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Alleged dog pregnancies

Sometimes, a few weeks after estrus, there are signs of pregnancy in a bitch, but later it turns out that the pet is not actually pregnant. This is known as an apparent pregnancy.

Why do dogs develop an apparent pregnancy and is it dangerous for the animal?

Apparent pregnancy occurs a few weeks after estrus in unweaned or unfertilised bitches. When an apparent pregnancy occurs, the dog behaves as if it were expecting; in addition to behavioural changes, physical symptoms of pregnancy are also present. This condition can be observed in many different animals, but in dogs the apparent pregnancy is most common and pronounced.

Alleged canine pregnancy is a disease. It is neither a pathology nor an abnormality. It is related to a hormonal imbalance in the bitch’s body after estrus. Regardless of whether she has been impregnated or not, after estrus, the dog’s body starts to produce the same hormones that are produced during pregnancy: a decrease in the hormone progesterone and a decrease in the hormone prolactin the opposite is true – a sharp increase. Hormonal changes are what trigger the onset of pregnancy symptoms.

When a dog’s apparent pregnancy occurs, the mammary glands swell and, in some cases, lactation even begins. Appetite changes may occur: the dog starts to eat and drink significantly more or, conversely, refuses food. Behaviour also changes: the dog starts to make a nest out of rags, paper, etc., usually in a secluded place. The animal expresses maternal activity towards different objects (footwear, toys, etc.). The female may become restless, nervous, unsteady, with little movement and reluctance to play. Sometimes the dog is actively affectionate towards its owner but aggressive towards other dogs (especially other females).

How to treat an apparent pregnancy, and if at all?

Basically, an alleged canine pregnancy goes away on its own after a while without any consequences – the hormonal balance is back to normal. But the owner should take care that the bitch’s milk production decreases. This requires a reduction ini the animal’s food and water intake, and to give up dry food for the time being.

Some bitches stimulate their own lactation by licking their stomachs or biting their mammary glands during the alleged pregnancy. The dog should not be allowed to do this. Some owners tie a piece of cloth or a bintu around the dog’s abdomen to prevent it from reaching the teats. But a stiff band, on the other hand, can stimulate milk secretion, so a more reliable and safer method is to put a special collar on the dog, which is usually used after surgery, to prevent the animal from licking the stitches.

During a suspected pregnancy, the pet should be taken for walks more often. Firstly, exercise improves the dog’s condition and promotes the end of lactation. Secondly, a long walk does not give the dog time to think about fancy dogs.

In the event of a complicated apparent pregnancy, the vet may prescribe hormone therapy to relieve the symptoms. But hormone therapy is a last resort and should not be taken unless authorised by the vet.

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