Psychological pregnancy in dogs is a condition that refers to the appearance of maternal behaviors combined with the physical signs of pregnancy in unspayed female dogs that are not actually pregnant at the time. There are various signs that signal that your female dog is suffering from a phantom pregnancy; some of these signs include mammary gland enlargement with or without the production of milk, fluid retention, vomiting, and lethargy.
Most mild cased of false pregnancy do not need to be treated. However, if you notice that your dog is beginning to appear physically sick or is experiencing severe behavioral changes, it is best to seek the help of your trusted veterinarian. Treatment will likely include the tranquilization of the dog and the administration of diuretics.
What Is A False Pregnancy Or Psychological Pregnancy?
So, what is a false pregnancy in dogs? False pregnancy is often referred to as a psychological pregnancy, pseudocyesis, pseudo pregnancy, or phantom pregnancy as well. A phantom pregnancy is a common condition within unspayed female dogs that causes them to mimic the physical and behavioral characteristics of pregnancy.
Even though your dog may be showing all of the clinical signs of pregnancy, they are not actually pregnant and will not be expecting puppies any time soon. This condition typically becomes apparent four to nine weeks after the dog experiences its heat cycle. Typically, false pregnancy clears up on its own within one to four weeks. It will likely not cause any long-term harm to your dog, and you do not have to worry about taking care of a bunch of puppies!
Some vets believe that almost all female dogs will experience some form of phantom pregnancy after eat time they end their heat cycle. However, most cases of false pregnancy are very mild, and you may not even notice the symptoms.
Research suggests that about half of all female dogs experience the symptoms of phantom pregnancy at some point in their lives unless the dog has been spayed. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to experience this condition as well. These breeds include the Beagle, Dachsunds, and Afghan hound. There is a 75 percent chance that they will experience the clinical signs of phantom pregnancy at some point in their lives.
Additionally, dogs that experience a phantom pregnancy are more likely to experience them again in the future. The only way to prevent this from happening is to get your female dog spayed.
Causes Of False Pregnancy In Dogs
Researchers do not know what the exact cause of phantom pregnancy is. What is known is that after an estrus cycle, a female dog’s ovaries begin to produce hormones no matter if they are pregnant or not. These are the hormones that prepare the uterus for the formation of a puppy.
If your dog does not become pregnant during its heat cycle, these hormone levels begin to decrease, which sometimes signals the body to develop the mammary glands and other symptoms of pregnancy. There are some female dogs that also develop symptoms of physiological pregnancy after being spayed or neutered. This typically appears 3 to 4 days after the surgery.
Symptoms Of A False Pregnancy
The clinical signs of phantom pregnancy usually appear four to nine weeks after the heat period has ended. The most common signs of pseudo-pregnancy include the enlargement of the mammary glands, and it can also include the production of milk. In addition, your dog may be lethargic and experiencing periods of vomiting and fluid retention. Many times, dogs that experience a phantom pregnancy have a decreased appetite due to the excessive amount of fluid that is being maintained in the dog’s body.
The symptoms of a false pregnancy usually appear four to nine weeks after the dog’s previous heat period. These signs can occur at any age and do not always follow the heat cycle. Oftentimes, the severity of the signs depends on the individual dog and can vary from one heat cycle to another.
Your dog may also experience some behavioral changes if they have a false pregnancy. Some of these changes include nesting, restlessness, mothering activity, decrease in physical activity, and aggression.
Should You Take Your Dog To The Vet?
Many phantom pregnancies disappear on their own and do not require any additional treatment. If your dog is only experiencing mild symptoms, you do not need to do anything. Though, you may want to visit the vet to ensure that your dog is not actually pregnant.
However, if the symptoms of the pseudopregnancy persist for several weeks and your dog is in distress, it is best to take her to the vet for observation and to receive a treatment plan. Your vet will likely examine the dog to ensure she is not actually pregnant and check for any underlying conditions that may be causing the onset of severe symptoms. Your dog may also be suffering from an infection, an inactive thyroid gland, or a tumor on the dog’s pituitary gland.
How To Treat A False Pregnancy In Your Dog
Mild cases of false pregnancy do not typically require any form of treatment as they will resolve on their own within 2 to 3 weeks. However, if your dog appears physically ill, symptomatic treatment should be started to prevent dehydration and nutrient deficiency. Your vet may prescribe antiemetics to decrease vomiting within your dog.
Additionally, your vet may administer an IV to prevent dehydration. Your vet may also recommend that you use a warm or cold pack on the dog’s mammary glands to decrease the inflammation and prevent the stimulation of lactation. If the phantom pregnancy has caused your dog to experience anxiety symptoms, your vet may prescribe an anxiety medication to relax the dog.
Preventing False Pregnancy Within Dogs
There is only one way to prevent false pregnancy within dogs, and that is through the surgical removal of the ovaries and the uterus. You should never have your dog spayed while they are experiencing a phantom pregnancy, as this can cause symptoms to persist well into the future. It is important that you wait until your dog is done experiencing the clinical signs of phantom pregnancy to have the surgery performed.