Physiology of pregnancy and false pregnancy in dogs

Maturity is occurring at an earlier age in our domestic dogs because of selective breeding. Additionally, domestic bitches (except African breeds) have twice as many seasons as wild wolves. The Oestrus Cycle: Bitches’ seasons occur every 8-9 months. During proestrus they will have a blood stained discharge and show an interest in males. In the second phase, Oestrus, ovulation occurs, and the female is most fertile. The next phase, dioestrus, is when the bitch is hormonally pregnant. The corpus luteum, formed at ovulation in the ovary, matures and produces female hormones. These then stimulate prolactin secretion from the anterior lobe of the pituitary, which stimulates milk production in the mammary glands.

False pregnancy: The hormonal cycle of the bitch assumes that pregnancy has occurred after every cycle, whether or not mating has taken place. She will therefore experience the physiological changes of pregnancy over the next 2 months. She will have an increase in progesterone production, milk production and an increase in appetite. She may even go into mild labour. The caregiver may notice physical and emotional changes, particularly 8-9 weeks after her last season. She may exhibit a change in preferred diet to blander food, fluid retention, and a wish not to take her usual amount of exercise, and she may hoard toys and treat them as puppies. There may be restlessness, lack of appetite, panting, trembling, whining and nest-building at the time she would have given birth. She may be slightly more aggressive than usual. Things will usually return to normal after 2-3 weeks, equivalent to 48hrs after the birth would have occurred.

How we can help: As this is a physiological occurrence which settles over 2-3 weeks, treatment is rarely needed. If possible try to reduce stimulation of the mammary glands, by reducing stroking and wiping, and not allowing the bitch to lick excessively, as these will increase prolactin release and further milk production. Occasionally the bitch may become ill, by producing excessive milk, or other problems. She may need treatment to reduce milk production, such as diuretics or hormone treatment. Although some advocate reduced fluid intake to induce dehydration and reduce milk production, others feel that this may be unsafe. It is rare (but not unknown) for bitches who are spayed (ovariohysterectomised), to exhibit these changes. Although the majority of the hormones are being produced by the ovaries, some are produced in the adrenal glands.

Complementary Therapies: Pulsatilla from health food shops has been used with good effect. It can also be used just after a season in a bitch with a history of false pregnancies. Spiritual healing and Reiki can help the dog accept and work with its hormonal state, and help restore self-healing and homeostasis. It can be supplemented with crystals such as chrysophase, moonstone and blue lace agate. Aromatics that may prove useful include rose, fennel (to dry up lactation) and vanilla. Of the Bach flower remedies, vine, chicory, red chestnut & mustard may be helpful.

It is imperative that you give your dog the best for its diet while it is pregnant and maintaining the supplements even after it is whelping. There is an assumption in dog owners that you should not ad vitamins or minerals to a dog unless it is sick or pregnant. That is not true. Your dog should always be supplied with nutrients for good health. You should provide your pregnant dog with the sufficient supplements for its pregnancy. Being pregnant it should be receiving as much nutrition as its body needs to stay healthy. Why should you start preparing your dog for this nutrition even before it is pregnant? Dogs usually do not show signs if being pregnant until the pregnancy is about 5 weeks or so. By starting it on supplements a standard practice, you would be making sure that your pet is receiving enough nutrients while it is pregnant, although you do not realize that yet. During these 4-5 weeks, the nutrients will provide good nutrition to the unborn pups.

While a dog is pregnant, it is going through a lot of hormonal changes. She may go through a period of not wanting to eat, and go into a hunger strike for days and days at a length. Missing meals is detrimental to pregnant dogs’ health, and this is when the supplementation makes a huge difference in its health. Adding vitamins and minerals your dog is missing from her hunger fasts may help maintain its health, although you should not resort to replacing its meals with pills and powders. There are times where she will refuse to eat, and you can give her something that she will look forward to such as treats and mix the supplementation powder into it to ensure she remains healthy.

Although this may seem like a strange idea, you should consider feeding your dogs raspberry leaves. It seemed like a new supplement idea, but this is actually an old practice some successful dog breeders use. They will chop up the leaves and put it into their food for them to eat. You might wonder at the effects of raspberry leaves. It is said that the leaves will help your dog with the contractions for delivery, and it enables it to keep up with the amount of contractions. If may not be 100% proven that it truly helps your dog, but there is no harm adding it to her diet. Raspberry leaves are available at most health food stores.