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Q&A: Why Is My Dog Acting Weird When in Heat?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

What behavior is considered abnormal for dogs in heat?

What behavior is considered abnormal for dogs in heat?

Could My Dog Have Pyometra or Heatstroke?

"I'm concerned about my Chihuahua, Nala. She is between 5 and 6 years old. She's not fixed and has been in heat for about a week now.

Just late last night or early this morning she started acting funny, almost like she's in pain. She's not eating but is drinking, and she isn't sleeping at all. (Very restless or anxious). She seems tired but won't sleep, and she keeps wanting to go outside but just stands there when she does go out. Could it be pyometra or heatstroke?" —Rachael

Symptoms of Pyometra in Dogs

The symptoms of pyometra are:

  • Not eating
  • Panting all the time
  • Pus discharge from the vulva
  • Drinking excessively
  • Urinating more than normal
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen abdomen

The things you describe do not sound like pyometra, and this disease usually happens a month or two after a dog has been in heat. It sounds more like your Chihuahua has some of the behavioral changes associated with being in heat. Dogs are often more restless, anxious, and do not eat normally. (1)

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Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

The behavior you are describing also does not sound like heatstroke (panting, drooling, vomiting), which is not common anyway in small inside dogs like Chihuahuas. If you are concerned about your dog overheating, however, here are some tips on keeping dogs cool.

When to See a Veterinarian

The only way to be sure that she does not have pyometra or heat stroke is to have a physical exam performed by your local veterinarian.

How long has your dog been not eating? You need to find out her temperature and figure out if she is really sick or just acting abnormally because of being in heat. If this goes on for several more days, or if your dog starts vomiting (especially blood) have her seen by your local veterinarian immediately.


  1. Starling M, Fawcett A, Wilson B, Serpell J, McGreevy P. Behavioural risks in female dogs with minimal lifetime exposure to gonadal hormones. PLoS One. 2019 Dec 5;14(12):e0223709.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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