Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM,MPH,PhD
and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
False pregnancy is a common problem in dogs.
During the estrus or "heat" cycle, estrogen levels increase, the vulva swells and produces a bloody or straw-colored discharge, and the female dog is inclined to accept a male for breeding. Toward the end of the heat cycle, progesterone levels increase, preparing the uterus for an anticipated pregnancy.
Although no mating has occurred, female dogs sometimes act like they're pregnant even when they're not. This is called a false pregnancy.
The mammary glands may enlarge and even drip milk, just as in a real pregnancy.
Some female dogs even behave as if they are having a litter, ie, they stop eating, build a nest, and cuddle up with small, inanimate objects.
Your veterinarian can determine if your dog is pregnant or not by palpating the abdomen and (possibly) taking an x-ray or ultrasound. No treatment is required; false pregnancy usually goes away on its own in a few weeks.
Both real and false pregnancy can be prevented by having your female dog spayed.
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