Pashu Sandesh, 06 May 2019

Dr. Madhu Shivhare , Dr. Jitendra Yadav  ,Dr. Madhuri Dhurvey ,   Deepak Ningwal , Shailendra Singh

False pregnancy, phantom pregnancy, pseudo-pregnancy or pseudocyesis are all terms that refer to a display of maternal (mothering) behavior combined with the physical signs of pregnancy following estrus ("heat") in a 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. False pregnancy, or pseudopregnancy, is a term used to denote a common condition in a non-pregnant female dog that is showing symptoms of pregnancy, lactation, or nursing, without producing puppies. The affected female dog shows these symptoms about a month or two after her estrus (heat) is over. A hormonal imbalance is thought to play a central role in affected female dogs. Depending on the severity of problem, the symptoms may last for more than a month. The corpus luteum (the remains of an ovulated ovarian follicle) is responsible for the development of maternal behavior and lactation, which are mediated by the continued production of progesterone by the corpus luteum through some or all of pregnancy. In most species, the corpus luteum is degraded in the absence of a pregnancy.

Pseudopregnancy is a normal physiologic process that occurs in female dogs. It is seen 45–60 days after a normal estrous (heat) period. After ovulation, progesterone levels rise. Pseudopregnancy happens when the progesterone levels begin to fall as decreasing progesterone leads to an increase of the hormone prolactin . Prolactin is responsible for the behaviours seen during pseudopregnancy. Dogs may exhibit mothering of toys, nesting or aggression. Mammary development and milk production are common. Pseudopregnancy can also be acutely induced by spaying (removing of ovaries) a dog near the end of estrus. Spaying removes the source of progesterone and induces a rise in prolactin.

Bitches  become pseudopregnant following an estrus phase in which the female dog is not bred, or in which she is bred by an infertile male. Most species require signals from an embryo (such as IFN-τ in ruminants) to alert the female's body of a pregnancy. This maternal recognition of pregnancy will cause persistence of the corpus luteum and the development of characteristics and behaviors necessary to care for offspring. the corpus luteum is not degraded, it will cause the development of maternal characteristics in the absence of pregnancy. Pseudopregnant dogs will develop their mammary glands, lactate, and build nests to varying degrees depending on breed. Although female dogs usually only cycle once or twice per year, pseudopregnancy is common.


  • Behavioral changes
  • Non-pregnant female dog may show symptoms of mothering activity, nesting, and self-nursing
  • Restlessness
  • Abdominal distention
  • Enlargement of mammary glands
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Brownish watery fluid or water secretion from the mammary glands


The exact cause for this condition is unknown. However, hormonal imbalances, especially of progesterone and prolactin, are thought to play an important role in its development. Some female dogs have been found to show such abnormal symptoms within three to four days after after an ovariohysterectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus).


  1. Detailed history regarding pet’s health.
  2. When the symptoms set in and their nature.
  3. Ultra sonography 

Where necessary, physical examination of  dog. In some situations, During a false pregnancy in canines, the dog’s breasts may swell and may even produce milk. You may see the milk leaking or be able to express it by massaging them. This, however, is not recommended because they will only produce more if milk is expressed manually. In addition to the breasts becoming fuller, the belly area will begin to look “fuller” and swollen,
abdominal diagnostic imaging may be done to rule out uterine infections. The presence of other diseases that may be prolonging the symptoms such as hypothyroidism may be done too.


  • Mild cases  need no treatment other that discouraging maternal behaviour. A diuretic such as furosemide can be used to reduce fluid retention and stop lactation. If behavioral signs are present, mild sedation with non-phenothiazine drugs can be an option. Phenothiazine drugs should not be used as they encourage prolactin release.If the condition is self-limiting, signs will usually disappear within 1-3 weeks.
  • The use of prolactin-suppressing drugs such as the dopamine agonists cabergoline and bromocriptine. Milberone can also be given.
  • Progesterone, estrogen or testosterone treatment is not recommended.
  • Ovariohysterectomy should be considered in all bitches not to be used for breeding. It should preferably be done during anoestrus, as spaying during lactation can result in a prolongation of pseudopregnancy.
  • The prognosis is good, although recurrence is common in subsequent oestrous cycles.
  • There is no decrease in fertility following an episode of pseudopregnancy.

Dr. Madhu Shivhare , Dr. Jitendra Yadav  ,Dr. Madhuri Dhurvey ,   Deepak Ningwal , Shailendra Singh

College of Veterinary Science & A.H. , Mhow (M.P.)