Why Dogs Eat Their Puppies

Why Dogs Eat Their Puppies

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The birth of a new offspring is usually a source of joy among every living thing. As humans, we are generally used to the joy that new borns bring. Nonetheless, humans are not the only ones that are excited when there is a newborn. If you have ever seen your dog have a puppy, then, you know that it is something that also makes dogs excited.

Beyond dogs being excited when they give birth, their owners also share in their joy. In as much as humans sometimes share in the joy of their dogs when the dog births a new offspring, sometimes, this joy is short-lived. This is because dogs sometimes eat their puppies.

It is really surprising that dogs could eat their own puppies.  This is something that happens. However, not everyone is used to it. If you have seen cases in which dogs eat their puppies, then, you must have wondered why they do so.  Well, in this article, we bring you answers to the question ‘ why dogs eat their puppies’.

Too Young to be a Mother

One of the major reasons why a dog might eat up its puppy is when it considers itself too young to be a mother. Before a dog becomes a mother, it should be at least one year old. If it does not get to this point before giving birth to a baby, then, it just might not have what it takes to care for a baby. In as much as letting a bitch get to one year before it gets pregnant is generally acceptable, this does not always work out perfectly.

Why is this so?

There are various dog breeds in the world and these dog breeds have different levels of maturity. Some get fully mature in one year. Others do so in about 18 months. Still, some dog breeds have to get to two years before they become mature. Since some dogs might not get fully mature until they are up to two years if you are not sure when a dog will be mature, it is best you keep it from having a baby until it is two years old.

When dogs give birth to their young too early, you have to note that they are still babies. The implication of this is they might not have what it takes to care for a young. After childbirth, dogs are expected to show some maternal instincts. Well, a lot of times, dogs that are too young are just unable to show any form of maternal instincts. Due to this, they might simply give the puppy no form of attention. Now, this in itself is bad. However, the worse could happen. A lot of times, when dogs are too immature to have a baby, they get scared when they finally birth one. This fear could make them do the unthinkable; kill the pet and eat it. Although this is not a very good situation, sometimes, it is just the only way a dog can escape taking care of a puppy.

Issues with its Hormones

There are various reasons why dogs could end up eating their young after childbirth. Some of these reasons can be remedied quite easily. In the same vein, there are some reasons that really cannot be avoided. One of the reasons why dogs eat their puppies that you might struggle to fix is reasons that are hormone related. If a dog keeps eating its young because of issues with its hormone, then, the truth is you just might be unable to do much. In this situation, the most you can do is go on to care for the dog by yourself.

When dogs have hormonal issues, they just might be unable to recognize their own puppies. This might make them resort to eating up the young.

While giving birth to their puppies, dogs are known to produce some hormones. These hormones play a major role in making them recognize their own young. Additionally, these hormones ensure that they create a bond with their puppies at a young time. In as much as it is a break from the norm for the right hormone not to be produced, the issue of the right hormone not getting produced occurs when the dog gives birth through unconventional means.

Giving birth to a puppy through the birthing canal brings about a release in some hormones which help in bonding. When a dog has their young ones through surgery, it suddenly awakens and finds itself surrounded by puppies and she just might not recognize these puppies as hers. In this situation, she could react to instincts and take care of them. Other times, she could attack them.


Mastitis is one of the many ailments that dogs deal with. It causes some pain for dogs that suffer from it. It could also cause its litters a level of complication. When dogs suffer from mastitis, the breast tissue becomes infected. Due to this, the sensitivity of its teats increases incredibly. Also, it becomes swollen and red and is really uncomfortable when pupils feed.

Although some dogs will work towards feeding their puppy regardless of how much pain they feel, sometimes, this pain becomes really unbearable and could make a dog give no form of attention to its puppies. Furthermore, in extreme cases, the dog might eat up its puppies.


Just like humans, dogs go through a great deal of stress when they are pregnant. That’s not all. Also, with child birth comes some level of stress. Sometimes, this stress is so much that the dog gets overwhelmed. When in this condition, it really does not want to give any form of attention to its puppy.

When a dog is extremely stressed, it just might not have the level of patience that is needed to deal with puppies. Dogs in this condition might bark at wailing puppies. It could even go further and bite them. Although lots of dogs do not go past biting their young, in extreme cases, they might eat up the puppy.

To ensure your dog does not get so stressed that it ends up eating its young, you will need to come up with ways to stop it from getting stressed. It is important you keep your dog from getting to high levels of stress. If you fail to do this, while trying to relieve it of stress when it is already extremely exhausted, you might end up getting bitten.

Birthing a Weak Puppy

In just the same way as some babies are born weak, sometimes, dogs give birth to weak puppies. This might not seem like a lot to dog owners. It perhaps might have only a form of a commercial setback if you are a dog breeder. The same cannot be said for dogs.

Small dog breeds, as well as large dog breeds, have issues taking care of weak puppies. Sometimes small dog breeds might do as much as they can do for a weak dog. On the other hand, larger dog breeds might just not want to put in so much effort in taking care of a weak puppy. So, sometimes, they just might decide to kill the puppy.

Unresponsive Puppies

While being birthed, some puppies get sick and injured. Some could even die. As soon as a dog realizes that its puppy is unresponsive, it will make attempts at getting it to respond by biting it or licking. After doing this, if it does not get the response it looks out for, it could assume that the dog is dead and might end up eating it.


There are times dogs commit cannibalism by mistake. There are times young mothers or first time mothers eat up their young. Sometimes, this happens when they are inexperienced. This might be difficult to understand if you have no idea of the concept of childbirth among dogs.

When dogs birth young ones, these young ones are covered in a sac and it is the duty of the dog to get its young one free from the sac. This is done with its teeth. Sometimes, it is done perfectly. Other times, it does not do this in a very smooth way. When it does not go on very well, it could result in the death of a puppy.

Furthermore, after a puppy is born, the mother eats up its placenta. This is done so it can recover the nutrients that it lost while the dog was being born. If this process is done a little carelessly, the dog might end up eating its placenta and its puppy.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Its Young

Cannibalism can easily be said to be a break from the norm so long as nature is concerned. So, if it is something that your dog exhibits, you will have to strife to stop it from exhibiting such behaviour. If your dog exhibits cannibalism in any form and for whatever reason, there are things to do to stop this.

You can prevent cannibalism in your dog before it is delivered of a puppy and while it is birthing a puppy.

While Birthing a Puppy

In dogs, births are quite smooth. Also, they can be done perfectly without any need for help from humans. Regardless of the fact that your dog can birth its young one all by itself, you might not want to be far from it when it is giving birth to a young one. This way, you can always come in handy when it needs help. That’s not all. Your dog might feel better when it is giving birth to its young and you are present. Although you should be around, it is important that you let your dog do its thing by itself.

There are several common experiences when your dog is birthing a young one, some of these experiences are normal, others might be quite a break from the norm.

Ideally, your dog might have contractions for 6 to 12 hours before actual labour starts. When labour sets in, your dog will be anxious. If you spot this, you do not need to worry. All is well. After birthing a young one, the dog deals with the umbilical cord by itself. After about 15 minutes to two hours, a new puppy will arrive. During the arrival of a puppy, dogs might face some challenges. However, they can handle a lot of them comfortably.

Although childbirth for digs is not exactly comfortable, there are signs that all is not well when your dog is birthing a young one.  If you spot your dog struggling for about an hour and it does not seem like a puppy is on the way, you might need help from a vet. Additionally, if it does not seem like a second puppy is on its way after about an hour and there are clearly still some puppies in the dog, you might have to take action.

That’s not all. The presence of a dark green discharge moving out of the vagina prior to the arrival of a puppy is not very good.

If you are able to act when there is an unwanted occurrence, then, you can keep your dog from eating up its young.

Prior to Delivery

There are habits a female dog can pick up before giving birth that can go a long way in ensuring it does not eat up its young after giving birth. One way to ensure your dog is at its best after giving birth is by giving it a very good diet. This way, you can be sure it has the best of nutrients, as well as the energy that it needs to give birth. If you aren’t sure what the right diet for your dog is, you should take it to a vet. This way, you will be able to find out what the best multivitamins for your dog is.


Cannibalism will always be a thing among dogs. As a dog owner, you might not be able to stop it. You can only reduce it significantly.

Dr. Rebecca Black

Dr. Rebecca Black is an absolute gem of a Veterinarian. She brings decades of experience to Handy Pets Guide and has overflowing talent and passion for breeding and caring for pets, their people, and the team around her. Dr. Sophia was born and raised in Columbiana, Ohio. She completed her undergraduate studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. After earning her DVM from The Ohio State University in 1980. She has experience of over 3 decades and is very happy to share them. Her goal is to give pets all over the world a better life and to recommend the best tips, advice, and also recommend the best product for every pet owner.

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