Prepare for unexpected vet bills

Youtube Play

What is False Pregnancy?

If you have ever had a feeling your female dog was pregnant after her cycle of heat, when in fact she was never given the chance to breed, you are not alone. Many people have seen their female canine companion show signs of pregnancy, even though she is not. This is called false pregnancy, or pseudocyesis, and it has the same signs of a real pregnancy.  If you are a first time female dog owner who hasn’t spayed your pup, this condition may raise some concern and even fear. Discussing this condition with your veterinarian will help you understand why this is happening, and keep you proactive in dealing with this issue in a calm manner.

False pregnancy in female dogs is referred to in veterinary terms as pseudopregnancy or pseudocyesis. It is characterized by behavioral and physical changes, without the presence of a true pregnancy.

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

Compare plans
advertisement image

False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of False Pregnancy in Dogs

Before understanding the condition of false pregnancy, it is important to know how a female dog’s cycle works.  Estrus is the stage when the dog can actually become pregnant; many people refer to this stage as “heat”. Estrus lasts for two to three weeks, and you can tell a dog is “in heat” by noticing a swollen vulva and obvious discharge. She will also have hormones and pheromones in her urine that attract male dogs and let them know she is in heat; she may urinate more often and in several different places she walks to attract the males. Toward the end of this period (about ten days), the discharge will become lighter and less frequent. This is the time she is most fertile; however, she can get pregnant at any time during estrus.  

Most dogs go through estrus twice a year, and the cycles can start as early as six months of age, depending on the dog and breed. Also, there is no definite time of the year the dog is in heat. Smaller dogs may go through estrus up to four times a year, and large breeds may only go into heat once a year. Also, the first few times of estrus may be very irregular; it takes a few cycles and a little more age on the dog for them to start occurring in a distinct, more predictable pattern. 

At the end of diestrus (the period following estrus), your pet may show behaviors seen with impending motherhood, even though she is not pregnant.

  • Mammary development
  • Lactation
  • Abdominal distension
  • Refusal to eat
  • Nesting instincts
  • Mothering of toys
  • Restlessness
  • Panic like behavior
  • Moving around of bed or sleeping area
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of False Pregnancy in Dogs

At the time of estrus, there are also eggs released by the ovaries. These eggs wait to be fertilized by a male dog’s sperm. The corpus luteum is the remaining part of the follicle – the part that is left over after the egg is released. It is produced by the ovary, and gradually fades if the female has not gotten pregnant. Until then, while it’s still present (about sixty days), it produces progesterone and other hormones that would normally prepare her body to support a developing embryo and the pregnancy. Sometimes, though, the corpus luteum stays there for a longer time than normal, and this can be confused with pregnancy. The rapid decrease of progesterone, and the increase of prolactin are hormonal changes thought to be responsible for pseudopregnancy.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of False Pregnancy in Dogs

At the onset of signs, the first thing you should do is to have your dog checked by a veterinarian.

During a false pregnancy in dogs, the dog’s mammary glands may swell and may even produce milk. You may see the milk leaking or be able to express it by massaging them. This, however, is not recommended because they will only produce more if milk is expressed manually. In addition to the glands becoming fuller, the belly area will begin to look “fuller” and swollen. These are some of the clinical signs that your veterinarian will be looking for and discussing with you.

Tell your veterinary team about the exhibiting of nesting behavior, and the arranging of her bed. If she has been acting as if she can’t get comfortable, or waking a lot during the night and pacing around the house in an almost panic-like state, be certain to make the veterinarian aware.

Your veterinarian may ask questions similar to these.

  • Has she been collecting items like other pets’ toys in the house, and acting as if they are her “babies” by keeping them close to her in her sleeping area? 
  • Has she been carrying them around and showing attachment behavior towards them? (This attachment behavior may be so intense that she may not want to leave her bedding and will always keep a protective and watchful eye over them.)
  • Have you noticed her acting depressed and not eating as much, becoming quite restless at times?

Your veterinarian will eliminate the possibility of a true pregnancy by taking radiographs or performing an abdominal ultrasound, at the appropriate timing in the cycle.  

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of False Pregnancy in Dogs

Your veterinarian will discuss the choice of allowing this false pregnancy run its course;  typically signs will resolve on their own. As for toys she has added to her collection, it is best to let her keep them rather than increasing her anxiety by taking them away from her. One thing you can do is to change her routine a little bit by taking her on more walks and increasing the distance as she becomes less anxious in wanting to return home to her “babies.” It is best to ignore her behaviors; the more you show her you are concerned about what she is doing, the more stressed she may become. Eventually, she will return back to normal.

With a false pregnancy, remember that your dog is following her mothering instincts and this really cannot be controlled. These behaviors may fade after about three weeks, but all dogs are unique and some may continue these behaviors longer than a month or so. If her behaviors continue for a long time, about eight weeks or longer, you should consult your veterinarian again. The veterinarian can give her an exam and if need be, intervene with medical procedures to get her to stop feeling so anxious. The veterinarian may give her something to stop the production of milk or have other suggestions to help the symptoms end. She will also want to check for the presence of other diseases; for example, hypothyroidism can prolong pseudopregnancy symptoms.

If the pseudopregnancy resolves itself but returns again and again, you may want to consider discussing an ovariohysterectomy, or spay, with your veterinarian, in order to provide relief for your furry family member. There are medications available as well, but you must discuss the effects of long term use with your veterinary caregiver.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of False Pregnancy in Dogs

A false pregnancy can be very interesting to observe, as it will become apparent how much mothering instincts a female dog possesses. It can also be quite stressful on the dog, and you, the owner. It is not easy watching her go through any anxiety over her “puppies” and future “litter” but, rest assured, false pregnancies do happen, and more than likely her behaviors are quite normal. If you feel as if the dog is suffering immensely or have any concerns, a visit to your veterinarian will help ease your mind. More than likely, the doctor will tell you to give her lots of love, patience, and time, and before you know it she will be back to her old self once again. 

Possible complications that can occur with allowing a false pregnancy to run its course are discomfort due to mammary gland enlargement, and engorgement due to lactation. You can alternate cold and warm compresses to provide relief.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

arrow-up-icon

Top

False Pregnancy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

min pin chihuahua

dog-age-icon

One Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

12 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

So my dog is pregnate lately in the last week her belly has become very hard and she doesn't eat much she is hiding under the bed alot and shaking g as well as licking her valva can this mean she's due soon.

Jan. 12, 2021

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Maureen M. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

12 Recommendations

Hi, Yes, she is due soon. Her belly is applying pressure on her tummy so there is not so much room to eat a lot of food. Her laying under the bed is her nesting. She is looking for a safe place to have her puppies.

Jan. 12, 2021

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Pit Bull

dog-age-icon

Seven Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

12 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Leaking Breats

My dog did not go into heat this summer, or I missed it all together. Which is highly unlikely as she sleeps with me. Her breaths are swollen and leaking and she seems to be down or sad or tired. She has done this in the past and as far as I know she has not been around any other dogs to of gotten pregnant.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

12 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is possible, as dogs age, for them to develop infections of their ovaries and uterus, and that can cause strange hormonal things to happen. Since this is something you have not seen before, and she does not seem to feel like herself, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her and make sure that she is okay. She may need medical therapy, and they will be able to let you know what needs to happen. I hope that all goes well for her and she feels better soon.

Oct. 2, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

advertisement image
ask a vet placeholder
Need pet insurance?