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What are Maternal Behavior Problems?

Female dogs usually have a built-in mothering instinct and know exactly what to do when their puppies are born. However, sometimes your dog just does not know what to do with her puppies after they are born and she could care less about taking care of or nursing them. On the other hand, your dog may be excessively mothering to the point where she is trying to care for and nurse puppies that are not hers. She may or may not have had her own puppies and may even guard and clean stuffed animals as if they were her puppies. It is not a hereditary disorder and can happen in any breed of dog. These disorders are thought to be caused by certain chemical imbalances in your dog after birth similar to when a human mother has postpartum depression.

Maternal behavior problems in female dogs includes both lack of maternal behavior (mothering) and excessive mothering to her own or other dog’s puppies. These behavior problems can be dangerous if the dog does not take care of the puppies and nurse them.

Maternal Behavior Problems Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$550

Symptoms of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

Symptoms are different for each type of maternal behavior problem.

Lack of Maternal Behavior

  • Does not clean her puppies
  • Abandoning her puppies right away and often
  • Will not let her pups nurse
  • Insufficient care of pups
  • Does not protect her puppies from others
  • Attacking her pups
  • Killing the pups (especially if aggravated by people)

 Excessive Mothering Behavior

  • Tries to take puppies that are not hers
  • Trying to nurse other dogs’ puppies
  • Guards puppies that do not belong to her and will not let the mother have them
  • Cleaning stuffed animals or puppies that are not hers
  • Guards stuffed animals and other objects as if they are her own pups

 Types

Lack of Maternal Behavior includes dogs that do not take care of their young.

Excessive Mothering Behavior includes female dogs without puppies that try to take care of and nurse other dog’s puppies.

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Causes of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

Most often a hormone imbalance is responsible for either of these disorders, but there are other reasons that can cause these behaviors.

 Lack of Maternal Behavior

Stress or Fear

  • Sometimes your dog has too much stress or is afraid she will not feed her babies and may even attack them. It is important to give your new mother and her pups a nice, quiet place to be away from others.

Illness of the Mother

  • If your new mother is sick or in a lot of pain, she may not feel like taking care of puppies and will not want to nurse or clean them. Until your dog is feeling better you may have to take care of the puppies yourself. Contact your veterinarian right away to determine what you should do.

Puppy’s Health

  • Having sickly or deformed puppies may make your dog reject them. It is their natural instinct to focus on the healthy pups and either leave the sick one to die or kill it herself. If you see this is happening you can easily take care of the puppy yourself with a little help from your veterinarian.

Cesarean Section

  • If your dog had to have a cesarean section, she is likely to have mixed feelings about her pups. During a normal birth, the mother produces oxytocin, which increases the hormones to give her the urge to take care of her puppies. If your dog gets a cesarean section, she will not get this boost of hormones that help urge her into motherhood.  

First Litter

  • If your dog is having her first litter of puppies, she may just be scared or overwhelmed; not knowing what to do. You can try to help her by urging her to nurse and speaking softly in a positive tone. If she still does not nurse or becomes aggressive, it is best if you feed them and care for them yourself. Speak to your veterinarian about getting some milk supplements.

Too Many Puppies

  • Sometimes the mom just has too many to care for and needs some help. Get some supplemental milk and help her with her tasks. Do not use regular cow's milk. It has to be milk specially made for feeding puppies.

 Excessive Mothering Behavior

Hormones

  • If your dog is stealing other dog’s puppies and trying to feed and clean them, it is a hormonal issue due to an increase in progesterone. This usually occurs in female dogs that have not had puppies and are in heat or experiencing a false pregnancy. It is best to separate your dog from the puppies and their mother while your dog is experiencing a false pregnancy. This sort of behaviour could have been useful in the wild when alpha mothers had large litters and needed other dogs to help mother them, ensuring the survival of the species.
  •  If you do not plan on breeding your dog it is important to get her spayed as soon as possible.
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Diagnosis of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

After giving your dog’s medical history and the reason for your visit, the veterinarian will do a physical examination. Your veterinarian may also run a CBC and urinalysis to rule out any medical reasons for the maternal behavior problem. If not neutered, they may perform a vaginal cytology to determine what stage of her cycle your female is in.

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Treatment of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

If your dog is not taking care of her puppies because she is sick you will need to get her back to good health, but otherwise there is no medical treatment for maternal behavior problems in female dogs. If she is in heat and you do not plan on breeding her, you should get her spayed as soon as possible. This is a routine surgery that is very safe with very few risks. Not getting your dog spayed can lead to ovarian or breast cancer as well as uterine infection.

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Recovery of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

Your dog will recover as soon as her hormones level out, which takes 4 to 6 weeks in most dogs. Regular visits with your veterinarian will keep your dog healthy and happy.

Maternal behavior problems can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Maternal Behavior Problems Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$550

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Maternal Behavior Problems Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Pit Bull

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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32 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My dog just had puppies four days ago and has been doing great. But she started to leave her puppies and lay on my laundry. Then when they cry she goes back to them but she Cry's too this isn't all the time but I'm not sure if its normal or what it means.

Dec. 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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32 Recommendations

Hello, many moms will leave their puppies alone for a little bit and go back to them when they cry. Her crying is a way of communicating with the puppies. If she is eating and otherwise acting okay, I would not worry about her. If she is not eating or acting like she is sick it is best for your vet to look at her.

Dec. 12, 2020

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Valley bulldog mix

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11 months

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Unknown severity

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9 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Frantically Panicing Panting And Wont Sleep

She has been frantically looking for her pups when they are all next to her panting alot won't sleep for long period of time and is tearing my house up while crying all pups are accounted for and everyone is okay she panics when I leave room what is going on with her

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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9 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that she is having such distress. Without being able to see her, it is hard to say why she is having these problems, other than she is very young to have so many puppies. If she is nursing the puppies, this may calm down over the next few days as she gets used to them, as she may just not know what to do. It may help to give her some sort of other surrogate puppys like a stuffed animal of some kind, and see if she calms down with that. If she does not, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian to make sure she is okay. I hope that all goes well for her and the pups.

Sept. 29, 2020

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Maternal Behavior Problems Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$550

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