Why Does My Dog Treat Her Toy Like a Baby?
So your dog treats her toy like a baby, carrying it around, licking it and babying it, just as if it was a newborn puppy, what gives? If your dog is a female and she has never been spayed, you may be witnessing the onset of a condition known as pseudo-pregnancy or pseudocyesis. Fortunately, this is something that will resolve with time.
False Pregnancy in Dogs
Also known as pseudo-pregnancy or pseudocyesis, false pregnancy in dogs is something that typically takes place around two months after the dog's last heat cycle.
Basically, what happens is that, after dogs go into heat, the same hormones circulate through their bodies whether they got pregnant or not. Affected dogs may therefore start producing milk, they may start "nesting" (digging and attempting to create a place to give birth) and they may also start treating toys as if they were their puppies.
Fortunately, false pregnancies don't last very long. Typically, affected dogs act "motherly" anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks. In the meanwhile, all you can really do is wait it out.
If you don't plan on breeding your dog, your best bet to prevent future false pregnancies is to simply have your dog spayed. Talk to your vet about this at your dog's next appointment.
Should the Toy be Removed?
Many dog owners wonder whether the toy should be removed from their dogs or not. This really depends.
If the toy provides some level of comfort, there's no harm in letting her have it. If the dog instead carries it around and relentlessly paces and whines, it may be worthy of seeing whether removal of they toy provides any benefit.
Care must be taken though in removing the toy. The dog may act protective of the toy and may react even aggressively. Your best bet is to wait for a time when your dog is away from the toy such as when she is outside in the yard to potty or when she is busy eating her meal.
After the toy is removed, one can then assess whether removal provides any benefit. Is the dog relaxing finally or is she now on a mission of looking everywhere for the toy? Is she replacing the toy with another object? If the latter, it may be better to let her find the toy again and just let her be for the rest of the false pregnancy.
Something to Be Aware About
More concerning than false pregnancy is a medical condition that may affect intact (non-spayed female dogs) that is known as pyometra.
Pyometra is a potentially life-threatening infection of the dog's uterus which can occur concomitantly (at the same time) with false pregnancy. Signs to watch for are fever, vaginal discharge, vomiting, increase in the size of the abdomen and increased water consumption.
If you notice any of these signs, please have your dog see your vet immediately. Your vet may want to run a a complete blood count to check for any significant elevation in white blood cells which is typical of pyometra. Abdominal X-rays or ultrasound can also detect an enlarged uterus.
If your dog isn't intact but spayed or is male, you may find here other reasons why your dog is carrying a toy like a baby: why is my dog carrying a toy and whining?