Understanding False Pregnancy in Dogs

False pregnancy in dogs, also known as pseudopregnancies and phantom pregnancies, are quite common in female dogs. When this condition occurs, the dog will develop various symptoms of pregnancy and may even produce milk. Typically, symptoms appear about one to two months after a heat cycle and last around four to six weeks.

Understanding False Pregnancy in Dogs

Signs of False Pregnancy in Dogs

The symptoms of dog false pregnancy may vary from one dog to another and can range from minor to extreme. Additionally, some pets may experience symptoms for just a few weeks while others may experience them for two months. In some cases, the signs of false pregnancy in dogs can be quite convincing and can even confuse professional dog breeders. Common symptoms of pseudopregnancy in dogs are listed here:

  • Eating Grass and/or Vomiting
  • Decreased or Increased Appetite
  • Abdominal Distention
  • Swollen Breasts/Engorgement
  • Whining and/or Restlessness
  • Anxiety and/or Aggressive Behavior
  • Nesting
  • Mothering Behavior with Toys or Stuffed Animals
  • Lactation

Causes of Dog False Pregnancy

After a female dog has a heat cycle, her body begins to produce such hormones as prolactin and progesterone. This occurs whether she becomes pregnant or not. The reason for this is to prepare the dog’s body in case she becomes pregnant. If she does become pregnant, her body will continue to produce these hormones throughout her pregnancy.

On the other hand, if she does not become pregnant, the hormones will decline within about four to six weeks. However, in some cases, the body will continue to produce these hormones. When this happens, the dog will experience what is known as a false or phantom pregnancy.

Typical Treatments for False Pregnancy in Dogs

Typically, pseudopregnancy in dogs will correct itself within a few weeks and the dog’s body will return to normal. However, if symptoms persist, the veterinarian may recommend hormonal supplements to help correct the problem. Cold or warm packs placed on the dog’s breasts can help decrease lactation.

If the dog is constantly licking her breasts, an Elizabethan cone collar can help prevent her from encouraging lactation. Maintenance diets can often discourage milk production as well. Finally, if the owner does not plan on breeding the dog in the future, spaying her can eliminate any future problems with false pregnancies.

Breeds Commonly Affected by Dog False Pregnancy

False pregnancy in dogs can occur in any breed; however, it seems to occur a bit more often in Dalmatians, Pointers and Basset Hounds. It also occurs commonly in the wild, especially among wolves. In fact, many people believe that a false pregnancy is nature’s solution to providing for orphaned pups in the wild.

In any case, pseudopregnancy in dogs is quite common and is usually not a cause for alarm. Typically, the condition will correct itself within just a few weeks. However, if it does not, a series of hormonal shots, a maintenance diet and proper home care can get the dog back to normal. More about dog pregnancy and birth here.

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