Dog: False Pregnancy

General information

Other common/scientific names: pseudopregnancy, pseudocyesis

A female dog has an estrous (heat) cycle every six to eight months. The first phase of the cycle is called proestrus and is characterized by a swollen vulva, bloody vaginal discharge and attraction of male dogs. This phase lasts 7-9 days and the female will not allow the male to mount or breed her during this phase. The second phase is called estrus. The discharge becomes less bloody and the female will allow the male to mount and breed. Ovulation occurs during this stage and conception can take place. This phase lasts 5-9 days. Diestrus is the period following estrus when the female is no longer receptive to the male. During diestrus, the female produces the hormone, progesterone, regardless of whether she is pregnant or not pregnant. After 60-80 days, if the female is not pregnant, she should no longer produce progesterone and enters anestrus which is a period of hormonal inactivity.


Pseudopregnancy is caused by falling progesterone levels and increasing prolactin levels (the hormone responsible for lactation). Dogs which show overt signs of false pregnancy have higher levels of prolactin than normal, nonpregnant females.

Cardinal symptom

Mammary development


Dogs showing signs of false pregnancy can develop engorged, painful mammary glands, produce milk, show abdominal distention and exhibit signs of nesting. Vomiting, aggression and abdominal contractions are present in severe cases.


Diagnosis is based on history and physical examination. Ultrasonography can be used to rule out pregnancy.


Treatment is not necessary in most cases of false pregnancy. Hormone levels will return to normal in 1-3 weeks and the clinical signs will disappear. In severe cases, tranquilizers and hormone treatment can be used. A special collar (E-collar) may be needed to prevent the dog from licking her mammary glands.


Most dogs recover completely after an episode of false pregnancy.


Spaying the female dog will prevent false pregnancy.


Avoid compresses or contact with the mammary glands since these actions can stimulate lactation.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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