Dog Health and Nutrition 

Phantom pregnancy in dogs: symptoms and causes

Has your dog started behaving as if you were pregnant, mothering her toy, and creating a nesting site? Have you noticed breast development and even milk from your nipples? Some bitches may show signs of morning sickness. with lethargy and vomiting. If your dog has not been paired, you may scratch your head as to why it appears pregnant. If they have been paired, make sure that it is not a wrong pregnancy or phantom pregnancy before getting too excited about visions of cute puppies.

Read on to find out what the signs are, how a wrong pregnancy is diagnosed, and when medical treatment is needed.

What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Phantom pregnancy in dogs refers to a condition in which a bitch shows symptoms of pregnancy but is not actually pregnant. This is also known as false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy and can affect any type of bitch, regardless of age or breed.

Symptoms of phantom pregnancy in dogs

You can expect many of the same symptoms of an actual pregnancy to manifest themselves in the event of a wrong pregnancy. Although the signs vary between individuals, these are the main physiological and behavioral changes to watch out for:

  • Breast development
  • Lactation
  • Enlarged belly
  • Loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • Vomit
  • Nest
  • Protection of small lifeless objects
  • Agitation or aggression

How long does a phantom pregnancy last?

The symptoms of phantom pregnancy most commonly occur 6-8 weeks after your dog’s season ends and should go away within 2-3 weeks. As soon as your dog has had a wrong pregnancy after one season, it is very likely that he will appear again every following season.

What causes phantom pregnancy in dogs?

It is believed that the origins of phantom pregnancy are due to the pack behavior of the ancestors of our domestic dog. All women in the pack help raise the family pups and feel maternal to them, even if they are not their own offspring. This cooperative behavior is driven by hormones. After a bitch has a season, she experiences a longer peak of the pregnancy hormone progesterone of 8 to 9 weeks, regardless of whether she is pregnant or not (this does not occur in humans). When the level of progesterone drops, the level of a second hormone, prolactin, rises. This triggers the physical and psychological symptoms of pregnancy. In some dogs this may be mild – not enough to notice – in others, the symptoms can be very convincing to both the dog and its owner.

What to do if you experience symptoms of a phantom pregnancy?

Phantom pregnancy in dogs is very common. If the symptoms are behavioral and mild, you can try distracting your dog with more play and walks. While distracted, you can remove any toys that they have adopted as replacement babies. Make sure that you do not cause any problems. You should make an appointment with your veterinarian if symptoms persist or are severe. Remember that non-specific signs such as vomiting and lethargy can also be due to other diseases. It is also important to rule out a real pregnancy as your dog may have had an illegal mating!

How is wrong pregnancy diagnosed in dogs?

To diagnose false pregnancy, your veterinarian will take a history of your dog’s past seasons and any mating. You examine your dog for abdominal swelling, breast growth, and breastfeeding. You can recommend ultrasound or x-rays to check for puppies.

Is there a treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Mild symptoms can usually be treated by distracting your dog from nesting and mothering. In more persistent or severe cases, the veterinarian may recommend treatment to restore hormonal balance. You should also consider talking to the veterinarian about how to neuter your bitch after the end of the wrong pregnancy to prevent it from coming back.

Is spaying a good solution for phantom pregnancies in dogs?

Spaying (ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy) is a long-term solution that prevents future episodes of phantom pregnancy. However, a dog should not be neutered during phantom pregnancy as this can cause symptoms to persist. Changes in the uterus during phantom pregnancies increase the risk of uterine infection (pyometra), which can be life-threatening. If your dog has phantom pregnancies and you are not planning to mate with him, it is advisable to have him neutered to reduce this risk. Other benefits of spaying include reducing the risk of mastitis, breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer, and eliminating the possibility of unplanned pregnancies.

Learn more about neutering and neutering puppies in our detailed article, e.g. B. what the process includes, recovery tips, and what changes are to be expected.

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