Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Claire Dunling

False pregnancy in dogs, phantom pregnancy in dogs, pseudopregnancy or pseudocyesis can be defined as a display of maternal behaviour together with the physical signs of pregnancy following oestrus (heat) in a non-pregnant dog. Regardless of whether your dog has been previously mated or not is irrelevant.

 Phantom pregnancy in dogs symptoms

Many female dogs show signs of a pseudopregnancy or phantom dog pregnancy. It usually begins 4-9 weeks after the previous heat period. The signs range from mammary development with or without the production of milk, lassitude, loss of appetite and sometimes vomiting. Signs phantom pregnancy in dogs can occur at any age and do not necessarily follow every oestrus. The severity of the clinical signs of dog false pregnancy also varies between individuals and from one occurrence to the next within the same individual.

Some behavioural changes include nesting, mothering activity, restlessness, disinclination to exercise and sometimes aggression due to a perceived threat to an impending family. Your dog may be off her food but surprisingly not appearing to lose weight – this will be due to the amount of pseudo-pregnancy excess fluid she is carrying.

A phantom pregnancy can be confusing and upsetting for both the dog and owner. With the dog not-sure what's going on and you desperately trying to think if they've been "got at". Don't panic, pop to the vets
John Campbell, Head Vet of Pet Drugs Online

If the bitch is not to be used for breeding, spaying/neutering (an ovariohysterectomy), should be considered.

If neutering is carried out while the bitch is showing signs of pseudo pregnancy or dog phantom pregnancy alternatively has been receiving hormonal treatment the signs of false pregnancy in dogs will often persist for several weeks despite the fact she has been neutered.  Should this occur treatment with a single injection of a hormone will usually suffice to bring about improvement.

This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!