Imaginary pregnancy, otherwise known as pseudo pregnancy, is a group of symptoms characteristic of pregnant bitches, which are observed in bitches that are not really pregnant. The hormonal storm caused by a long period of heat makes the bitch’s body act as if she was actually pregnant and had recently given birth to puppies. A girl suffering from an imaginary pregnancy usually builds a nest and brings various objects to it. More than once, she starts to defend them as if they were her puppies.
This condition is often accompanied by the presence of milk in the nipples, irritability and reluctance to go for a walk, which would be associated with leaving the „puppies” unattended. It also happens that a bitch suffering from an imaginary pregnancy becomes sad, resigned and loses her appetite – just as if the puppies born by her suddenly disappeared …
Imaginary pregnancy – when can it occur?
The symptoms of an imaginary pregnancy caused by hormonal changes may occur in any uncastrated female, regardless of her age, race and size. They usually become visible 3 to 12 weeks after heat and last for several weeks. Imaginary pregnancy is more common in bitches that are in close contact with other nursing bitches or small puppies. It is probably related to the behavior of canine ancestors, who also fed their puppies who were not pregnant before.
Is an imaginary pregnancy dangerous to the bitch’s health?
An imaginary pregnancy is not a disease – it is a physiological phenomenon that usually resolves on its own. However, the lack of proper response from the caretakers can prolong unnecessary stress on the animal and put it at risk of loss of health. The most common complications associated with this ailment are mastitis. Milk stagnation in the glands makes the bitch uncomfortable, as she begins to lick them intensely, leading to severe irritation and inflammation. Therefore, if you suspect a pseudo-pregnancy, you should go to the vet immediately. He will carry out the necessary tests, make an appropriate diagnosis and implement appropriate treatment.
How to help a bitch with an imaginary pregnancy?
An imaginary pregnancy is a huge stress for a bitch. Most suffering animals are irritable, lose interest in playing and walking, and often even become depressed. The mainstay of treatment for pseudo-pregnancy are drugs to stop milk secretion and isolate from other lactating bitches or puppies. It is also advisable to involve the bitch for longer walks, training simple commands and olfactory games that will distract her from the nest and the children being sewn in. For a female who aggressively defends „puppies” from their owners, it is best to ensure peace and a secluded place where no one will disturb her. Taking away the toys they have picked up by force and destroying the nest may lead to an escalation of aggression.
So if we have the opportunity to wait for the spontaneous resolution of symptoms, it is not worth exposing the dog to additional stress. Otherwise, it is worth contacting a veterinarian-behaviorist who will prescribe appropriate sedative medications.
How to prevent an imaginary pregnancy?
Contrary to popular belief, the appearance of an imaginary pregnancy in a bitch is not prevented by a real pregnancy. This condition equally affects females who have given birth to puppies many times in the past. The only way to protect your bitch from this condition is castration. This relatively simple operation is also the best way to help prevent pyomyxia, unwanted pregnancies, and dog homelessness.