Is My Dachshund Having a Phantom Pregnancy?

Dachshund phantom pregnancy

Do you have a female Dachshund that’s started to act differently? Is she mothering her toys or nesting? Have you started to notice physical changes to her appearance? Here’s everything you need to know about female Dachshunds and phantom pregnancies.

Is My Dachshund Having a Phantom Pregnancy? A Dachshund may be having a phantom or false pregnancy if she has darker nipples, swollen breasts, discharge or milk, swollen tummy, is refusing to eat, mothering, nesting, restless, anxious, depressed, lethargic or has become aggressive.

Read on to find out more about phantom pregnancy symptoms, why Dachshunds have them, how long they last, and what you can do to help your Dachshund through this difficult time.

This article is based on research and personal experience as a Dachshund owner of 10+ years. I’m not a Vet, qualified dog trainer or dog behaviourist.


What Is A Phantom Pregnancy In Dachshunds?

A phantom pregnancy is when a female Dachshund believes she is pregnant, even when she’s not. Phantom or false pregnancies are caused by an increase in your Dachshund’s pregnancy hormones during her heat cycle, that trick her body into thinking it’s pregnant.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms Of A Phantom Pregnancy In Dachshunds?

The signs of a phantom or false pregnancy in Dachshunds are the same as with a real pregnancy, which is why they’re so hard to tell apart!

Your Dachshund may show a number of behavioural and physical changes as her body mistakenly prepares itself for pregnancy.

These could include:

Restlessness and anxiety

Pregnancy is confusing for your Dachshund, even if it’s not real! She may be unable to settle, or could appear anxious or restless.

Mothering

Your Dachshund may start picking up soft objects like toys and ‘mothering’ them. She may lick the toys or cuddle them into her as though attached.

She’s doing this because her maternal instinct is on overdrive and she thinks they’re puppies that need protecting!

Nesting

Your Dachshund may start preparing a safe space in the home, because she believes she’s going to give birth and will need to look after her pups.

Depression and lethargy

Your Dachshund may seem less active than usual, and may appear depressed or out of sorts.

Aggression

Your Dachshund might even become a bit aggressive. This is all to do with feeling protective of her pregnancy and puppies, so try to be patient with her during this time.

Darker nipples and swollen breasts

Your Dachshund’s nipples may look darker and her mammary glands enlarged. This is because her body is producing higher levels of prolactin, which is the hormone that helps Dachshunds produce milk for their puppies.

Discharge or milk

You might notice some discharge coming from your Dachshund’s mammary glands, or even milk. She’ll probably be licking the area a lot too.

Vomiting or refusing to eat

Your Dachshund might lose her appetite completely, or she might throw up anything she tries to eat.

Swollen belly

Your Dachshund might put on weight, even if she’s lost her appetite and is not eating properly. This is to do with fluid retention, although it may look like a pregnant belly!

Female Dachshund experiencing symptoms of a phantom or false pregnancy
Female Dachshund experiencing symptoms of a phantom or false pregnancy

Why Do Dachshunds Have Phantom Pregnancies?

Phantom or false pregnancies are all to do with the hormonal changes that occur when your Dachshund is in heat.

It can only happen if your Dachshund isn’t spayed (unless she was spayed while she was experiencing symptoms of a phantom pregnancy, or still nursing her pups).

When your Dachshund is in heat, her ovaries produce something called a ‘corpus luteum’, which is a structure of cells that forms when the egg has been released.

This produces the hormone progesterone and other pregnancy hormones to prepare her body for pregnancy.

If your Dachshund doesn’t get pregnant, the corpus luteum naturally dissolves away after about 60 days.

But sometimes it stays and continues producing the pregnancy hormones, even if your Dachshund isn’t pregnant. This makes her think she’s going to have puppies!

No one knows exactly why this happens, but some people say it’s affected by the Dachshund’s age, how many times she’s given birth, and even things like environment and nutrition.

If she’s had a phantom or false pregnancy before, she’s more likely to have another one.

Phantom pregnancies can also happen if your Dachshund tried to breed but didn’t get pregnant.

What Age Do Dachshunds Start Having Phantom Pregnancies?

Female Dachshunds can start having phantom or false pregnancies after their first heat cycle, which normally happens when they’re around 6 to 12 months old. Although some Dachshunds may begin their first season later, at around 18 months old.

A Dachshund’s risk of phantom pregnancy increases if she’s experienced a phantom pregnancy before, or if she attempts to mate but doesn’t fall pregnant.

When Do Phantom Pregnancy Symptoms Start?

A Dachshund will normally start showing symptoms of a phantom pregnancy at around 4–9 weeks after she’s been in heat. This is due to the hormones her body produces during her heat cycle.

How Long Does A Dachshund’s Phantom Pregnancy Last?

Most phantom or false pregnancies last between 1 and 4 weeks and go away on their own. In most cases, your Dachshund’s body should recover naturally without you having to worry too much.

However, you may want to get your Dachshund checked over by a vet just to be sure she isn’t actually pregnant and there’s nothing else going on.

If the symptoms last for four weeks, you’ll definitely need to take your Dachshund to the vet for treatment to stop the phantom pregnancy.

Your vet will give you a medication to reduce the prolactin levels in your Dachshund’s body, which will stop her from producing milk.

How Can I Help My Dachshund Through A Phantom Pregnancy?

Phantom pregnancies are stressful for you and your Dachshund! But there are lots of ways you can help her through it:

Rule out a real pregnancy

If there’s any chance your Dachshund could actually be pregnant, it’s best to take her to see a vet. Just to rule out that possibility and make sure she gets the right treatment.

Be understanding

Be patient and understanding! Your Dachshund will be feeling out of sorts and this’ll change her behaviour towards you.

So be calm and gentle with her and definitely don’t tell her off. Her maternal instinct is telling her to do things like nest and mother, so just let her do it.

Stop your Dachshund licking

If you can, try to prevent your Dachshund from licking her mammary glands. The more she licks them, the more her body will think that puppies are suckling and she’ll keep producing milk.

This’ll make the phantom pregnancy last longer and could give her a nasty infection.

If you have any, pop your Dachshund into some pyjamas or a baby grow to stop her licking her mammary glands. You could also improvise with an old t-shirt to keep that area covered.

You might be tempted to help sooth her mammary glands with a warm or cold compress. This could actually make matters worse because touching the area will stimulate further milk production.

Female Dachshund having a phantom or false pregnancy
Female Dachshund having a phantom pregnancy

Check for infections and inflammation

Check your Dachshund’s mammary glands regularly for signs of infection or inflammation (trying not to touch them too much as you do).

Infections are a horrible side effect of phantom pregnancies and she’ll need veterinary treatment if you spot any.

Monitor her aggression and anxiety levels

If your Dachshund becomes really distressed or aggressive, take her to the vet. They may want to prescribe a mild sedative just to help her relax and get through the phantom pregnancy.

Apart from that, just keep a close eye on her. If you’re worried about any of the symptoms, or if the phantom pregnancy lasts for four weeks, get in touch with your vet.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between A Real And False Pregnancy In Dachshunds?

It’s very hard to tell the difference between a real and false pregnancy in Dachshunds. The symptoms are almost identical because her body is preparing itself for pregnancy. Really, the only difference is that she’s not growing puppies inside her!

While a real pregnancy is caused by an egg being fertilised by a male dog’s sperm. A phantom pregnancy is caused by an increase in pregnancy hormones that trick a Dachshund’s body into thinking it’s pregnant.

How Do I Stop My Dachshund Having Phantom Pregnancies?

The only way to stop your Dachshund from having phantom or false pregnancies is to get her spayed. However, research suggests neutering or spaying Dachshunds too young can increase their risk of getting Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

This means your Dachshund could have a season or two before being spayed. But, with each season that your Dachshund remains intact, the risk of phantom pregnancy and also Pyometra infection increases.

That’s why it’s really important to talk to your vet about the best option for your Dachshund. They’ll help you weigh up the risks against the many benefits of spaying.

Phantom pregnancies can occur in spayed dogs too, but only if your Dachshund was spayed while she was still nursing pups, or while she was still experiencing symptoms of a phantom pregnancy.


So, there you have it! The hormones produced during a female Dachshund’s heat cycle can trick her into thinking she’s pregnant, even when she’s not. Most false pregnancies resolve naturally in 1-4 weeks, but it’s worth having her checked by a vet just to be sure there are no infections and to rule out anything else. Be gentle and patient around your Dachshund and tell her you’ve got her paw!

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Is My Dachshund Having A Phantom Pregnancy?
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