Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Everything about False Pregnancy

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. November 27, 2017
Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Everything about False Pregnancy

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Female dogs that are not sterilized may suffer a phantom pregnancy, also known as false pregnancy, at some point in their life, it is pretty common, so don't be afraid if you see your pet behaving in a strange way.

In this AnimalWised article, we will give you all the details you need to know regarding the symptoms and treatment with home remedies that we can offer our dog. However, it will be vital to go to a vet because only they can determine an appropriate diagnosis.

Then we offer you all the data on phantom pregnancy in dogs and some home remedies to treat it properly.

You may also be interested in: False Pregnancy in Cats

What is a phantom pregnancy

Phantom or false pregnancy in a dog is a hormonal imbalance that can happen in some cases. Due to the complications and diseases that can occur, veterinarians recommend always sterilizing our pets.

A female dog may experience a phantom pregnancy when we try to mate her several times with another dog without success but can also occur due to natural causes. The animals that live in freedom can develop this behavior, especially when they live in a pack, so if a parent dies, another figure of the pack can replace it and raise the puppies and younger dogs.

Pseudo-gestation usually occurs one or two months after your dog's heat has ended. What happens is that during the heat their body produces progesterone to prepare them to be a mother, but when they are not fertilized, instead of discarding this hormone the body of the pet keeps it, producing prolactica too, another hormone responsible for breastfeeding, which makes the animal present all the classic symptoms of pregnancy but without puppies.

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Everything about False Pregnancy - What is a phantom pregnancy

Symptoms and diagnosis

As we have mentioned above, a phantom pregnancy usually has similar symptoms to those present in a dog that is really pregnant dog. Look at her behavior and in her physical appearance:

  • absence of menstruation
  • changes in vaginal discharge
  • enlarged belly
  • developed breasts
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • breast milk
  • licking her mammary glands
  • licking her vagina
  • whining
  • she doesn't want to walk
  • she steals Plush Dolls
  • hides
  • scratches the floor and walls

In the face of any of these fundamental symptoms you should go to the vet, only he or she can determine that it is really a phantom pregnancy. In addition, a vet will offer specific guidelines to follow for your dog in particular.

Remember that some of these symptoms (especially breast growth) can lead to problems such as an infection or other more serious such as mastitis. False pregnancy in dogs can also cause severe behavioral changes.

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Everything about False Pregnancy - Symptoms and diagnosis

Home remedies

Usually psychological pregnancy tends to recede after three weeks and during this time the dog will have a more depressed behavior. You will need to give her much more affection than in other occasions. If it is mild case the veterinarian will recommend to some guidelines as follows:

  • To begin with, it will be essential that the dog stops licking their mammary glands because that stimulates milk production. An excess of milk may cause an infection or other problems. For this purpose, a good technique to use will be to impregnate our dog's breasts very gently with alcohol camphor. They dislike this flavor and it will also to prevent possible infection.
  • We must increase their number of walks and exercise with the dog so they become distracted and their hormone levels stabilize. She will probably try to return after doing her business, but you should continue with the walk a little more.
  • Elizabethan collars are wide plastic collars that can be purchased in veterinary centres and specialist shops. These collars are used, once the phantom pregnancy has been detected, to prevent the bitch from licking her breasts, thus avoiding irritation and reducing milk production as the breast licking stimulates lactation.

If, after following these tips, phantom pregnancy in dogs does not seem to end you will have to go to the veterinarian so they can give them anti-prolactin treatment as well as anxiolytics in very serious cases. Do not medicate them ever without a previous recommendation.

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Everything about False Pregnancy - Home remedies

Consequences and prevention

In some cases, a phantom pregnancy can lead to serious health problems, we have previously mentioned the infection of the nipples as well as mastitis. There are still other problems that also affect a dog with a false pregnancy such as depression, malaise, and behavior changes. That causes suffering to the dog with the fake pregnancy and makes them experience a stressful situation.

Usually it is estimated that 5 out of every 10 dogs will suffer a phantom pregnancy during their lives. Sometimes they can suffer several throughout their adulthood. A first phantom pregnancy does not represent any danger to your dog, what happens is that there is a high probability of recurrence in the future and this does represent a delicate matter. The constant exposure of the breast to the prolactin hormone can generate cysts in your female dog, which can end up in a delicate situation like cancer, so it is important to pay close attention to false pregnancies.

Phantom pregnancy prevention

The best thing you can do to make this episode is not repeated will be to sterilize your dog. A sensible option that will end these episodes of discomfort for her. In addition to avoid the reappearance of phantom pregnancies you will also avoid her getting pregnant as well as serious behavior changes.

See our article on the advantages of spaying a dog, where you'll find 24 good reasons that will benefit you both as well as the false myths about sterilization.

Watch out for birth control pills. Medicines known as progestogens, used to prevent the appearance of heat in animals, can increase the risk of phantom pregnancy. It is recommended to use these drugs under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Everything about False Pregnancy - Consequences and prevention

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Everything about False Pregnancy, we recommend you visit our Pregnancy problems category.

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Kate Dudley
My dog had a phantom pregnancy, followed be a season, 3 months later she was spayed. During this time she was agressive and attacked other dogs, I hoped that this would stop once she was spayed. 1.5 years later she has started to become aggressive again, vet sugested she may be having another PP and gave her galastop and behavioural therapy. Now she is walked on a lead with a muzzle, she's miserable, lacking in energy and seems to be broody and nesting currently. A behaviourist suggested that she was not spayed correctly and this is why she is behaving this way.
Very upsetting, do I get her operated to ensure she was spayed completley?
My 21-month-old Anatolian is experiencing a mild pseudopregnancy -+ she's acting strange -- like a regular, domesticated dog. :-) Normally these beasts are more like a wolf than they are a golden retriever. She's actually being cuddly.

But regarding nipple-licking: have you ever tried to put one of those Elizabethan collars on a Kangal? :-) It ain't happening.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Cacarr,

They can be feisty, we can understand the difficulty. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, it's always helpful to get such insight.
my dog has bloating is it possible for her to have a false pregnancy and the placenta sacs be filled with tapeworms
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Erkki,

We cannot diagnose problems here in the comments to articles. If your dog is bloated, it could be due to a range of things. It could be a false pregnancy or it could be they have just eaten too fast and have indigestion. There are also potentially serious issues if the bloated belly is hard (, but you will know if they are sick by looking at the other symptoms. As far as tapeworms go, if you have kept up your dog’s worming schedule and haven't seen any evidence of tapeworms, you shouldn't jump to this conclusion.

The only person able to diagnose any such disorder is an animal specialist, so we recommend you see a vet if you are worried about your dog being bloated for no apparent reason.
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