Why Do Dogs Cry When in Heat

Common
Normal

Introduction

If you've ever been around a female dog in heat, you understand what it can be like. There are many different symptoms she will experience. One of them, for many intact female dogs, is crying. It can be very unnerving for dog owners to watch. After all, we are programmed to try to bring relief when we sense that our dogs are suffering or in pain. Your dog's crying can make you worry that something must be seriously wrong for her to act this way. Is it normal for a female dog to cry when she is in heat? 

Since dogs are individuals with unique reactions to the things they encounter in life, not all intact females will cry when they are in heat. However, since the female dog heat cycle bears symptoms comparable to a woman's menstrual cycle in many ways, it is possible to conclude that during your dog's heat cycle she is uncomfortable and maybe even experiences cramping and mild amounts of pain. Any of these issues can lead to vocalizations in our female dogs. But is there more to it than this? Is there a specific reason behind the crying and moaning during heat cycles?

The Root of the Behavior

If you have an intact female dog in your house, heat cycles are a way of life for you. You've been through enough now to know what to expect. For most owners, they only allow their females to experience one heat cycle, or two at the most, before spaying their dog. This is a good and responsible part of pet ownership. Managing an intact female can be challenging for a pet owner, especially if you live in an area prone to stray dogs. For most families, they simply want a pet to love and don't want to be bothered with the mess and considerable work and care that goes into keeping an intact female safe from accidental pregnancies. Once your dog reaches puberty, she will experience her first heat cycle. Heats go through several stages with only one of them marking your dog's peak fertility time. It is still possible for your dog to become pregnant at any point in her cycle as it is difficult to pinpoint the precise time of ovulation without the use of repeated progesterone testing. This is an expense many breeders go to for a planned and costly breeding for which they have high hopes. Under these circumstances, timing is of the utmost importance, and it would be a great disappointment to miss the critical ovulation period.

Dogs generally experience two heat cycles a year, though it varies from dog to dog and breed to breed. Intact female dogs living within the same household will often "cycle" together as one female going into heat triggers a hormonal shift in the others. It is important for dog owners to learn the signs that their dog is coming into heat as well as to take the time to best understand what is normal during this period. Knowing what to look for can help you keep your dog safe from accidental pregnancies as well as afford you the opportunity to assist her in remaining relaxed, calm, and comfortable. The average canine heat cycle lasts 28-30 days and is marked by four different periods. The first period is termed proestrus, and it typically lasts approximately 14 days, though ovulation can occur sooner. Ovulation marks the shift from the proestrus stage to estrus, commonly known as "standing heat" to breeders. It is during this portion of your dog's cycle that she is receptive to the attentions of male dogs and will "stand" for them to impregnate her. Prior to this section of her cycle, she will not be welcoming of his amorous advances.

Encouraging the Behavior

The estrus cycle is quite short, lasting only 4 to 8 days. Once ovulation has occurred, and the time for optimal fertilization has passed; the dog will enter the period known as diestrus and finally anestrus. If you own an intact male, it is critical that you keep him separate from your female for the entirety of her heat cycle for the utmost in safety. What are the symptoms that indicate your dog is going into heat? There are several signs you can look for when you suspect your dog may be coming into season. Many female dogs become exceptionally clingy and affectionate when they are nearing the time of their proestrus. For dogs who are already big time cuddlers, it can be difficult to note a marked difference in this particular behavior. Fortunately, there are other markers you can look for. When a female begins her proestrus cycle, there are physical changes which occur that can help you identify that she is in heat. Her vulva will begin to swell as her body hopefully prepares to become pregnant. The swelling continues throughout the proestrus and estrus periods then gradually begins to subside after ovulation and peak fertilization have occurred. 

In addition to this, owners can perform a "tissue test." Armed with a soft piece of Kleenex or cloth, gently wipe your dog's vaginal area. If the tissue or cloth bears any pink staining or blood, your dog's heat cycle has begun. There are many hormonal changes that take place during a heat cycle and even more so if the dog becomes impregnated. Dogs who are not used for breeding but still remain intact can also experience false pregnancies. During a false pregnancy, a female dog will experience swelling of the breast tissue and accompanying milk production, nest building, whining, and crying. While we cannot definitively say what the cause of the crying is in dogs in season, we can make some solid assumptions. One of the primary assumptions is that the entire process of ovulation and the hormones which make it possible brings a level of discomfort to the dog. Just as human women experience cramping, nausea, and pain during their periods, so too do dogs. Whining may be a reaction to the discomfort your dog is experiencing. For some dogs, vocalization is a means of pain release. It is entirely plausible that this is merely a reaction to something uncomfortable and confusing for your dog, especially if it is her first heat cycle.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Moaning, whining, and crying can also be attention-seeking behaviors. Your dog may simply want some commiseration from you, and the best way to get it is by alerting you that she isn't feeling the best and could benefit from some extra TLC. When female dogs enter the estrus portion of their cycle, vocalizing becomes even more common, particularly if you also have an intact male in the house. Moaning, whining, crying, and even screaming serve as a form of "mating call" to male dogs throughout the neighborhood. Since dogs only seek sexual activity as a means of propagating their species, the female will become increasingly vocal when she has achieved her optimal fertile time to alert potential suitors that she is ready to make babies! 

In this case, it's not YOUR attention your dog is seeking; it is the attention of any intact male dog who is willing and able. If your female seems particularly agitated during her heat cycle, this is normal and to be expected. To help keep her calm and quiet, indulge her a little bit. Provide a few extra treats or a special toy and allow her some additional one on one time with you to give her comfort. Her hormones are wreaking havoc with her system and can cause a host of symptoms including crankiness, fatigue, and discomfort. Having you near will go a long way to helping her through the ensuing 30 days when her hormones will return to normal levels.

Conclusion

Is Fifi in pain when she cries during her heat cycle? Possibly, yes. Depending on the timing of the crying, she just might be attempting to fulfill a biological need that has been bred into her for centuries; finding a mate. To help keep Fifi calm, cool, and collected, pamper her a little bit during her heat cycle. Hormones do some crazy things to a girl, but never fear; she will be back to normal soon!