False Pregnancy in Dogs

This pseudo pregnancy is caused by hormones and is not life-threatening.


False pregnancy, also known as pseudocyesis, is a condition caused by hormones in an intact (unspayed) female dog and 89% of the dogs show mammary enlargement, according to research published in BMC Veterinary Research. It is not dangerous and usually goes away within two to three weeks. Some dogs, however, can show maternal aggression.

A false pregnancy can manifest four to nine weeks after signs of heat stop, indicated by no more bloody discharge from the vulva.

Symptoms of a False Pregnancy

Research shows that 96% of dogs with a false pregnancy show are associated with mothering objects. While it might appear cute because she’s carrying around her “puppy,” you should be aware that the behavior also can take the form of maternal aggression, especially if she feels her “puppy” is threatened.

Signs include:

  • Enlarged mammary glands, possibly with milk
  • Weight gain or enlarged abdomen
  • Maternal aggression
  • Nesting behavior
  • Possible lack of appetite

If she is a performance dog, she might not be able to practice or compete at full mental and physical capacity, especially when she feels she has another “responsibility.”

What Is a False Pregnancy?

When a female dog goes into her heat cycle (estrus), the hormones produced by her ovaries prepare her body for pregnancy and motherhood. Blood flow increases to the uterus, the vulva enlarges, and the mammary glands become more prominent.

If the female is mated, and the pregnancy is successful in producing live puppies, this suite of reproductive hormones continues to drive the physical and behavioral changes that support motherhood, including milk production, nesting behavior, and puppy care.

If she is not mated, or the breeding is not successful, she can experience false pregnancy, and she can still experience the same group of changes to her body and behavior as if she were genuinely pregnant.

False Pregnancy Treatment

Most dogs who experience this do not require treatment. False pregnancy usually goes away within two to three weeks. Massaging or milking your false-pregnant dog can prolong the amount of time it takes for the mammary glands to shrink and stop producing milk.

If there is no intention of breeding a female dog, and she experiences false pregnancy, spaying her could considered. Removal of the ovaries will remove the source of hormones responsible for the condition.