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Vet Tech Rounds: False Pregnancy in Dogs

Vet Talks 3 min read
brown female dog lying on the floor, pregnant
Vet Tech Holly with her Dog

It’s definitely not the most common condition, but it certainly makes for an interesting read. Many pet parents will not have experienced this with their dogs and many will not have even heard of such a strange condition. It’s a little different from our popular conditions’ questions, but it can certainly happen and we’re here to help!

What is a False Pregnancy In Dogs?

A false/pseudo or phantom pregnancy refers to when a female dog’s body prepares for carrying puppies even though she is not pregnant. They will show all the symptoms and maternal signs of pregnancy including milk production. It is generally a condition seen in unneutered female dogs.

After every heat/season, the female dog’s body will experience hormonal changes which can be a cause for these false pregnancies, even if they have not mated. It is interesting to note that, in the wild, dogs live in larger groups. When one female becomes pregnant, often the other females in the group will also help with the nursing of the young pups. Therefore, these other females will have to carry milk to be able to care for the little ones. This may be the main reason why our domesticated dogs can experience this condition.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of false pregnancy can begin 9 weeks after their last heat and can last from a week up to a month. The mammary glands may become enlarged and there may or may not be a production of milk. It can also cause them to vomit and retain fluid in the body. Another sign associated with this condition is the decrease of appetite, which may not result in any weight loss because of the body retaining fluid.

False pregnancies will only occur in females that have not been spayed and can occur at any stage of their lives. They may experience only some of the symptoms and not all. Some other common symptoms include:

  • Nesting
  • Maternal nature
  • False labor
  • Little to no interest in exercise
  • More protective of toys
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen stomach

pregnant dog lying on the floor

Why Does It Happen?

After the estrus cycle of the heat, the ovaries will begin to produce hormones (progesterone decreases causing the production of prolactin) whether they are pregnant or not. These hormones are what prepare the uterus for carrying puppies so if the dog is, in fact, pregnant she will continue to produce these hormones right up until the puppies are born. If she is not pregnant the hormone levels will decrease.

Natural Support

A false pregnancy would not be a condition that requires urgent treatment. Most times it will not require any treatment at all. It will usually ease up on its own after approximately 14-21 days. The only time that a false pregnancy would require medical prevention, is when your dog is showing other symptoms of feeling unwell. Some pet owners will administer treatment to help calm any anxiety or restlessness that the dog might be experiencing.

The only way of preventing a false pregnancy is to have your dog spayed. If you are considering spaying your pup after a pseudopregnancy, it is best to wait until all the symptoms have cleared. If a dog is neutered while still presenting with the symptoms, they may still persist for another couple of weeks after the surgery.

The supplements our pet experts recommend are:

  • Lesstress – If your pooch is experiencing anxiety, restlessness, or showing aggression, Lesstress may help with calming. It acts on the nervous system by easing anxiety levels. It can also help with reducing hyperactivity, excitability, and destructive behavior while supporting the immune system.
  • Yucca – If your pooch’s appetite has decreased, Yucca can act as an excellent appetite stimulant. It also contains many great nutritive properties such as vitamins C and B, magnesium, iron, calcium, protein, and beta-carotene.

Holly graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Nursing from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland. She also completed a 1-year Animal Care course. Worked in small Animal Veterinary practice for 3+ years before moving on to working in the Equine Industry. Professional Boston Terrier care – includes skills such as fart eraser and immune to Loud snoring sounds.


Published: April 30, 2020

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