False pregnancy in dogs – Helping your dog through a phantom pregnancy

False Pregnancy in Dogs, How to Tell if Your Dog is Having A Phantom Pregnancy

False pregnancies in dogs or phantom pregnancies can be very distressing time for your dog, as well as for their owner, when pseudocyesis happens your dog’s experiences many of different changes in their body which can make them behave and act very differently. Here pretty Pup look at what a phantom pregnancy is, what you can do to keep your dog calm, treatments, how to prevent them as well as keeping them as comfortable as possible throughout the stages of the ‘pregnancy’.


What is a phantom pregnancy?

A phantom pregnancy, false pregnancy in dogs or pseudocyesis are terms which are used to indicate a common condition in non-pregnant female dogs that are showing symptoms of a pregnancy or nursing following heat (estrus).

Estrus – This is a stage in the female dog’s reproductive system, there are four different stages of the reproductive system, proestrus, estrus, diestrus and anestrus, each stage the dog has hormonal, behaviour, physiological and physical changes. During estrus the bitch becomes receptive to mating with males. The mating stage usually lasts around nine days but can be as long as 3 weeks.

False pregnancies can be a result of failing to conceive or a bitch never having mated. Symptoms usually appear between six weeks to 12 weeks after heat, but depending on the severity of it, it can last for more than a month.  The exact reason is not known why Bitches have phantom pregnancies but they believe it is driven by hormone imbalance, progesterone and prolactin.


Symptoms of phantom pregnancy in dogs

Each female dog will experience different symptoms but here is a list of what to look out for if you feel your dog is experiencing a false pregnancy.

  • Enlargement of mammary glands /secretion from mammary glands
  • Nesting – moving and digging in the bed
  • Self-nursing – becoming attached to a particular toy
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Swollen belly
  • Lethargy


If you think your dog is pregnant/phantom pregnancy book an appointment to see a veterinarian, you will need to give as much history as possible about your dog, this is so the vet can give a full examination and evaluate your dog’s overall health. A complete blood count is required, urinalysis (to look for hormones  that indicate  a genuine pregnancy) abdominal Xray and ultra sound (this loos for puppies or any unusual growth or infections that can keep causing phantom pregnancies to happen).


Dog Phantom pregnancy treatment

In mild cases most dogs do not require treatment as the symptoms will ease within 3 weeks. However, in some cases dogs require hormonal treatment if their symptoms are causing concern and behaviour changes. This medication controls the milk production, anxiety or if your dog is physically ill. If you find your dog is licking herself, the best thing to do is put an Elizabeth collar or t-shirt on them, as this will minimize stimulation. Any stimulation leads the body to believe the puppies are nursing and milk production will continue.

If you are not planning on breeding with your bitch then getting them spayed is the best option as this will resolve the problem and prevent this happening in the future, phantom pregnancies can be very distressing for dog and owner.  Most dogs come in to heat usually twice a year but this can very form dog to dog, size and breed. Bitches that have had one litter or more are prone to having phantom pregnancies over dogs that have not bred.


Natural treatment for dog false pregnancy

Natural supplements can help reduce phantom pregnancies, Raspberry Leaf Tablets are a licenced veterinary herbal medicine which is authorised to aid false pregnancies, you give these to your dog at soon as you see signs of a season, depending on the weight of the dog varies on the dosage supplied. Your bitch should continue to take the tablets until one week after whelping which is usually twelve weeks. Raspberry Leaf for dogs has a very successful rate in preventing phantom pregnancies and is highly recommended by many owners.

Other natural remedies which are used to help phantom pregnancies are:

  • Pulsatilla 15C – Again this helps dogs experiencing a false pregnancy but also helps soothe tender gums and soothe the mouth and throat.
  • Urtica urens 3C- This increases milk flow in lactating pets

Note: Always consult with you vet first, before using any types of medication for your pet.

Dog phantom pregnancy take toys away

There seems to be a bit of debate regarding this question as some believe you should remove toys from your dog if it’s becoming over obsessive over its toy, however many also believe the right thing is to leave your bitch to keep her ‘surrogate pups’ as it easier and keeps them calm during this time, removing toys away can increase their anxiety and make theme become distressed if they can’t find their ‘pups’, over time they will lose interest in these toys and be back to their selves in no time.

If you want to distract your dog from ‘her puppies’ try taking her for a walk to take her mind of them, you may not be able to go far as she will be pining to get back to her nesting bed, but gradually you can keep increasing their walk so they go a little further each day until they get back to normal.


Phantom pregnancy dog not eating

Dogs suffering from phantom pregnancies have many of symptoms, with the most common being morning sickness, in the morning your dog may feel nausea and vomiting, other signs of morning sickness include:

  • Exhaustion / sleeping
  • Frequent urination
  • Tender or swollen mammary glands
  • Food craving
  • Abdominal cramps

When a dog is experiencing a phantom pregnancy, they go through many changes in their appetite, one minute they have a massive appetite to the next they’re not eating anything for a numerous of days and go on hunger strike, it’s not unusual to see this happening although not nice to see either. You may also see weight loss this is due to the amount of excess fluid they retain.

if you have concerns over your dog’s health contact your vet for some advice.