Why do dogs eat their puppies|How to stop a mother dog from eating their puppies?

We have seen many mother dogs be cautious after giving birth to little pups. They seem really keen on her pups’ requirements. Many dogs exhibit maternal behaviour from the very beginning. But have you ever seen a dog eating their puppies? 

Some people have noticed the dog eating their puppies. After watching such an unnatural view, the first question that comes in our mind is, why do dogs eat their puppies? 

It is a very uncommon thing to see and popularly called as cannibalism that is the dog eating their pup, but when it comes to natures’ way of working. Some animals may do it due to some instincts.

Before going to any conclusion and declare the mother dog brutal, it is better to understand the reason behind such incidences. Understanding the reason for the dog eating their pups will give you a better idea about things going on with the litter.

In this article, we will understand the reason that makes the mother dog eat their puppies and how to stop a mother dog from eating their puppies? 

Why do dogs eat their puppies?

Let’s explore some reasons:

Unhealthy puppies:

There are lots of reasons like Respiratory problems, severe infections, and other health complication that makes the pup sick and prevent it from growing up. 

When the pup is weak to fight for survival, it can be easily spotted by the mother. She needs to make the tough choice of either to invest energy and time in nursing the puppy back to health or relieve the pup from its pain.

Since other pups also rely on the mother dog, she chooses the latter option and takes the puppy out of its misery. Even killing the unhealthy or infected pup removes the health-related risk for other pups in the litter. 

The mother Dog is driven by nature to take this decision and ensures the survival of the rest of the litter. 

Accidental Cannabilism:

It is the mother dog who free their pups from the maternal birth sac and eats the placenta, which is an organ produced inside the uterus during pregnancy that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the baby. But there may be some accidents, and things don’t go as smoothly as we think. 

 After giving birth to pups, the mother frees their puppies from the birth sac, wipe them clean, bite the umbilical cord, and eat the placenta. Eating the placenta also help them to regain the nutrients that they have lost during the stress period of parturition, which means giving birth to young babies and get back their strength.

But accidentally, sometimes mother eat their stillborn puppies. It is also believed that sometimes the mother dog lacks the hormone that makes her recognize the dead puppies. The mother dog doesn’t even realize for the dead, stillborn puppy and litter, and mistake the dead puppy as another part of the placenta.  


The inflammation of the mammary gland, i.e. mastitis is a very stressful condition in newly whelped mother dog. In mastitis, there is reddening of the teats that is a nipple of female mammal and gets swollen, leading to pain. 

When the pups feed on their mother, it is very painful for the mother dog with mastitis. In this case, the mother dog prefers to reject their puppies and left them to abandon. But in extreme cases, there are chances that the mother dog was eating their puppies.  

Hormonal issues:

Another saddest reason behind the mother dog resorting to cannibalism is the lack of maternal recognizing hormones. 

There is a production of lots of hormones during parturition that leads the mother to identify their puppies. Due to lack of these hormones, the mother dog merely unable to recognize their own puppies and there is no maternal bond.  

Now the question arises, in what cases, these identification hormones don’t get released?

When the dog gives birth to pups through unconventional means, these hormones may not release. When there is some complication in dogs to give birth to puppies, the veterinarian prefers to go for a cesarean section. 

 In the cesarean section, the veterinarian directly removes the fully matured pups from the womb, and there is no birthing through the birth canal. In this case, the hormones responsible for the identification of their own puppies by the mother are not released. 

As you know, dogs are a natural hunter. When the mother dog sees the litter of unknown small pups surrounding her, things can go pretty quickly.  


Pregnancy and parturition is a stressful period for all mothers in the world. The mother dog also goes through a stressful time. And in this tiring time, they need to deal with the newly whelped litter of wailing puppies. Sometime the stress may go up and can lead to a wrong decision.    

The stress makes the mother dog bark, growl, and even bites their puppies. But in rare cases, the predatory instinct mode of the mother dog kicks into a higher gear and leads to cannibalism.

Bred too young

Have you ever consulted a professional dog breeder regarding the right age of dog for breeding? The professional dog breeders will always advise avoiding pregnancy during the dog’s first heat. 

This is because the mother is just not ready to be a mother. The mother is barely older than a puppy and is not prepared for all the maternal responsibilities. 

In most cases, the young, unprepared mother abandon her entire litter, or in an extreme case, there are also chances of cannibalism. 

After understanding the reason that makes the mother dog eats their puppies, the next question might arise in your mind is “how to stop a mother dog from eating their puppies?”

Since instincts are the reason that makes the dog eat their puppies, the decision to intervene is not as good as the furies mother can harm us. Also, we cannot take the pups away from the mother as with this, and we are worsening the chances of survival for the puppies.  

How to stop a mother dog from eating their puppies?

As mentioned earlier, stress sometimes becomes the reason for cannibalism. All we can do is provide a stress-free and positive environment to the mother. We should provide the mother with a nutritious diet and clean water throughout the complete pregnancy and follow the veterinarian advice for uncomplicated parturition.

We should try to influence the factors that lead to healthy puppies and relaxed state of mind of the mother. 

Also, avoid pregnancy in too young dogs. Let the dog reach the perfect age at which they can get a sense of maternal responsibilities.

When you find one or some of the pup sick and their mother has abandoned them. It would be best if you took the pups to the veterinarian for the health checkups and proper treatment. After the pup recovered, plan the way to nurse the abandoned puppy.  

In case when the mother dog is rejecting the entire litter, consult the veterinarian for a reason. There may be chances of mastitis. Mastitis is severe, but it can be treated. 

In the case of cesarean birth, keep the pups away from the mother for some time. Keep a watchful eye, in the case when you notice any red flag of aggression, immediately separate the puppies from the mother and consult your veterinarian.

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