False Pregnancy in Dogs – Pet tip 223
Female dogs get pregnant when they go into heat and mate with a male dog. Most female dogs have two periods of heat (Estrus) each year and this is when mating is possible. It stands to reason that if the female hasn’t mated with a male that she should show no signs of being pregnant. However, many female dogs do in fact show signs of being pregnant even though they haven’t mated with a male. Their mammary glands may enlarge and they may even start to produce milk. The dog’s behaviour may also change (whining, moaning, anxiety) and you may notice that the dog has started collecting toys or clothing items in an effort to create a ‘nesting’ environment. Even though this is happening, the dog is not pregnant; it is experiencing pseudo-pregnancy or false pregnancy.
Pseudo-pregnancy is fairly common in unspayed dogs. It usually happens around 8-12 weeks from the beginning of the heat cycle. Although many dogs show the outward signs of false pregnancy, not all dogs will have enlarged mammary glands that produce milk. They may still exhibit the nesting behaviour and may also be less tolerant of new people entering the home or even certain family members that get too close to their nesting place. There is nothing that is inherently wrong with false pregnancy and it generally goes away on its own after a few weeks.
There are cases where during false pregnancy the dog’s symptoms and ‘pregnant’ behaviour are increased. The dog may lick its own mammary glands to the point where it is producing excessive amounts of milk. The dog’s behaviour may also be somewhat aggressive. In these cases a call to the vet may be in order. There are medications that can be used in the short term to ease the dog’s anxiety level as well as medication to reduce milk production.
The best way to cure future false pregnancies in dogs is to simply have them spayed as there is no real cure. Once a dog is spayed it will not go into heat, it can never get pregnant and false pregnancies cannot occur. When a dog is spayed the procedure removes the dog’s ovaries and its uterus so all the reproductive parts are removed. There are some extremely rare cases where spayed dogs have gone into heat but that’s because the spaying procedure was not done properly and some of the dog’s reproductive organs were likely not removed. A second spaying (after the false pregnancy is completely over) should permanently resolve this problem.
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