Harming Her Puppies in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 07/19/2017Updated: 07/28/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Why is my dog harming her puppies?

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

Why Harming Her Puppies Occurs in Dogs


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.


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.

Petted logo

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Get a quote


Harming Her Puppies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals





One Year


53 found this helpful


53 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
She Bites Er Puppies On The Nose
She bites the puppies on the nose

July 26, 2020

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

53 Recommendations

Hello, Some dogs are not cut out to be moms and will bite their puppies. If she continues to do this, it would be best to bottle feed these puppies until they can eat solid food. So sorry to hear that your mommy dog is being aggressive.

July 26, 2020

Was this question and answer helpful?





2 Years


12 found this helpful


12 found this helpful

My pet has the following 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?

Sept. 19, 2018

Was this question and answer helpful?
Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.