False pregnancy in dogs – Helping your dog through 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.

Natural treatment for dog false pregnancy

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 suppNatural treatment for dog false pregnancylements 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

Read more  The Truth About Grain-Free Dog Foods And DCM

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

Natural treatment for dog false pregnancy

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.

Natural treatment for dog false pregnancy

— Update: 07-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Holistic approach to spay, neuter and false pregnancy + the world’s 1st “naughty” toy for dogs from the website peterdobias.com for the keyword natural treatment for dog false pregnancy.

Why it’s important to talk about dog’s sexuality

Yes, you are reading correctly and most likely are as amused as I am, the world’s very first sex toy for dogs was designed and successfully launched in France, the country of love.

I swear that originally I had no intention to write a blog on dogs and their sexuality. My very pure intention was to reply to a few questions of my readers about spay, neuter and false pregnancy and then I did some research online and discovered a dog toy of a very different kind.
We all have seen dogs expressing themselves freely in many different ways. Sometimes to our amusement and at other times are embarrassed when Fido decides to hump the leg of our mother in law or a dignified official visitor.

So today, I would like to start a very public discussion on dog sexuality, the holistic approach to false pregnancies, spay and neuter procedures and yes, the world’s first sex doll for dogs.

False pregnancy

When I was a child, we used to have a dachshund named Gerda. In fact, she was on top of the children’s hierarchy when it came to my father’s rating because she adored him and never talked back.

Spaying a dog was not as common back then and I remember Gerda wearing special pants that my dad called “the heat pants.” They not only prevented the carpet from being spotted with blood, but also the heat pants prevented undesired pregnancies. They were kind of a canine version of the chastity belt.

What usually happened within two months after the heat was to me puzzling and also entertaining. As the surge of hormones in Gerda’s body made its way to her brain, she started acting funny.  This occurred in two months dead on. She would pretend that she had puppies. This hormonal change is caused by a hormone called progesterone, which prepares the mother for motherhood after ovulation. This hormone also contributes to milk production, prevents the bitch from going into another heat too early and creates a very natural desire to nurture.

During the false pregnancy stage, Gerda used to steal our plush toys, socks, underwear and other goodies and gather them in a nest that she made. She also started to produce milk. I’m not sure what the likeness is between an undergarment and a real puppy, but she was obviously satisfied.

If you wonder how you should deal with your dog’s false pregnancy, I recommend allowing your dog to go through the motions and allow her body to realize that this is a false alarm. There is no need to worry except if your dog’s abdomen is significantly distended. In this case, you may want to seek the help of a veterinarian to rule out other problems.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend any medication or doggie Prozac because suppressing the body’s natural tendencies would cause more imbalance and ultimately poorer health.

Holistic approach to neutering and spaying

First of all, I am definitely in favor of birth control for our pets. Many animals get euthanized because they haven’t found a suitable home. Excessive breeding makes it harder to find homes for homeless animals. I agree that there are some good and responsible breeders whose role it is to preserve the heritage of certain breeds, and  I very much respect their work. I  especially value those who breed responsibly for healthy genes and disease prevention instead of for looks.

Read more  Side Effects of Lyme Disease Vaccine for Dogs

There is another reason I am in favor of spaying and neutering. I believe that un-neutered pets suffer unnecessarily because the majority are never allowed to breed. Imagine if you had to live in celibacy against your natural desires and instincts. My heart goes out to many un-neutered male dogs who are never let off the leash. Their owners worry that they will either get into a fight or run away to find “a girlfriend.” The life of a neutered dog is much easier, and they frequently make much better pets.

Male dogs

They may be neutered around the age of seven to eight months, however, some sources claim that neutering after the closure of bone growth plates is more appropriate which usually happens between 12 to 18  months of age depending on the breed.  I suggest basing your decision on your dog’s behavior and if there are no issues then you can wait until 15 months. However, because of the scrotum and testicle size, the surgery is more traumatic when done later.

The neuter procedure is relatively simple and I recommend you not cheap out by going to low-cost, high-volume spay and neuter clinics. General standards of medical care vary despite clinic inspections. Presurgical blood work, intravenous fluids, proper inhalation anesthesia monitoring and gentle and caring handling are from my point of view essential.

However, don’t get your hopes up thinking that your dog will stop having sudden urges and the leg humping will stop. I have been laughing my head off since I discovered the world’s first dog sex doll. However, when I thought about it from the dogs’ health point of view, I feel that it is a great idea because a healthy sex life leads to good health.

Think about it. If your dog’s first “best friend” is placed in a private location in your home, this could avoid embarrassing situations when guests arrive. Fido may also become much happier and less prone to get into trouble of any kind.

Female dogs

The spay procedure has become the subject of controversy as to whether to remove both uterus and ovaries (ovariohysterectomy) or remove the ovaries only (ovariectomy).  This is from my point of view a better choice.

If you can’t find a vet who is willing to perform such a procedure, just look elsewhere. The main benefit is that if the uterus is left behind, it continues to produce certain hormones that are beneficial to the body, despite them not being able to cycle or get pregnant. Females with an intact uterus appear to be more comfortable after the procedure and have lower rates of female urinary incontinence. Some people may be concerned about pyometra, a life-threatening buildup of pus and fluid in the uterus, but I haven’t seen this in my practice.

If you are planning to spay your female dog, I suggest doing so prior to the first heat. As there is a difference in the onset of the first heat in different breeds. I suggest that you do not wait past 8 months in small breeds and 10 months in medium to large breed dogs. However, no one can give you a 100% guarantee your dog will not come into heat earlier than that.

The reason is that once a dog goes through the first heat, the surgical procedure is considered to be more traumatic and involved due to increased blood vessel supply in the uterus and ovaries.

Natural approach to post-surgical care

Over the years, I’ve developed a simple post-surgical care protocol that has worked very well.

  1. Arnica 1M – a homeopathic remedy administered orally once every two hours (or less frequently) for the first 24 to 48 hours depending on patient’s comfort level.
  2. Calendula 200 C – One dose daily for five days. This remedy has a very positive effect on the incision healing.
  3. Some people worry about what happens if the incision healed too fast. In fact, the faster it heals, the better.

Incision care

I have left toxic chemical soaps, disinfectants and antibiotics behind a long time ago. Instead, I have been using a formula called Skin Spray. My grandfather was a herbalist and thanks to the knowledge that he passed on, I’ve been able to create Skin Spray – a herbal mixture that is great for wound healing. Calendula improves the speed of the healing. Hydrastis (Golden Seal) has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) reduces inflammation and swelling and Yucca contributes to healing and reduces inflammation.
I’ve used Skin Spray in my practice for more than eight years now and to my surprise, I have not seen problem incisions for very long time. The benefit of using Skin Spray is not only faster healing and recovery, but it also eliminates the need for antibiotics in most cases of skin and wound care.

Read more  Dog Behavior and Training - Traveling - Air and Car Travel

Just recently I accidentally stepped on a very dirty dog comb, and it was hanging from my foot about three-quarters of an inch deep. The first thought was that this would get infected and then I decided to test Healing Solution. I rinsed the wound thoroughly, sprayed it with Healing Solution and compressed it with a piece of gauze and held in place by Vetrap bandage and waited 24 hours to take the bandage off. There was no sign of an infection, no abscess and no antibiotics, no emergency, no drama.

Skin Spray can also be used for hotspots, wounds, punctures, ulcerations, sores, some fungal infections, insect bites, stings and anywhere topical healing is required. Similar to GreenMin, it has been tested on people and is good for you and your animal friend.

PS: In recent years, I’ve seen animals being neutered and spayed much earlier than necessary. This practice is not ideal because I find early spay and neuter often affects physical and even mental development. It is also more traumatic to the young and growing body. The ideal minimum time for spaying is somewhere around six to seven months of age and around seven to nine months in males.

— Update: 18-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Symptoms and Causes from the website www.purina.co.uk for the keyword natural treatment for dog false pregnancy.

Phantom pregnancies in dogs are very common, with symptoms from mothering behaviour and lactation, to lethargy and vomiting. Find out more about signs, causes and possible treatment.

Has your dog started acting like they are pregnant, mothering their toys and creating a nesting space? Have you noticed mammary development and even milk from their nipples? Some female dogs may display signs equivalent to morning sickness; with lethargy and dog vomiting. If your dog has not been mated, this may leave you scratching your head as to why they appear pregnant. If they have been mated, before you get too excited about visions of cute puppies, you need to make sure it’s not a false or phantom pregnancy.

Read on to discover what the signs of phantom dog pregnancy are, how a false pregnancy gets diagnosed and when medical treatment is necessary.

What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Phantom pregnancy in dogs refers to a condition where a female dog exhibits symptoms of pregnancy (like mothering behaviour after heat) but is not actually pregnant. This is also known as false pregnancy in dogs or pseudo-pregnancy and can affect any type of female dog, regardless of age or breed.

9 signs of phantom pregnancy in dogs

You can expect to see many of the same symptoms of an actual pregnancy to manifest in the case of a false pregnancy. Although the signs vary between individuals, these are the main physiological and behavioural changes to look out for:

  1. Mammary development
  2. Lactation
  3. Enlarged belly
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Lethargy
  6. Vomiting
  7. Nesting
  8. Being protective of small inanimate objects
  9. Restlessness or aggression

When does phantom pregnancy in dogs happen?

Phantom pregnancies in dogs can happen after heat (i.e., the period where they’re most fertile.) However, it does not necessarily happen after every heat and can differ for each dog and their cycle.

How long does a phantom pregnancy last in dogs?

The symptoms of a phantom pregnancy most commonly occur 6-8 weeks after your dog finishes her season, and should resolve within 2-3 weeks. Once your dog has had a false pregnancy after a season, it is very likely to recur at each subsequent season.

What causes phantom pregnancy in dogs?

After a female dog has a season, she experiences a prolonged peak of the ‘pregnancy hormone’ progesterone lasting 8-9 weeks, whether she is pregnant or not. As levels of progesterone decline, levels of a second hormone, prolactin, increase, triggering the physical and psychological symptoms of pregnancy.

In some dogs this may be mild – not enough to notice – but in others the symptoms can be very convincing to both the dog and her owner.

The origins of phantom pregnancy in dogs are thought to be due to the pack behaviour of our domestic dog’s ancestors. All the females in the pack help to rear the family pups and feel motherly towards them, even when they are not their own offspring. This cooperative behaviour is driven by hormones. 

What to do when the phantom pregnancy symptoms appear

Phantom pregnancy in dogs is very common and, if symptoms are behavioural and mild, you can try distracting your dog with increased play and walks. While they’re distracted you can remove any toys they have adopted as surrogate babies, being careful not to cause distress. You should make an appointment with your vet if the symptoms persist or are severe. Remember that non-specific signs such as vomiting and lethargy may also be due to other diseases and illnesses. It’s also important to rule out a true pregnancy as your dog may have had an illicit mating!


Recommended For You

About the Author: Tung Chi