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Aina Meducci 2012


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Pseudopregnancy in animals

I went to the farm on wednesday to see Dr Azam perform a pregnancy diagnosis by using portable ultrasound to detect pregnancy on goats. He was busy handling the machine and suddenly suspected a goat he was examined is having a pseudopregnancy. I only thought the pseudopregnancy is only in rabbits. Then he explained most female animals can have pseudopreganancy. After coming back from the farm, I immediately search about it


False pregnancy or hysterical pregnancy, most commonly termed pseudocyesis in humans and pseudopregnancy in other mammals, is the appearance of clinical and/or subclinical signs and symptoms associated with pregnancy when the person or animal is not pregnant. Clinically, false pregnancy is most common in veterinary medicine (particularly in dogs and mice).

Canine pseudopregnancy

False/pseudo pregnancy, or pseudocyesis, is a normal physiologic process that occurs in female dogs. It is not associated with reproductive organ disorders. It is seen 45-60 days after a normal estrous (heat) period. It occurs when progesterone levels, which rise after ovulation, begin to fall.

Decreasing progesterone leads to an increase of the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is responsible for most of the behaviors seen during a pseudopregnancy episode. Dogs may exhibit mothering of toys, nesting, or even aggression. Mammary development and milk production are common.
Pseudopregnancy can also be acutely induced by spaying a dog near the end of estrus. Spaying removes the source of progesterone (the ovaries) and induces a rise in prolactin. The incidence of pseudopregnancy induced by spaying a dog in heat can be reduced by delaying the surgery for 8-10 weeks after the end of estrus.

Permanent prevention of pseudopregnancy is accomplished with spaying. Once a dog is showing signs of pseudopregnancy, reducing the stimulation for the behaviors may reduce their duration. Removing toys and stopping self nursing behavior by placing e-collars or t-shirts may be helpful. Most cases do not require medical treatment and will resolve with time. This may take a few weeks. Behavioral changes such as aggression or extreme agitation or physical problems such as mastitis may need to be addressed.

Drug intervention may be useful in these cases and there are safe and effective (but expensive) options for reducing the effects of prolactin. These drugs need to be prescribed by a veterinarian and include cabergoline. Certain diseases such hypothyroidism and liver dysfunction may also prolong signs of pseudopregnancy due to altered hormone metabolism, and dogs exhibiting an unusually long duration (over 8 weeks) of false pregnancy should be screened for such diseases.

Goat pseudopregnancy

Pseudopregnancy is a common pathological condition in goats that may develop in does with or
without exposure to a buck. The condition is characterized by accumulation of fluid in the uterus. Other names for this condition include hydrometra, mucometra and “cloudburst.

When to suspect pseudopregnancy
  • Does with pseudopregnancy may have signs of pregnancy (no heat cycles, abdominal enlargement, mammary gland enlargement, etc.).
  • Blood tests for pregnancy may be positive.
  • Sometimes the fluid in the uterus is spontaneously released by the doe and a clear, slightly cloudy or slightly blood-tinged fluid will be seen coming from the vulva.
  • Older does are more prone to development of the condition than yearlings.
  • Out-of-season breeding, delayed breeding until after the first or second estrous cycle during the fall breeding season, and use of hormones to manipulate the estrus cycle may increase the risk of pseudopregnancy

How to treat and diagnose pseudopregnancy

Examination of the doe with an ultrasound is the only way to differentiate between true pregnancy and pseudopregnancy. Examination for pregnancy should be performed 25-40 days after breeding using the transrectal method or 40-70 days after breeding using the transabdominal method. Treatment involves the use of luteolytic drugs.

Sources: Small ruminant ramblings, LSU AgCenter research and extension, canine pseudopregnancy, Jennifer larsen MS

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