5 min read

Dog False Pregnancy with Toy [Phantom Pregnancy in Female Dogs]

Dog False Pregnancy with Toy
Photo by Ruby Schmank / Unsplash

Our dogs can surprise us with their adorable behaviors and interactions with their toys. But, when dogs exhibit maternal behavior with certain toys, we are informed of false pregnancy.

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Phantom pregnancy, also known as false pregnancy, pseudo-pregnancy, or pseudocyesis, represents a mothering behavior accompanied by physical pregnancy signs preceding heat in an unspayed female dog that is not pregnant.

This behavior can appear in a female dog whether she was mated or not. After an estrus cycle, the majority of intact female dogs will exhibit some indicators of false pregnancy.

When your non-pregnant female dog begins to exhibit indicators of pregnancy, such as mothering behavior or nursing upon her toys, without birthing puppies, she is most likely experiencing phantom pregnancy.

Why my female dog has phantom pregnancy with a toy?

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Your female will begin to indicate a desire in nursing by becoming attached to a certain toy and acting protectively around it. This can cause her to become more aggressive than normal, so exercise caution if she is near youngsters or other dogs.

During a fake pregnancy, your dog that has not actually birthed puppies may confuse a toy for a puppy in need of care.

What causes dog false pregnancy with toy?

➡️ Increased levels of circulating hormones create changes that simulate pregnancy in the beginning phases. As the non-pregnant dog's hormone levels fall, the body sends signals that induce fake labor and mammary gland production.

➡️ There is scientific evidence that a dog who has not been spayed is more likely to experience a phantom pregnancy and, as a result, will engage in instinctual behavior such as nesting and nurturing.

➡️ Hormonal changes, such as an increase in prolactin and a decrease in progesterone, trigger caring behavior. A false pregnancy may also cause milk production and an urge to nurse a puppy. In this circumstance, getting a toy to substitute the puppy that never comes would be the greatest option.

➡️ False pregnancies are an unwanted effect of a female dog's natural hormonal cycle.

A healthy dog will most likely have her first heat cycle between the ages of 6 and 1 year. Certain smaller breeds get this sooner, whereas larger breeds may not have it until they are almost 18 months old.

Unless you spay your dog or she gets pregnant, she will be in heat about every six months for about 10 days.

What are the signs of a dog phantom pregnancy?

🍼 Symptoms of false pregnancy in dogs:

  • Nesting
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy or apathy toward physical activity
  • Protecting toys or small objects as a motherly action
  • Low appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety or clinginess
  • Mammary gland enlargement
  • Secretion from the mammary glands

A motherly manner that you can observe is that she may begin nesting by moving blankets around in an attempt to construct a nest for herself and her phantom "child". She may also begin digging in an attempt to build a safe haven for her non-existent pups.

There may be physical symptoms, such as a bloated tummy. She may develop enlargement of the mammary glands and begin to produce discharge or even milk.

Some unfortunate dogs even have contractions and get into false labor.

🐶 Signs that your dog believes its toys are puppies

When you observe your dog being territorial of a toy, it could be due to one of two factors:

First: Your dog may be demonstrating to you how valuable this toy is and how much importance they place on it. This leads to prey guarding or an intense attachment to the favored toy.

Second: The other explanation is hormonal shifts and the development of a false pregnancy.

If an unspayed dog has been in heat, but has not been mated, she may have a phantom pregnancy. Her hormones and natural instincts could cause a false pregnancy, and she will display all of the emotional and physical indicators of a real pregnancy. She will nest and bring a plush toy to nurture in the nesting location throughout a false pregnancy.

Another reason for carrying a toy everywhere and becoming obsessive about it is to protect it. This type of activity should be monitored. You will observe your dog dragging a beloved toy over to a particular area, such as their bed or a safe part of the room. The protected toy is probably your dog's favorite, and she will carry it around in her mouth, refusing to drop and abandon it.

Sometimes, this behavior appears sweet and is encouraged by dog owners who might be unaware that it may escalate to compulsive behavior. If you observe that your dog is growling you when you get close to the toy or if she refuses to let go of it, you should be prepared to act and not encourage such behavior.

How long can a false pregnancy last in female dogs?

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A dog false pregnancy can last between 14-21 days in females.

Most cases of fake pregnancy don't really require treatment because the symptoms will go away in 14-21 days. Treatment is indicated if the dog appears physically unwell or if the behavioral changes are severe enough to raise concern.

Is false pregnancy in dogs dangerous?

It depends. If false pregnancy isn't properly monitored, can lead to some risks.

🔺 The womb abnormalities that occur with phantom pregnancies raise the risk of uterine infection (pyometra), which can be fatal.

🔺 Even if pseudopregnancy is not harmful to your dog, you can avoid it because the disease worsens with each succeeding heat cycle. If your dog has phantom pregnancies and you do not intend to mate with her, it is recommended to be spayed to reduce this possibility.

How can I help my dog through a false pregnancy?

Phantom pregnancy is fairly frequent in dogs, and if the signs are only behavioral and moderate, you can try distracting your dog with more playtime and walks.

While they're engaged, take away any objects they've adopted as "adoptive babies", without upsetting them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do spayed dogs hump toys?

In dogs, humping is frequently a symptom of energetic stimulation. They could be playing with you, then when you relax or ignore them, they start humping your leg or a toy. It's an energy expulsion, and although it produces little harm, it can be irritating to owners.

Can false pregnancy hurt a dog?

Phantom pregnancy is not harmful to your dog, but you can avoid it because the disease worsens with each succeeding heat cycle.

Can dogs have phantom pregnancy after being spayed?

Spay surgery, which involves surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus, is performed to avoid future bouts of fake pregnancy behavior. Before spaying, you should preferably wait until all symptoms have totally disappeared. If your dog has a spay while exhibiting phantom pregnancy symptoms, the symptoms may last for some weeks following the surgery.