False Pregnancy in Dogs

False pregnancy in dogs, while not a terribly serious condition, is one often ignored or misdiagnosed. Owners with female dogs should be aware of the symptoms and what complications can possibly arise.

Defining False Pregnancy

False pregnancy (also called pseudocyesis) in dog is the result of hormonal imbalances. It is not a condition well understood even by specialists, although it is believed that a decrease of progesterone and increase of prolactin is one of the causes of false pregnancies. Because of this, dogs who are spayed during certain parts of the reproductive cycle when progesterone levels are at their highest can still show signs of a false pregnancy, despite being fixed.


Basic pregnancy symptoms seen in dogs who are actually pregnant are present, such as:

  • Mothering of inanimate objects, such as shoes, stuffed animals or toys
  • Enlarged mammary glands
  • Secretions of milk or fluid from the teats
  • Nesting tendencies
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Weight gain

While these symptoms are normal for false pregnancies, this does not mean it is wise to ignore the condition. Other symptoms you may see include:

Take her into the vet immediately if she begins showing any of these signs, as these could be indicators of a uterine infection. These infections are serious and sometimes fatal conditions if not treated right away.


Taking your dog to the vet if you think she may be pregnant or falsely pregnant is a good idea. It never hurts to err on the side of caution to be sure a more serious problem is not present. Your vet will check the dog's medical history and perform a physical examination. It's helpful to know your dog's heat cycle for this purpose. If your dog has any possible chance she may be pregnant, a vet will feel for puppies.

Beyond that, abdominal x-rays and ultrasounds can be performed to check for the existence of puppies or if there are other problems, such as an enlarged internal organ or built-up fluids.


The main symptom a vet will want to treat is the production of milk, if your dog is lactating. Lactating when there are no puppies to nurse can be painful and uncomfortable, and can cause inflammation of the mammary glands and possible infections. Some vets suggest limited food and water - especially at night - as this decreases milk production. A drug called Bromocryptine is used in several countries to decrease milk production too, but it is not legal in the US. Vets avoid using things such as testosterone if it can be helped, because the side effects often outweigh the pros. At home, you may want to consider an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from licking at herself and causing irritation.

Prognosis and Chances of Recurrence

Recurrences are very common in dogs that have not been spayed. While you cannot have your dog spayed during the false pregnancy, it is wise to have it done when the "pregnancy" has passed to avoid it happening again. Most false pregnancies clear themselves up over the course of three weeks or so with little to no intervention, barring any complications.