Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of “Brain Training for Dogs.”
What Is Pseudocyesis?
Pseudocyesis is the medical term depicting false pregnancy in dogs. It typically occurs in female dogs that have not been impregnated approximately six to 12 weeks after their last heat. It is still not well understood what seems to trigger false pregnancy in dogs, but there seems to be an association between false pregnancy and the interaction of hormones along with the increase of prolactin, something yet to be further investigated and researched.
Signs of False Pregnancy
Affected dogs will act as if pregnant, causing owners often to believe their dog is pregnant when she is not.
- Nesting: Affected dogs may be found pacing around the home looking for blankets and paper to shred in order to create a comfortable area to give birth and raise puppies.
- Mothering: Often, a dog suffering from false pregnancy will be found adopting a stuffed animal or any other inanimate object and treating it as a puppy. Often, the dog may even guard it against the owners and strangers.
The most stunning symptoms are those affecting the dog’s body. Dogs affected by false pregnancy may exhibit:
- Enlarged nipples that may secrete milk or fluids
- Weight gain
- Abdominal swelling
- Vaginal discharge
- Mimicked labor
However, in some cases, these physical signs may indicate pyometra, a potentially fatal disease affecting intact female dogs.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your vet will palpate the dog’s abdomen to ensure the dog is not pregnant. However, this method is not very accurate, x-rays or an ultrasound are much more accurate and reliable.
Luckily, the condition resolves on its own within two to three weeks. Dogs that tend to lick their mammary glands should be prevented in doing so because this may prolong the production of milk and the discomfort. Often, an Elizabethan collar may be helpful in such cases.
Dogs that are affected once by pseudo pregnancy often are likely to be prone to future episodes. In some cases, female dogs may be quite miserable during their pseudo pregnancy therefore, they may require medications or hormonal treatments to minimize the milk flow.
Owners that are considering spaying their female dog should do so only once the pseudopregnancy is over.
How to Identify False Pregnancy vs. Real Pregnancy
The two are often easily confused. The only way is by proving if there is an actual pregnancy or not. This can be done at the vet’s office. As early as after 28 days, veterinaries may be able to palpate the embryos through the dog’s abdomen.
An ultrasound may be a more accurate and reliable test. This test may actually even help determine how many puppies the female dog is expecting.
A Relaxin pregnancy test as well may be helpful. This test is a blood test than can be done as early as 20 days after the luteininzing hormonal surge. Test kits may be available to dog owners today, however, in order to perform this test a centrifuge is required. If not, an owner may ask a vet if the blood sample can be dropped so to allow it to undergo centrifugation.
X-rays can confirm pregnancy after 45 days.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Judy medler on April 29, 2017:
My Doberman just had one baby in nov 3 2016..she had her heat when her baby was 3 months old…she started acting like she was going to have more baby’s…she didnt get fat .she did get milk in her nipples..but the vet said its was false..now we have a lill bit of blood comeing from her nipples…what can i do now.? Thank you..