When a female dog thinks she is pregnant. What to do?

Pseudogravidity, also known as false pregnancy. The condition in which the female dog’s body is preparing for giving birth, even though the dog is not pregnant. False pregnancy occurs after heat and can last up to several months. What causes it, how to tell, and what to do about it? 

False pregnancy isn’t picky, it also affects cats. Veterinarian MVDr. Lenka Boudová, who discusses the topic on her website MetropoleVet+, states: “If we are really sure that, at any point, there has been no unwanted mating, we are dealing with so-called false pregnancy (pseudogravity), which occurs quite commonly in uncastrated female dogs.” Then she adds: “The occurrence of false pregnancy is relatively common and its onset can usually be expected 4-6 weeks after the heat.” False pregnancy in female dogs may last up to several months.

How to recognize false pregnancy and what causes it?
Without getting into too much detail, the hormonal level in the body of a female dog after ovulation (estrus) corresponds to the condition as if the dog was pregnant. The dog even shows all the signs of pregnancy. The physical symptoms, as mentioned by Doctor Boudová, include swollen mammary glands that produce milk, enlarged abdomen, vomiting, vaginal discharge and the opposite of inappetence, i.e. excessive appetite and therefore weight gain. 

False pregnancy also affects the dog’s behaviour towards other dogs and her surroundings in general. A normally non-conflicted and playful dog may now react irritably to other dogs. You can also observe sadness, apathy and fatigue. 

Most often, false pregnancy can be recognized when the female dog starts digging a bed and carrying and licking stuffed animals (or other toys). She may start looking for new places to lie down. Even if she is not allowed to lie in the bed or on the couch, you may find her there. Be nice to her, she is looking for the best shelter for her puppies. 

Her body, simply put, prepares for giving birth and mimics everything that precedes it.

What to do? Can false pregnancy be treated? 
The best you can do for your dog during this period is to keep her occupied. You can occupy her at home using dog puzzles. Go for longer walks. Generally, exercise is recommended as the best medicine. Controlling the drinking regime is very important, be sure to monitor excessive drinking and report it to the vet if necessary. You can also slightly reduce the feed ratio, the dog should definitely not feed excessively.

What not to do? Limit cuddling. Provide her with toys and if she brings any to her bed, hide them for the duration of the false pregnancy. She mistakenly thinks of them as her puppies. It is better to hide them when she is out with another family member, for example, so you don’t trigger an anxiety reaction. You can also wash the dog bed. “It is not recommended to warm the mammary gland or express milk, which will only increase production. Mild cooling of the mammary gland should be considered; observe if there is inflammation in any sections of the mammary gland.” Doctor Boudová advises on her website.

The worst thing about false pregnancy is that it is a repeated occurrence. Owners of female dogs suffering from it will be advised by their vet to have their dogs neutered. Prolonged pseudogravidity can cause inflammation of the mammary glands, which can turn into cancer. The ovaries, uterus or bladder can also suffer. And you also have to take into account the psyche of your canine companion, which takes a beating during this period.

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