period cramps? How to calm & soothe a dog in heat

Is your female going through her heat? Is she whining, restless, or appears to be in pain? The female dog heat cycle or reproductive cycle can be a difficult time for both you and her. Helping her to be more comfortable is the main goal and reducing her restlessness can be tricky. This article is a part of our series: Dog Heat Cycle: A Comprehensive Guide for Pet Owners

In this article you’ll learn do dogs get period cramps, period cramp symptoms and how to relieve them.

Puppy wincing in pain from dog period cramps
Do dogs get period cramps? This poor girl’s face says it all.

Table of Contents

Do dogs get period cramps?

Yes. Just like female humans, dogs can experience period pain and discomfort while she is going through her heat cycle. The abdominal pain that female humans endure can also be felt by your dog. We remember when our dog was in heat for the first time. She was 10 months of age and she was driving us crazy. She was whining and crying almost constantly, and it was hard to soothe and calm her down. As pet parents, it was hard to see our little girl in such discomfort. But even worse, it was driving us crazy. We had to keep her mostly inside, but at times we let her out, we had to stay with her. No matter the hour, day or night.

You’ve probably been there. Maybe you are there right now. Is that barking and whining we hear in the background? Fortunately, there are several things you can do to soothe and calm down a female dog going through her regular cycle.

Dog Period Cramps Symptoms

It’s important to understand that your female dog doesn’t experience menstrual cycles as humans do. Instead, she’ll go through her estrus cycle, or reproductive cycle. Her vaginal discharge (known as diapedesis) is a signal she is fertile unlike human female’s menstrual flow is a sign she is past the fertilization period. During this time, she may experience discomfort and pain similar to menstrual cramps in humans which is known as dysmenorrhea. However, unlike us, your dog isn’t shedding her uterine lining during estrus.

The symptoms of dog period cramps can vary from dog to dog, but the most common signs of pain include:

  1. Restlessness. Your dog’s reproductive cycle’s biological urges are telling her to find potential suitors to mate with.  She can’t help but want to go outside, pacing around the house, and whining.  Disciplining her won’t help as her hormone levels are elevated and in control. For a detailed look at the hormones that are ruling your dog, please see our article Do dogs have estrogen? How hormones affect a dog’s heat.
  2. Agitation. She may even act a little aggressive. This again is her natural instincts telling her to defend herself again undesirable mates.  She may be constantly licking herself to clean the bloody discharge. As she is uncomfortable with pain and the effects of her heat cycle, it is best to let her be.
  3. Affection averse. She may normally love cuddles but during this time she may switch to not wanting to be touched at all if she has severe cramps.  Our female dog did this and it was like a lightswitch. One day she’s snuggling with us and the next, wanted nothing to do with us.  Don’t take this personally, she’s just uncomfortable and hormonal.
  4. Lack of appetite. Our female dog usually inhaled her entire bowl of food in a very short period of time. During her heat, she would sniff her bowl, and walk away.  We were worried she had an upset stomach but we understood and we kept offering her food often.

Female dogs may also exhibit physical signs of abdominal pain, such as whining or yelping when touched. Our female’s whining was almost constant. Your dog may look uncomfortable or in pain when lying down. She may shake or pant. The shaking is from the pain caused by her menstrual cramps. Panting or breathing hard can be caused due to fluid retention. 

If you suspect that your female dog is experiencing period cramps and she’s in tremendous amounts of pain, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any other underlying medical conditions with her reproductive organs. Your vet may recommend pain relief management options, such as pain medication or suggest natural remedies like massage and heat therapy.

How to relieve dog period cramps

In addition to seeking professional veterinary advice and care, there are steps you can take at home to help soothe and calm your dog’s menstrual pain. Providing a quiet and comfortable space for her to rest and using calming techniques such as massage or aromatherapy can help alleviate symptoms of menstrual cramps and promote relaxation.

Jack Russell Terrier on a red leash playing ball with her owner, a girl in a yellow top and blue shorts on grass.
Playing with your female dog when she is in pain from period cramps can help. Make sure she’s on leash at all times !
  • Give your dog attention. It’s the most effective way to calm her. Forms of attention may include talking to your dog, walking, playing, brushing, and a few more that you will find in our article What to do when your dog is in heat. Even sitting in the same room may work. The bad news is that your dog will also require attention at night. We have noticed that it’s easier to calm our dog when we invite her to sleep in our bedroom. Another option is for one of us to sleep on a couch close to a place where she sleeps. That way, we are near her and can talk to her or pet her if she gets nervous.
  • Exercise your dog. Regular exercise is good. It helps you (and your dog) to stay in shape. But most importantly, it helps her to rid herself of excess energy. Just like humans, dogs that get enough physical exercise, sleep better. Exercise may include walking, running, ball chasing, training, and more. However, outdoor activities like walking call for extra precautions when your dog is in heat. Don’t let her run off-leash. If possible, drive her to a distant area far away from any other dogs. Don’t engage her in group physical activities involving other dogs. You can find more tips on walking a dog in the heat in our article Walking a female dog in heat. If your dog is lethargic instead of restless, then she may not want to do anything but rest which is perfectly fine too.
  • Leave out chews and treats. Not every owner can spend 24 hours a day with their dog to soothe and calm her. The truth is, when dogs are stressed, they love to chew things. If you can’t be around all day, leave out her favorite treats. Choose ones that your dog can’t consume in one gulp. You want your dog to chew for as long as possible. Nylabones, Kongs (those red rubber toys with a hole in them for treats), and dental chews we found worked well. Try other chews, as well, to see which your dog likes most and which keeps her busy for the longest. NOTE: Real bones, especially poultry bones, are not okay to give to your dog. It goes far beyond an upset stomach. They can be lethal, and surgical removal of bones from the throats or stomachs of dogs is unfortunately common in vet clinics including ours.  
  • Leave toys out for your dog. Toys are another alternative to keep your dog busy and give her a chance to focus on something other than her heat. Squeaky toys are attractive to most dogs, but food dispenser toys are an excellent choice too. The latter are usually hollow toys that you can fill with food, both dry and wet. They let your dog receive small amounts of food as long as she continues to play. To keep your female dog’s attention on her toys longer, you may try to use more than one and take them away when they aren’t needed. NOTE: Whenever using food or treats, make sure to count it as a part of your dog’s daily food intake.
  • Comfort her. Your dog may not want affection at this time, but you can still comfort her by providing a quiet, calm, comfortable place for her to rest. Extra blankets and pillows can make her resting more comfortable.  A heating pad or a hot water bottle may help reduce the pain of the menstrual cramps.
  • Pain medication. If all else fails and your poor girl is suffering from menstrual pain, consult with your veterinarian. Not only will they examine her to ensure she doesn’t have other health issues, they can offer her pain medication that can give her pain relief through the difficult part of her heat. They may also help her if she suffers from chronic pain such as joint pain or other inflammatory disease.  Don’t give pain medications for humans without consulting your veterinarian as some can be fatal to your dog. For example, many anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs can be fatal. Make sure to follow their instructions on how to administer the medicine.
  • Herbal medicine. When the options above aren’t enough, you can try herbal medicine. They are intended for comforting dogs in stressful situations, such as driving in a car, veterinarian visits, and holiday fireworks, but they also work well for dogs in heat. You can get them at pet stores or from your veterinarian. Some of our pet parents have said ginger helped soothe their four legged fur baby. Others have found CBD helps, but it’s not available everywhere. However, while a vet visit lasts a short time, your dog’s heat lasts longer and long- term usage of these medications must be done carefully to avoid other health issues. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow the professional veterinarian advice you get.

NOTE: Dog trainers often suggest to train a dog to be calm. The technique is to ignore the restless behaviors and rewarding (with treats and praises) calm ones. We won’t go into this here because we want you to help comfort your dog by not only acting calm but actually feeling calm.

Do dogs get period cramps: Final thoughts

Spay your dog. While this isn’t a technique to soothe and calm your dog in heat, spaying is a way to prevent her from cycling in the first place. Other benefits are no unwanted pregnancies and the elimination of mammary cancer. We recommend that you spay your dog if you aren’t planning to breed her. It will save you both a plethora of future trouble. You can find more information about spaying a dog in our article Does Fixing A Dog Calm Them Down. However, spaying a dog while she’s in the heat is not recommended. You should wait until it ends before performing the surgery. Consult your veterinarian if you have more questions.

Most likely, it’s going to take more than one of the methods above to soothe and calm your dog during her heat. Regardless of whether you choose long walks, running, buying tons of toys for your dog, or even herbal medicine, we know that the most powerful weapon when a dog is in the heat is your love and patience. Before you know it, your little girl with be back to her normal activities without any menstrual discomfort.

You have learned do dogs get period cramps, period cramp symptoms and how to relieve them. This will go a long way towards a healthy and happy life with your pet dog.  And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want. Good Luck!

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