What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?
9 signs of phantom pregnancy in dogs, when does phantom pregnancy in dogs happen, how long does a phantom pregnancy last in dogs, what causes phantom pregnancy in dogs, what to do when the phantom pregnancy symptoms appear, how is false pregnancy in dogs diagnosed, how can i find out if my dog is actually pregnant or not, is there a treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs, distract them , gently remove toys she’s mothering, help avoid overstimulation of the mammary glands, treatment from the vet, is spaying a good solution for phantom pregnancies in dogs.
Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs: Symptoms and Causes
Phantom pregnancies in dogs are very common, with symptoms from mothering behaviour and lactation, to lethargy and vomiting. Find out more about signs, causes and possible treatment.
Has your dog started acting like they are pregnant, mothering their toys and creating a nesting space? Have you noticed mammary development and even milk from their nipples? Some female dogs may display signs equivalent to morning sickness; with lethargy and dog vomiting . If your dog has not been mated, this may leave you scratching your head as to why they appear pregnant. If they have been mated, before you get too excited about visions of cute puppies, you need to make sure it’s not a false or phantom pregnancy.
Read on to discover what the signs of phantom dog pregnancy are, how a false pregnancy gets diagnosed and when medical treatment is necessary.
Phantom pregnancy in dogs refers to a condition where a female dog exhibits symptoms of pregnancy (like mothering behaviour after heat) but is not actually pregnant. This is also known as false pregnancy in dogs or pseudo-pregnancy and can affect any type of female dog, regardless of age or breed.
You can expect to see many of the same symptoms of an actual pregnancy to manifest in the case of a false pregnancy. Although the signs vary between individuals, these are the main physiological and behavioural changes to look out for:
- Mammary development
- Enlarged belly
- Loss of appetite
- Being protective of small inanimate objects
- Restlessness or aggression
Phantom pregnancies in dogs can happen after heat (i.e., the period where they’re most fertile.) However, it does not necessarily happen after every heat and can differ for each dog and their cycle.
The symptoms of a phantom pregnancy most commonly occur 6-8 weeks after your dog finishes her season, and should resolve within 2-3 weeks. Once your dog has had a false pregnancy after a season, it is very likely to recur at each subsequent season.
After a female dog has a season, she experiences a prolonged peak of the ‘pregnancy hormone’ progesterone lasting 8-9 weeks, whether she is pregnant or not. As levels of progesterone decline, levels of a second hormone, prolactin, increase, triggering the physical and psychological symptoms of pregnancy.
In some dogs this may be mild – not enough to notice – but in others the symptoms can be very convincing to both the dog and her owner.
The origins of phantom pregnancy in dogs are thought to be due to the pack behaviour of our domestic dog’s ancestors. All the females in the pack help to rear the family pups and feel motherly towards them, even when they are not their own offspring. This cooperative behaviour is driven by hormones.
Phantom pregnancy in dogs is very common and, if symptoms are behavioural and mild, you can try distracting your dog with increased play and walks. While they’re distracted you can remove any toys they have adopted as surrogate babies, being careful not to cause distress. You should make an appointment with your vet if the symptoms persist or are severe. Remember that non-specific signs such as vomiting and lethargy may also be due to other diseases and illnesses. It’s also important to rule out a true pregnancy as your dog may have had an illicit mating!
To diagnose false pregnancy your vet will take a history about your dog’s recent seasons and any matings. They will examine your dog for abdominal swelling, mammary growth and lactation.
If you don’t think your dog is having a phantom pregnancy and suspect they might be pregnant, take them to the vet. They’ll be able to carry out a blood or urine test and possibly an x-ray or ultrasound to confirm whether it’s a false pregnancy or not.
There is treatment for phantom pregnancy in dogs, depending on the severity of the case. We’ve listed some treatments below:
If your dog is showing mild symptoms of phantom pregnancy, you can provide them with lots of dog exercise to distract them from mothering.
Mild symptoms of mothering can usually be managed by removing toys she is protecting. You’ll need to do this in a non-distressing way by distracting her with a game or a Kong toy and getting someone else to quietly remove the toys she is mothering. It’s important to not punish your dog for mothering.
Your dog may be licking her nipples to increase milk production. This can cause some irritation, and even dog mastitis , so a protective vest may be needed.
In more persistent or severe cases, the vet might recommend a treatment to help restore the hormonal balance.
You should also consider discussing with the vet about spaying your female dog after the false pregnancy has subsided, to prevent recurrence. We have more on this below:
Spaying (ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy) is a long-term solution that will prevent future episodes of phantom pregnancy. However, a dog should not be spayed during a phantom pregnancy as this can cause the symptoms to persist. The changes that occur to the womb during phantom pregnancies increase the risk of uterine infection (pyometra), which can be life-threatening. If your dog has phantom pregnancies and you are not planning to mate from her, it is advisable to have her spayed to reduce this risk. Other benefits of spaying include reduced risk of developing mastitis, mammary, uterine or ovarian cancer, and removing the possibility of unplanned pregnancies.
Discover more about puppy neutering and spaying from our in-depth article, such as what does the process involve, recovery tips as well as what changes to expect.
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What is a phantom pregnancy?
A phantom pregnancy or false pregnancy happens when a woman has pregnancy symptoms but isn't pregnant. Phantom pregnancy is rare, and experts don't know exactly what causes it, but it's probably a combination of psychological and hormonal factors. In a phantom pregnancy, the pregnancy test comes back negative and an ultrasound shows that there's no baby. A woman who has a false pregnancy will need plenty of support from her caregiver to deal with symptoms, any medical condition causing the phantom pregnancy, and the psychological aftermath.
How common is phantom pregnancy?
Is a false pregnancy the same as a delusional pregnancy, what causes phantom pregnancy, phantom pregnancy symptoms, phantom pregnancy treatments.
A phantom pregnancy happens when a woman believes she's pregnant and has pregnancy symptoms , but isn't pregnant. It's also called a false pregnancy or pseudocyesis. (People once also referred to it as an hysterical pregnancy or fake pregnancy.)
A woman experiencing a false pregnancy may have nausea , a growing abdomen, swollen and tender breasts, and weight gain . Half to three-quarters of women with a phantom pregnancy think they feel the baby moving . Some even experience labor pains .
Phantom pregnancies are rare. Estimates vary but range from 1 to 6 cases per 22,000 births in the United States. False pregnancies were more common in the past, before the widespread use of ultrasounds . Interestingly, they're more common in cultures where motherhood and fertility are emphasized. In Africa, for example, the rates of phantom pregnancy are estimated at about 1 in 160.
Eighty percent of women who experience a phantom pregnancy are married, and most are between the ages of 20 and 44. It can happen at any age, though, including childhood or in the senior years. A woman can have a phantom pregnancy more than once. It can even (very rarely) happen to men. This is called a sympathetic pregnancy or Couvade syndrome.
No, a false pregnancy and a delusion of pregnancy aren't the same. With a delusion, women don't experience symptoms. Women who have a delusion of pregnancy are mentally ill and believe that they're pregnant, even though they have no symptoms. It's important for doctors to distinguish between the two because a delusional pregnancy requires different psychiatric treatment than a phantom pregnancy.
We don't know what causes phantom pregnancy, though experts suggest that both psychological and hormonal factors are at play. (Because it's such a rare condition, there's not much data, and studies are largely based on individual case reports.) Basically, the body is tricked into thinking it's pregnant. An increase in hormones such as estrogen and prolactin lead to pregnancy symptoms.
Here are the main theories about what causes phantom pregnancy:
A psychosomatic condition . Because of intense pressure or desire to be pregnant, a woman's brain triggers hormonal changes that cause pregnancy symptoms. This may happen when a woman has struggled with infertility or had a miscarriage or loss of an infant, or another traumatic event. It also sometimes happens to women who have an intense fear of pregnancy.
Some experts theorize that abdominal growth, the sensation of feeling fetal movement, and the experience of labor pain may be due to increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (the body's "fight or flight" system).
Another medical condition . Sometimes a completely unrelated illness can cause elevated hormonal levels or other physical reactions that lead to pregnancy symptoms. These conditions include ovarian tumors, severe depression, cancer, obesity, and ectopic pregnancy . Even weight gain, constipation, or gas – when paired with psychological factors – can cause abdominal distention that a woman may interpret as pregnancy. In one recent study, more than 16 percent of cases of phantom pregnancy were linked to medical conditions.
Major depressive disorders . Women with severe depression or severe stress may have changes in reproductive hormones. In addition, antipsychotic medications can cause some pregnancy-like symptoms, such as weight gain, loss of menstruation, and breast tenderness.
The risk of phantom pregnancy is higher in women who have depression or who have:
- Lost a pregnancy
- A history of infertility
- A history of abuse or current abuse
- Relationship instability
Phantom pregnancy symptoms are primarily the same as for pregnancy, including:
- Menstrual changes (no period or irregular cycle)
- Weight gain, swollen belly
- Enlarged and tender breasts
- Sensation of fetal movements
- Gastrointestinal symptoms and abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
- Food cravings
Women with a phantom pregnancy may have symptoms for a few weeks, for 9 months, or longer.
If a woman has a phantom pregnancy, her pregnancy test will be negative. Her body won't produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the pregnancy hormone. An ultrasound will also reveal that there's no baby.
If a woman has a phantom pregnancy, her caregiver will:
Provide evidence . This can be devastating to a woman who thought she was pregnant, but her caregiver will show her (with test results and/or an ultrasound if necessary) that she isn't pregnant. The caregiver should strive to be empathetic. She might assure the patient that her belief that she was pregnant was understandable given the symptoms, for example.
Address other medical conditions . After determining that a woman has a phantom pregnancy, her caregiver will want to rule out – or address – other medical conditions that may be causing the pregnancy symptoms.
Reduce symptoms . If the woman isn't having menstrual periods, for example, the caregiver may restore them with the use of hormonal intervention, if necessary. She might also help address symptoms such as nausea and fatigue.
Provide psychological support. A woman facing a false pregnancy will need support from family and friends and possibly psychotherapy and/or medication to help her through it.
- Am I pregnant?
- When to take a pregnancy test
- The emotional impact of fertility problems
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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies .
Campos SJ et al. 2016. Pseudocyesis. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners 12(6). https://www.npjournal.org/article/S1555-4155(16)00222-1/pdf [Accessed March 2021]
Gogia S et al. 2020. Medical considerations in delusion of pregnancy: a systematic review. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology . https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0167482X.2020.1779696 [Accessed March 2021]
Grover S et al. 2013. Pseudocyesis: A complication of antipsychotic-induced increased prolactin levels and weight gain. Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics 4(3): 214-216. https://europepmc.org/article/med/23960430 [Accessed March 2021]
Ibekwe P et al. 2008. Psychosocial and cultural aspects of pseudocyesis. Indian Journal of Psychiatry 50(2): 112-116. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738334/ [Accessed March 2021]
Perpetus C et al. 2008. Psychosocial and cultural aspects of pseudocyesis. Indian Journal of Psychiatry 50(2): 112-116. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738334/#CIT4 [Accessed March 2021[
Tarin JJ et al 2013. Endocrinology and physiology of pseudocyesis. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 11:39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674939/ [Accessed March 2021]
Yadav T et al 2012. Pseudocyesis versus delusion of pregnancy: Differential diagnoses to be kept in mind. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine . https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.4103/0253-7176.96167 [Accessed March 2021]
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Phantom Pregnancy in Dogs
What is a phantom pregnancy, preventing phantom pregnancies in dogs, when to contact your vet.
- A phantom pregnancy is a condition that can develop after a season, which causes a dog to act and feel pregnant when she isn’t.
- During a phantom pregnancy, most dogs start nesting, behaving differently, and lactating (producing milk).
- Most phantom pregnancies are mild and resolve within a few weeks, but some are more extreme and require treatment from a vet.
- Most dogs that have experienced a phantom pregnancy will continue to have them throughout life unless they are spayed .
A phantom pregnancy (also called false pregnancy/pseudopregnancy) is a condition that can develop after a season , that causes a dog to act and feel pregnant when she isn’t. It’s a very common problem female dogs because after each season, they produce ‘pregnancy hormones’ (regardless of whether they are pregnant or not!), which make some dogs feel pregnant when they aren’t.
Fortunately, in most cases, the symptoms of a pseudopregnancy are mild and resolve in a few weeks, but for some, the symptoms are more extreme and require medical treatment from a vet. It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog if she is having a phantom pregnancy, because in some circumstances, it can cause more serious problems such as mastitis (mammary gland infection) and mammary cancers.
Phantom pregnancies usually develop 6-8 weeks after a season , and last for a few weeks. Symptoms tend to include:
- Swollen mammary glands and milk production (or clear-brown liquid)
- Collecting toys/blankets/clothes
- Mothering a soft toy or another item
- Nervousness and/or aggression
- Reduced appetite
- Mastitis/mammary gland infection (in severe cases)
- Swollen tummy (in more extreme cases)
Before treating a phantom pregnancy, it’s important to consider whether there is any chance your dog could actually be pregnant – if you have any doubt, your vet will be able to run some tests to confirm. Once pregnancy has been ruled out your vet will help you decide on the best treatment plan.
If your dog is only experiencing mild symptoms, treatment may not be necessary, but if she has developed behavioural or mammary problems your vet may advise the following:
Cabergoline is a hormone that stops pregnancy hormones being produced and reduces the symptoms of pseudopregnancy – especially milk production. It’s usually given as a liquid by mouth for 1-2 weeks.
Lots of exercise and play will help distract your dog and reduce the symptoms of her phantom pregnancy.
Prevent overstimulation of the mammary glands
It’s important to prevent your dog licking around her nipples because this is likely to increase her milk production, and could even cause mastitis (infection of the mammary glands). The best way to stop your dog from licking herself, is by using a protective body suit or buster collar .
Remove any toys she is ‘mothering’
If your dog ‘mothering’ her toys or other items, you may need to remove them. It’s likely that your dog will be thinking of these toys as her puppies so you will need to take them away in a non-stressful way so she doesn’t become upset or aggressive. A good way to go about it is to take her out for a walk while someone else removes the toys. If she starts nesting or mothering again, distract her with games, and toys that she is less likely to ‘mother’ such as a filled ‘ Kong ’. Never punish your dog for mothering her toys, she won’t understand because her behaviour is perfectly natural.
The best way to prevent a phantom pregnancy is to spay your dog (most dogs can be spayed at 6 months old).
Contact your vet for advice if you think your dog might be having a phantom pregnancy. Contact them urgently if she appears to be in pain or developing a more serious problem such as mastitis (mammary gland infection).
You know your dog best – always contact your vet if you’re concerned.
Treating the symptoms of a false pregnancy can be expensive so it’s important to speak openly to your vet about your finances, the cost of treatment, as well as what you think is right for your dog. It’s often cheaper to spay your dog than it is to keep treating false pregnancies.
Securing dog insurance when bringing your new furry friend home is crucial. This proactive measure guarantees that you will have the essential financial support to provide the necessary care for your dog.
Published: September 2021
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What Is Phantom Pregnancy?
The causes, symptoms, and treatment for pseudocyesis
Phantom pregnancy, also known as pseudocyesis or false pregnancy, is a condition in which a person believes that they are pregnant when they are not. Pregnancy symptoms, such as the absence of their period , feeling phantom fetal movements, and a growing abdomen, occur in people with pseudocyesis even though they are not pregnant.
Phantom pregnancy is a rare disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edition (DSM-5) classifies the condition under Somatic Symptom Disorders, a group of disorders that are characterized by physical symptoms.
Phantom pregnancy is especially rare in developed countries where people seek prenatal care early. In those cases, phantom pregnancy usually resolves quickly when a person learns from taking a pregnancy test or from their doctor that they are not pregnant.
Here is an overview of phantom pregnancy, including the signs and symptoms, how it is diagnosed, and the options available for treatment.
Satoshi-K / Getty Images
People experiencing a phantom pregnancy have many of the same physical signs and symptoms as people who are pregnant. The symptoms may last a few weeks or for as long as nine months.
The most common signs are changes in menstruation , as well as changes in breast size and shape. Other possible signs and symptoms of a phantom pregnancy include:
- Amenorrhea (no periods) or light periods
- Abdominal distention
- Phantom fetal movements
- Breast changes (increase in size, darkening of areola)
- Milk secretion
- Weight gain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uterine and cervical changes
It’s not clear why phantom pregnancy occurs. However, certain people—especially those who have experienced pregnancy loss or who are undergoing fertility treatments—seem to be more at risk for developing the condition.
Researchers have noticed there are certain endocrinologic similarities in people who have phantom pregnancies.
In a 2013 literature review of people who experienced phantom pregnancy, the researchers noted shared endocrine traits in people who had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and people with major depressive disorder .
The study also found a deficit in brain dopamine activity and dysfunction of the sympathetic nervous system and central nervous system in people experiencing a phantom pregnancy.
The researchers suggested that these shared traits may lead to endocrine changes that cause the symptoms that arise—such as abnormal periods, protruding abdomen, phantom fetal movements, and labor pains—in people who experience phantom pregnancy.
Several conditions can mimic phantom pregnancy. The first step in diagnosing a phantom pregnancy is ruling out other conditions that could explain a person’s symptoms.
One of the key ways that a phantom pregnancy differs from other disorders is that it is the only condition in which the physical symptoms of pregnancy develop.
Before making a diagnosis of a phantom pregnancy, a doctor needs to rule out other conditions including:
- Delusion of pregnancy : A delusional disorder in which a person falsely believes that they are pregnant even in the absence of pregnancy symptoms.
- Deceptive/simulated pregnancy : A disorder in which a person says that they are pregnant even though they know they are not.
- Erroneous pseudocyesis : A disorder in which a person misinterprets symptoms from another disease as those of pregnancy.
The diagnosis of a phantom pregnancy hinges on the presence of physical symptoms of pregnancy plus clinical evidence, such as a negative pregnancy test or ultrasound , that shows no evidence of a pregnancy.
There is no universal clinical treatment for phantom pregnancy. A doctor needs to evaluate each case individually to determine which treatment or combination of treatments will be the most beneficial.
Since phantom pregnancy involves physical and mental health symptoms, effective treatment requires cooperation between medical and mental health professionals.
Possible treatments for phantom pregnancy include:
- Clinical tests that disprove pregnancy
- Medications such as antidepressants or antipsychotics
- Hormonal therapy
- Uterine dilation and curettage (D&C)
Often, clinical confirmation that a person is not pregnant is enough for the symptoms of pregnancy to go away. However, more treatment might be necessary to help the person make a complete physical and emotional recovery.
In some cases, a person may reject the diagnosis and continue to believe that they are pregnant, despite evidence to the contrary. In these situations, the care of a mental health professional is crucial.
The incidence of phantom pregnancy is extremely low, and rates have declined significantly in the United States over the last several decades. In 1940, the rate was one in 250 pregnancies. By 2007, the rate had dropped to between one and six cases in 22,000 pregnancies.
Rates in Less Developed Countries
In other parts of the world, phantom pregnancy is more common. For example, in Nigeria, the rate is as high as one in 344 pregnancies. In Sudan, the condition affects one in 160 people who have undergone fertility treatments.
Phantom pregnancy occurs more frequently in less developed countries. In countries with ready access to health care and where people receive prenatal care early, it happens less often, likely because people can see clinical evidence early on that they are not pregnant.
The rates of phantom pregnancy tend to be higher in cultures that place a high value on pregnancy and motherhood.
Mental Health and Sociodemographic Factors
Research has shown that people who experience phantom pregnancy have some predisposing traits in common, including depression, anxiety, a desire to be pregnant, or a fear of becoming pregnant.
There are also other sociodemographic factors that make a person more likely to have a phantom pregnancy. Risk factors include:
- Lower socioeconomic status
- Limited education
- Relationship instability
- Having an abusive partner
About 80% of people who experience a phantom pregnancy are married.
Having a phantom pregnancy can be a traumatic experience. Realizing that you are not pregnant can feel like a devastating loss. Grief is a common response to learning that you are not pregnant when you believed that you were. It can also be unnerving to realize that the physical symptoms that you were having were not being caused by pregnancy.
Talking to your doctor and a mental health professional, as well as reaching out to trusted people in your life for support, is crucial in getting through the process of being diagnosed with phantom pregnancy, treating the condition, and recovering from the experience.
A Word From Verywell
If you have experienced a phantom pregnancy, you may feel shame or embarrassment for thinking that you were pregnant when you were not. It’s important to remember that a phantom pregnancy is an actual condition with real symptoms and not something to be ashamed of.
Even if your symptoms go away once you get a clinical diagnosis, you may still benefit from additional support. Talk to your doctor about whether medication or psychotherapy would be a helpful part of your recovery.
As you recover, turn to people in your life who can support you, like your family and friends. In-person or online support groups for people who have also experienced a phantom pregnancy are another option that might help you feel less alone.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR) . American Psychiatric Association; 2022. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425787
Azizi M, Elyasi F. Biopsychosocial view to pseudocyesis: a narrative review . Int J Reprod Biomed . 2017;15(9):535-542.
Tarín J, Hermenegildo C, García-Pérez M, et al. Endocrinology and physiology of pseudocyesis . Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology . 2013;11(1):39. doi:10.1186/1477-7827-11-39
Campos S, Link D. Pseudocyesis . The Journal for Nurse Practitioners . 2016;12(6):390-394. doi:10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.03.009
By Kathi Valeii As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.
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What Is a Phantom Pregnancy?
Medical review policy, latest update:, what is a phantom pregnancy, symptoms of a phantom pregnancy, what's the difference between a phantom pregnancy and a real pregnancy, more about pregnancy loss and mental health during pregnancy, causes of a phantom pregnancy, a mind-body feedback loop, a physical condition, a mental health condition, what to do about a phantom pregnancy.
The phenomenon of phantom pregnancy is very rare, but to the woman experiencing it, it feels very real. Support and emotional care will be crucial in helping the hopeful mom-to-be accept the truth and move forward in a healthy way.
What to Expect When You're Expecting , 5th edition, Heidi Murkoff. WhatToExpect.com, Pregnancy Tests , September 2020. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners , Pseudocyesis , June 2016. National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus, Pregnancy Test , December 2020. National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Endocrinology and Physiology of Pseudocyesis , May 2013. National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Pseudocyesis: A Complication of Antipsychotic-Induced Increased Prolactin Levels and Weight Gain , July 2013. Psychology Today , The Heartbreaking Phenomenon of False Pregnancy , February 2016. UpToDate, Pseudocyesis , January 2021.
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- Seasons and Phantom Pregnancies
What does being “in season” or “in heat” mean?
Being in season or in heat is part of the natural oestrus cycle for dogs that are not spayed and is similar to human menstruation. When your dog is in season she will be able to conceive a pregnancy and will give off hormonal scents and behavioural cues to attract entire male dogs.
When and how often will my dog come into season?
Female dogs will come into season once or twice a year from around six to twelve months old. This will vary from dog to dog: some will cycle every 4 months, some up to every 8-10 months. The average age of a dog coming into season is six to eight months old.
How long does a season last?
A season usually lasts around three weeks at a time but this is again very variable from dog to dog. We would normally consider two to four weeks ‘normal’. If your dog remains in season for more than four weeks it is worth coming in for a check up to make sure there are no underlying problems.
How will I know if my dog is in season?
There are a few signs that your dog will be in season such as a swollen vulva, bloody discharge, or behavioural changes. Some dogs are very discreet with their seasons and you may not notice any discharge but they may be paying more attention to their back end than normal. You may also notice male dogs in particular paying attention to her: sometimes this may be the only indication you get!
How can I keep unwanted dogs away from my dog when she is in season?
It is important to keep a close eye on your dog while she is in season to avoid any unwanted pregnancies. Entire male dogs will be able to pick up her scent from quite some distance so it is important to keep her on a short lead and walk her at quieter times of the day. It is also important to note that male dogs who have been neutered are still fertile four to six weeks after their castration so take care if she is socializing with these dogs too.
When can I spay my dog?
Timing is very important when it comes to spaying your dog. During your dog’s season, the uterus, vulva, and surrounding tissues are inflamed which can increase the risk and difficulty of the surgery. For this reason, we advise spaying four months after the end of your dog’s first season. We also try to avoid spaying when a female is having a phantom pregnancy.
What is a phantom pregnancy?
A phantom pregnancy (also known as a pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy) is a condition which can develop a few weeks after a season which causes the dog to feel and act like she is pregnant. The normal hormones at this stage of a cycle are very similar to those when she is actually pregnant. Usually these symptoms are mild and resolve after a few weeks but for some dogs, medical treatment and advice is recommended. You may notice signs such as swollen mammary glands, nesting behaviours or collecting and mothering soft toys. It is firstly important to consider whether there is a chance your dog could be pregnant, and if not you can help your dog by removing soft toys and blankets. Keeping her busy with lots of long walks if possible can also help to distract her. It is also important to try to avoid belly rubs as this can stimulate the mammary glands and cause your dog to think she is nursing!
If these symptoms do persist or you are noticing behavioural issues, she may need some hormone medication which can be prescribed at a vet appointment. Females that have a false pregnancy tend to do so each time they have a season so once they have recovered, we do recommend spaying if your pet suffers with false pregnancies.
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What are the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy?
What is a Phantom Pregnancy?
Phantom pregnancy (or pseudocyesis) is a rare condition that results in a woman (or even a man) believing they are pregnant, displaying the symptoms of pregnancy but with no foetus present. People who experience phantom pregnancy will usually have many of the same symptoms as a pregnant women including weight gain, swollen belly, menstrual irregularity, nausea, engorged breasts and increased hormones.
- Phantom pregnancy is a rare condition that results in a woman believing they are pregnant
A phantom pregnancy may only last as long as it takes to confirm that a pregnancy isn’t taking place e.g. with an ultrasound. But it’s also possible for them to carry on for the full 9 months or even longer.
How common are phantom pregnancies?
Phantom pregnancies is are a very rare condition, with cases actually dropping in the past century. It now only occurs in around 1-6 for every 22,000 births.
What causes a phantom pregnancy to occur?
The exact cause of phantom pregnancy isn’t known, but it thought that it could be a mixture of psychological and physical issues that lead to the body being ‘tricked’ into thinking it’s pregnant.
This could be when a woman experiences a strong desire to be pregnant, either because of infertility, repeat miscarriages , or impending menopause. This can cause the body to produce symptoms similar to those of early pregnancy which the brain then confuses with real pregnancy signals and begins releasing hormones that lead to further pregnancy symptoms.
Treatment of a phantom pregnancy
Finding out you’re experience a phantom pregnancy can be a testing and upsetting time for the woman. The most successful treatment for a phantom pregnancy is the use of an ultrasound or other imaging device to show that there isn’t a foetus developing. Often a phantom pregnancy is a sign of an underlying psychological issue, e.g. severe depression.
In these situations a doctor or health professional will recommend psychological support, including therapy to help deal with the phantom pregnancy and to recover from it.
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