Female dogs generally go through two heat cycles per year. At this time, their bodies go through a type of canine menses that can result in pregnancy if she has actually mated with a male. But in some cases, the female's hormones will mimic pregnancy even when no pregnancy is present. The best thing that you can do for a female dog, that you do not wish to use for breeding purposes, is to have her spayed.
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Check your female dog for any signs of milk production. A female dog that is going through a false pregnancy will have enlarged mammary glands and swollen teats. During this time they may also begin to seep milk even if there has been no live birth.
Gently feel your dog's abdomen for swelling. Even though the pregnancy is false, her body does not know it. The pregnancy hormones can still cause her body to function in ways that denote pregnancy, and one of the repercussions, is a slightly swollen abdomen. Although her belly will never become as large as that of a female that is carrying puppies, it can swell.
Notice if your female dog is showing signs of nesting. A dog may purposefully transform areas of the home into comfort zones as if she is caring for her live young. This can be emotionally stressful for your dog especially when she is missing the most important part of the pregnancy. Pulling blankets and small rugs into corners of the room and making cosy little spots as if she is going to nurse her young are signs that your dog is having a false pregnancy.
Watch to see if your female dog begins to carry around stuffed toys or other small soft items, as if they are her babies. A dog that is dealing with the emotional stress of a false pregnancy will take possession of these items and nuzzle them, gently carry them around and lie down with them. She may be looking for any type of items in the house that can fill the void of her missing pups.
Look for signs of confusion or psychological distress that may be affecting your female dog. False pregnancy can be a very stressful time for a dog, especially if she is looking for her puppies. Her body is giving her all of the signs that she should be whelping, yet there are no babies to suckle. This situation will not only create a psychological toll, but also a physical one that will cause confusion and stress to a female dog that is dealing with a false pregnancy.
Tips and warnings
- Allow your female to nest, harvest toys and pillows, and fully involve herself in the emotional part of the false pregnancy. If the symptoms have already begun, it is too late to fix it. Allow her to go through the process, and have her spayed before her next heat to ensure that it won't happen again.
- To make your female dog more comfortable, you can massage the mammary area, helping her to release some of the milk that has been building up and causing discomfort.
- You may also choose to use your female dog as a surrogate mother. At times the humane society may have very young puppies that they have rescued, without the mother. Your female may be helped emotionally if she is able to use her nurturing instinct to care for and feed the puppies.
- Never remove any stuffed toys or objects that appear to be substitutions for puppies. Your dog sincerely believes that she needs to care for the toys, and by taking them away before she is ready, you will be causing more stress. The situation may even cause territorial issues that can turn violent if you attempt to touch her puppy substitutes.
- If you feel that the false pregnancy is becoming a situation that is difficult to handle, seek a veterinarian's advice.