False Pregnancy in Dogs:
Recognize the Telltale Signs

False pregnancy, also known as pseudopregnancy or phantom pregnancy, is a condition that affects female dogs. It occurs when a non-pregnant dog exhibits symptoms of pregnancy, including behavioral changes and physical manifestations associated with gestation. False pregnancy is a common occurrence in dogs and can sometimes cause concern for pet owners. Understanding the signs and distinguishing them from a genuine pregnancy is crucial for proper management and care. In this article, we will delve into the signs of false pregnancy in dogs, enabling pet owners to identify and address this condition effectively.


Behavioral Changes:

One of the key indicators of false pregnancy in dogs is a significant shift in behavior. These changes usually occur around six to twelve weeks after the female dog’s last heat cycle. Common behavioral signs include:

  1. Nesting behavior: The dog may begin to build a nest using blankets, pillows, or other materials, indicating a desire to create a safe space for her “puppies.”
  2. Mothering instincts: The dog might adopt and care for inanimate objects like toys, stuffed animals, or even shoes, treating them as her “puppies.”
  3. Protective behavior: False pregnancy can trigger protective behaviors, such as guarding the nesting area and displaying aggression or fearfulness towards unfamiliar people or animals.

Physical Manifestations:

False pregnancy in dogs can also produce physical changes that mimic those seen during a genuine pregnancy. The following signs may be observed:

  1. Enlarged mammary glands: The mammary glands may become swollen, firm, and even produce milk. This occurs due to hormonal fluctuations similar to those experienced during pregnancy.
  2. Weight gain: The dog may gain weight, primarily due to an increase in appetite and fluid retention. However, this weight gain is often localized to the abdominal area and does not involve an increase in overall body mass.
  3. Abdominal distension: The abdomen may appear distended or bloated, resembling the appearance of a pregnant dog. This occurs as a result of hormonal and fluid changes within the body.

Gastrointestinal and Reproductive Signs:

In addition to behavioral and physical changes, false pregnancy can affect a dog’s gastrointestinal and reproductive systems. These signs may include:

  1. Decreased appetite or selective eating: The dog may experience changes in appetite, either refusing food altogether or becoming selective in her eating habits.
  2. Vomiting and diarrhea: Some dogs with false pregnancy may develop gastrointestinal upset, resulting in intermittent vomiting or diarrhea.
  3. Estrus prolongation: False pregnancy can cause an extension of the estrus period, leading to prolonged bleeding or discharge.


Recognizing the signs of false pregnancy in dogs is essential for pet owners to provide appropriate care and alleviate any concerns. While the condition can be distressing for both the dog and the owner, it is typically a self-limiting condition that resolves on its own within a few weeks. However, if the symptoms are severe, persist for an extended period, or if you have any doubts, it is always advisable to consult a veterinarian.