Recognizing pregnancy in dogs: What are the signs?
False pregnancy is manifested by abnormalities in the behavior and body of the bitch. Her hormones make her believe that she is pregnant. Find out here which symptoms you can recognize in your four-legged friend. You will also find tips on how to deal with this phenomenon.
The complicated hormonal cycle of the bitch sometimes brings a false pregnancy to light. This natural process is not a cause for concern – as long as your animal remains sociable.
Causes of false pregnancy
The cause of false pregnancies in bitches is hormonal changes during and after heat. A sharp drop in the hormone progesterone in the blood coincides with a simultaneous increase in prolactin levels. In some bitches, this causes the glandular tissue of the mammary gland to grow, giving the bitch the feeling of being pregnant. Pseudopregnancy is particularly common in small dog breeds.
Recognize false pregnancy in dogs: Symptoms
When can a false pregnancy occur in the dog? Approximately three to twelve weeks after coming into heat, affected animals will show physical and psychological abnormalities.
Initially, the bitch will likely hoard stuffed animals, toys, or even slippers. These are the surrogate pups she will want to build a nest for and defend. For this very reason, seemingly pregnant bitches are often prone to aggression and restlessness. As a result, some also refuse their food or appear depressed.
Especially towards the end of the apparent pregnancy, physical symptoms also appear. The udder can swell and may cause pain. The mammary glands secrete a watery fluid and may become inflamed. In some cases, even the bitch’s belly becomes thicker, as if she were pregnant.
Here again all the signs of false pregnancy in dogs at a glance:
pronounced nesting behavior
development of maternal instincts towards objects like toys
depressive or aggressive behavior
refusal of food
swelling of the bitch’s mammary gland, possibly milk let-down
Tips for pseudopregnancy: how to help your dog
If you recognize the previously described symptoms in your dog, your pet is likely suffering from a false pregnancy.
The symptoms of false pregnancy can be alleviated, for example, by hormone-free preparations from the vet. These inhibit the production of prolactin, which is responsible for the physical changes. There are also medications for psychological stress, which your veterinarian can advise you on. However, treatment is not always necessary.
After two to three weeks, the bitch’s hormone levels will have normalized, and the symptoms will subside on their own. You can support your animal during the period of false pregnancy.
Distract your bitch, do a lot with her and keep her away from toys she could mother. However, if she has already chosen a “pretend puppy,” do not remove it so as not to stir up your pet’s restlessness. A ruff will also keep the bitch from licking her teat and promoting inflammation.
If the bitch becomes aggressive: Preventing a pseudopregnancy.
During the false pregnancy, your bitch may develop unusual aggressive behavior. This can sometimes be dangerous if, for example, there are small children in the household and the bitch takes their toys away. The hoarding urge paired with the protective instinct of the false-pregnant bitch poses a severe risk to children.
If your bitch shows such severe symptoms, then a visit to the vet is advisable. He will inform you about the treatment options and, if necessary, also about the possibility of spaying.
After all, once a severe false pregnancy has occurred, a similar course is expected after subsequent heatings. Castration of the bitch can be helpful as a preventive measure. Because after the procedure, a false pregnancy can no longer occur in the quadruped.
Learn more about this in our guides “Spaying the bitch: pros and cons” and “Spaying the bitch: How the operation proceeds.”