Pseudopregnancy (false pregnancy or pseudocyesis) in Dogs (Canis) | Vetlexicon
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Pseudopregnancy (false pregnancy or pseudocyesis)

ISSN 2398-2942

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Synonym(s): Pseudocyesis, false pregnancy, phantom pregnancy

Introduction

  • Cause: hormonally-mediated behavioral changes in the non-pregnant bitch due to hormonal changes after estrus and metestrus.
  • Signs: often seen 2-3 months after estrus (especially first).
  • May present as nesting behavior, adopting objects, aggression or depression.
  • Mammary development with lactation of milk or clear brown fluid.
  • Variable systemic signs - sometimes abdominal distension.
  • Diagnosis: signs, history.
  • Treatment: a normal physiological change - majority do not need medical management.
Print off the owner factsheet False pregnancy False pregnancy to give to your clients.

Presenting signs

  • 2-3 months after estrus.
  • Mammary development with lactation of milk or clear brown fluid.
  • Nesting behavior, adopting objects, aggression or depression.
  • Abdominal distension.
  • Polyphagia/anorexia.
  • Polydipsia.
  • Temperament change: nervousness and aggression.

Age predisposition

  • Young and middle-aged bitches.
  • Predisposed animals can get worse with each season.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Hormonal changes associated with metestrus.
  • Progesterone levels similar in pregnant bitch and non-pregnant bitches. Drop in progesterone induces rise in Prolactin, causing symptoms of pseudopregnancy.

Pathophysiology

  • Hormonal changes of metestrus and pregnancy are very similar → many non-pregnant bitches show signs of pregnancy.
  • Decreasing serum [progesterone] causes rise in [prolactin].
  • Corpora lutea develop after ovulation and secrete progesterone (+/- history of mating).
  • Luteal domination → endometrium hyperplastic changes similar to pregnant uterus.
  • Progesterone levels are similar to pregnant bitch - begin to decline by 8-9 weeks → prolactin release → mammary development and possibly some psychological influences.

Timecourse

  • Metestrus: 60-90 days.
  • Signs of false pregnancy usually 6-8 weeks after estrus.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Harvey M J , Dale M J, Lindley S & Waterston M M (1999) A study of the aetiology of pseudopregnancy in the bitch and the effect of cabergoline therapy. Vet Rec 144 (16), 433-436 PubMed.