Recognizing the Signs of a Phantom Pregnancy and What to Do

How often do symptoms of phantom pregnancy occur in dogs? Although it's a situation that, in theory, isn't very serious, you still need to know what to do.
Recognizing the Signs of a Phantom Pregnancy and What to Do
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Female dogs that haven’t been spayed or neutered may experience a phantom pregnancy. In fact, these situations occur far more frequently than we might think. However, the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy shouldn’t be ignored, as they can be detrimental to the bitch’s health.

In the following article, we’ll discuss phantom pregnancy in female dogs. The main objective is to make it easier to identify the signs of this phenomenon and to tell you what to do when you notice it.

Symptoms of a phantom pregnancy in female dogs

The signs of a phantom pregnancy will be very similar to the symptoms of pregnancy in female dogs. This means that a dog with a phantom pregnancy will behave and show physical signs in a similar way to a real pregnancy.

The logical difference is that in a phantom pregnancy, there’s no fertilized egg developing in the dog’s womb to produce puppies. Therefore, it’s essential to be attentive to the following symptoms in order to know how to act in case of a phantom pregnancy in your dog:

  • Alterations in vaginal discharge
  • Absence of estrus or menstruation
  • Increased belly size (enlarged belly)
  • Swollen and over-developed breasts
  • Intense licking of genitals and breasts
  • Discharge of milk from the breasts
  • Moaning, groaning
  • Hiding
  • Scratching the floor or walls
  • Loss of energy (the dog shows no interest in walking, playing, or doing its daily activities)
  • Stealing stuffed animals or dolls, protecting them, or hiding with them

What to do when faced with a phantom pregnancy in your dog

Contrary to what many owners think, a phantom pregnancy in a female dog isn’t always harmless. Some symptoms are dangerous and, if they continue to progress, they can compromise the dog’s health.

For example, mammary swelling and milk production can lead to a breast infection. In more advanced cases, the dog may develop mastitis resulting from a phantom pregnancy that wasn’t properly treated.

Therefore, upon identifying any symptoms of phantom pregnancy in your dog, your first course of action should be to take her promptly to the veterinarian. At the veterinary center, the professional will be able to confirm if your friend really has a psychological pregnancy and recommend the most appropriate treatment to preserve her good health.

Treatment of a phantom pregnancy in dogs

Usually, the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy in dogs begin to subside after the third week. During this period, your dog will probably be feeling more down than usual and will demand more attention and affection from you. It’s essential that you devote a special part of your day to share with your pet and transmit calm and security.

Phantom pregnancy in dogs.

Normally, it isn’t necessary to administer drugs during the treatment. However, it is essential to pay special attention to the development of the breasts to avoid the accumulation of milk and the development of an infectious process.

First of all, it’s essential for the dog to stop licking in the mammary area so as not to aggravate the inflammation. In order to do this, an excellent technique is to apply camphor alcohol on her breasts, since the odor will disgust her and will prevent her from continuing to lick. In addition, being antiseptic, camphor alcohol will also help prevent an infectious process.

On the other hand, it’ll also be important to increase your dog’s physical activity and mental stimulation to speed up her recovery. Besides, helping to stabilize hormone levels, exercises, walks, and intelligence games will be key to improving her mood and avoiding excess weight.

How to prevent phantom pregnancies in dogs

Almost 50% of female dogs develop at least one psychological pregnancy during their adulthood. Some can suffer several phantom pregnancies, which usually expose them to high stress contexts and excessive hormonal changes. Remember that it’s essential to prevent this condition in order to keep our pet as healthy as possible.

The most reliable and safest way to prevent a phantom pregnancy in your dog is to have her spayed. In addition to preventing your pet from suffering the discomfort and possible complications of a psychological pregnancy, sterilization is also key to preventing unplanned litters and stray overpopulation.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.