False Pregnancy

Pseudopregnancy is commonly called false or phantom pregnancy.

It is a condition which affects pets after their oestrus cycle (heat or season). The symptoms can occur whether they have been mated or not.

The clinical signs mimic the symptoms of a real pregnancy and can include:

  • Enlarged mammary glands (with or without milk production)
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fluid retention
  • Vomiting
  • Behavioural changes are often noticed as well and these can include:
  • Nesting
  • Mothering behaviour
  • Aggression
  • Protecting and guarding soft toys

Following an oestrus cycle, hormones are produced to prepare the uterus for pregnancy regardless of whether there is a pregnancy or not.

If there is a pregnancy, the hormones will carry on being produced until just before birth. If there is no pregnancy, hormone levels start to decline. As this happens, the hormones can send signals to the body which mimic pregnancy and stimulate mammary gland development.

If the symptoms are relatively mild, treatment will not be required and symptoms should subside within 2-3weeks.

It can be helpful to remove any toys that your dog may be trying to ‘mother’ and deter her from nesting. Also discourage licking of her abdomen area as this can stimulate the mammary glands and prolong lactation.

If the clinical signs or behavioural changes are causing illness or distress to your pet, your veterinary surgeon will prescribe the necessary treatment depending on the symptoms.

Neutering is required to prevent further recurrences. This should only be performed once all the signs of a pseudopregnancy have resolved.