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Is your dog in heat? They may also be acting sick or not feeling well, or showing other potential problems, such as a swollen vulva, not eating, bleeding too much, or bad smells. Some signals can mean they need to see your vet. Sometimes, though, this is a normal sign of a dog in heat. But how do you know? In this post, we answer that question.

If your dog is in heat, you need to be aware of the warning signs that your dog is sick and know what to do and when it is time to see your vet.

Most dogs have a heat cycle without any issues, however, the following headings are the signs that would indicate that your dog is having trouble or is sick during their heat cycle.

Dog in heat not eating 

Sometimes your dog may be in heat and not want to eat. Not eating is often the first sign that they are sick. Some dogs are very picky eaters and may not be eating due to the hormonal changes that are happening.

Other dogs will not eat if they have a fever. This could indicate that your dog has an infection or has something more seriously wrong going on.

If your dog is not eating while they are in heat, you can try offering them some human food like boiled chicken, rice, or scrambled eggs. Most dogs will eat this very readily, even if they are picky.

You can also offer a small amount of canned dog food or other foods that you know that they like. Even warming their dog food up in the microwave just a little bit can help entice a dog to eat.

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If your dog continues to not eat, it would be best for them to see your vet. They can check to see if they are running a fever and make sure that there is not anything seriously wrong with your dog.

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If you’re curious if your dog has period cramps, how often they are in heat, and how long their periods last, then be sure to read our post Dog Period Questions Answered.


Dog in heat has a swollen vulva

While your dog’s vulva will normally swell just a little bit, if it becomes very enlarged, it can actually look like part of their vagina is coming out. There is a medical condition called vaginal hyperplasia, where the vulva can look very enlarged when your dog is in heat.

If you notice this, it would be best to see your vet. Your vet may need to perform emergency surgery to remove this excess tissue, or your dog may need other medical interventions to keep this area from getting infected.

Many times the correction for vaginal hyperplasia is to have your dog spayed. Most of these are dependent on estrogen released by the ovaries. Once your dog is spayed, the vagina will go back to normal size and back into the correct position.

Dog in heat bleeding too long 

Some dogs will have a very long period. Your dog should only bleed for 7 to 14 days and we have more information about dog heat cycles in our article Dog Periods: Here’s what you do. 

If your dog’s heat cycle lasts longer than this, it would be best to see your vet. There could be a mass in their uterus that’s bleeding, causing this excessive length of their period.

Your vet can examine your dog’s vaginal channel to see if there is a mass or something else causing them to continue to bleed. Excessive bleeding can cause your dog to become anemic. 

In severe cases, dogs with anemia may need a blood transfusion. Your vet can help you decide on what is best to help your dog stop bleeding.

dog in heat unwell

Dog in heat dark brown blood

Your dog may have any color of the discharge. It may start off clear to pink, then turn red and eventually a dark brown. This is usually seen at the end of their cycle. If your dog continues producing dark brown to black color blood, it would be best for your vet to examine your dog. Things such as uterine masses can cause this dark brown blood.

Dog in heat smells like fish

If your dog’s period discharge starts to smell really bad, this would indicate that there is an infection. A fishy smell is common in dogs with an infection. Pyometra or urinary tract infections can be commonly seen in dogs who are in heat or right after their heat cycle.

You can try to help your dog keep their vulva clean by wiping it with a baby wipe twice a day. If this smell continues or you notice any pus coming from their vulva, it would be best to see your vet.

Your vet will most likely want to test your dog’s urine to look for a UTI and see if the smelly discharge is coming from their vulva or urinary tract. Many of these infections can easily be cleared with antibiotics. If your dog has a pyometra, your vet will most likely recommend that you spay your dog to remove this infection.

Dog in heat smells like iron

The smell of blood can sometimes have an iron-like smell. This is usually normal during your dog’s period. If the smell becomes very strong or you notice that there is an excessive discharge, it may be best to let your vet check this out to make sure that your dog is okay.

Dog in heat is clingy

If your dog is always right by your side when they normally are independent, there may be something wrong. When your dog is sick many times, they will stick right beside you, trying to let you know that they do not feel good.

If your dog is being very clingy during their heat cycle, try giving them a little extra attention. If they want to run and play, they may be just fine. Most dogs who are sick are not interested in playing.

Dog in heat won’t stop licking herself

Many dogs will try to keep clean by licking themselves while in heat. If your dog is constantly licking themselves, it can cause them to have an infection in their uterus or urinary tract. You can try to help keep them clean by washing this area every day. Baby wipes and wet cloth can help your dog stay clean.

Dog in heat won’t stop whining

Most dogs will tell you when they are not feeling well. If your dog is constantly whining during their heat cycle, this could indicate that they are in pain or not feeling well. Many times, it’s best to have your vet examine your dog to see why they are whining. Your vet can also give your dog medication to help them feel much better.

If your dog is whining, giving them a comfy warm spot to sleep in may help them feel much better.

Dog in heat won’t drink water

If your dog is very sick while in heat, they may not want to drink water. Most of the time, these dogs are also not eating. If your dog is not eating or drinking, they can get dehydrated very quickly and the consequences can be dire.

Trying to entice your dog to drink water can be very changeling. Try offering a small amount of Pedialyte or even Gatorade mixed with water to help make their water more flavorful.

dog not drinking water

Dog in heat has diarrhea

Your dog may have a little loose stool while they have their period. The change in hormones can also cause mild GI issues. These should quickly go away after a day or two. If your dog continues having diarrhea, there may be something else going on.

Many times, a bland diet of chicken and rice or probiotics will help dogs with diarrhea. If this does not clear up quickly or gets worse, it would be best for your dog to see your vet. They may need antibiotics or anti-diarrhea medication to help their stool return to normal.

Final thoughts

Most of the time, a female dog will have their heat cycle without any issues. If you have an intact female dog, knowing the signs of illness and when you need to worry is important.

Being able to recognize that there is something off with your dog will allow you to get them the medical help that they need as soon as possible. Some issues can be life-threatening if you wait.

Any time you think that your female dog is sick during their period, it’s always best to have your vet check them to make sure everything is okay.