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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 symptoms of a real pregnancy…without any embryo whatsoever. 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 a relatively common occurrence that is characterized by behavioral and physical changes, without the presence of a true pregnancy.

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
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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.

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Diagnosis of False Pregnancy in Dogs

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

During a false pregnancy in canines, the dog’s breasts 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 breasts 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.

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Treatment of False Pregnancy in Dogs

Your veterinarian will discuss the choice of allowing this false pregnancy run its course;  typically symptoms 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 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.

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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.

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False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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False Pregnancy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pit Bull

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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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

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 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

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Beagle

dog-age-icon

Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My dog has had diarrhea for a few days now. I plan to take her to vet Monday morning but she also was going through a phantom pregnancy. Could that be the cause?

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in answering, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I would not think that a false pregnancy would cause diarrhea, but it is possible. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and help get treatment if it is appropriate.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Indian Spitz

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Breast Swelling And Abdomen Is Looking Fuller

I want to know if my dog is truly pregnant she has been showing signs of pregnancy like change in behaviour , breast swelling and abdomen looking fuller

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in answering, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. The only way to really know if she is pregnant is to have an ultrasound. If she is not spayed, and has been around male dogs, it is likely that she is. If you are concerned, or want to have an ultrasound, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any treatment that they might need.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Chiweenie

dog-age-icon

Eight Months

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Enlarged Vulva

My dogs vulva is large and so are her nipples. Our other dog who is male seems obsessed with her but I can’t tell if it is pregnancy or if she’s in heat.

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. It is likely her first heat cycle based on what you are describing. If she has already had a heat cycle in the past that you were aware of then I would be more inclined to think it was pregnancy. If your male dog is intact I would make sure you keep them separate otherwise they will mate and a pregnancy will occur. Good luck.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Doberman Pinscher

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Discharge Of Milk

I think she is going through false pregnancy is there anything for stopping the milk discharge? I read that cooked green beans could help ???

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I do not think that there is anything with cooked green beans that would help with the hormones associated with a false pregnancy, no. If she is having a false pregnancy, it usually lasts about 2 months, and it is part of her hormonal cycle. If she is having the situation, it may be best to have her spayed, as this can lead to problems later on. If you are not sure if she is okay, it is always best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her and see what might be happening. I hope that she is okay.

July 23, 2020

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Lolita

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Mixed

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10 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Mammary Gland Enlargement
Mammary Gland Enlargemet
Humping
Flirting With Male Dog

I’ve had Lolita for the past 7 wks. Her previous owner thought she had gone through her first heat already and could possibly be pregnant As she had escaped and when she was found a coupe days later there was a male dog with her. In the early weeks of having her she was gaining weight, belly was getting bigger and her nipples started getting dark and her glands were getting larger. So we believed she was infact pregnant. All of a sudden she seemed to deflate completely overnight. She is not as heavy but her mammary glands have continued to get larger. They are even hanging. Then all of a sudden she started humping our legs, her toys and her bed. After a couple days she began playing with out intact male dog who she has never liked before. Today she even started pushing her tail up against his face. This seems like heat behavior to me. But I am totally confused. It’s possible her previous owner mistook her for being in heat when she wasn’t but then could she still have had a false pregnancy? And now this is actually when she is coming into her heat? Could she be pregnant and be humping and showing interest to our male dog? If she did go in heat already and did get pregnant when she escaped she would be about 2 months pregnant now and doesn’t loop pregnant at all. What could be happening?

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Tilly

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Fox Terrier Minature

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Teets
Lactation
Behaivoural Changes

Our eight year old miniature foxy has started getting phantom pregnancies after she is on heat, she find my partners boots and 'feeds' them by putting both legs on them, it's quite sad to watch. However one thing we notice (besides all the behaivoural changes) is that her teets get full of milk and quite sore.. i'm unsure if anyone has any ideas on how to help her with this, she licks them and lactates but they look red and swollen. Other than that once it is all over, she is 100% back to normal!

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Chikis

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Irritable
Red Rash
Produce Milk
Black Patch

Hi my dog has had a false pregnancy for about 2-3 weeks now. She doesn't show any symptoms other than being much more irritated with my other dogs and kicking the area. She's been producing milk. Her bottom tit has become a bit harder than the other ones and there's a small redish rash with a black patch in her skin. I am not sure if this is a symptom of false pregnancy or some type of skin problem. I would say I'm mostly concerned about the hard tit and her constant licking.

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Lady

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Pit bull

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Crying
Anxiety
Nipples Showing

I have a 1 year old pit bull. She went into heat for the first time maybe a month or two before I delivered my baby. A little background when I first got her as a new pup I was unknowingly five weeks pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy and got pregnant again about a month later. So I have been pregnant the entire time I’ve had her so far pretty much. Fast forward baby is now two weeks and she is winning a lot, more accidents and nipples are still showing. Is this just a normal responds to the new baby and me nursing or could this be a false pregnancy. I try to show her baby to calm her nerves/curiosity i don’t know if it’s helping really

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Ginger

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Yorkie

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

I have a 3 year old Yorkshire Terrier and she is currently experiencing a false pregnancy with her little tits swelling and being anxious, etc. She is scheduled per the vets recommendation to get spayed tomorrow. Is it safe and will she be ok to get her spayed in the middle of a false pregnancy?

False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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