Just like us humans, dogs have a hormonal balance that sometimes goes haywire. It is not uncommon for unneutered bitches to suffer from the symptoms of a false pregnancy.
False pregnancy is often associated with tremendous stress, leading your dog to mother her toys and convert her roost into a nest.
Loss of appetite, restlessness or lethargy can also be signs of a false pregnancy.
In this guide you will find out what causes this behavior and how you can support your apparently pregnant dog!
In a nutshell: Dog apparently pregnant – what to do?
If your dog is acting strangely after her heat, she may be dealing with a false pregnancy. This can be painful, uncomfortable and stressful for your dog because she thinks she has puppies and is looking for them in vain.
The nest-building instinct sets in and milk production begins. In short: your dog’s hormones are going crazy! During this time she needs your attention and care, but sometimes that’s not enough.
If your dog is suffering severely from the false pregnancy, you should definitely contact a veterinarian.
What is a false pregnancy?
One speaks of a false pregnancy when an unneutered bitch imagines motherhood. So she’s not actually pregnant, but she’s acting like she has puppies.
This behavior can occur about four to nine weeks after heat and is anything but pleasant for your dog.
What happens in the dog’s body during a false pregnancy?
When a dog is pregnant, her body releases the hormone progesterone. After birth, the concentration of progesterone drops again and the hormone prolactin is released, which stimulates the mammary glands.
A pseudopregnant bitch also goes through this hormonal process, except that she is not covered by a male and is therefore not really pregnant.
When does a false pregnancy occur?
It doesn’t have to be that your intact bitch becomes pseudopregnant after every heat, but it can!
Bitches usually come into heat between six and twelve months of age. After that, a false pregnancy can occur at any time (after every heat).
Symptoms & Signs of False Pregnancy in Dogs
How to tell if your dog is falsely pregnant:
- your female dog seems listless after heat
- the teats swell (prolactin for milk production is released), possibly milk leakage
- she seems exhausted, tired and listless
- your bitch is more clingy than usual
- she has no appetite
- your dog keeps howling
- depressive moods can occur
- possibly aggressive behavior (defending their puppies)
- Stuffed animals or other objects are mothered (puppy replacements are carried around and
- cared for/licked)
- a false pregnancy can also cause pain (e.g. due to swollen teats)
- she builds a nest from her sleeping place (nest-building instinct)
Good to know:
Our dogs are all individual and the symptoms of a false pregnancy can be just as individual in your female dog! It does not have to be that all of the symptoms listed above occur. The intensity also varies greatly.
How Long Does a False Pregnancy in Dogs Last?
The duration of a false pregnancy in bitches is very individual.
However, it is usually at least two to three weeks and can also last up to eight weeks.
What is the best way to support my dog?
Depending on how severe the symptoms are in your pseudopregnant dog, there are different ways to support her during this strenuous phase.
- Inform yourself – just like you are doing right now – in order to be able to interpret your dog’s behavior correctly.
- Provide distraction, for example through long walks, joint adventures, and cuddles.
- Be responsive to your dog’s needs and also allow her to be less lively during this time.
- Test whether it helps your dog if you put her stuffed animals away first and do this in a way that she doesn’t notice. This helps some bitches, while others then seem to suffer even more.
- Your gut feeling is required here!
- Don’t let her lick her nipples. This promotes milk production. An old t-shirt, surgical scrubs, or neck brace can help.
- dog not eating? As a “home remedy,” offer her some special treats that you know she loves. Liverwurst bread can fall off the table here, but pssst!
If all of this doesn’t help and you find that your dog is suffering enormously from the false pregnancy, you should consult a veterinarian. The treatment options are also different here and it does not always have to be castration.
When should I see a vet?
If your dog is doing very badly because of the false pregnancy and this occurs again and again, you should definitely see a vet!
A false pregnancy can really become a burden for your dog. Especially when she has to deal with it after every heat.
You can try to make your dog’s time at home as comfortable as possible by being responsive to her needs. If you find that she is suffering a lot, it is definitely advisable to contact a veterinarian.
There are various treatment options to stabilize the hormonal balance. You should also talk to your vet about castration.