3 Tips: Dog Pregnancy - cause and signs
False pregnancy in dogs - cause and signs
The so-called false pregnancy is actually a false maternity. This occurs more frequently in dogs, especially in small dog breeds. The bitch's false pregnancy is also known as pseudogravidity (pseudopregnancy) or lactatio falsa (false milk production). If your bitch is pseudopregnant, she is acting as if she is having kittens. This is not a disease or hormone imbalance, but a completely natural process.
Basics and causes of false pregnancy
Why is it natural for your bitch to become pregnant?
In your dog's ancestors, the wolves, false pregnancy had a purpose: wolves are known to live in packs with a very social family structure. If one she-wolf in the pack has offspring, other she-wolves become false pregnant to act as wet nurses for the wolf pups. Through their false pregnancy they produce milk without having had any offspring themselves. Wolf pups can be cared for not only by their own mother, but also by other she-wolves in an emergency. Female wolves in false pregnancy still behave like their ancestors. Nature has arranged it in such a way that she-wolves and some bitches become seemingly pregnant.
What exactly is going on in your bitch's body when she is pregnant?
Four to nine weeks after heat, there may be hormonal changes in the mammary glands. A few weeks after heat, the mammary glands produce milk even though the bitch is not pregnant. This is caused by the interaction of two hormones: progesterone and prolactin. The decrease of the hormone progesterone and the increase of the hormone prolactin in the blood cause the false pregnancy. A high concentration of prolactin stimulates milk production. Progesterone contributes to the maintenance of pregnancy. If the bitch is not pregnant, her progesterone level drops rapidly. Presumably, the rapid decrease in progestrone fools the organism into thinking that the bitch is giving birth. As a result, prolactin increases and stimulates the production of milk.
Symptoms and diagnosis of false pregnancy
How does a false pregnancy manifest itself in your bitch?
The symptoms vary from bitch to bitch. The udder swells and produces milk. The bitch acts as if she has whelped puppies. She acts depressed or aggressive. She tries to build a nest and treats objects as if they were her puppies. She mothers stuffed animals or toys and wants to protect and defend her pseudo-puppies.
Symptoms of a pseudopregnancy in your bitch
- swollen udder and lactation
- increased abdominal girth
- nesting behaviour (scratching, digging, building in the basket, bed, on the couch, with pillows etc.)
- searching for, mothering, dragging and defending pseudo-puppies (stuffed animals, toys)
- no appetite
- sadness, sluggishness, apathy
- irritability, aggressive behaviour
How is a false pregnancy in dogs diagnosed in your bitch?
The vet will ask you about your bitch's behaviour. He will examine the bitch and check whether her udder is swollen and milk has formed. In case your bitch might be pregnant, an x-ray or ultrasound examination will be performed.
Therapy and prevention for pseudopregnancy
How can pseudopregnancy be treated in your bitch?
Often no treatment is necessary. The pseudopregnancy lasts only 2, at the most 4 weeks. The best thing to do is try to distract your bitch as much as possible. Put her spare puppies away at an inconspicuous moment. Keep her from licking her teats. Licking stimulates milk production even more. If your bitch shows aggressive behavior or suffers a lot, veterinary treatment is needed. The vet can give medication to reduce milk production. If your bitch becomes pregnant again and again, suffers a lot or behaves aggressively, spaying is recommended.
How can you prevent your bitch from becoming pregnant?
Only a spay can reliably prevent further false pregnancies. However, the operation should not be performed directly during a false pregnancy. This would only worsen the symptoms. Because progesterone and prolactin levels would rapidly decrease and increase respectively.
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