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What is a nervous pregnancy in a female dog?

Pseudocyesis (or pseudopregnancy) is a natural phenomenon that is very common in unspayed female dogs, since 9 out of 10 of them have at least two pregnancies in their lifetime once they have reached sexual maturity. Let's take a look at the causes and symptoms of a nervous pregnancy in female dogs, and how to avoid them.

Nervous Pregnancy: an extremely common phenomenon in female dogs


Nervous pregnancy, or pseudopregnancy, can occur within two months of coming into heat in a female dog that has not been covered by a male. Some bitches may experience this every cycle, about twice a year. Pseudocyesis is so common that few female dogs have not had at least one nervous pregnancy in their lifetime.

In a pack, it affects most, if not all, female dogs after completely synchronized heats, which leaves each one the possibility of nursing orphaned puppies or those abandoned by their own mother.

Female dog and nervous pregnancy: symptoms


When a nervous pregnancy is triggered, the female dog presents symptoms similar to those found in a pregnant bitch, both physically and behaviorally:
  • vulval discharge,
  • swelling of the udders,
  • a rise of milk,
  • frequent licking (udders, vulva),
  • signs of anxiety,
  • recurrent moaning,
  • a tendency to isolate herself or, on the contrary, to get too close to her owners to the point of becoming invasive or heavy.
Even more striking is the fact that a female dog with a nervous pregnancy will try to collect various little things to build a sort of cosy nest, such as an old cushion, pieces of foam, fabric. She seems to suddenly take a liking to a stuffed animal or a toy and takes great care to protect it. These evocative behaviors seem to express the need to fill the absence of puppies.

Nervous pregnancy: what are the health risks for the female dog?


Since pseudocyesis only occurs once or twice in a female dog's life, it does not pose any particular risk to her physical or mental health. On the other hand, if the phenomenon is recurrent - which is the most frequently noted case - the female dog risks to suffer from
  • hormonal imbalance
  • recurrent mastitis, i.e. infections of the udder leading to painful inflammations due to lactation (milk production),
  • abscesses in the udder,
  • mammary tumors,
  • infections of the uterus,
  • stress.
By dint of developing nervous pregnancies, the female dog gradually changes her behavior. She can be clingy with her owners or steal or damage various objects...

How to limit the risks of nervous pregnancy or pseudocyesis in the female dog?


Whether the pseudocyesis is isolated or recurrent, it is essential to consult the veterinarian. A female dog that presents a nervous pregnancy must be taken care of. This allows her to benefit from an adapted treatment either to relieve the pain, or to stop the milk flow thanks to prolactin inhibitors, or to treat mastitis and other health problems linked to pseudopregnancy. At the appearance of the first symptoms, the owner must in any case check if his female dog is not really expecting puppies...

If the nervous pregnancy is confirmed, it is necessary to avoid that the female dog licks her teats too frequently, if only to limit the stimulation of the milk flow. The owner can take her out very regularly and more frequently than usual in order to divert the attention of his animal. At the same time, he can brush the edge of each teat with a few drops of camphorated alcohol. With this subterfuge (which at least has the merit of being a local disinfectant), one generally manages to dissuade the female dog from continuing her almost monomaniacal licking.

It is also necessary to push her away if she shows herself a little too close and sticky and to remove the objects that she smolders all day long as if they were her babies. This is necessary to try to stop this type of obsessive behavior. You can try to keep her busy by distracting her with play.

Have your female dog spayed to stop nervous pregnancies


Spaying a female dog is the best way to prevent nervous pregnancies. Once the surgery is completed, there is no risk. It is effective, definitive and reassures many owners, provided that they do not want their female dog to have offspring of course.

In any case, spaying is very useful to protect the health of the animal - and consequently increase its life expectancy - because it is an excellent way to fight against mammary, uterine, vulvar tumors, and many other diseases. Finally, thanks to spaying, the female dog used to having nervous pregnancies will be much more balanced psychologically since she will never be exposed to this phenomenon again.

The price of the operation is generally between 250 and 400 €, depending on whether you opt for an ovariectomy (removal of the ovaries) or an ovario-hysterectomy (removal of the ovaries and uterus). This is a considerable amount of money, but the master can be reimbursed if he has taken care to insure his female dog with a health insurance company for animals.