The Complete Guide to Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

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What exactly is phantom pregnancy in dogs? And why does it happen? A dog has been diagnosed with phantom pregnancy. What should she expect? How does it happen? And how can it be treated?

Picture the foot of an unborn baby ...
Picture the foot of an unborn baby pressing on its mother's stomach-Unproven!

I’m sure as a fur mom, you are very concerned and worried if your vet diagnoses your lovely pets with this condition, and those questions are just some that might be running to your mind now.

Don’t worry let’s all take a deeper understanding of this condition and learn how we can help our lovely pets to survive it. If you are ready then let’s start now!

What is Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs?

Phantom pregnancy also known as pseudopregnancy or pseudocyesisis is a condition in which a female dog has a false pregnancy that does not last.

Dogs have been known to experience phantom pregnancies, where they carry the fetus for an extended period of time before giving birth. This condition is often accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Phantom pregnancy in dogs is more common in older dogs, with the average age of onset being around 7 years old.

The condition usually occurs after a bitch goes through heat cycles without becoming pregnant. This condition is caused by hormonal imbalances. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems such as infertility or even death.

Is Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs Dangerous?

Dogs are known for their ability to give birth, just like humans. In fact, a study showed that out of the 2 million dogs born in the US every year, about 1.4% were not actually pregnant.

If you have ever wondered whether or not phantom pregnancy in dogs is dangerous, the answer might surprise you. The answer is no! It is not dangerous to your dog and it doesn’t cause any health problems either.

Phantom pregnancy in dogs is when a female dog that has never given birth before goes into heat but doesn’t produce any puppies. This happens because there isn’t enough room for the developing embryo to grow and get through the opening of the uterus without getting stuck.

Symptoms of Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Phantom pregnancies are a bit rare, but can happen in your female dog. They are also referred to as pseudocyesis. Symptoms include the following:

  • Mammary gland enlargement and milk production
  • Nesting actions like  assembling toys, blankets, and clothing,  caring for a stuffed animal or other object,  jitteriness or aggression
  • Low vigor
  • Low appetite
  • Mastitis/infection of the mammary gland 
  • Bloated stomach 

Treatment for Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs

Treatment is symptomatic and may involve the use of tranquilizers to ease anxiety and diuretics to lessen milk output or treat fluid retention. During a fake pregnancy, avoid massaging or milking the teats because doing so will simply increase milk production.

Treatment may not be required if your dog only has mild symptoms, but if she has behavioral or mammary issues, your veterinarian may suggest the following:

Cabergoline

In the case of pseudopregnancy, hormone levels are high but pregnancy has not occurred. This can lead to symptoms such as milk production and fatigue. Cabergoline is a hormone that stops the body from producing estrogen and progesterone, which is what causes these symptoms. It’s usually given as a liquid by mouth for 1-2 weeks.

Prevent Stimulation of the Mammary Glands

Not only is it important to prevent your dog from licking around her nipples, but also to prevent your dog from doing any other thing that could cause her milk production to increase. Not only will this make it more difficult for your pet to produce milk, but it might also increase the risk of infection and even mastitis.

Provide Distraction

Exercise and play will help distract your dog from the symptoms of her phantom pregnancy and reduce the severity of these symptoms.

Remove any Toys she is ‘Mothering’

Mothering is a natural instinct that many dogs are born with. When these dogs mother their toys, they give them all the love and care that they would a real pup. When your dog shows you that she is mothering her toys, you may find yourself in the difficult position of having to remove those items from her reach or risk damaging your relationship with your furry friend. The best way to distract a dog from mothering is to give it an activity to focus on. The dog will be less likely to find toys and food that it has hidden or that it might need for its developing pups.

Many people believe that the best way to deal with a dog who mothers her toys is to punish her. However, this type of punishment can have devastating effects on your relationship with your furry friend. So just remember: dogs don’t understand why you’re punishing them for being natural.

How to Prevent Phantom Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a very delicate issue that needs to be handled with care. One way to prevent a phantom pregnancy is by spaying your dog.

In the United States, more than 1.5 million dogs and cats are spayed or neutered every year. And since spaying or neutering your pet is so common, it’s important for you to know how to do it correctly.

The best way to prevent a phantom pregnancy is by spaying your dog at 6 months old, aside from preventing your lovely pets from having phantom pregnancy, spaying your dog can give them a lot of health benefits. If the female dog has not been fixed, she will become pregnant and give birth even if she has no interest in mating with males of her species.

Butler Oh
Butler Oh
Butler Oh is a long time dog lover. Dogs are always part of her family since she was young and she grows up as a loving and caring fur parent. She has been part of our team here at ohmylovelypets since 2019 and has provided a lot of great research and information about dogs.

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