AmeriVet

Signs of Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs and How to Address It

by AmeriVet | Nov 23, 2022 | Blog

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By: Brian C. Hurley, DVM, at AmeriVet Veterinary Partners

Dog Parents may be unaware that their beloved female pet may experience what is called a “phantom pregnancy.” Phantom pregnancy is also known as a false pregnancy, pseudo-pregnancy, or pseudocyesis.

This condition occurs when intact (not spayed) females start to mimic the physical and behavioral signs of pregnancy and can follow a normal heat cycle.

The exact reason these hormonal changes occur in a non-pregnant dog is unknown. When a healthy, intact female experiences her heat cycle, her ovaries will produce hormones whether the female is pregnant or not. These hormones prepare the uterus to receive the fetuses and maintain the pregnancy. The increase in circulating hormones causes changes that mimic pregnancy.  If the female is not pregnant, the hormone concentration drops around four to six weeks later. This decline in hormone levels sends a signal to the body that can sometimes stimulate mammary gland development and could cause possible milk production.

How to tell if your dog is experiencing a phantom pregnancy

Your dog’s behavior is one of the biggest telltale signs that your pup might be experiencing a phantom pregnancy. Your dog may start acting in a nurturing, motherly way. This is showcased when dogs begin moving bedding around to create a safe den for puppies, known as ‘nesting’.  Additionally, dogs tend to become more affectionate to their toys and may even act aggressive or protective around them. Remember that if you have a household with small children, it is important to keep contact with your dog limited during this time to minimize the possible risk of an accident occurring.

Also, some dogs will exhibit physical signs such as a swollen belly, weight gain, and enlarged mammary glands that may or may not produce milk. Other signs of phantom pregnancy can include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and restlessness – all of which could also be indicative of other medical issues.

How can you help your pet recover?

In general, if you are certain your female dog has not been with an intact male, there is nothing you need to do except let the phantom pregnancy run its course. This can cause anxiety in some dogs, so be sure to give them extra attention and a little TLC (tender-loving care). Things like taking them for extra walks can help to ease their anxiety, and understanding that the behaviors exhibited are natural versus becoming upset with your pet is also helpful.

It is important to not massage or stimulate the release of milk during this time because that will result in further milk production.

Phantom pregnancy symptoms begin to show two months following the heat cycle. Usually, the symptoms will last a few weeks and can range between four to nine weeks before they dissipate; however, symptoms typically tend to resolve naturally within a 2-3 weeks.

When to consult your veterinarian

Pet parents often will visit their vet for reassurance that their intact female dog is not pregnant. Of course, visiting the vet is unnecessary if your pet has not been around intact males and is healthy otherwise. It is important to let your veterinarian know that your dog is exhibiting phantom pregnancy, even if they do not feel you need to bring them in for a visit.

If they feel a visit is warranted, they may recommend additional testing to ensure there are no underlying medical conditions that could result in these kinds of symptoms. If your dog will not be used for breeding, spaying (ovariohysterectomy) is recommended as this will prevent future episodes from occurring. Your veterinarian will recommend the appropriate timing for surgery.

If your pet is lethargic, not eating, restless, inflamed, has painful mammary glands, or is experiencing anxiety, please get in touch with your veterinarian. While not common, your veterinarian may prescribe medications for anxiety, for the reduction of milk production, or for infections.

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Read This Next

  • Introduction

What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

9 signs of phantom pregnancy in dogs, when does phantom pregnancy in dogs happen, how long does a phantom pregnancy last in dogs, what causes phantom pregnancy in dogs, what to do when the phantom pregnancy symptoms appear, how is false pregnancy in dogs diagnosed, how can i find out if my dog is actually pregnant or not, is there a treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs, distract them , gently remove toys she’s mothering, help avoid overstimulation of the mammary glands, treatment from the vet, is spaying a good solution for phantom pregnancies in dogs.

Dog sitting looking up

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Symptoms and Causes

Lilly and Aimee

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.

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.

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:

  • Mammary development
  • Enlarged belly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Being protective of small inanimate objects
  • Restlessness or aggression

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.

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.

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. 

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!

Brown dog on vet table being inspected

To diagnose false pregnancy your vet will take a history about your dog’s recent seasons and any matings. They will examine your dog for abdominal swelling, mammary growth and lactation.

If you don’t think your dog is having a phantom pregnancy and suspect they might be pregnant, take them to the vet. They’ll be able to carry out a blood or urine test and possibly an x-ray or ultrasound to confirm whether it’s a false pregnancy or not.

There is treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs, depending on the severity of the case. We’ve listed some treatments below:

If your dog is showing mild symptoms of phantom pregnancy, you can provide them with lots of dog exercise to distract them from mothering.

Mild symptoms of mothering can usually be managed by removing toys she is protecting. You’ll need to do this in a non-distressing way by distracting her with a game or a Kong toy and getting someone else to quietly remove the toys she is mothering. It’s important to not punish your dog for mothering.

Your dog may be licking her nipples to increase milk production. This can cause some irritation, and even dog mastitis , so a protective vest may be needed.

In more persistent or severe cases, the vet might recommend a treatment to help restore the hormonal balance. 

You should also consider discussing with the vet about spaying your female dog after the false pregnancy has subsided, to prevent recurrence. We have more on this below:

Spaying (ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy) is a long-term solution that will prevent future episodes of phantom pregnancy. However, a dog should not be spayed during a phantom pregnancy as this can cause the symptoms to persist. The changes that occur to the womb during phantom pregnancies increase the risk of uterine infection (pyometra), which can be life-threatening. If your dog has phantom pregnancies and you are not planning to mate from her, it is advisable to have her spayed to reduce this risk. Other benefits of spaying include reduced risk of developing mastitis, mammary, uterine or ovarian cancer, and removing the possibility of unplanned pregnancies.

Discover more about puppy neutering and spaying from our in-depth article, such as what does the process involve, recovery tips as well as what changes to expect.

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Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

What is a phantom pregnancy, preventing phantom pregnancies in dogs, when to contact your vet.

  • A phantom pregnancy is a condition that can develop after a season, which causes a dog to act and feel pregnant when she isn’t.
  • During a phantom pregnancy, most dogs start nesting, behaving differently, and lactating (producing milk).
  • Most phantom pregnancies are mild and resolve within a few weeks, but some are more extreme and require treatment from a vet.
  • Most dogs that have experienced a phantom pregnancy will continue to have them throughout life unless they are spayed .

A photo of a chocolate Labrador lying down on a soft rug with a soft toy bear

A phantom pregnancy (also called false pregnancy/pseudopregnancy) is a condition that can develop after a season , that causes a dog to act and feel pregnant when she isn’t. It’s a very common problem female dogs because after each season, they produce ‘pregnancy hormones’ (regardless of whether they are pregnant or not!), which make some dogs feel pregnant when they aren’t.

Fortunately, in most cases, the symptoms of a pseudopregnancy are mild and resolve in a few weeks, but for some, the symptoms are more extreme and require medical treatment from a vet. It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog if she is having a phantom pregnancy, because in some circumstances, it can cause more serious problems such as mastitis (mammary gland infection) and mammary cancers.

Phantom pregnancies usually develop 6-8 weeks after a season , and last for a few weeks. Symptoms tend to include:

  • Swollen mammary glands and milk production (or clear-brown liquid)
  • Collecting toys/blankets/clothes
  • Mothering a soft toy or another item
  • Nervousness and/or aggression
  • Reduced appetite
  • Mastitis/mammary gland infection (in severe cases)
  • Swollen tummy (in more extreme cases)

Before treating a phantom pregnancy, it’s important to consider whether there is any chance your dog could actually be pregnant – if you have any doubt, your vet will be able to run some tests to confirm. Once pregnancy has been ruled out your vet will help you decide on the best treatment plan.

If your dog is only experiencing mild symptoms, treatment may not be necessary, but if she has developed behavioural or mammary problems your vet may advise the following:

Cabergoline

Cabergoline is a hormone that stops pregnancy hormones being produced and reduces the symptoms of pseudopregnancy – especially milk production. It’s usually given as a liquid by mouth for 1-2 weeks.

Distraction

Lots of exercise and play will help distract your dog and reduce the symptoms of her phantom pregnancy.

Prevent overstimulation of the mammary glands

It’s important to prevent your dog licking around her nipples because this is likely to increase her milk production, and could even cause mastitis (infection of the mammary glands). The best way to stop your dog from licking herself, is by using a protective body suit or buster collar .

Remove any toys she is ‘mothering’

If your dog ‘mothering’ her toys or other items, you may need to remove them. It’s likely that your dog will be thinking of these toys as her puppies so you will need to take them away in a non-stressful way so she doesn’t become upset or aggressive. A good way to go about it is to take her out for a walk while someone else removes the toys. If she starts nesting or mothering again, distract her with games, and toys that she is less likely to ‘mother’ such as a filled ‘ Kong ’. Never punish your dog for mothering her toys, she won’t understand because her behaviour is perfectly natural.

The best way to prevent a phantom pregnancy is to spay your dog (most dogs can be spayed at 6 months old).

Contact your vet for advice if you think your dog might be having a phantom pregnancy. Contact them urgently if she appears to be in pain or developing a more serious problem such as mastitis (mammary gland infection).

You know your dog best – always contact your vet if you’re concerned.

Treating the symptoms of a false pregnancy can be expensive so it’s important to speak openly to your vet about your finances, the cost of treatment, as well as what you think is right for your dog. It’s often cheaper to spay your dog than it is to keep treating false pregnancies. 

Securing dog insurance when bringing your new furry friend home is crucial. This proactive measure guarantees that you will have the essential financial support to provide the necessary care for your dog.

Published: September 2021

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  • Pregnancy problems
  • Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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See files for Dogs

Also known as pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy , phantom pregnancy in dogs is a relatively common disorder in this species. It appears at the end of the diestrus cycle and is characterized by the manifestation of clinical, physical and behavioral signs. These are symptoms typical of motherhood, which include the production of milk and the raising of inanimate objects. The key difference is that the dog is not actually pregnant.

In this AnimalWised article, we discuss everything you need to know about phantom pregnancy in dogs . We look at why false pregnancy occurs, as well as what to do about it and how to prevent it reoccurring in the future.

What is a phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Symptoms of false pregnancy in dogs, how long does a phantom pregnancy in dogs last, phantom pregnancy in dogs diagnosis, can you cure phantom pregnancy in dogs, should you take toys away during phantom pregnancy in dogs, how to prevent phantom pregnancy in dogs.

A phantom pregnancy, also known as a false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy , is a condition that can occur in female dogs. It is a reproductive phenomenon where a non-pregnant dog shows physical and behavioral signs of being pregnant. Some dogs may exhibit maternal behaviors towards objects or even attempt to nurse. It can be such that the dog even produces breast milk, despite not having puppies to feed.

Phantom pregnancies are believed to be triggered by hormonal imbalances that mimic the hormonal changes that occur during actual pregnancy. The dog's body prepares for pregnancy even if fertilization has not taken place. This condition is more common in dogs that have not been spayed and usually occurs about 6-12 weeks after the dog's heat cycle.

Phantom pregnancies in dogs are not uncommon, but they can cause discomfort and behavioral changes. While they usually resolve on their own, it's recommended to consult a veterinarian to ensure there are no underlying health issues and to provide appropriate care and support for the dog during this period.

Symptoms of a false pregnancy in dogs can vary. They can be similar to those of a real pregnancy, which often makes it challenging to differentiate between the two. Some of the common symptoms of a false pregnancy in dogs include:

  • Mammary gland enlargement : the mammary glands may become swollen and more prominent, similar to what happens during a real pregnancy. It is possible for an infection to occur and abnormal swelling which results in mastitis in the dog .
  • Milk production : some guardians might find themselves asking why does my dog have milk, but is not pregnant? Psuedo pregnancy can
  • Nesting behavior : dogs might show nesting behaviors, such as trying to create a comfortable space to give birth, even if they are not actually pregnant.
  • Weight gain : it is difficult to understate how much hormonal changes can affect a dog's physical state, not only their behavior. Dogs may experience weight gain due to changes in appetite and hormonal fluctuations. This can be exacerbated if they exercise less.
  • Abdominal enlargement : the abdomen might appear slightly larger due to hormonal changes that mimic pregnancy. There are various reasons why a dog's belly might be hard , so we need to speak to a vet to ensure it is actually due to false pregnancy.
  • Behavioral changes : dogs might exhibit maternal behaviors, such as carrying around objects as if they were puppies or becoming protective of certain items.
  • Anxiety and restlessness : some dogs may appear anxious or restless, displaying behaviors associated with a real impending birth.
  • Licking and nurturing : dogs might excessively lick their abdominal area or the air, as if trying to clean puppies or stimulate them to nurse.

It's important to note that while these symptoms can be similar to those of a real pregnancy, false pregnancies do not involve actual puppies developing in the uterus. False pregnancies are caused by hormonal imbalances that trigger the body to go through pregnancy-related changes even when there is no pregnancy.

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Symptoms of false pregnancy in dogs

The duration of a psychological or phantom pregnancy in dogs can vary from one individual to another and may last for several weeks to a few months . Several factors can influence the length of a phantom pregnancy:

  • Breed : the breed of the dog can play a role. Some breeds may be more prone to experiencing longer-lasting phantom pregnancies.
  • Individual variation : each dog is unique, and the duration of a phantom pregnancy can vary based on the individual's hormonal and physiological factors.
  • Hormonal factors: the hormonal imbalances that trigger a phantom pregnancy can affect the duration. Hormone levels may take time to return to their normal state.
  • Lactation : if a dog experiences milk production as part of the phantom pregnancy, it might continue until the hormonal fluctuations subside.
  • Interventions : how the phantom pregnancy is managed can also impact its duration. Veterinary guidance and recommendations for care and management can influence how quickly the dog recovers.
  • Spaying : in some cases, spaying (removing the ovaries and uterus) might be recommended to prevent future episodes of phantom pregnancy. Spaying can resolve the condition more quickly. Learn more with our article on whether spayed dogs can get pyometra .
  • Stress levels : high levels of stress or anxiety in dogs can potentially prolong a phantom pregnancy or exacerbate its symptoms.

Diagnosing phantom pregnancy in dogs involves observing the dog's behavioral and physical changes , as explained in the previous sections. It's essential to consult a veterinarian who will perform a thorough physical examination, discuss your observations and consider your dog's medical history to confirm the diagnosis. This examination helps rule out other potential health issues and ensures appropriate care for your dog during this period.

To diagnose pseudopregnancy in dogs , the veterinarian will perform the following tasks:

  • Check medical history
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Assess the symptoms
  • Exclude other conditions
  • Use hormonal testing
  • Provide imaging tests such as ultrasound

Once the dog has been properly assessed, they can confirm a phantom pregnancy. If they have not been spayed, it is also possible the dog is actually pregnant. This is especially the case if they have interacted with an intact male. For this reason, the vet will likely perform a pregnancy test .

Learn more with our article on a dog's pregnancy progression .

Phantom pregnancies (pseudopregnancies) in dogs typically resolve on their own without the need for specific medical treatment. The condition usually runs its course over several weeks to a few months. As the hormonal imbalances associated with the phantom pregnancy naturally subside, the dog's symptoms and physical changes, such as mammary gland enlargement and nesting behavior, gradually return to normal.

If the symptoms are severe or causing significant distress to the dog, or if your dog experiences recurrent phantom pregnancies, your veterinarian may recommend treatment options to manage the condition . Treatment strategies may include:

  • Medication : in some cases, your vet may prescribe medications to help alleviate symptoms and reduce hormonal fluctuations. These medications can help your dog feel more comfortable and less anxious during a phantom pregnancy.
  • Spaying : if your dog experiences frequent or severe phantom pregnancies and you do not plan to breed her in the future, spaying (ovariohysterectomy) may be recommended. Spaying removes the ovaries and uterus, preventing future episodes of phantom pregnancy.
  • Behavioral support : in cases where your dog displays anxious or compulsive behaviors during a phantom pregnancy, your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist may offer guidance on managing and addressing these issues.

It's important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dog based on her specific situation and the severity of her symptoms. While treatment can provide relief and improve the dog's comfort, it's reassuring to know that most phantom pregnancies naturally resolve over time. The overall prognosis for affected dogs is generally positive.

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Can you cure phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Whether you should take toys away from a dog during a phantom pregnancy depends on the individual dog's behavior and preferences. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

Obsessive behavior : some dogs experiencing a phantom pregnancy may display obsessive nesting behaviors, which can include gathering and mothering toys or other objects. In such cases, removing toys or objects might help redirect their focus and prevent excessive nesting, which could be distressing for the dog. Learn about other reasons dogs are possessive with toys in our related article.

Comfort items : some dogs find comfort in having their favorite toys or objects with them during a phantom pregnancy. These items can provide a sense of security and comfort during a potentially confusing time.

Monitoring behavior : it's important to monitor your dog's behavior. If she is not displaying excessive nesting or obsessive behavior with toys, there may be no need to remove them.

Consult with a vet or ethologist : if you're unsure about whether to remove toys or have concerns about your dog's behavior during a phantom pregnancy, consider consulting with a veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. They can assess your dog's specific situation and provide guidance tailored to her needs.

Ultimately, the decision to remove or leave toys during a phantom pregnancy should be based on your dog's behavior and comfort. Observing her and seeking professional guidance if needed can help you make the best choice for her well-being during this period.

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Should you take toys away during phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Finally, preventing the recurrence of false in dogs often involves a combination of management strategies. The most effective way to prevent this problem is spaying , but we present the best ways to help prevent future episodes:

  • Spaying : the most effective way to prevent phantom pregnancies is to spay your dog (ovariohysterectomy), which involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Spaying eliminates the hormonal fluctuations that trigger phantom pregnancies. Discuss the timing and benefits of spaying with your veterinarian, especially if you do not plan to breed your dog. Learn more with our article on complications after spaying a dog .
  • Behavioral support : if your dog is prone to anxiety or displays compulsive behaviors that may contribute to phantom pregnancies, consider consulting with a veterinary behaviorist. They can provide guidance on managing and addressing these behaviors, potentially reducing the risk of recurrence.
  • Maintain a stable routine : keeping a consistent and stable daily routine for your dog can help reduce stress and anxiety, which may be associated with the onset of phantom pregnancies.
  • Minimize stressors : be mindful of any potential stressors in your dog's environment. Avoid introducing significant changes or disruptions that could increase her stress levels.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment , we recommend you visit our Pregnancy problems category.

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phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

  • Introduction

What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Symptoms of phantom pregnancy in dogs, how long does a phantom pregnancy last, what causes phantom pregnancy in dogs, what to do when the phantom pregnancy symptoms appear, how is false pregnancy in dogs diagnosed, is there a treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs, is spaying a good solution for phantom pregnancies in dogs.

Dog sitting looking up

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Symptoms and Causes

Lilly and Aimee

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 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 are, how a false pregnancy gets diagnosed and when medical treatment is necessary.

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

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:

  • Mammary development
  • Enlarged belly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Being protective of small inanimate objects
  • Restlessness or aggression

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.

The origins of phantom pregnancy 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. 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 (this does not occur in humans). As levels of progesterone decline levels of a second hormone, prolactin, increase. This is what triggers 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.

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!

Brown dog on vet table being inspected

To diagnose false pregnancy your vet will take a history about your dog’s recent seasons and any matings. They will examine your dog for abdominal swelling, mammary growth and lactation.

They may advise ultrasound or x-rays to check whether puppies are present.

Mild symptoms can usually be managed by distracting your dog from nesting and mothering. In more persistent or severe cases, the vet might recommend a treatment to help restore the hormonal balance. You should also consider discussing with the vet about spaying your female dog after the false pregnancy has subsided, to prevent recurrence.

Spaying (ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy) is a long-term solution that will prevent future episodes of phantom pregnancy. However, a dog should not be spayed during a phantom pregnancy as this can cause the symptoms to persist. The changes that occur to the womb during phantom pregnancies increase the risk of uterine infection (pyometra), which can be life-threatening. If your dog has phantom pregnancies and you are not planning to mate from her, it is advisable to have her spayed to reduce this risk. Other benefits of spaying include reduced risk of developing mastitis, mammary, uterine or ovarian cancer, and removing the possibility of unplanned pregnancies.

Discover more about puppy neutering and spaying from our in-depth article, such as what does the process involve, recovery tips as well as what changes to expect.

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Understanding phantom pregnancy in dogs

A picture of dog trainer and behaviourist Philippa Short

Philippa Short 20 March 2023 | 4 minutes read

Philippa is a certified dog trainer and behaviourist. Having set up her business Animal Friend in 1997, she believes in taking a kind and holistic approach to dog training. Her passion is helping owners to understand their dogs and increasing the bond between canines and humans.

If you have an unspayed female dog in the family, there’s a chance she could have a phantom pregnancy one day.

Expert dog behaviourist Philippa Short shares what you need to know about recognising, treating, and preventing this common condition.

  • An overview of female dog hormones

What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

  • What are the physical symptoms of dog phantom pregnancy? > What are the behavioural signs of dog phantom pregnancy?

How is dog phantom pregnancy diagnosed?

How is dog phantom pregnancy treated, how do you stop your dog having a phantom pregnancy, an overview female dog hormones.

Before we delve into the details of phantom pregnancy, let’s have a quick rundown of your dog’s hormones and how they work.

  • Oestrogen – seasonal hormone
  • Progesterone – pregnancy hormone
  • Prolactin – breastfeeding hormone

When your female pup comes into season:

  • They start with high levels of oestrogen
  • After ovulation has happened (between days 10 and 18 of the season), progesterone kicks in
  • Progesterone peaks 20 days after ovulation
  • When progesterone levels fall, prolactin increases
  • Prolactin peaks 40-60 days after ovulation and then rapidly drops if there’s no pregnancy

A picture of a Rhodesian Ridgeback going through phantom pregnancy

Phantom pregnancy is a condition where your dog feels and acts pregnant without actually being pregnant. It’s also known as a phantom or pseudo pregnancy.

In the wild, phantom pregnancies help female dogs to share the load of child rearing and allows them to wet nurse each other’s young. So if a mother was killed, the rest of the family unit can care for her litter.

Phantom pregnancies often happen six to 12 weeks after a dog’s heat season. This can range from three to 14 weeks depending on the individual pup.

Breeds that are more prone to phantom pregnancies include:

  • Afghan Hounds
  • Basset Hounds

A picture of a Dalmatian curled up in her bed, going through phantom pregnancy

What are the physical symptoms of dog phantom pregnancy?

Your girl absolutely believes she is pregnant, so the physical symptoms of phantom pregnancy are very similar to those of a normal dog pregnancy :

  • Large mammary glands
  • Weight gain (thickening through the abdomen)
  • Going off her food and/or feeling queasy
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Bad morning sickness (or just a little bit at the beginning)
  • Increased hunger
  • Drinking and weeing more
  • She can even have full lactation

> What are the behavioural signs of dog phantom pregnancy?

Once again, phantom pregnancy behaviour is very similar to that of a real dog pregnancy:

  • Nesting – under stairs, under tables, behind sofas, in the bed
  • Digging outside or in blankets
  • Carrying and hoarding/mothering inanimate objects
  • Feeling anxious or worried, sometimes escalating to aggression
  • Feeling lethargic or generally unsure within themselves
  • Licking, similar to how a mother would clean her litter – her feet, nesting place, the inanimate object “baby”

A picture of a vet performing an ultrasound on a dog

A phantom pregnancy diagnosis comes from a vet. Blood tests which check your dog’s prolactin levels are unreliable, so your vet will try an ultrasound instead.

They also use the ultrasound to scan her uterus for pyometra, as this can be mistaken for phantom pregnancy.

Signs of pyometra include:

  • A swollen abdomen
  • Eating more
  • Drinking more
  • Raised temperature

Your vet will ask about your girl’s seasonal history to know if she’s been mated.

A picture of a Retriever wearing a doughnut collar to protect her glands during phantom pregnancy

There’s two ways you can treat your dog’s phantom pregnancy – either letting her work through it naturally or using medication.

If you choose the conservative option of letting her work through it naturally, you’ll still need to give a bit of a helping hand.

  • Stop her from licking. This stimulates milk production and can lead to mastitis. Using a blow up collar, doughnut collar, or vest can prevent her from licking her mammary glands/teats.
  • Take her out of emotional nursing mode (which can keep her hormone levels high). But don’t take her “baby” away in front of your dog, as this may trigger protective behaviour. Instead, use treats to encourage her out for a garden wee or a walk. Then you can go in and remove all of her fake puppies.

You’ll need to take your pup to the vet if you’d like to try medication. They’ll check her over and give her something to help get her through her phantom pregnancy. Your vet may also recommend some diet restrictions to help with stopping milk production.

Not using medication puts your pup at a higher risk of getting mastitis, which can be very painful.

A picture of a Sheepdog at the vets

Dogs who have one phantom pregnancy are likely to get them frequently.

The ultimate way to prevent phantom pregnancy is via full spaying (known as an ovariohysterectomy).

But if for any reason you don’t want to spay your girl, there’s natural ways to help prevent phantom pregnancy or ease symptoms. These include:

  • Homeopathic or herbal remedies such as raspberry leaf tea or Pulsatilla
  • Essential oils like rose otto, rose damascena, and clary sage

Always go to a qualified expert (such as a holistic vet or animal herbalist) before trying any natural remedies.

It’s also important to remember that this approach doesn’t work for every dog. It may prevent phantom pregnancy for some and only ease symptoms for others.

Protect your top girl with flexible dog insurance from Petsure.

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False pregnancy in dogs – Helping your dog through a phantom pregnancy

False pregnancy in dogs, how to tell if your dog is having 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.

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

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
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Swollen belly

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

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

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

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

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

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.

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

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Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Explore the Fascinating Facts

A phantom pregnancy in dogs, also known as pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy, is a condition where a female dog displays signs and symptoms of pregnancy despite not being pregnant. This condition can be confusing for both dog owners and the dogs themselves, as the female dog may exhibit behaviors and physical changes that mimic a true pregnancy. Here are some key points to understand about phantom pregnancy in dogs:

Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Phantom Pregnancy Causes: 

The exact causes of phantom pregnancy (pseudopregnancy) in dogs are not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to hormonal imbalances, particularly involving the hormones progesterone and prolactin. Here are some factors and mechanisms that may contribute to the development of phantom pregnancies in dogs:

  • Hormonal Fluctuations: During a dog's normal reproductive cycle, there are significant hormonal changes. If a female dog goes through a heat cycle (estrus) but does not mate or become pregnant, there can be hormonal imbalances, specifically an elevated level of progesterone and prolactin, which can trigger the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy.
  • Sensitivity to Hormones: Some individual dogs may be more sensitive to hormonal changes than others, making them more prone to experiencing phantom pregnancies.
  • Stimulation of Mammary Glands: Increased levels of prolactin can stimulate the mammary glands, causing them to swell and produce milk. This can lead to one of the hallmark signs of a phantom pregnancy—enlarged and lactating mammary glands.

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  • Psychological Factors: Psychological factors and maternal instincts can also play a role. Female dogs may exhibit nesting behavior and maternal care toward objects or toys, further mimicking pregnancy.
  • Prolonged False Pregnancy: In some cases, a false pregnancy can occur as a recurring or prolonged condition. The dog may go through multiple episodes of phantom pregnancies, potentially triggered by hormonal fluctuations in each heat cycle.
  • Breed Predisposition: Certain dog breeds may be more prone to phantom pregnancies than others. Breeds with a strong maternal instinct, such as retrievers and terriers, may be more susceptible.

It's important to note that while these factors are believed to contribute to phantom pregnancies, the exact mechanisms and causes can vary from one individual dog to another. Phantom pregnancies are relatively common in intact (unspayed) female dogs and can occur after each heat cycle if the dog is not bred or spayed. Spaying your dog is the most effective way to prevent phantom pregnancies, as it eliminates the hormonal fluctuations associated with the estrus cycle. If you have concerns about phantom pregnancies or your dog's reproductive health, consult with a veterinarian for guidance and advice.

Symptoms: 

Phantom pregnancy (pseudopregnancy) in dogs can manifest with a variety of symptoms that mimic those of a real pregnancy. These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration from one dog to another. Common signs of a phantom pregnancy in dogs include:

  • Nesting Behavior: The dog may start to exhibit nesting behavior, where she gathers and rearranges bedding or other materials to create a comfortable "nest" for her "puppies." This behavior can be quite elaborate and may involve digging or scratching.
  • Enlarged and Lactating Mammary Glands: One of the most noticeable signs is the enlargement of the mammary glands, often accompanied by the production of milk. The dog's nipples may become swollen, and she may even attempt to nurse or lick her mammary glands.
  • Weight Gain: The dog may experience weight gain, which can be a result of hormonal changes and increased food intake due to the perceived pregnancy.
  • Changes in Appetite: Some dogs may have changes in their eating habits. They might exhibit a decreased appetite or become more finicky with their food.
  • Abdominal Distention: The dog's abdomen may appear swollen or distended, which can be mistaken for pregnancy.
  • Protective Behavior: Some dogs may become overly protective of their "puppies" or display maternal behaviors, such as guarding stuffed animals or toys.
  • Restlessness or Anxiety: Restlessness, anxiety, or nervousness may occur as the dog tries to tend to her "puppies."
  • Vocalization: Some dogs may vocalize more than usual, whining or whimpering as if trying to communicate with their "puppies."
  • Self-Nursing: In some cases, a dog may attempt to nurse herself by licking or suckling her mammary glands.
  • Changes in Behavior: Behavioral changes can vary widely, with some dogs appearing more lethargic while others are more agitated and restless.

It's important to note that the severity of these symptoms can vary, and not all dogs will exhibit every symptom. The symptoms usually occur within a few weeks after the dog's heat cycle and typically resolve on their own after a similar timeframe. However, if you suspect your dog is experiencing a phantom pregnancy or if the symptoms are severe or prolonged, it's advisable to consult with a veterinarian. A vet can provide guidance and, if necessary, recommend treatments to alleviate discomfort or manage symptoms.

Dog Phantom Pregnancy

Duration: 

The duration of a phantom pregnancy (pseudopregnancy) in dogs can vary from one individual to another, but it typically follows a timeline that is similar to the duration of a real canine pregnancy, which is approximately 63 days. Here's a general timeline for the various stages of a phantom pregnancy in dogs:

  • Onset of Symptoms: Phantom pregnancy symptoms usually begin to appear within a few weeks after the female dog's heat cycle (estrus). This is when hormonal changes trigger the false pregnancy. Symptoms may become noticeable around 3 to 4 weeks after the end of estrus.
  • Peak of Symptoms: The symptoms of a phantom pregnancy tend to peak at around 6 to 7 weeks after the dog's estrus cycle. This is when you may observe the most pronounced signs, such as enlarged mammary glands, lactation, nesting behavior, and changes in appetite.
  • Plateau Phase: After reaching their peak, the symptoms often plateau and remain relatively stable for some time. This plateau phase can last for several weeks.
  • Resolution: In most cases, the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy begin to resolve on their own without the need for intervention. The resolution phase typically begins around 8 to 9 weeks after the dog's estrus cycle. During this phase, the dog's body gradually returns to its normal hormonal balance, and the symptoms subside.
  • Complete Resolution: By approximately 10 to 12 weeks after the end of the dog's estrus cycle, the false pregnancy symptoms should have completely resolved. The mammary glands return to their normal size, and the dog's behavior returns to its usual state.

It's important to note that the duration of a phantom pregnancy can vary among individual dogs. Some dogs may experience a shorter or longer period of false pregnancy, and the intensity of symptoms can also differ. If the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy persist beyond the typical duration or if they are causing discomfort or distress to the dog, it's advisable to consult with a veterinarian. In some cases, a vet may recommend treatments to alleviate symptoms or, in recurrent cases, spaying the dog to prevent future episodes of pseudopregnancy.

Diagnosis: 

The diagnosis of a phantom pregnancy (pseudopregnancy) in dogs typically involves a combination of a physical examination, a review of the dog's medical history, and, in some cases, additional diagnostic tests. Here's how veterinarians diagnose phantom pregnancies in dogs:

  • Medical History: The veterinarian will start by discussing the dog's medical history with the owner. They will ask about the dog's recent estrus (heat) cycles, any potential mating or breeding, and the onset and duration of the observed symptoms.
  • Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination will be conducted to assess the dog's overall health and to evaluate the physical signs associated with the suspected phantom pregnancy. This includes palpating the mammary glands and abdomen.
  • Symptom Assessment: The veterinarian will assess the presence and severity of symptoms commonly associated with phantom pregnancies, such as enlarged mammary glands, milk production, nesting behavior, and changes in appetite.
  • Eliminating Other Conditions: It's important to rule out other medical conditions that can mimic the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy, such as pyometra (a uterine infection), mammary gland infections, or tumors. Blood tests, imaging (such as ultrasound), or other diagnostic tests may be recommended to rule out these conditions.

FI collars for dogs

  • Hormone Testing: In some cases, blood tests may be performed to measure hormone levels, particularly prolactin and progesterone. Elevated levels of these hormones can be indicative of a phantom pregnancy.
  • Imaging: If there is uncertainty about the diagnosis or to rule out other conditions, the veterinarian may use ultrasound or radiography (X-rays) to examine the dog's reproductive organs and confirm the absence of pregnancy.
  • Behavioral Assessment: The vet may also observe the dog's clingy behavior , looking for signs of nesting, self-nursing, or protective behaviors toward objects.

Once the veterinarian has gathered all relevant information, they will make a diagnosis based on the clinical signs, physical examination findings, and any diagnostic test results. If the dog is determined to have a phantom pregnancy, the veterinarian will typically explain the condition to the owner, discuss treatment options if necessary, and provide guidance on monitoring and care.

It's important to consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your happy dog is experiencing a phantom pregnancy or if you notice any unusual symptoms. Accurate diagnosis is crucial to ensure that the dog receives appropriate care and that other potential health issues are ruled out.

Treatment: 

Treatment for a phantom pregnancy (pseudopregnancy) in dogs is not always necessary, as the condition often resolves on its own as hormone levels return to normal. However, if the symptoms are severe, causing discomfort to the dog, or persist for an extended period, your veterinarian may recommend various treatment options to alleviate the dog's symptoms. Here are some common treatment approaches:

  • Monitoring: In many cases, the best approach is to monitor the dog closely to ensure she does not harm herself or her "puppies." Keep an eye on her behavior and physical condition, and consult with your veterinarian if there are any concerning changes.
  • Dietary Adjustments: Some dogs may experience changes in appetite during a phantom pregnancy. You can adjust their diet to ensure they are receiving appropriate nutrition. Offering small, frequent meals or switching to a high-quality, well-balanced dog food may be recommended.
  • Restricting Access to Nesting Materials: If the dog is excessively nesting and rearranging bedding or materials, you can limit her access to these items to prevent her from engaging in this behavior.
  • Hormone therapy: Medications that can help regulate hormone levels, such as bromocriptine or cabergoline, may be used to reduce milk production and relieve mammary gland swelling.
  • Sedatives or anti-anxiety medications: These can be prescribed to calm the dog and reduce restlessness or separation anxiety associated with the phantom pregnancy.
  • Spaying (Ovariohysterectomy): If a dog experiences recurrent or severe phantom pregnancies, or if the condition is causing significant distress, spaying (removing the ovaries and uterus) may be recommended. Spaying is a permanent solution that prevents future episodes of pseudopregnancy, as it eliminates the hormonal fluctuations associated with the estrus cycle.
  • Alternative Therapies: Some dog owners explore alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies or homeopathy, to help manage the symptoms of phantom pregnancy. It's essential to discuss these options with your veterinarian to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your dog.

It's crucial to consult with your veterinarian before pursuing any treatment options for a phantom pregnancy. Your vet can assess the severity of the condition, rule out any underlying health issues, and recommend the most suitable course of action based on your dog's individual needs. Additionally, always follow your veterinarian's advice and prescriptions when administering medications or implementing dietary changes to ensure your dog's well-being.

Phantom Pregnancy

Prevention: 

Spaying your female dog is the most effective way to prevent phantom pregnancies. This procedure removes the reproductive organs, eliminating the hormonal fluctuations that can trigger false pregnancies.

It's important to consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your dog is experiencing a phantom pregnancy or if you notice any unusual symptoms. They can guide the best course of action and ensure the well-being of your pet.

Conclusion:

Phantom pregnancy, also known as pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy, is a condition that can affect female dogs. It occurs when a dog displays signs and symptoms of pregnancy despite not being pregnant. This condition is usually caused by hormonal imbalances, particularly involving progesterone and prolactin, and it can mimic many aspects of a real pregnancy.

Phantom pregnancies in dogs often include symptoms like nesting behavior, enlarged mammary glands with milk production, weight gain , changes in appetite, and behavioral changes. The duration of a phantom pregnancy typically follows a timeline similar to a real pregnancy, with symptoms peaking at around 6 to 7 weeks after the dog's estrus cycle and gradually resolving within a few weeks afterward.

Treatment for phantom pregnancies in dogs is not always necessary, as the condition often resolves on its own. However, if the symptoms are severe or prolonged, treatment options may include monitoring, dietary adjustments, medications, or, in severe cases, spaying.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

  • Q1: Is a phantom pregnancy in dogs harmful? 

Phantom pregnancies in dogs are not inherently harmful, but they can cause discomfort and behavioral changes in the affected dog. Monitoring and, in some cases, treatment may be necessary to ensure the dog's well-being.

  • Q2: Can a phantom pregnancy in a dog be confused with a real pregnancy? 

Yes, the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy in dogs can closely mimic those of a real pregnancy, making it challenging to distinguish between the two based on clinical signs alone. Veterinary evaluation and diagnostic tests are often needed for an accurate diagnosis.

Q3: How can I prevent phantom pregnancies in my dog? 

Spaying (ovariohysterectomy) is the most effective way to prevent phantom pregnancies in female dogs. Spaying eliminates the hormonal fluctuations associated with the estrus cycle and prevents future episodes of pseudopregnancy.

  • Q4; Can a dog have multiple episodes of phantom pregnancies? 

Yes, some dogs may experience recurrent phantom pregnancies, especially if they are not spayed. Each episode can be triggered by hormonal fluctuations after subsequent heat cycles.

  • Q5: Should I breed my dog to prevent phantom pregnancies? 

Breeding a dog solely to prevent phantom pregnancies is not recommended unless you have a well-thought-out breeding plan and are prepared to care for the resulting puppies responsibly. Spaying is a safer and more responsible way to prevent phantom pregnancies.

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How You Can Help Your Dog Through a Phantom Pregnancy

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

False, pseudo or phantom pregnancies can affect un-neutered bitches due to individual response to normal hormonal changes associated with her season. They usually start after the first or second season and unfortunately, if your dog has a tendency to these, she’s likely to suffer season after season with symptoms of increasing severity which is where our herbal supplements can help. The symptoms of phantom pregnancy in dogs range from mild unsettled behaviour to more extreme nesting habits such as carrying toys, looking for pups and depression. Physical changes can also occur, including a change in body shape, enlarged teats and even milk production.

Symptoms of Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Our advisors are often asked about phantom pregnancy in dogs however, not many dog owners know what signs to look out for when their bitch may be experiencing a pseudo-pregnancy:

Nesting: This can involve moving around and creating a den. She may also start digging at bedding; a common sig for creating a safe whelping area.

Behavioural changes: Depression, anxiety and clinginess are all signs your bitch may be having a phantom pregnancy however these can be mistaken for other common conditions.

L oss of appetite: Eating less or not eating at all and vomiting are all common signs of a phantom pregnancy. You may also notice weight gain which is due to fluid retention, causing a swollen, bloated belly.

Physical changes: There can be physical signs for phantom pregnancy in dogs, such as swollen belly, enlarged mammary glands and she may start to produce discharge or even milk.

Nursing: Your bitch could also begin to show an interest in nursing. Perhaps by becoming attached to one particular toy and acting in a protective manner around it.

Herbal Remedies For Phantom Pregnancies in Dogs For Future Use

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

Our Raspberry Leaf Tablets can help your dog cope better with hormonal changes by helping maintain normal balance.

Prevention really is the best answer for a bitch who is prone to phantom pregnancies. In extreme cases where pseudo-pregnancy in dogs occurs at every season, it may be advisable to seek veterinary advice regarding the ultimate spaying of the bitch if she is not going to be bred from. However, if this is not an option, then try Raspberry Leaf Tablets for dogs  which have been used successfully to help many bitches in this situation.

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

These tablets use high quality raspberry leaf extract and need to be given at a dosage rate of 1 tablet per 10kg bodyweight twice daily from the first sign of her coming into season. This dose should be continued for twelve weeks, which is up to the time when she would have whelped had she been mated.

Supporting your bitch after a phantom pregnancy or season is also important. Re-balance her hormones and bring normality back with our Evening Primrose Oil for dogs .

Remedies For Dogs For Immediate Use

If is too late for Raspberry Leaf Tablets For Dogs and your bitch is actually going through a phantom pregnancy, there is assistance available that will help to reduce the symptoms and make her more settled while it lasts. 

There is a homoeopathic remedy,  Pulsatilla 15C , which can help a lot. This should be given every 2 hours for the first 12 hours and then four times a day until the symptoms reduce. Very often a bitch will have swollen teats and will start to produce milk; this is one of the more obvious symptoms. Limiting the amount of cereals you feed will help to minimise those symptoms, as will, within reason, not giving extra fluids, as both of these encourage milk production (but always keep water readily available). At the same time, give the homoeopathic remedy  Urtica 3C , which is specifically used to suppress milk production and one of our most widely used homoeopathic remedies for dogs. As with the  Pulsatilla 15C , give it every 2 hours for the first 12 hours and then three times a day until the milk flow reduces.

Psychological Aspects of a Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

While the above tips will help with the physical symptoms of a phantom pregnancy in dogs, it is the psychological aspects that are as distressing for us as owners as they are for her. We find it upsetting to see our bitch being upset and confused by what is happening to her. Effects may include anxiety, confusion and general insecurity that often results in her wanting to cling to us more than usual. The best way to help, apart from reassurance and lots of cuddles, is to give  Scullcap & Valerian Tablets  at a dosage of 1 tablet per 5kgs bodyweight twice a day. Scullcap and Valerian Tablets for dogs helps anxiety and stress, so it will help her to feel more calm and relaxed, and she will be noticeably less fretful and worried by the condition.

Find out more about how veterinary herbal supplements can help your dog by getting in touch with our friendly team on 01308 897272 or use our contact form . Plus, get free UK delivery on orders over £50.

Please remember, you should consult a vet if your bitch does seem not herself after a season. There are other life-threatening conditions such as pyometra, which can develop very quickly, so it is always best to get her checked out by a veterinary professional.

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121 thoughts on " How You Can Help Your Dog Through a Phantom Pregnancy "

my dog is having a phantom pregnancy – all ok but shes becoming agressive to other dogs and looks miserable. I have had to split her up from attacking another dog and ended up with a nasty bite on my hand. Concerned about her, got her a muzzle but she hates it! Shes booked i to be spade end of feb meantime its really distressing for all….

Hi Kate. Yes is must really be distressing. It might be worth looking at giving our Scullcap & Valerian Tablets which are a licensed herbal medicine for anxiety and nervousness. These tablets calm the activity in the nervous system rather than sedating muscles , so will help take the edge off and reduce aggressiveness. They may also be useful if she is stressed at the vets. If you need any more advice please feel free to give us a call on 01308 897272 and one of our advisors will be happy to help.

Hi my dog ruby is having a phantom pregnancy this is her second time she’s only two she’s been on heat twice am getting worried about her now she’s been like this for a month now can you please give me some advice on what I can give her the milk she’s producing is coming out of her teats she is not her self

We would recommend two of our Homeopathic remedies. Firstly the Urtica Urens 3C to help dry up the milk and the Pulsatilla 15C to address general phantom symptoms and help her feel more herself. If you would like anymore information please give us a call on 01308 897272 or email [email protected] and a product advisor will be happy to help

Hi bitch is nearly 2 and after second heat is suffering phantom started producing milk what is best to give to stop this she is a show dog and won’t even walk around the show puts her tail down and sits just not wanting to do it just wants to cuddle

Hi Ash We are sorry to hear about your bitch. We would recommend giving her a homoeophatic called Utrica Urens 3C which helps to support the natural bodily process of less milk production so is especially good during a phantom. Our licensed herbal medicines Raspberry Leaf Tablets are also a good choice if a bitch is prone to phantom pregnancies. Please don’t hesitate to give one of our advisors a call on 01308 897272 who will be happy to help and advise you.

Hope this helps,

Can you give your bitch evbing primrose oil to help through a phantom pregnancy

Hi Teresa – normally we’d recommend Raspberry Leaf during a phantom pregnancy but Evening Primrose is also suitable as it is known for it’s ability to help maintain a normal hormonal balance.

My bitch is going through her first phantom pregnancy and is carrying a ball around crying and only settles if I sit with her I am worried she might turn on my male as he keeps looking at the ball as if to say she has got my ball mum as she normally won’t play ball unless it’s to wind him up should I take the ball away from her or not

My vet prescribed steroid and said next to e she gets it she will have to be spayed as it will reduce her life.

HOW long did it take for your bitch to stop all the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy ? I can’t get my one dressed till end of June as its 3 months after her season she’s 6 but I have just rescued her from the people that I sold her to at 8 weeks old as she was one of my two Springer spaniel dogs pups and they were neglecting the poor thing so I don’t know if she’s had this problem before its new to me as my bitch was done after the first litter she’s got a lot of milk oozing and start to cry last night and she has a teddy bear but I took it off her as it was getting too much for her. And she was not mothering it she was really rough and biting it but she was breed with a staffie and was held down to feed the pups another reason why I have her back to they were both trying to breed her with anydog for money what would you recommend thanks again for your help

My dog was acting up recently. We took her to the vet and he said she had false pregnancy. He told us to give her a pair of socks wrapped together as a pretend dog and the effects would subside in a week. We were going to do so, but when I checked online to see what others thought, everywhere I searched said the total opposite. I don’t want to give her pills or tablets, what can I do? Is there a psychological treatment?

Had this problem recently with little Lottie. She was cranky, off her food and doing all the usual “whelping” due stuff! Took me 2 weeks to realise…. then her milk came in….Was too late really for the Raspberry Leaf but gave Pulsatilla 30c for 5 days… Result. Back to normal. But would it have resolved anyway? Who knows, but next time, I will be doing the whole thing after her season with the Raspberry Leaf too as it was quite bad… poor thing.

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Phantom pregnancy in dogs

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

You’ve probably heard the term phantom pregnancy before. But do you know what it is and how it happens?

Vet Sophie Bell explains more about this condition in dogs, including some telltale signs to watch out for.

Discover how to help support your dog during a phantom pregnancy, and why it’s important to avoid spaying her during this time.

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

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What’s phantom pregnancy and what are the signs.

“A phantom pregnancy occurs when hormone levels in an unspayed female dog ‘tricks’ her body into thinking she’s pregnant when she’s really not” says Sophie.

This can cause physical and behavioural changes that owners may notice in their dogs.

Phantom pregnancies are also sometimes called a false pregnancy, or pseudopregnancy.

Sophie explains the three different stages of a dog’s season and how these can affect the development of a phantom pregnancy:

Pro-oestrus. The hormone oestrogen rises, causing a swollen vulva and a bloody discharge. This stage usually lasts nine days on average, but can range from three to 21 days.

Oestrus. Ovulation occurs within this stage, when a female dog is considered ‘in season’. She’ll be attractive to male dogs and may actively be looking for a mate when you’re out and about. At this stage, the vulva is still swollen but any bloody discharge will have stopped. After ovulation, oestrogen declines and progesterone starts to rise. Again, this stage usually lasts nine days but can have a range of three to 21 days.

Metoestrus or dioestrus. This is the most important stage when it comes to a phantom pregnancy developing. Here, progesterone levels fall and prolactin levels increase, with a peak at 40 to 60 days after ovulation. Prolactin will decline if there’s no viable pregnancy, but this is also the hormone responsible for the development of a phantom pregnancy.

“It’s important to note that all female un-spayed dogs will suffer from a degree of phantom pregnancy as their prolactin levels rise” says Sophie.

When and how long a phantom pregnancy lasts depends on each dog’s cycle length and how long the prolactin remains in her system, but around three to four weeks is normal. Phantom pregnancies tend to develop within three to 14 weeks after oestrus.

“If a female dog shows no outward clinical signs, we class them as a covert phantom pregnancy. Females who show obvious clinical signs are classed as an overt phantom pregnancy,” says Sophie.

Common signs of phantom pregnancy include:

Enlarged mammary glands

Weight gain

Decreased appetite.

Less common signs include:

Increased thirst

Increased hunger

Increased urination

Vomiting or diarrhoea

Enlarged abdomen

An enlarged abdomen can make owners think their dog may be pregnant, but if you know she hasn’t been in contact with any male dogs, a phantom pregnancy is more likely.

You might even notice her nipples start to leak milk. “This is most likely from the furthest back nipples, nearest the tail,” says Sophie. “If you squeeze the nipples firmly and there’s any sign of either milk or a discharge that doesn’t look like milk, this is indicative of a phantom pregnancy” says Sophie.

Behavioural signs to watch out for can include:

Restlessness

‘Mothering’ of soft toys or bedding

Female dogs may also carry out destructive behaviours like digging. While some dogs may become more lethargic, others will become more active.

Your dog may also display anxiety, reactivity, and even aggression. Be aware that the strong instinct to mother items, or guard her bed, can make some dogs reactive and more prone to growl or bite .

Some breeds including Pointers, Basset Hounds, Afghan Hounds, Boxers, Dalmatians, and Dachshunds are more likely to suffer from phantom pregnancies.

How can I tell if my dog is pregnant or having a phantom pregnancy?

During the early stages of pregnancy, it can be hard to tell if your dog is actually pregnant or not, especially if she’s been in contact with male dogs. The symptoms of a phantom pregnancy tend to last around three to four weeks.

Your vet will probably confirm a pregnancy using ultrasound or palpation, but these aren’t accurate until after the 25th day of term. By this stage, the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy have usually disappeared.

If you’d like your vet to confirm a pregnancy before the 25th day of term, ask them to do a blood test.

What should I do if my dog’s having a phantom pregnancy?

Your first step should be to book your dog in for an examination with your vet. Their diagnosis will be based on the clinical signs, combined with details about when your dog was last in season.

“Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, your vet will likely recommend either a conservative approach, or medical treatment” says Sophie.

Conservative treatment

A conservative approach involves waiting for your dog’s symptoms to subside, which usually takes around three to four weeks. During this time, there are things you can do to help speed this up, including:

Removing toys she‘s mothering

Using a buster collar to prevent her licking her mammary glands

Temporarily cutting down her meals to help dry up the milk supply

You should always discuss these treatment options with your vet first.

Medical treatment

Medical treatment involves using the drug cabergoline, which inhibits the production of prolactin.

The cost of treatment will depend on the size of your dog, how many treatments they need, plus any consultation fees. For a large dog, this could be up to £400, although this may be covered by your pet insurance .

In 2021 we saw 321 claims for phantom pregnancies in dogs with an average claim cost of £170.34. If it’s a repeated problem for your dog and causes other health problems like pyometra , the cost will be much higher so you might want to consider spaying.

“While medical treatment may lead to some side effects like anorexia and vomiting, these usually settle down within a couple of days” says Sophie.

“Don’t risk leaving your dog without any treatment” says Sophie. “This can cause mastitis if she’s producing a lot of milk with no puppies to feed. Mastitis is painful but also causes inflammation which can lead to infections.

“Your dog may also lose condition as she burns calories to produce milk. She could also become aggressive and could bite through no fault of her own. In some cases, this may lead to the dog being euthanised” says Sophie.

Spaying and phantom pregnancy

During a phantom pregnancy, it’s very important that you don’t spay your dog. That’s because her body will then remain in this state of phantom pregnancy, accompanied by the physical and behavioural signs outlined above. This is known as persistent phantom pregnancy.

What is persistent phantom pregnancy?

If your dog is spayed while she’s suffering from a phantom pregnancy, her symptoms will often continue even after she’s been spayed. This can be a problem for dogs suffering from covert phantom pregnancies, as they won’t have been showing any signs.

After spaying, they may start to show obvious signs of a phantom pregnancy. Sophie says that “these symptoms won’t go away on their own, and it’s important to seek treatment for your dog.”

“These signs can include anxiety and aggressive tendencies, which can even lead to otherwise healthy dogs being euthanised as their behaviour doesn’t improve over time” says Sophie.

The good news is that treatment with cabergoline should resolve this behaviour.

To avoid spaying your dog during a covert phantom pregnancy, Sophie advises “making sure you note the date of your dog’s cycle when she first starts bleeding, and when she stops. Make a note of when her vulva has shrunk back to its normal size, plus any behavioural changes.”

Your vet will check for obvious signs like mammary enlargement, but the more information you can provide, the better. If your vet suspects your dog is suffering from a covert phantom pregnancy, they may delay the spay date.

If you suspect your dog was spayed during a phantom pregnancy, you should focus on preparing to support her if she shows signs of aggression. Speak to your vet about the possibility of medical treatment which could resolve the issue. An animal behaviourist may also be able to help.

Can cats have phantom pregnancies?

Cats can have phantom pregnancies, but they’re a lot less common than in dogs. In fact, if your female cat is unspayed and spends time outdoors, it’s far more likely that she really is pregnant!

During a phantom pregnancy, cats can show the same signs as we’ve covered above for dogs.

If you do suspect your unspayed female cat is suffering from a phantom pregnancy, it’s always best to speak to your vet for advice.

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  • Introduction

What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Symptoms of phantom pregnancy in dogs, how long does a phantom pregnancy last, what causes phantom pregnancy in dogs, what to do when the phantom pregnancy symptoms appear, how is false pregnancy in dogs diagnosed, is there a treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs, is spaying a good solution for phantom pregnancies in dogs.

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Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Symptoms and Causes

Lilly and Aimee

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 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 are, how a false pregnancy gets diagnosed and when medical treatment is necessary.

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

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:

  • Mammary development
  • Enlarged belly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Being protective of small inanimate objects
  • Restlessness or aggression

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.

The origins of phantom pregnancy 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. 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 (this does not occur in humans). As levels of progesterone decline levels of a second hormone, prolactin, increase. This is what triggers 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.

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!

Brown dog on vet table being inspected

To diagnose false pregnancy your vet will take a history about your dog’s recent seasons and any matings. They will examine your dog for abdominal swelling, mammary growth and lactation.

They may advise ultrasound or x-rays to check whether puppies are present.

Mild symptoms can usually be managed by distracting your dog from nesting and mothering. In more persistent or severe cases, the vet might recommend a treatment to help restore the hormonal balance. You should also consider discussing with the vet about spaying your female dog after the false pregnancy has subsided, to prevent recurrence.

Spaying (ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy) is a long-term solution that will prevent future episodes of phantom pregnancy. However, a dog should not be spayed during a phantom pregnancy as this can cause the symptoms to persist. The changes that occur to the womb during phantom pregnancies increase the risk of uterine infection (pyometra), which can be life-threatening. If your dog has phantom pregnancies and you are not planning to mate from her, it is advisable to have her spayed to reduce this risk. Other benefits of spaying include reduced risk of developing mastitis, mammary, uterine or ovarian cancer, and removing the possibility of unplanned pregnancies.

Discover more about puppy neutering and spaying from our in-depth article, such as what does the process involve, recovery tips as well as what changes to expect.

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Depend On Dogs

Is My Dog Having a Phantom Pregnancy?

If you’re asking yourself ‘Is my dog having a phantom pregnancy?’ then we have all the information that you need to know to work out what might be going on.

Phantom pregnancy, also known as pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy, is a relatively common condition in un-spayed female dogs. It’s thought that about half of all dogs experiencing it during their lifetime.

This can be an upsetting time for the dog and the owner. However, understanding what is happening, the symptoms of false pregnancy in dogs, and why it’s happening, can help you to remain calm if this happens to one of your female dogs.

Our guide provides you with everything that you need to know about phantom pregnancies in dogs. If you need some quick answers you can click on the links below to take you straight to the section that you need information on:

Causes of Phantom Pregnancies in Dogs

Physical Symptoms of a Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Behavior changes associated with phantom pregnancies in dogs.

  • Can I help my Dog Through a Phantom Pregnancy?

How to Treat a Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Preventing phantom pregnancies in dogs, causes of a phantom pregnancy in dogs.

Your female dog has several stages in her reproductive cycle. Then each stage has its own set of accompanying hormones.

During anoestrus your dog is reproductively inactive. The reproductive cycle is effectively resting.

This is the period of time preceding oestrus which lasts for around 9 days. You may notice swelling of the vulva and a bloody discharge. As a result of this, your dog may frequently lick her back end.

Oestrus is when your dog is more commonly known as being ‘in heat’. As with proestrus this phase of the cycle also lasts around 9 days. The vulva discharge normally becomes clear during this period of time but you will see continuation of vulval swelling. Your bitch may also appear to be more restless. It is during oestrus that your dog may become pregnant if she comes into contact with an uncastrated male and is mated. During oestrus your bitch will be highly attractive to male dogs!

Dioestrus (metoestrus)

A pregnant dog will experience an increase in the hormone Prolactin at this time, whilst production of Progesterone decreases. Prolactin is the hormone largely responsible for the clinical signs of pregnancy. However,  even in an un-mated dog, there will be an increase in Prolactin levels (although less than in a pregnant dog). This hormone will prepare the uterus to receive the fetuses and maintain the pregnancy. They continue to be produced until just before the pups are born. This in turn can cause the symptoms associated with phantom pregnancies in dogs.

Changes in Your Dog’s Body

All these changes in a female dog’s body often cause some enlargement of the mammary glands. However, for some, the signs can be more pronounced and lead to a phantom pregnancy (pseudocyesis). As the hormone levels decline in the non-pregnant dog, they send signals to the body. These can then stimulate false labor, mammary gland development, and milk production.

The reason that these hormonal changes occur in the non-pregnant dog is still a mystery. However, it is thought that false pregnancies may be influenced by three different factors:

  • the environment in which they live
  • the nutrition they receive 
  • the breed of dog

Dachshunds for example have a higher likelihood of a false pregnancy than many other breeds. Other considerations include the age of the dog and also the number of times she has given birth.

Symptoms of false pregnancies usually begin four to nine weeks following the previous heat period. They also mimic the symptoms of true pregnancy. These symptoms can occur at any age and do not necessarily follow every season that female dogs have.

The severity of the symptoms does vary from dog to dog. They can also vary from one cycle to the next, even in the same dog.

Swelling of the Mammary Glands

The first physical symptom of a phantom pregnancy that you might notice is usually the swelling of the dog’s mammary glands. This might also be accompanied by some secretions.

This is a common symptom displayed by many bitches following their season and, on its own, is not indicative of a phantom pregnancy. Usually, the secretions are watery or milky, but they may also be brownish in color. Any other color could be an indication that your dog has an infection and requires veterinary treatment.

You may also see some milk production which is quite a common symptom of a false pregnancy in dogs. However, it is important not to try and ‘milk out’ the glands as this will stimulate the production of more secretions.

Loss of Appetite

Another of the signs of a phantom pregnancy in dogs is that they may have a loss of appetite although her belly can swell due to fluid retention. Very occasionally you might see some contractions of the stomach as if she were about to go into labor.

Milk Production

You may also see some milk production. This is quite a common symptom of a false pregnancy in dogs.

The onset of the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy coincides with the time a truly pregnant dog would be showing the same signs. With these all being about preparation for the arrival of her litter.

This means that it is not possible to determine if a pregnancy is real or phantom, just from the clinical signs. Unless you are 100% certain that your dog has not been near any uncastrated male dogs, you should get a vet to check.  They will be able to give you a definite answer through a blood test or by a scan.

Do be aware that not all dogs experiencing a false pregnancy will show the same symptoms. So if you have your suspicions and even if they are only showing a few of the symptoms then it’s recommended to get them checked out by the vet.

Behavioral changes of pseudo-pregnancy include:

  • mothering activity
  • restlessness
  • decreased interest in physical activity
  • occasionally some aggression.

Some affected dogs will show signs of a false labor and then protectively guard toys or other small objects.

Behavioral changes are often seen in phantom pregnancies and may be evident before the physical signs. Hormones affect behavior just as much as they impact on physical attributes.

Your dog may try to nest. They will do this by building a little den in a quiet place. They’re also likely to shred potential bedding material like newspapers. She may exhibit some digging behaviour as she tries to make a suitable place to give birth. She may also get very attached to her toys or to other inanimate objects. You could also see some uncharacteristic nervousness or even aggression towards other dogs.

Other behavioral symptoms of false pregnancies may include your dog seeming rather lethargic. This might be down to the loss of appetite and they may also seem rather depressed. Some dogs become more restless or more clingy. So they will want to follow you around the house at every opportunity. Being aware of your dog’s normal behavior means that you will be able to identify any behavioral changes more easily.

How Can I Help My Dog Through a False Pregnancy?

Prevent licking.

It can be helpful to make sure your dog can’t lick her own mammary glands if they are secreting. When she does this it will stimulate even more milk production. Using an Elizabethan collar or just having her wear a T-shirt can prevent this. You should also be careful not to rub that area yourself when petting or grooming your dog.

Sometimes treatment with diuretics is recommended in order to reduce milk production or relieve fluid retention. These can be especially useful if the symptoms are starting to cause the female dog distress.

Be Sympathetic

Be sympathetic and gentle with your dog. She will be feeling confused and out of sorts. So, make sure you give her space or affection – whichever she prefers. Sometimes extra walks can help to settle restless dogs and give her something else to think about.

Be Understanding about Nursing Needs

Try to be sympathetic about her need to nest and nurse inanimate objects. You may end up losing your newspaper before you had chance to read it, or find your socks have become surrogate puppies, but be gentle and understanding with your dog. Keep things that you don’t want to lose out of her reach. Treat her kindly as she makes her way through this puzzling time.

Surrogate ‘Puppies’

Some people advocate removing the surrogate ‘puppies’. However, you may find that this causes your dog more distress. So unless she has decided to nurse something inconvenient like the TV remote or your new shoes you should probably let her keep them. 

She will lose interest once the false pregnancy is over. If you do remove them whilst she still thinks they are her babies then you run the risk of provoking an aggressive response. After all, it’s only normal for a Mom to want to look after her offspring and protect them. At times vets will recommend the use of a medication to help a dog who is becoming very distressed, to be calmer.

Most dogs will not need any treatment. The symptoms will disappear as the hormone levels return to normal. This happens naturally as part of the bitch’s reproductive cycle. This should take around 1-3 weeks.

However, in some cases, the symptoms can be severe and your dog may appear visibly distressed or even depressed. In this case your vet can offer medication that may help to alleviate the false pregnancy. This is done by inhibiting the action of the Prolactin hormone.

Cabergoline

The most common medication used is Cabergoline. This resolves the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy within 5-7 days after starting treatment however your vet will be able to provide more details on its use. The drug can cause some side effects including nausea and some dogs can also begin vomiting. However, it is advisable to continue the course for up to 6 days if possible.

There is always the possibility that your dog is unwell with different conditions. So a vet visit is recommended so that they can check your dog over for other conditions which have similar symptoms. These can include:

  • problems with the thyroid gland
  • a benign tumor of the pituitary gland.

A serious illness which could be mistaken for a phantom pregnancy is pyometra. This is a life-threatening infection in the womb. Emergency treatment is needed for this condition, so if you are in any doubt, do not hesitate to take your dog to the vet. From the start of the season through to the end of phantom pregnancy can be a period of up to 12 weeks.

Raspberry Leaf Tablets

Many people recommend the use of raspberry leaf to prevent phantom pregnancies. Raspberry Leaf Tablets are a licensed veterinary herbal medicine that is authorized to prevent a phantom pregnancy in dogs. These are usually given at a rate of 1 tablet per 10kg body weight twice a day from when you see the very first symptoms of the false pregnancy.

If your dog is already going through a phantom pregnancy then is too late for Raspberry Leaf Tablets. Then a different homeopathic remedy, Pulsatilla 15C, can often be helpful. This is given every 2 hours for the first 12 hours and then four times a day until the symptoms start to reduce.

The only permanent treatment to prevent phantom pregnancy is spaying your female dog. This involves the complete removal of the ovaries and womb. In turn, this prevents the production of troublesome hormones. It also protects your dog against other conditions such as pyometra, tumors, and infections of the womb. It will also reduce the chances of some other illnesses like cancer of the mammary glands.

You will typically have to wait until the mid-point of the reproductive cycle to have your dog spayed. This is to give her hormones a chance to level out. Having her spayed when her hormone levels are still elevated can cause the symptoms to carry on for a while. Do chat with your vet for more advice.

However, if you want to breed your dog, there is really nothing that can be done to prevent a phantom pregnancy. There is no suggestion that female dogs who have phantom pregnancies will be less likely to have real pregnancies. That said, it is thought that once a dog has had one phantom pregnancy she is likely to have more. What is important is that you keep a close on your dog and at the first signs of a false pregnancy that you get them to the vet.

Pregnancy in dogs can come with lots of risks and huge responsibilities for the well-being of the female dog. Then there can be the stress from the rehoming of the pups to suitable homes. If you don’t intend to breed from your dog then spaying her will remove any possibility of phantom pregnancy. It will also reduce the risk for a number of other serious conditions, giving both you and her a less stressful life.

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Phantom pregnancy in dogs

Yordan

Pseudocyesis, or phantom pregnancy in dogs, is something that not one or two dog owners have witnessed. It may sound weird, but it’s actually not uncommon for unsprayed and virgin female dogs. It’s usually not something earth-shattering, but it’s important to spot it early on and get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Here are the symptoms you’ll need to look for:

  • Restlessness
  • Nesting behavior
  • Digging for a nest
  • Mothering of toy, pillows or other, smaller pets
  • Excessive grooming
  • Enlargement and secretion of the mammary glands
  • Abdominal distention
  • Weight loss, usually due to eating less because of a depression
  • Weight gain, usually due to eating more because of anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lethargy and an overall lack of energy
  • A vaginal discharge of mucoid fluids
  • Going into labor – “false labor”

As confusing as these symptoms can seem – particularly because some of them go opposite to one another, it’s important to understand that that’s because phantom pregnancy in dogs can be caused by different things. Most often, Pseudocyesis is caused by a hormonal misbalance or by hormonal fluctuations. Both are quite common for unsprayed dogs, especially when they are still virgins.

phantom pregnancy dog sleeping

Other possible causes of phantom pregnancy in dogs can be Hypothyroidism (a dysfunction in a dog’s thyroid gland), Mastitis (an infection of the mammary glands), Cancer of the mammary gland, a uterus infection, an organ swelling, or fluid accumulation.

As you can see, depending on the exact cause, a phantom pregnancy in dogs can be relatively harmless or a symptom of something very dangerous. Regardless, even if it’s harmless, if left unchecked, a phantom pregnancy can cause health problems to your dog in and of itself. So, whenever you spot it, take your pooch to the vet immediately.

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Phantom pregnancy in dogs.

The prospect of a whole litter of pups can be a wonderful thought, however the idea of your dog being unexpectedly pregnant is more likely to elicit feelings of alarm, worry and confusion. Even more so if you’re pretty certain your dog hasn’t had any opportunity to get pregnant!

Phantom pregnancies in dogs

Fear not – it’s highly likely that your dog is experiencing a phantom (false) pregnancy, which will be even more confusing for your poor pooch than it is for you! A false pregnancy is when your dog experiences all the symptoms of pregnancy, both physical and behavioural signs, with no litter of pups as the end result.

What is a phantom pregnancy in dogs?

More formally referred to as pseudocyesis, phantom pregnancies are a surprisingly common phenomenon that many unspayed female dogs will encounter in their lifetime. If you’ve got a female dog that’s recently come out of heat, get prepared for them to start mimicking pregnancy in both physical and behavioural ways.

Even though your dog will appear pregnant, you’ll probably be relieved to hear that there isn’t a litter of pups on the way. It’ll also save you the confusion and questioning of pondering how your pooch got pregnant in the first place!

Typically, your dog will start to exhibit the signs of a phantom pregnancy around 4-9 weeks after their season. Although it can give you the shock of your life to find that your dog is seemingly pregnant out of nowhere, it’s reported that around  half of the female canine population  will experience a phantom pregnancy in their lifetime, unless they’re spayed of course.

What causes a phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Phantom pregnancies are quite a mystery, the exact reason that they happen is unknown. The phenomenon is the annoying aftermath of the dog’s typical hormone cycle, occurring after she’s been in season.

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Once her season has finished, the ovaries automatically start releasing the hormones that prepare the body for the changes that pregnancy will bring, even if she hasn’t mated with a male dog. This prolonged production of the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, lasts several weeks. As these levels of progesterone decrease, another hormone called prolactin starts to rise. These all prepare your dog for pregnancy and trigger the symptoms. However, if she isn’t actually pregnant, the hormones are still produced and make the dog think she’s preparing for a litter of pups.

Another common theory stems from the ancestry of the canine population. Way, way back, dogs used to live as pack animals in the wild, and it’s believed that all the female dogs in the pack would chip in to help raise the litter of pups from another pair in the pack. Consequently, dogs may still hold on to this nurturing instinct nowadays. Although, this is all just theories and ideas, so there’s no concrete evidence behind this.

When will my dog come into season?

There’s no definite age at which your female dog will have her first season, it ranges drastically from dog to dog. Puberty can hit some at only 5 months, whereas some larger breed dogs may not encounter their first season until they’re 18 months old. Unless you decide to spay your dog, she’ll come into heat every 6-12 months. And unfortunately, they might experience a phantom pregnancy with each cycle. We've got a full post where you can read more about   what to expect when your dog comes into season  so you're prepared.

What are the signs and symptoms of a phantom pregnancy in dogs?

Phantom pregnancies present themselves through a variety of symptoms, and these can be exhibited as either physical signs or behavioural changes.

Physical signs you might notice include:

Swollen tummy

Enlarged mammary glands

Milk production

Vomiting  (morning sickness)

Loss of appetite

Contractions and false labour (this is rare, only the really unlucky pups experience this)

False pregnancies are a truly strange phenomenon, and it’s no surprise as to why they can fool pooches and parents alike into thinking they’ll be welcoming some new additions into the house. The physical signs are almost identical to a real pregnancy.

A study investigated the physical signs behind phantom pregnancies, and it was found that the most commonly reported physical sign was enlarged mammary glands and/or milk production, with  89%  of dogs studied reporting this symptom. Some of the symptoms, such as vomiting and lethargy are non-specific and could be indicative of other problems so it’s important to get it checked out.

On the other hand, here’s some of the behavioural signs to look out for:

Collecting items (socks, shoes, toys) and acting like they’re her puppies

Aggression and possessiveness around the items she’s collected

Unable to settle down

Excessively grooming herself (licking)

Strangely clingy

Nesting behaviours to create a den, including digging at, ripping and moving bedding around

Nesting is one of the most common behavioural signs, alongside collecting random items around the house and pretending that it’s one of her puppies. It’s totally natural behaviour, even though it may look a bit weird to you as an onlooker. Essentially, your dog is just starting to act in a maternal way, and nesting is just her creating a safe, secure environment, both for her to ‘give birth’ and for her non-existent puppies to sleep in.

Phantom pregnancy nesting

The symptoms your dog can go through are quite vast, so one dog may experience a completely different set of symptoms to another. Also, the severity and symptom set could completely differ from one season to the next.

How long will my dog's phantom pregnancy last?

Luckily, this strange change in your pooch should clear up all on its own, leaving no evidence behind that it ever happened at all (except leaving you super relieved, or even disappointed, that a litter of pups isn’t coming). Usually, it completely stops anytime between 1-4 weeks.

How do I know if it's a phantom pregnancy or a real pregnancy?

If during your dog’s season they haven’t (to your knowledge) had any contact with an intact male, you’d definitely be shocked to see these pregnancy symptoms if you weren’t aware of the possibilities of phantom pregnancies. Although, if you do know what they are, and you’re 100% certain they’ve not had the opportunity to mate, you can make a good assumption that it’s a phantom pregnancy.

However, the only way to tell for sure is by going to the vets. Luckily, there are multiple tests the vet can perform to detect whether your dog is expecting or if their body is just pretending, we’ve got a full post all about everything you need to know about dog pregnancy   here , if you want to know more.

It’s always a good idea to get your pooch checked out at the vets anyway, just to make sure it’s not the real deal. More importantly, if your dog is only experiencing nonspecific symptoms, such as vomiting and lethargy, you should get them checked out anyway. A very severe illness to the womb, called pyometra, can sometimes be confused with a false pregnancy, so it’s always best to consult the vet.

Do phantom pregnancies in dogs need treatment?

No, treatment is rarely ever necessary to solve phantom pregnancies. Typically, your dog’s hormones will return to their normal balance after a few weeks, medication will only be prescribed for dogs having serious trouble.

Anxiety medication is sometimes considered, alongside diuretics, which help to reduce the production of milk and fluid retention. Hormonal therapy is occasionally given to some dogs to sort out the imbalance and ease the symptoms, although this is pretty rare.

Side effects of all these medications often outweigh the benefits, so it’s only really prescribed if the ‘pregnancy’ has gone on for a while and symptoms are severe. It’s more than likely the vet will diagnose your dog with a phantom pregnancy and just decide to ‘wait and see’ how she gets on.

Can I help my dog who is suffering from a phantom pregnancy?

As we know, a common symptom of phantom pregnancies is unnecessary milk production, which can be frustrating for both you and your dog. However, it’s likely that your dog will excessively lick her mammary glands, which only further stimulates the production of milk.

To help, you must get your dog to stop licking herself, which can only really be done if you put the dreaded cone round her neck. Just to warn you, she definitely won’t be your friend if you do this! Another option is to make her wear a t-shirt at all times so she doesn’t have access, and also make sure you don’t stroke her around this area either.

There isn’t much you can do in the event of a phantom pregnancy, other than give your dog a bit of sympathy. This is a confusing time for the both of you, even more so for your poor pup. Be around for cuddles if she seems extra clingy (easy job), or give her space if that’s what she desires.

Dog phantom pregnancy

As she’ll probably be pinching your possessions, such as your shoes and socks, try and cut her some slack even though it’s irritating. She’s not being naughty; she thinks they’re her puppies! Some dogs may feel the benefit of extra exercise and brain games as they might help to take her mind off her symptoms and reduce the restlessness.

Do phantom pregnancies in dogs have any further complications?

Fortunately, your dog should be back to their normal self shortly, you’ll both just have to cope with some weirdness for a little while. Despite this, there are a few problems that may arise following a phantom pregnancy. Problems usually don’t go much further than an infection of the mammary glands and the skin being inflamed around this area. If you spot any redness, swelling or irritation, contact the vet to get the problem fixed promptly.

Can my dog have multiple phantom pregnancies?

After one phantom pregnancy, it’s highly likely that your dog will be faced with another when they have more seasons in the future. They won’t strictly occur every time your dog has a cycle however, it doesn’t follow a set pattern. False pregnancies can impact any breed of dog at any age.

Can I prevent my dog from having a phantom pregnancy?

Realistically, there’s only one way to prevent your dog from having a phantom pregnancy, and that’s to get her spayed. Spaying is recommended by vets, having other benefits such as reducing the risks of pyometra, womb infections and reducing the risk of  cancers  relating to the reproductive organs.

We’ve got a full post all about  spaying and neutering your dog  if you're looking for further information and guidance. However, always speak to your vet about spaying to see if it’s the best option for you and your four-legged friend.

Although phantom pregnancies are a really strange phenomenon, and probably a very alarming one, take comfort in the fact that they’re incredibly common. An unplanned pregnancy can cause quite the stir, so by the end of it, you’ll probably be incredibly relieved that you’ve not got a dozen newborn puppies to looks after!

Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS

Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.

  • Canine pseudopregnancy: an evaluation of prevalence and current treatment protocols in the UK BMC Veterinary Research, 14, (1), May 2018, doi: 10.1186/s12917-018-1493-1.
  • A review of canine pseudocyesis Reproduction in Domestic Animals, 36, (6), Dec 2001, 283-288, doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0531.2001.00322.x

Related Questions

Ask AI Vet

This answer is written by AI. Not a substitution for professional care . May contain inaccurate information .

Is My Dog Pregnant or Experiencing a Phantom Pregnancy?

Question from Emma: My dog mated once, she displayed symptoms of pregnancy, she looks fat. She was supposed to give birth yesterday but nothing has happened yet. She’s not eating, she’s playing a little but also sleeping a lot. Is she pregnant? Or is it a phantom pregnancy?

Answer from AI:

It’s understandable that you’re concerned about your dog’s health. The symptoms you’ve described could indicate either a real pregnancy or a phantom pregnancy, also known as pseudopregnancy.

Signs of Real Pregnancy in Dogs

In a real pregnancy, dogs typically show the following signs:

  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in behavior
  • Enlarged nipples
  • Nesting behavior

Signs of Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Phantom pregnancy in dogs can also cause similar symptoms, including:

  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Restlessness

What to Do Next

Given that your dog was supposed to give birth yesterday and she’s not eating, it’s important to seek veterinary advice immediately. A vet can perform an ultrasound or X-ray to confirm whether your dog is pregnant. If she is pregnant and overdue, she may need medical intervention. If it’s a phantom pregnancy, your vet can provide advice on how to manage her symptoms and ensure she’s comfortable.

Remember, it’s always best to consult with a professional when it comes to your pet’s health.

For more information on dog pregnancy and phantom pregnancy, you can visit the American Kennel Club’s guide on these topics.

The Answer is Written by AI

The text above is written by AI, i.e., a computer.

The information provided on this Ask AI Vet Site is designed to complement, not replace, the relationship that exists between a pet owner/site visitor and their existing veterinarian or qualified animal health care provider. The information presented here is meant for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Our artificial intelligence system, while trained to provide accurate and timely information, cannot fully grasp or account for the unique circumstances of individual animals, a critical factor in veterinary decisions. The advice given by the AI system is based on the data available up to its knowledge cut-off date and might not encompass recent veterinary research or advancements.

Always seek the advice of your own veterinarian or other qualified animal health care provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet's health condition. Never disregard professional veterinary advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. In case of a veterinary emergency, contact your veterinarian or a local emergency veterinary service immediately.

The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk. The Ask AI Vet site, its parent company, affiliates, agents, and employees are not liable for any decisions made or actions taken based on any AI-generated advice or information.

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COMMENTS

  1. Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions

    Canva Can a Phantom Pregnancy Cause Aggression in Dogs? "My son has a 2-year-old Rottweiler called Nala. They have had her from a pup, and she is very aggressive towards strangers. They had her spayed, but she had a phantom pregnancy. Since coming out of that, she has started to get very dominant towards my son's girlfriend.

  2. Signs of Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs and How to Address It

    Usually, the symptoms will last a few weeks and can range between four to nine weeks before they dissipate; however, symptoms typically tend to resolve naturally within a 2-3 weeks. When to consult your veterinarian Pet parents often will visit their vet for reassurance that their intact female dog is not pregnant.

  3. Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

    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?

  4. Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

    A phantom pregnancy is a condition that can develop after a season, which causes a dog to act and feel pregnant when she isn't. During a phantom pregnancy, most dogs start nesting, behaving differently, and lactating (producing milk).

  5. Understanding Phantom Pregnancy in Female Dogs

    Phantom pregnancy in female dogs, also known as false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy, consists of a condition that shows the symptoms of pregnancy but that are not at all pregnant. Carol Updated: Jan 5, 2022 Original: Feb 3, 2017

  6. Phantom pregnancy in dogs

    Signs that your dog is suffering from a phantom pregnancy include depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, behavioural changes and nesting Spaying prevents false pregnancy, as well as a number of other more serious conditions What causes a phantom pregnancy in dogs?

  7. Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

    A phantom pregnancy, also known as a false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy, is a condition that can occur in female dogs. It is a reproductive phenomenon where a non-pregnant dog shows physical and behavioral signs of being pregnant. Some dogs may exhibit maternal behaviors towards objects or even attempt to nurse.

  8. Phantom pregnancy in dogs

    "A phantom pregnancy occurs when hormone levels in an unspayed female dog trick her body into thinking she's pregnant when she's really not," says Sophie. This can cause physical and behavioral changes that owners may notice in their dogs. Phantom pregnancies are also sometimes called false pregnancies or pseudopregnancies.

  9. Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

    Symptoms 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: Mammary development. Lactation. Enlarged belly.

  10. Understanding phantom pregnancy in dogs

    Phantom pregnancy is a condition where your dog feels and acts pregnant without actually being pregnant. It's also known as a phantom or pseudo pregnancy. In the wild, phantom pregnancies help female dogs to share the load of child rearing and allows them to wet nurse each other's young.

  11. Phantom Pregnancy In Dogs

    A phantom pregnancy is a condition where un-spayed dogs start to show the signs and symptoms of a real pregnancy, when they aren't actually pregnant. Phantom pregnancies in dogs are very common. This is mainly due to hormonal changes following their heat cycle. Displaying symptoms that are similar to an actual pregnancy can be a confusing time ...

  12. False Pregnancy in Dogs

    The exact reason is not known why Bitches have phantom pregnancies but they believe it is driven by hormone imbalance, progesterone and prolactin. 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.

  13. Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Explore the Fascinating Facts

    A phantom pregnancy in dogs, also known as pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy, is a condition where a female dog displays signs and symptoms of pregnancy despite not being pregnant. This condition can be confusing for both dog owners and the dogs themselves, as the female dog may exhibit behaviors and physical changes that mimic a true pregnancy.

  14. Phantom pregnancy in dogs: signs and causes

    Symptoms of false pregnancy usually start 4-9 weeks after her previous heat. The most common signs of phantom pregnancy include some enlargement of the mammary tissue with or without production of milk, lethargy and dullness, loss of appetite, having a full abdomen (which is due to fluid retention) and some dogs may vomit.

  15. How You Can Help Your Dog Through a Phantom Pregnancy

    The symptoms of phantom pregnancy in dogs range from mild unsettled behaviour to more extreme nesting habits such as carrying toys, looking for pups and depression. Physical changes can also occur, including a change in body shape, enlarged teats and even milk production. Symptoms of Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

  16. Phantom pregnancy in dogs

    The cost of treatment will depend on the size of your dog, how many treatments they need, plus any consultation fees. For a large dog, this could be up to £400, although this may be covered by your pet insurance. In 2021 we saw 321 claims for phantom pregnancies in dogs with an average claim cost of £170.34.

  17. Identifying and Managing Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

    Phantom pregnancy in dogs refers to the condition in which intact female dogs show behavioural and physical signs of pregnancy. However, they are not actually pregnant. For this reason, it is also known as pseudo or false pregnancy. Rather than being a disease, it is a naturally occurring phenomenon in unspayed female dogs.

  18. Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

    Puppy sleeping arrangements. Dog pregnancy & signs of labour. Guide to dog poop. Why do dogs sneeze. See all dog articles . cat. Cat articles by topics. ... Phantom pregnancy in dogs refers to a condition where a female dog exhibits symptoms of pregnancy, but is not actually pregnant. This is also known as false pregnancy or pseudo-pregnancy ...

  19. What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

    Dogs that have one phantom pregnancy will often go on to have more, potentially after every season for the rest of their life. This can mean they're more prone to mammary or breast cancer later in life too. The immediate medical treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs is an oral medication called Cabergoline. This comes in liquid form and is ...

  20. Is My Dog Having a Phantom Pregnancy?

    Phantom pregnancy, also known as pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy, is a relatively common condition in un-spayed female dogs. It's thought that about half of all dogs experiencing it during their lifetime. This can be an upsetting time for the dog and the owner.

  21. Phantom pregnancy in dogs

    Other possible causes of phantom pregnancy in dogs can be Hypothyroidism (a dysfunction in a dog's thyroid gland), Mastitis (an infection of the mammary glands), Cancer of the mammary gland, a uterus infection, an organ swelling, or fluid accumulation. ... How, and why, to Sleep with your dog. Doctor Questions Euthanasia after Dog's Death ...

  22. Phantom pregnancy in dogs

    The physical signs are almost identical to a real pregnancy. A study investigated the physical signs behind phantom pregnancies, and it was found that the most commonly reported physical sign was enlarged mammary glands and/or milk production, with 89% of dogs studied reporting this symptom. Some of the symptoms, such as vomiting and lethargy ...

  23. Is My Dog Pregnant or Experiencing a Phantom Pregnancy?

    Signs of Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs. Phantom pregnancy in dogs can also cause similar symptoms, including: Enlarged abdomen; Changes in behavior; Restlessness; Nesting behavior; What to Do Next. Given that your dog was supposed to give birth yesterday and she's not eating, it's important to seek veterinary advice immediately.