Dog owners spend lots of time trying to decode their pet’s behavior. Many questions arise when a dog is in heat. Dogs in heat are going through physical changes, which can also result in behavioral changes. 

Do dogs go off food when in season?

It’s common for a dog to stop eating temporarily when in heat. Put simply, when a dog is in heat her focus is on mating. Everything else has less importance. 

You can expect your dog’s behavior to change during heat. She may lose her appetite. Some dogs, however, are insatiable during this period. 

Heat Cycle Stages

The first stage of heat is proestrus. During this time, the vulva will begin to swell. Bleeding begins during this period as well. This stage can last from 3-17 days, but it typically lasts about 9 days.

She will not breed during this time, and will keep her tail down when around male dogs. During this time, estrogen levels rise. 

The next stage is estrus. This is when your dog can get pregnant. This stage usually lasts 9 days, but can last from 4-24 days. Estrogen begins to fall and progesterone rises during this stage. The vuvla softens and bleeding slows. 

The last stage is diestrus. This is the return to normal for your dog. The stage lasts about two months. Progesterone reaches its peak 3-4 weeks after diestrus begins, and then begins to fall. 

If your dog isn’t pregnant, anestrus occurs. Hormone levels return to normal and the heat cycle is finished. 

When Appetite Changes Occur

Appetite changes are common during the proestrus and estrus cycles. Many females lose their appetite, particularly during the estrus cycle. This could be a result of hormones themselves. It could also be caused by the biological drive to mate, which can be powerful enough the dog has little focus for anything else. 

Appetite in Male Dogs

Many dog owners report that their male dogs stop eating when around a female in heat. It’s thought this is because they focus so intensely on mating that food isn’t important. 

Why has my dog gone off her food?

It’s stressful anytime your dog stops eating. You are probably wondering if it’s something you should be concerned about. Knowing the potential reasons dogs stop eating can help you determine your next steps. We’ll look at potential reasons your dog isn’t eating other than their heat cycle. 

Determining Appetite Changes

It’s important to take stock of changes in your dog’s appetite. Are they not eating anything at all, or simply eating less than normal? Are you judging their appetite on what they typically eat, or the recommended guidelines on their food label? 

Your dog’s appetite may fluctuate for many reasons. Level of activity, weather, and age can all impact how much your dog eats. However, if your dog is eating much less or not eating at all, you’ll need to determine the cause. 

Injury

Pain can tank an appetite. If you’ve ever had an injury and found you didn’t feel like eating, you can commiserate with your dog. If they’ve recently been injured, this is likely why they aren’t eating. 

If you haven’t taken your dog to the vet after the injury, consider doing so. If they are already being treated for the injury, monitor their food intake and call your vet if they are eating much less than normal. 

Dental Issues

Another thing dogs and humans can experience is dental issues. A toothache will quickly put a damper on mealtime. If your dog has an infection, cavity, or broken tooth, this can put them off food.

If you suspect dental issues are the problem, you’ll need to visit the vet. In the meantime, try feeding them soft or canned food. 

Vaccinations

Vaccines can also kill your dog’s appetite. Dogs often experience mild vaccine side effects, including loss of appetite. These symptoms should resolve within 48-72 hours. 

Picky Eater

Some dogs will eat anything, while others are extremely picky. My dog loves grapes, something I’ve never seen a dog eat before. They all have their own individual tastes and preferences. 

Stress or Environmental Changes

Each dog has its own personality as well. Some handle change fairly well. They seem unflappable and enjoy new places, people, and experiences. However, dogs generally prefer routine and familiarity. 

Stress can wreak havoc on your dog’s appetite. You’ve probably experienced this yourself. Have you ever been in a stressful situation and found yourself unable to eat? Your dog can experience the same issue. 

Your dog may lose it’s appetite because of a change in schedule, being in a new environment, or someone new in the household. These changes can cause stress which affects your dog’s appetite. 

The stress of being in heat can also cause a loss of appetite. Suddenly they feel different and behave differently. They have other dogs attempting to breed with them. It’s a lot of change to deal with, and can understandably be overwhelming for your pooch. 

If you’ve recently changed their food, it’s possible they don’t like it. If they’ve been eating the same food for awhile, they may be bored with it. 

Illness

Any illness can cause your dog to lose its appetite temporarily. Even a cold can make them not feel well and not want to eat. On the other hand are severe illnesses like cancer and kidney failure. 

If you can’t determine the cause of your dog not eating or it continues for more than a few days, it’s important to take them to the vet. Loss of appetite can be an indication of many illnesses that require veterinary treatment. 

Can the Heat make my dog not eat?

Yes. It’s common for dogs to lose their appetite during the heat cycle. This often occurs at the very beginning of the cycle or when the estrus cycle begins. This is when your dog is fertile, and is naturally focused on breeding. The good news is there are things you can do to help your dog regain their appetite. 

Appetizing Food 

One way to coax a dog in heat to eat is to offer appetizing food. You can give them cut up chicken or beef. Organ meat, like liver, is highly nutritious and something that dogs love. 

Food toppers can also help. Canned pumpkin is often recommended. You can make your own beef stew and use it as a topper, freezing unused portions for later use. Store bought toppers are a convenient option that can make food more appealing to your dog. 

Don’t Leave Food Out

It might seem counter intuitive, but don’t leave food out. Allow your dog 20-30 minutes to eat, then take the food up. This will motivate your dog to eat when they have the opportunity. 

During heat, it’s best to offer smaller meals several times a day. This prevents them from going long periods without food and makes it easier for them to eat. 

Offer Healthy Snacks

You can also offer your dog healthy snacks. Pieces of cooked meat are an option. Crackers and peanut butter give your dog nutrition and can help settle an upset stomach. Stay away from store bought treats with little nutritional value. When your dog isn’t eating much, you want every bite to count. 

Add Some Fun

Entertainment might be what your dog needs to shift their focus onto food. Puzzle toys with treats are one way to get your dog’s attention. You may also find a walk or play session before meal time helps. 

If your dog is lethargic, which is also common during heat, these may be counterproductive. Try adding more fun or activity. If your dog isn’t interested or isn’t up for it, that’s ok. Work with the other options to get them eating again. 

Do dogs get upset stomachs when in heat?

The hormonal changes that occur in heat can affect your dog’s stomach. Pregnant women get morning sickness for the same reason. Fluctuating hormone levels cause stomach upset. In dogs, as the hormone levels fall, they go into the stomach to be processed and eliminated. It’s not surprising for them to experience vomiting or diarrhea when in heat.

Symptoms of Stomach Upset During Heat Cycle

Vomiting or diarrhea are the most obvious signs of stomach upset during heat. Your dog may also lose their appetite. These symptoms usually last for a few days and then subside. 

Home Treatment for Upset Stomach

Mild stomach upset can be treated at home. Your dog can be given nutrical every 4 hours. This is a nutritional supplement with a high volume of vitamins and nutrients. This can help provide the nutrients your dog needs when they aren’t consuming food. 

Pepto bismal can help calm the stomach. Give one teaspoon of pepto for every 20 lbs of body weight. This can be given every 6-8 hours. Some vets also recommend Pepcid. 

When to See the Vet

Mild stomach upset can be treated at home. However, there are many things that can cause stomach upset, including pyometra, that require veterinary treatment. If your dog is vomiting severely or vomiting continues for several days, get them checked out by your vet. 

Pyometra is essentially a uterine infection. It typically occurs 3-5 weeks after the estrus cycle. It causes vomiting, lethargy, enlarged abdomen, vaginal discharge, and fever. If your dog is having these symptoms, you’ll need to take them to the vet. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.