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What Is A Phantom Pregnancy In Dogs?

September 27, 2021 | 3 min read

Updated September 27, 2021

By Sarah Milton


Published: September 27, 2021
Updated: February 8, 2022

Summary: In this blog, we learn all about phantom pregnancy in dogs. We’ll find out what one is, what causes a phantom pregnancy in dogs, the symptoms, and how long they can last. Read on to find out more…


What Is A Phantom Pregnancy In Dogs?

A phantom pregnancy in dogs is a false pregnancy where a female's body goes through the hormonal shifts that cause her to experience pregnancy like symptoms without actually carrying pups. They are fairly common in female dogs that haven’t been spayed, but can happen to any aged non-neutered dogs who have mated or not mated. 


A female dog that hasn’t been neutered will go through seasons (sometimes this is referred to as being “on heat”) and the hormones released from each season prepare the body for pregnancy, whether they’re actually pregnant or not. Some dogs are very sensitive to these hormonal shifts and this can induce the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy.

a red, spaniel like dog rests in their cushion-like, fluffy grey bed next to a white-legged bedside table and a bed on wood laminate flooring


A phantom pregnancy will typically occur 4-9 weeks after her seasonal cycle has finished. Phantom pregnancy dog symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Seeming depressed
  • Disinterest in food
  • Disinterest in exercise and play
  • Swollen belly
  • Enlarged mammary glands
  • Secretion from her mammary glands which is brownish or watery
  • Nursing - she may become very attached to/fond of a certain toy and guard it
  • Nesting - noticeably digging her bedding and moving around frequently
  • Vomiting

The severity of symptoms vary from dog to dog, and depends on the previous heat cycle too. 

What To Do

If you suspect your pup may be experiencing a phantom pregnancy, you need to have your vet rule out actual pregnancy and other medical issues that may be causing similar symptoms. 

Unless symptoms last for several weeks, treatment is not normally deemed necessary. The phantom pregnancy should wear off on its own. If your dog is being sick because of symptoms though, she may be given an anti-nausea shot or medication to help with that specifically.

Your vet may also suggest using warm or cold packs on her mammary glands to decrease inflammation, and minimize the body perceiving any stimulation (like petting) as a trigger to lactate. 

If you don’t want it to happen again and aren’t intending to breed your dog, neutering is recommended and advised for your dog’s long-term comfort and health. As well as preventing pregnancy, spaying your dog can also reduce her risk of developing dangerous womb infections and breast cancers. 

A brown, white and black King Charles Cavalier rests on a black couch; their chin sits on a brown, bobbly cushion

How Long Does Phantom Pregnancy Last In Dogs?

Depending on the severity of her symptoms, a phantom pregnancy can last anywhere between 7 days and 4 weeks. 

If a female dog is spayed during a phantom pregnancy episode, the symptoms may last for several weeks after the surgery.

Can Dogs Have Phantom Pregnancies After Being Spayed?

Phantom pregnancies do not occur in dogs that have been spayed. 


"Phantom Pregnancies In Dogs" Blue Cross, Apr 01. 2021

Author Dr Givler, Diane "False Pregnancy In Dogs" First Vet, Aug 29. 2021

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Sarah Milton

Authored By

Sarah Milton

Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!


Health & Wellness


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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
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