False Pregnancy in German Shepherds: What You Need To Know

Have you ever heard of false pregnancy in German Shepherds? Your unspayed female pet is likely to exhibit signs of pregnancy even though she is not pregnant. While such a condition is largely harmless, it can cause temporary changes in your German Shepherd’s body and behavior.

False pregnancy is sometimes called “pseudo-pregnancy” or “phantom pregnancy.” It is characterized by physical and psychological changes in a female that make her feel and look as if she is pregnant. However, there is no fertilization of her eggs and it passes off without any real pregnancy.

False Pregnancy in German Shepherds: The Signs

A German Shepherd displays following signs if she is having a false pregnancy:

  • Enlargement of the belly
  • Increase in the size of already swollen breasts
  • Lactating breasts
  • Appetite-loss
  • Nesting or digging in dark and quiet spaces
  • Affection and protectiveness towards any toy or object
  • Nursing and being protective of inanimate objects
  • Maternal aggression
  • Anxiety

False Pregnancy in German Shepherds: Why Do Signs Appear

Hormonal changes happen in your German Shepherd’s body when she undergoes her heat cycle. During the first three stages – proestrus, estrus, and diestrus – the dog experiences active heat marked by changes in the body and behavior. These changes are first seen during the proestrus stage and by the estrus stage, her vulva and breasts become swollen. Your German Shepherd can only become pregnant if she mates during the estrus stage, which usually lasts for 5 to 9 days.

This “fertile stage” is followed by the “pregnancy maintaining stage,” which is the diestrus. Anestrus is the last stage of the heat cycle.

Sometimes, the body believes that it got pregnant during the estrus stage. This causes physical and behavioral changes akin to the presence of the embryo in the womb – even if there is no real pregnancy.

False Pregnancy in German Shepherds: How It Happens

You are probably wondering why and how false pregnancy occurs in dogs. The ovary contains follicles, which are sacs filled with fluid and immature eggs. When these eggs mature, the follicles release them and stop producing estrogen.

After the eggs are released, a part called corpus luteum remains inside the follicle. As the diestrus stage sets in, the corpus luteum starts producing high levels of progesterone, the hormone that helps prepare your German Shepherd for pregnancy. This hormone also assists in maintaining pregnancy by supporting the development of the embryo. Your German Shepherd becomes “hormonally pregnant” at this stage whether her eggs were fertilized or not.

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When your German Shepherd becomes pregnant, other hormones take over and keep the corpus luteum intact throughout the pregnancy. The corpus luteum withers quickly after the puppies are born. However, when there is false pregnancy in German Shepherds, the corpus remains intact before slowly fading away in 60 to 70 days. With no other hormones to take over, the body believes it is pregnant until the corpus luteum finally fades.

Diagnosing False Pregnancy in German Shepherds

If your German Shepherd is showing signs of pregnancy despite not mating, you need to consult your vet to confirm her condition. The veterinarian may check for the clinical signs your pet is showing and ask about any changes in her behavior.

The list of common tests made to determine whether your German Shepherd is pregnant may include:

  • blood tests
  • radiography tests (x-rays)
  • ultrasounds

Treatment of False Pregnancy

False pregnancy in German Shepherds usually resolves on its own. But if you are bothered with the physical and behavioral signs your dog is showing, talk to the veterinarian about how you can ease these symptoms.

If an episode of false pregnancy takes a long time to end, veterinary intervention should be considered. Administering bromocriptine and decreasing food and water intake minimize the lactation. Diuretics and mild sedatives may also speed up the affected dog’s recovery.

If your German Shepherd has experienced multiple false pregnancies, spaying is highly recommended to prevent the recurrence in the future. You may also take her out for a walk to keep her preoccupied and lessen her worries about her “puppies.”

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