False Pregnancy Symptoms – Top 5 Negative Early Pregnancy Symptoms that Make You Confused

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How to Identify a False Pregnancy in Dogs

Three Parts:

Do you suspect your unspayed dog is pregnant, but there's no possible way it could have happened? Your dog may be experiencing a false pregnancy, a common reproductive problem (also called pseudocyesis). This hormonal problem signals your dog's body into thinking she's having puppies and can even cause physical or behavioral symptoms similar to actual pregnancy symptoms.About 50% to 60% of female domestic dogs are estimated to experience false pregnancy.While most symptoms disappear on their own within 3 weeks, it's still helpful to know whether your dog is actually expecting or it's a false alarm.


Ruling Out an Actual Pregnancy

  1. Take your dog to see a veterinarian.If your dog is displaying symptoms of pregnancy, the best thing to do is to take her to see a vet and find out if she is pregnant or not. Your dog’s vet can perform an ultrasound to check for puppies in the womb, a blood test to confirm a pregnancy, and a physical exam.
    • If your dog is not pregnant, but is displaying signs of pregnancy, then it is likely that she is experiencing the symptoms of a false pregnancy.
    • If you do not wish for your dog to become pregnant, talk to your veterinarian about a spaying procedure. This will eliminate the possibility of pregnancy and prevent your dog from experiencing false pregnancy symptoms as well.
  2. Feel for puppies in the womb.If your dog is actually pregnant, then you may be able to feel her puppies in the womb. It is important to be gentle when you feel for the puppies because too much pressure can hurt them. If you have never done this before, then ask your veterinarian for a demonstration first.
    • Between the 28th and 35th days of a dog’s pregnancy, you should be able to feel the puppies in your dog’s womb. They will feel like walnuts.
    • In the last two weeks of a pregnancy, you may actually be able to see the puppies moving in the womb.
  3. Consider if your dog may have been mated.Since the symptoms of false and actual pregnancies are very similar, ask yourself whether there's a possibility that your dog could be pregnant. Think whether she was left unattended in the yard while in her fertile phase, or if she spent time in the company of unneutered male dogs during her fertile phase. If so, then she had the opportunity to mate and could actually be pregnant.
    • If your dog hasn't been exposed to other dogs during her fertile cycle, it's unlikely she's pregnant. For example, if she lives in an apartment with no other dogs, toilets on puppy pads, is always leash walked and never left unattended, then pregnancy is not likely.

Identifying a False Pregnancy

  1. See if your dog adopts inanimate objects or other dogs' puppies.Adopting an inanimate object is the most common behavioral change that your dog will show during a false pregnancy. This adoption (also called surrogate mothering) of objects like toys can make your dog protective or possessive. She may go so far as to collect bedding and nesting materials for the objects.
    • During the later stages of the false pregnancy, your dog may also try to adopt another dog's puppy as her own. When you try to take the puppy or object away, your dog might seem excessively restless and anxious.
  2. Watch for nesting behavior.Nesting behavior is a very common phenomena when a dog believes she is pregnant. You may notice your dog preparing a safe and secure place for a puppy. She'll try to accumulate her favorite items, water bowls, blankets, and newspapers in order to make a comfortable nest. Your dog might also carry some playing toys to the nest for the puppies she thinks will be born.
    • Your dog might groom more often than normal and change her behavior. For example, if your dog is normally outgoing, she may become quiet and withdrawn. If she's normally aloof, she may become more dependent and needy. She may also seem nervous and aggressive.
  3. Pay attention to changes in appetite.Your dog may become very hungry, as though she's building herself up to prepare for feeding a litter. This will cause noticeable weight gain. Or, your dog might lose her appetite because she feels nauseous. Watch for either of these changes in appetite.
    • Some dogs will also take treats and save them in their beds, rather than immediately eat them.
    • Many dogs with false pregnancies will also drink more water, which causes them to relieve themselves more often.
  4. Watch for vomiting.Some dogs develop morning sickness as part of pregnancy and this may be a symptoms of a false pregnancy as well. If you notice that your dog is vomiting after eating and is not otherwise sick, then this may be a symptom of a false pregnancy.
    • Appetite changes may also be part of your dog's symptoms. If you notice that your dog is eating more or less than usual, this may be due to a false pregnancy.
  5. Look for signs of milk production.Even though your dog might not actually be pregnant, the fluctuating hormones can cause changes in the mammary glands. The glands will be engorged and swollen. They might even produce milk to the extent that you can see milk leaking from her mammary glands. To check, press the tit of the mammary gland.
    • Sometimes milk production may be more rapid than usual if an adopted puppy is stimulating her mammary glands.
  6. Keep an eye out for abdominal contractions.In the later stages of a false pregnancy, your dog may show mock labor and intense abdominal contractions. It may look exactly as if she's trying to deliver a pup. Along with abdominal contractions, she may show other common symptoms during a false pregnancy.

Treating a False Pregnancy

  1. Think about when the symptoms began.Fluctuating hormone levels are thought to be the cause of false pregnancy in dogs. The hormone progesterone rises when your dog is at the end of her fertile cycle to prepare her for the implantation of fertilized eggs, whether she's pregnant or not. After 4 weeks, the levels will keep rising if she's pregnant, or will fall if she isn't. When the levels fall, another hormone may be released (prolactin) which makes your dog think she's pregnant. Prolactin is what causes the symptoms associated with a false pregnancy.
  2. Know when to take your dog to the vet.Symptoms of false pregnancy will usually go away within three weeks, but if your dog shows them for longer, you may want to take her to the vet. The vet will clinically examine your dog and take any mating possibilities into account to confirm a case of false pregnancy. Other diseases, like late pregnancy, can also be ruled out. If your vet is unsure of a diagnosis, an ultrasound or radiographic test can confirm the condition.
    • The vet may also order repeated blood tests to look at your dog's progesterone levels. Your vet will watch for falling hormones to determine if it is a false pregnancy.
  3. Ask your veterinarian for help treating severe symptoms of false pregnancy.If a false pregnancy is causing your dog to be distressed, the vet may recommend treatment to reduce the severity of false pregnancy symptoms. In extreme cases, your dog may be tranquilized to relieve anxious behavior and agitation.
    • Your vet may also recommend a cone to prevent your dog from licking herself to induce nursing.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How can I tell if my dog is actually pregnant?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    A pregnant dog’s body shape doesn't change until the second half of pregnancy. Between about 4 - 5 weeks her waist begins to thicken and her tummy fills out. In the final third (weeks 6-9) of pregnancy, the dog’s belly becomes rounded and distended, and the dog may start to nest.
  • Question
    My dog is about 8 weeks or so along. She has milk and discharge from her vagina and has also been chewing couches, shredding clothes, and attacking my male. Is this a real pregnancy or false?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It is real, but you should keep a very close eye on her mid-section and look out for swelling in that area.
  • Question
    How do I tell if my dog is pregnant?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    She will start to nest, and start developing milk. Her body will gain weight and change shape as she gets further along.
  • Question
    Does a dog bleed while pregnant?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No, take your pup to the vet.
  • Question
    My friends dog is on day 65 of pregnancy, she's gained weight and has milk, but she's not showing signs of labor. What do we do?
    Community Answer
    Dog pregnancies can last up to 68 days. If a few more days pass and she doesn't go into labor, ask your vet.
  • Question
    My dog mated with a male about 70 days ago. She has not gained any weight at all but is producing milk. She isn't nesting or anything. She is young, and I'm not sure if this is just a false pregnancy. What should I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Take her to the vet. If she is pregnant and has even one pup in there and hasn't delivered at day 70, then the pup will be dead, and you may lose your female to infection. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Question
    Is it common for a breeder to have several false labors among females within a short period of time, or is that suspicious? Also, is it typical for a breeder to collect deposits before puppies are born?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No, false pregnancies are more likely in younger females than older breeding females. Deposits are used by some breeders, but if the breeder claims the mother is having false pregnancies and taking non-refundable deposits, check into the breeder's reputation or any complaints. Look for a reputable breeder.
  • Question
    Can stools be dark during pregnancy?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, they can be. However, if it continues to happen you should check with your doctor just to be sure that nothing is wrong.
  • Question
    I recently got a puppy. Why is my other dog lactating if she isn't the puppy's mother?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Is your other dog pregnant? If not, take her to the vet, because she shouldn't be doing that.
  • Question
    My bitch is 65 days pregnant, what can I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Either call a vet or wait for her to have the babies. But I would suggest going to a vet since they're well trained in the area.
Unanswered Questions
  • My dog has mated 48 days ago. Would she be showing signs of pregnancy by now?
  • How can I tell if my dog is actually pregnant?
  • With a false pregnancy, should you take away the nesting and toys the dog has come to guard and has gotten agitated if we try to remove?
  • My dog has a good length its been mate for 5 weeks when it will show her tummy is it pregnant or not? Her nipples are pink and every nipple on either side are swollen and forming as one is it normal?
  • How can I tell if my dog is pregnant?
Ask a Question
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Sources and Citations

  1. Johnston, S. D. (1980). False pregnancy in the bitch. Current Veterinary Theriogenology. Philadelphia: WB Saunders CO, 623-624.

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