Uncastrated bitches experience pseudo-pregnancy four to nine weeks after the heat. It is not a pathological condition, but a natural one and is related to the bitch’s complicated hormonal cycle. The level of hormones in the blood is almost the same in pregnant and non-pregnant bitches. Read here how false pregnancy develops in your bitch and what you have to pay special attention to during this time.
Progesterone, the pregnancy-maintaining hormone, is found in almost the same concentrations in bitches after ovulation, regardless of whether they are pregnant or not. When the body finally registers that the bitch is not in good hope, the level of progesterone drops rapidly. This rapid decrease may simulate childbirth for the organism and cause the hormone prolactin to rise. Prolactin stimulates the mammary glands to produce milk. So a bitch can become pseudo-pregnant after heat – but without having been mated.
The hormonal processes after the bitch came into heat are purely physiological and completely normal. Often this phase is not even noticed by the owner. One must differentiate from this, however, the pathological pseudopregnancy in which the bitch shows abnormal behavior, which is described in more detail below. In such a case, you should consult a veterinarian.
The hormone prolactin can also affect the bitch’s psyche. This behavior can be observed particularly often:
The pseudopregnant bitch can often be distracted from her nest-building instinct by putting away toys during this time and going for walks with her a lot. Decreased liveliness is normal in many bitches at this stage and should be accepted by the owner.
Some bitches become extremely apathetic or aggressive during the period of pseudo-pregnancy. The latter is a serious risk factor in a household with small children from whom the dog takes toys away and defends them. Sedative medication can help relieve symptoms like these. At the same time, a preparation can be given that inhibits the production of the hormone prolactin. Your vet can best advise on this.
Castration is not an immediately effective remedy for pseudopregnancy. When the ovaries are removed, the blood level of the hormone progesterone drops rapidly from one moment to the next. This causes the prolactin level to rise just as rapidly, and there are even more pronounced pseudopregnancy symptoms.
As a preventive measure against further false pregnancies, castration may be useful if the owner experiences the false pregnancy as a really serious problem. Be sure to talk to your vet beforehand and look for other possible solutions first.
Symptoms of pseudopregnancy can last ten to 30 days in bitches. Because the pseudopregnancy is not based on hormonal malfunctions, one can wait in less pronounced cases until the physical and behavioral abnormalities subside by themselves. The bogus pregnancy does not necessarily recur in the next cycle. However, the symptoms are similarly severe after each heat.
Any manipulation, massages or expressing milk additionally stimulate milk production during pseudo pregnancy. Most of the time, this goes back by itself after a few weeks and the teat becomes smaller again. Examining looks, on the other hand, are permitted and necessary. In some cases, inflammation of the breasts can occur, which must be treated with antibiotics. If the tissue around individual teats is red, painful and warm, a visit to the vet is urgently necessary.