This is somewhat uncomfortable to talk about, yet it’s true as day. Dogs sometimes eat their own puppies. This cannibalistic behavior isn’t common for them. Yet, it’s often observed enough to spark curiosity.
Like you, we didn’t know earlier that dogs could eat their puppies. We had a common notion that dogs just deliver their puppies and take care of them. But later on, as we discovered this truth, we would like others to know it as well. As a pet parent, you would, of course, want that your doggo doesn’t eat its puppies.
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Their Puppies
But why Do Dogs display this trait? If you’re wondering the same, we’re here to help. Read on to find out the various reasons why a mother dog may eat her puppy.
#1. Lack of Recognition
What binds a mother dog to her litter is her recognition of them. When a dam recognizes her own, she takes care of them and protects them. But if she doesn’t, she doesn’t hold any sort of emotional attachment to them. This lack of recognition can stem from a variety of reasons.
Sometimes, dams that undergo a C-section do not produce some hormones associated with birth or parturition. This prevents them from forming an emotional bond with her litter. When pups are born, they often make high-pitched squeals akin to that of predators.
Some breeds of dogs have a natural instinct to attack animals with such squeals, particularly rodents. So when their own pups make such sounds and can’t recognize them, they tend to attack and eat them.
#2. Accidental Reasons
Cannibalism in dogs is not always intentional. When a dam gives birth, the newborn pups are contained in a sac that the mother has to bite off. And once she does, her puppies are free. But things sometimes go awry while this is happening. In haste or confusion, she might end up biting her own puppy while trying to rip open the sac.
Also, after the delivery is complete, dams are used to eating their placenta before or after birth. This is a necessary process that helps them recover the nutrients they lack during pregnancy. But often, puppies die in the womb right before delivery. And in such cases, the mother dog may not even know that the afterbirth she is consuming is actually her dead baby.
Mastitis is a serious infection of breasts found in many mammals, including dogs. In this disease, the breasts or the nipple become red and swollen and are very painful. Like most other mammals, dams also nurse their young ones when they give birth. But unfortunately, if they have mastitis, nursing becomes a harrowing experience.
For instance, if a puppy accidentally bites the nipple of a mother with mastitis, she may become aggressive and retaliate by attacking her pup. Note that retaliation, in this case, occurs as a response to extreme pain.
#4. Protecting the Litter
Dogs do not give birth to one baby at a time. They give birth to many pups at a time and raise them all equally. In the case of larger dogs, the number of pups born at once is even higher.
Unfortunately, however, not all pups are born healthy. They might harbor infections or diseases that are fatal not just to them but also highly contagious. Dams have the ability to detect a sick newborn. They kill and eat the infected pup to protect the rest of the litter. While this may seem cruel, it’s actually a massive favor to both the suffering pup and the entire litter.
This happens more commonly in dogs that aren’t in a homely environment while giving birth. Of course, this means that the dog doesn’t have the resources to have the infected puppy treated. And there is no one preventing them from eliminating it from the litter; they are more likely to kill them.
#5. The Stress of Giving birth
Pregnancy and birth are very stressful times for all mammals, including dogs. Not only are the hormones irregular or at elevated levels, but the pain and chaos are unreal too. In such a situation, controlling their anger can be difficult for dams.
If puppies irritate them during this time, they might end up attacking them in anger. This behavior is, of course, controllable if the mother dog gives birth in a relaxed and supportive environment.
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#6. Inappropriate Age
A mother dog needs to be a certain age to give birth and care for her kids properly. For most dog breeds, the appropriate age for maturity is 18 months to 2 years. And typically, dogs should be at least 1 year old before becoming pregnant.
However, these limits are impossible to enforce in some cases, especially with street dogs. A bitch might get pregnant very early and give birth before she even has the maturity to care for her newborns. In such a case, she might not form the necessary emotional bond with her litter and resort to cannibalism.
Things You Can Do To Prevent Cannibalism in New Dog Mothers
Dogs are undoubtedly adorable companions known for their loyalty. But this behavior of eating their own pups is a reality you cannot ignore. Nevertheless, there’s definitely something you can do about it. Here are some ways you can prevent a dog from eating her puppies:
- Mother dogs display nesting behaviors before giving birth. It’s essential to provide them with a comfortable nesting environment whilst they are pregnant to ensure that they are as relaxed as possible during parturition. To do this, you can prep a small area of your home with a few whelping blankets or a crate in which the mother can create a soft surface to lie on.
- Just like humans, dogs also deal with pregnancy better, especially when they have better medical care; both during and before the birthing process. While they’re pregnant, make sure that they get regular appointments with their veterinarian. Moreover, they should also appropriately consume all their medicines and multivitamins throughout pregnancy.
- When your dog is giving birth, be close to them to provide care when required. Observe their symptoms and if anything seems abnormal, call their veterinarian. Some signs you should be on the lookout for are:
- Too much of a bloody discharge
- Constant strain on the dam without any births
- Seizures, spasms, or unnatural behavior
We hope this article educated you regarding dogs eating their puppies. If you have a cute buddy at home, make sure you provide her with plenty of comforts, good quality treatment, and a hygienic environment when she is pregnant. And again, if you see a dog on the street eating her puppies, remember that it’s not human, and this behavior doesn’t make her bad.
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Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.