Should I Milk My Dog False Pregnancy?

What is a false pregnancy?

A false pregnancy, also known as pseudopregnancy, is a condition in intact female dogs that occurs after they go through an estrus or “heat” cycle. Even though the dog was not bred and is not actually pregnant, her body still undergoes hormonal and physical changes as if she were expecting puppies.

The most noticeable symptom of a false pregnancy is enlargement of the mammary glands, due to the hormones progesterone and prolactin. The dog’s breasts may become swollen and produce milk or a milk-like fluid. Other common signs include nesting behaviors, mothering toys or objects as if they were her puppies, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

False pregnancies are caused by hormonal fluctuations that occur after the levels of estrogen and progesterone rise and then suddenly drop following the heat cycle. This triggers physical and behavioral changes in the dog’s body that mimic pregnancy even without a true pregnancy occurring.

Is milking recommended?

Milking a dog during a false pregnancy is generally not recommended, as it can prolong the condition and lead to health risks. Some potential pros and cons include:


  • May provide temporary relief from mammary gland engorgement and discomfort
  • Can expel excess milk if the mammary glands become overfull


  • Stimulates further milk production, which may worsen and prolong the false pregnancy (1)
  • Repeated milking keeps hormones elevated that drive lactation
  • Can cause mastitis or infection of the mammary glands (2)

Milking may temporarily relieve engorgement, but continuing to milk will signal the dog’s body to keep producing milk. This traps the dog in a cycle of continued lactation. Stopping any stimulation of the nipples is important to ending the false pregnancy.

Severe engorgement or signs of infection warrant veterinary care. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or hormone therapy may be prescribed if the mammary glands become inflamed, hardened, or infected.

Unless recommended by your veterinarian, it’s best to allow the false pregnancy to run its course naturally. Provide a comfortable space for rest, limit tactile stimulation, and monitor for signs of mastitis. The false pregnancy should resolve within 2-3 weeks after the dog stops lactating.

Providing comfort

There are some things you can do at home to help comfort your dog during a false pregnancy and redirect her mothering behaviors. Try providing a warm, quiet space with soft bedding where she can nest. You can even give her a stuffed animal or toy to mother. However, avoid massaging her mammary glands or “milking” them as this can encourage milk production.

Redirect any nursing behaviors towards toys rather than allowing her to focus on you or furniture. Take care not to reinforce the mothering behaviors with too much attention. You want to be soothing but not add to the behavior. Provide adequate physical activity and mental stimulation through walks, training and food puzzles to distract her.

Sometimes anxiety medication may be prescribed by a vet to help soothe dogs severely impacted by a false pregnancy. But in most cases, providing a relaxing environment, redirecting behaviors and avoiding reinforcement is sufficient. Just monitor your dog and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about her health or behaviors.

Preventing recurrence

The most effective way to prevent future false pregnancies is to have your dog spayed (ovariohysterectomy). Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries, stopping the hormonal fluctuations that trigger phantom pregnancies. Most female dogs can be safely spayed around 6 months of age according to the PDSA. If your dog experiences a phantom pregnancy, wait at least 3 months after symptoms subside before spaying. Spaying during an active false pregnancy can worsen symptoms.

Limiting your dog’s exposure to intact males can also help prevent recurrence. The hormones released during mating can trigger false pregnancy in some dogs according to PetMD. It’s best to avoid allowing mating behaviors whenever possible.

You should also avoid rewarding mothering behaviors that may encourage your dog’s belief that she is nursing a litter. For example, don’t give her stuffed animal toys to mother. Redirect her focus onto more constructive activities instead.

Monitoring health

It’s important to monitor your dog’s health during a false pregnancy to watch for signs of illness or complications. One key area to check is the mammary glands for any signs of mastitis, which is an infection of the breast tissue. Symptoms include hot, red, painful glands and sometimes pus or discharge. Mastitis requires prompt veterinary treatment with antibiotics and supportive care. Gently palpating the glands daily can help detect changes.

You should also monitor your dog’s appetite and hydration status. Dogs with false pregnancy often have decreased appetite but may not lose weight due to fluid retention. Make sure your dog is eating enough and drinking normally. Track intake and body weight. Seek veterinary advice if appetite declines for more than a day or two or if dehydration occurs.

Additionally, watch for signs of lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea or other concerning symptoms. False pregnancy shouldn’t cause systemic illness, so these warrant a vet visit to check for underlying issues. Your vet can examine your dog and run tests like bloodwork if needed.

When to see a vet

If your dog’s mammary glands do not start to recede after 2-4 weeks, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your vet. Persistently enlarged mammary glands can indicate a health issue that requires treatment.

Signs of infection like redness, swelling, pain, and pus around the nipples also warrant a vet visit. Mastitis or other infections need to be diagnosed and properly treated with medication.

If your dog experiences false pregnancies repeatedly, see your vet to identify any underlying causes. Your vet can provide advice on preventing recurrences and help determine if medical intervention is recommended.

Recurring false pregnancies can take an emotional toll on some dogs. Your vet can suggest ways to curb mothering behaviors and reduce distress during episodes.

Caring for enlarged mammary glands

If your dog develops enlarged mammary glands during a false pregnancy, there are some home care steps you can take to keep her comfortable and monitor her health:

Apply gentle warm compresses to the mammary glands several times a day. This can help reduce swelling and soothe discomfort. Use a clean washcloth soaked in warm water. [1]

Check the mammary glands daily for signs of mastitis, which is an infection of the breast tissue. Symptoms include redness, heat, pain and pus. See your vet promptly if you suspect mastitis, as it requires antibiotic treatment. [2]

Consider having your dog wear a protective t-shirt or binder to prevent trauma to the enlarged mammary glands. This is especially helpful for active dogs who could injure their breasts. Look for a shirt with wide armholes so it doesn’t constrict her range of motion. [3]

Monitor for decreased appetite, lethargy or other signs of illness and contact your vet if concerned. While false pregnancy isn’t harmful in itself, secondary complications like mastitis need prompt veterinary attention.

Managing mothering behaviors

A dog experiencing a false pregnancy will often exhibit mothering behaviors towards toys or other objects. It’s important not to reinforce this behavior, as it can prolong the false pregnancy. Here are some tips for managing mothering behaviors:

Redirect your dog’s attention towards more constructive activities. For example, engage them in playtime, training sessions, or longer walks to shift their focus. As recommended by VCA Hospitals, provide adequate exercise and mental stimulation.

Avoid catering to your dog’s mothering instincts. Don’t allow them to treat toys or bedding as surrogate puppies. Per PetMD, don’t pet, cuddle or “mother” your dog when she is exhibiting mothering behaviors.

Give your dog alternative activities to meet her needs. Offer appropriate outlets like a stuffed Kong toy to comfort suckle. Let your dog play with gentle puzzle toys. Teach her new skills to exercise her mind.

With time and patience, you can curb your dog’s mothering behaviors. Consult your veterinarian if your dog exhibits severe distress. They can provide additional tips for managing this transitional period.

Ensuring proper nutrition

Proper nutrition is important for dogs experiencing a false pregnancy. Here are some tips:

Feed a high quality dog food that meets your dog’s nutritional needs. Consult with your veterinarian if you have questions about selecting an appropriate food. Monitor your dog’s eating habits during the false pregnancy. Some dogs may have a reduced appetite. Make the food as appetizing as possible by warming it up or adding a spoonful of wet food. Don’t fret if your dog eats less for a few days, but contact your vet if the reduced appetite persists.

Encourage your dog to drink plenty of fresh water. Dehydration can occur with false pregnancies. Try adding a bit of low-sodium broth or milk to the water to entice drinking. Provide several bowls around the house. Offer frequent potty breaks since excessive drinking can lead to accidents. Pay attention to the color of the urine to check for proper hydration levels.

Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s nutritional intake or hydration during the false pregnancy.

When false pregnancy requires treatment

In most cases, false pregnancy in dogs will resolve on its own within 2-3 weeks without any treatment needed. However, veterinary intervention may be required in certain situations:

If the false pregnancy lasts for more than 4 weeks, it’s a good idea to have your dog examined by a vet. Prolonged pseudopregnancy can be taxing on a dog’s body and may require medication to stop lactation and hormone production.

If your dog is producing an excessive amount of milk during the false pregnancy, this can lead to mastitis or infected mammary glands. Your vet may prescribe medication to dry up the milk supply and prevent mastitis from developing. According to Veterinary Partner, about 4-5 days of medication is usually needed.

Signs of illness or infection like lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or abnormal vaginal discharge warrant an immediate trip to the vet. Your dog may have developed mastitis or metritis, which require prompt antibiotic treatment.

In summary, veterinary care should be sought if the false pregnancy persists beyond 4 weeks, causes excessive milk production, or is accompanied by signs of infection or illness in your dog.

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