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What are Harming Her Puppies?

Newborn puppies can cause great stress for the mother, especially when the puppies do not begin settling in and bonding to their mother. There are times when the puppies are sick or have some defect that we cannot see and there are also times when the mother dog is suffering from an illness. In these cases, it is not unusual for your dog to harm her puppies.

Just like with humans, there are some dogs that just do not adapt to motherhood and can become lazy or careless when around their puppies. They may not even recognize that the puppies are their offspring and will become stressed and unwilling to relax and bond with the puppies. 

Most breeders will spend extra time with new mother dogs and their puppies to ensure that all is well and each puppy is able to nurse and bond with their mother. Some breeds are more prone to harming their puppies, either accidentally or purposefully. The breeds that are classified as giant or large are more likely to accidentally harm their puppies by lying or sitting on them. Certain herding breeding such as Collies and Australian Shepherds are considered lazy mothers and require continual monitoring until the puppies are old enough to move out of their mother’s way when she lies down.

Possible causes of why your dog is harming her puppies include:

  • Mastitis
  • Uterine infection
  • Sick puppies
  • Accidental harmin
  • Stress
  • Unstable or inexperienced
  • Lack of recognition

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Why Harming Her Puppies Occurs in Dogs

Mastitis

Mastitis is a bacterial infection that will affect one or more milk producing glands. This is a painful condition that will cause the female dog to not want her puppies to nurse and she may even snap or bite at puppies that try to nurse on the affected teat. Mastitis can also cause the puppies to become sick if they nurse on an affected teat. 

Uterine Infection

There are some instances when the female may develop a uterine infection from either a retained placenta or there was a puppy that died in utero. When your female dog is suffering from an infection, they may harm their puppies simply because they do not feel well.

Sick Puppies

Natural instincts will kick in when a puppy is sick and will not survive. The female dog will push the sick puppy away from the healthy puppies and sometimes they may even harm or kill the puppy to stop its suffering. If you notice there are one or two puppies that your female is pushing away, chances are that the puppy or puppies are sick and will not survive.

Accidental Harming

Some female dogs will accidentally harm their puppies because they are either lazy or careless. Large breed dogs will sometimes lie on puppies, smothering or crushing them. If your female does not have the natural instinct to nose their puppies into the center of the whelping box before lying down, you will have to closely monitor the puppies when your female is moving around the whelping box.

Stress

Some female dogs require a quiet, secluded place to whelp and raise their puppies. If your female is feeling stressed or threatened by too much noise or activity around her puppies she may begin harming the puppies as a way to protect them from any perceived outside threat. 

Unstable or Inexperienced

Some female dogs just simply were not cut out to be mothers. These dogs will avoid their puppies, pace and even snap at the puppies if they get too close to her. Dogs should never be bred on their first heat cycle; they are too young to handle the stress of carrying a litter or even raising them for six to eight weeks. Inexperienced mothers will many times not bond with their puppies and will be disinterested in them. 

Lack of Recognition

There may be times when new mothers do not recognize their puppies as theirs. Female dogs that have been through a cesarean section are especially at risk of not recognizing their puppies. They will not have formed a bond and may try to harm the puppies instead of nurture them.

What to do if your Dog is Harming Her Puppies

Most people do not usually associate their dog harming her puppies with a medical condition. However, if you suspect your dog is sick, immediately get her into your veterinarian. Dogs that are suffering from mastitis or a uterine infection can die if they do not receive immediate medical attention. Your veterinarian will run diagnostic testing to verify that an illness is present and then they will discuss a treatment plan with you.

There may be some cases when you will have to hand raise a litter of puppies if your female refuses to accept them as hers or if she is overly aggressive towards the puppies. When you have to hand raise a litter due to your female being indifferent or aggressive towards their puppies, you will need to seriously consider spaying your female and not breeding her again.

Prevention of Harming Her Puppies

Generally, female dogs will have a natural instinct to properly care for their offspring. However, there will be times when that instinct is not there or it has not developed. Never breed a female on her first heat cycle as she is too immature both physically and emotionally to deal with carrying and raising a litter of puppies.

Be sure to set up your dog’s whelping box in a secluded place, preferably in a spare bedroom where the door can be closed or blocked off. This gives your female dog a den-like area where she can focus on her puppies and not feel threatened.

Cost of Harming Her Puppies

The cost to treat mastitis in dogs can range from $200 to $800 depending on your demographic and the severity of the infection. A uterine infection can be costly. If you are able to catch the infection early, treatment can cost between $200 and $500. However, if the infection is not caught early and surgical removal of the uterus is required, the cost can be between $800 and $2500.

Harming Her Puppies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Haze
Masstif
2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Sad, tired, sore?

Hello! My dog has just had her first litter 2 days ago. It was an unintentional pregnancy, and she had a surprisingly large litter of 8 puppies. All of which, are healthy. She has been doing quite well so far, my only concern is that she sometimes growls at her puppies as they nurse. She has even gone as far as to nip one. I don’t know why this is. She could be very sore, they just constantly eat and sleep. I just don’t want her to get even more aggressive with them. What should I do? Is this normal?

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Pretty Girl
Shih Tzu
8 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

none

My dog's small litter (3) will be 5 weeks in 2 days. Just recently, I saw the mother appear to be playing with one of the puppies by lightly using her teeth, but then she began to roll on the puppy. When I pushed her off, she had the puppy's face in her mouth, lightly biting but once or twice I could hear the pup whine. I picked the puppy up and then petted the mom. When I put the puppy back down, the mom went back to using her teeth and rolling over on the pup. I finally picked up the pup because what initially looked like playfulness started to make me uncomfortable. What could be the problem? The dogs aren't sick. She's slowly weaning the 3 of them and doesn't treat the others the same. Honestly she want treating any of them badly until that one time. It just makes me nervous. Could that have been a one time moment of frustration? Or does she intend to do some harm? No mastitis either.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
It certainly sounds like the mom was trying to intentionally harm the pup which may be caused by a few different reasons which may include lack of recognition (she may not see the pup as her own), stress, illness or other causes; if this occurs again you should separate the pup and hand wean it over to solids. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Daisy
Labrador Mix
1 Day
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Seems to want to eat the amllest pup
Seems to want to eat the runt
Seems to want to eat the smallest puppy

My female had a litter of puppies last night and theres one small one. She can nurse fine and everything but earlier i walked in and seen the mom puttimg the runts head in her mouth as if she was fixing to eat it?! What should i do

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
If the mother is looking to harm the little one you should separate them and keep the pup warm, you could try to place him on a teat every so often but it may be a good idea to hand feed. If she tried to harm him once, she probably would try again. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Hello! My dog has just had her first litter 2 days ago. It was an unintentional pregnancy, and she had a surprisingly large litter of 8 puppies. All of which, are healthy. She has been doing quite well so far, my only concern is that she sometimes growls at her puppies as they nurse. She has even gone as far as to nip one. I don’t know why this is. She could be very sore, they just constantly eat and feed. I just don’t want her to get even more aggressive with them. What should I do? Is this normal?

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