Ask Dr. Houpt.
Q My four-year-old unspayed female dog Nelly has always been a well-behaved dog, but now she is growling at my daughter and has stolen some of my daughter's stuffed animals and is lying with them. She is especially aggressive if we try to take the toys. Also, for the first time she was destructive. She dug a hole in my couch. What is the matter with her?
A Nelly is suffering from a typical case of pseudo-pregnancy. If a bitch is in heat and is not bred, she may still have high levels of progesterone, the pregnancy hormone. When those levels fall after two months, her body and brain react as if she had had puppies. Nelly responds to that change in hormone levels by building a nest--your couch. In the absence of real puppies, she adopts your daughter's stuffed toys and then she defends them. You are witnessing maternal protectiveness. If you examine her closely she may also be producing milk.
Her behavior will return to normal in six weeks or so, but meanwhile she does pose a threat to your daughter and you so you might want to hasten the process. Sometimes removing the stuffed animals (the "puppies") is all that is necessary. But you may have to take her to your veterinarian who can prescribe a medication that inhibits prolactin, which is the milk-producing and maternal hormone.
The occurrence of pseudo-pregnancy is one of a number of reasons that female dogs should be spayed. The most important reason is to lower her risk of mammary (breast) cancer. Spaying before her first heat would have been the best course of action, but it's better to do it now than never. In addition to the risk of cancer there is a risk of pyometria--literally, pus in the uterus.
Bitches who cycle repeatedly are at serious risk of this disease, which can be fatal. (By the time most animals stop eating and act depressed, the infection is far advanced.) Please make an appointment to have Nelly spayed as soon as she is no longer exhibiting the signs of pseudo pregnancy.
Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, PhD, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
Send your behavior or health questions to: Dr. Houpt, Box 7, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, New York 14853-6401. Email questions to: email@example.com
While we may publish your question in DogWatch, we are unable to respond to individual inquiries about canine health or behavior matters. It's best to consult your dog's veterinarian as soon as possible.
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|Title Annotation:||dog aggression|
|Author:||Houpt, Katherine A.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2009|
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