Pseudopregnancy in dogs: What it means and dog health care pointers

As many say, maternal instincts are innate for most females. Well, believe it or not, this can also be the case for female dogs. Canine pseudopregnancy, pseudocyesis, false pregnancy or phantom pregnancy are all terms used to describe the display of maternal behavior coupled with the physical signs of pregnancy in your pet female dog.  

So what are the signs to look out for dog health care?

Classic signs of pseudopregnancy in non-pregnant female dogs include nesting, weight gain, mammary enlargement, lactating and maternal behaviour. Slightly severe cases can show signs of restlessness, decreased activity, aggression and mothering inanimate objects like their toys. In certain rare cases, actual uterine contractions are also observed along with vomiting, anorexia etc. 

Although it is generally noted that prolactin (PRL), the hormone, plays a central role in the appearance of pseudopregnancy, its precise cause is yet to be completely understood. Also, spayed and unspayed female dogs can suffer from this problem multiple times.

So what are the dog health care pointers to keep in mind?

Diagnosis of pseudopregnancy is based on the above signs. Sometimes though, unscheduled matings can be overlooked by pet parents and therefore pregnancy should always be considered. In case of doubt, ultrasound or radiography will help arrive at a definite diagnosis. Also, other diseases such as pyometra should be ruled out. 

Lastly, considering pseudopregnancy is a self-limiting physiological state, mild cases can be treated by discouraging maternal behaviour like taking the dog toys away when they act clingy. You can also try fitting Elizabethan collars to prevent licking of the mammary glands. Love and care along with natural dog treats and dog food supplements also help. 

However, if the signs are aggressive, it’s best to consult your vet for dog health care. 




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