False pregnancy

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Intact unspayed female rabbits (does) can undergo periodic false pregnancies, also known as pseudopregnancies. Pseudopregnancies mimic true pregnancies. However, they last only 16-18 days rather than 31-32 days of true pregnancy.[1][2] The doe will not be receptive to a buck during this time.

Rarely, neutered males may also gather and transport nesting material but with no fur plucking behavior.[3] It usually stops when the rabbit grows older.

Symptoms

A rabbit with a mouthful of hay to make a nest.

Below are symptoms of false pregnancies in rabbits.[1]

  • Pulling fur from abdomen and chest.
  • Making a nest.
  • Developing mammary glands.
  • Aggressively defending nesting site.

Causes

Because rabbits ovulate reflexively in response to sexual stimulation, the proximity of a male, an infertile mating, or mating behavior between two females housed together can stimulate ovulation and result in pseudopregnancy.[1][4] However, it can also be observed in female rabbits with no contact with other rabbits. Once reflex ovulation takes place, it results in the formation of corpora lutea that secrete progesterone.[2]

Treatment

Although there are anecdotal reports of treating pseudopregnancy in rabbits with hormone preparations, in most cases, treatment is unnecessary as the condition is self-limiting.[2] Repeated false pregnancies can be prevented by spaying or separating rabbits that are stimulating each other.

The nesting behavior usually lasts 1 to 3 days, after which the rabbit will resume normal activities.[3]

Further reading

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Harcourt-Brown, F. (2001). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (1st ed.).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Varga, M. (2013). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (2nd ed.).
  3. 3.0 3.1 MediRabbit. (n.d.). Pseudopregnancy: hay gathering and fur plucking behavior. Retrieved 2019 Jan 07 from http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Uro_gen_diseases/Pseu_preg/pseudo_en.htm
  4. Meredith, A., & Redrobe, S. (2001). BSAVA manual of exotic pets. (4th ed.).