False pregnancy or pseudo-pregnancy are terms that refer to a display of maternal (mothering) behavior combined with the physical signs of pregnancy following estrus (“heat”) in an unspayed female dog that is not actually pregnant. A false pregnancy may occur in a dog, regardless of whether or not she was mated. The majority of intact female dogs will show some signs of false pregnancy after an estrus cycle.
What are the signs of false pregnancy and when do they occur?
Signs of false pregnancy usually begin four to nine weeks after the previous heat period and mimic the signs of true pregnancy.
The more common signs of pseudo-pregnancy include: mammary gland enlargement with or without the production of milk, lethargy, periodic vomiting, and fluid retention, decreased appetite but seldom appears to lose weight, nesting, mothering activity, restlessness, decreased interest in physical activity, and occasionally even aggression.
Some affected dogs will show signs of a false labor and then protectively guard toys or other small objects
These signs can occur at any age and do not necessarily follow every estrus. The severity of the clinical signs varies between individuals and may vary from one cycle to the next in the same dog.
Why do these signs occur?
After the female dog has an estrus cycle, her ovaries begin to produce hormones, regardless of whether she is pregnant or not. These hormones prepare the uterus to receive the fetuses and maintain pregnancy. If the dog is pregnant, the hormones will continue to be produced until shortly before the puppies are born. If she is not pregnant, the levels of the hormones begin to decline after 4-6 weeks.
The reason that these hormonal changes occur in the non-pregnant dog remains a mystery.
False Pregnancy or Pseudopregnancy in Dogs
How is false pregnancy treated?
Mild cases of false pregnancy do not require treatment since the symptoms will subside in approximately 14-21 days.
If the dog appears physically ill or the behavioral changes are severe enough to cause concern, treatment is indicated.
Treatment is symptomatic and may include tranquilization to relieve anxiety and treatment with diuretics in order to reduce the milk production or relieve fluid retention. Do not massage or milk the teats during false pregnancy as this will only encourage more milk production. In rare cases, hormonal treatment may be required.
Take away all the things or toys that makes her anxious, be patient and wait till this cycle ends.