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?
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The Root of the Behavior
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
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
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.