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Handling False Pregnancy in Dogs

Also known as phantom pregnancy, pseudopregnancy or pseudocyesis, false pregnancy is a common condition that affects intact (un-spayed) female dogs. It occurs when a female dog exhibits signs of pregnancy such as weight gain and milk production without actually being pregnant.

It can be frustrating for breeders to manage, as it often leads to behavioral and physical changes in the affected dog. So why does this condition occur? Let’s take a closer look at what causes false pregnancy in dogs and how to manage it.

What are the Signs of False Pregnancy?

False pregnancy typically occurs after a female dog has been in heat. Common signs include mammary gland enlargement, lactation, nesting behavior, increased appetite, lethargy and even signs of labor such as contractions or licking at the abdomen. Dogs may also demonstrate behaviors such as aggression towards humans or other animals due to hormonal changes that come with false pregnancy.

How Can I Manage False Pregnancy?

The best way to manage false pregnancy is to keep your dog comfortable while she goes through the symptoms. You can do this by providing plenty of soft bedding material in quiet areas of your home where she can rest undisturbed.

Offering her warm compresses on her abdomen may also provide relief from any discomfort she’s feeling due to abdominal swelling she may experience during this time.

If she begins producing milk, you should give her frequent breaks throughout the day so that she can express some milk if necessary.

Additionally, it’s important to continue regular exercise during this time so that your dog doesn’t become overweight from overeating during her false pregnancy.

If your dog is displaying aggressive behaviors due to hormonal changes brought on by false pregnancy it’s important to remain patient and understanding with her. Try not to scold or punish her for behaviors you wouldn’t normally expect from her as these behaviors will pass once her hormones return back to normal levels.

If you notice any signs of infection (such as an abnormal discharge) near your dog’s nipples contact your veterinarian immediately as these could be signs of mastitis which will require medical attention.

What Causes False Pregnancy?

The exact cause of false pregnancy remains unknown; however, most experts believe that hormones play an important role in its occurrence.

During a real pregnancy, progesterone rises steadily throughout gestation until birth. In cases of false pregnancy however, progesterone may not be consistently produced—leading to the signs associated with this condition.

Other hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin may also be involved in causing false pregnancies by stimulating the production of milk and creating maternal behavior respectively.


False pregnancy can be uncomfortable for a female dog but breeders should know that there are steps they can take to make sure their pet remains comfortable while going through this process.

If you notice any signs of infection contact your veterinarian right away and always remain patient with your pet during this time since some behaviors brought on by hormonal changes are common but temporary in cases like these!

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