When female dogs give birth to a litter of pups, it’s usually a wonderful experience. Mother dogs have been known to occasionally eat their young. The majority of the time, dogs eat their young for survival reasons, despite the fact that this may seem counter-intuitive. Read this article and try to figure out why dogs eat their puppies.

The Relationship Of A Mother To Her Puppies

A bitch will typically possess the innate knowledge necessary to care for her young without the need for outside assistance. As soon as they are born, their mother releases them from the “water sac.”

Puppies emerge from their mother’s uterus through this protective membrane. The mother tears it with her teeth, breaking it.

They then lick the puppy to remove any secretions or fluid, bite off the cord which connects to their placenta, and keep them close to retain heat. Then, along with any other postpartum material, they will eat their placenta.

They perform all of the above actions instinctively, even if they are first-time mothers. The same instinct allows them to navigate their nest area without stepping on or harming their young puppies. 

Why A Dog May Eat Her Puppies

There are a number of factors, some of which you simply can’t stop, that can cause a female dog to eat her puppies. While some will happen suddenly, others you can control. 

Accidental Cannibalism

Particularly for first-time mothers or mothers who are very young, it isn’t always an intentional act. It might just be a matter of lack of knowledge.

When a puppy is born, its mother must use her teeth to pry it out of a sac. Occasionally, things won’t go very well and a puppy may unintentionally pass away. 

In addition, a mother will consume her placenta in an effort to replenish vital nutrients she lost throughout the course of her pregnancy.

A puppy dying in the womb before birth is not uncommon. The mother may not even notice that this is a puppy when it is delivered; instead, she may treat it like an afterbirth and eat it. 

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Puppies

An Unhealthy Pup

Puppies are not always strong and healthy when they are born. Some people have illnesses such as infections, respiratory issues, or congenital disabilities that can lead to a variety of health issues. After delivery, you might be able to see a sick puppy, but your mother can, too. 

There may be just too many pups for a dog to comfortably handle, particularly for large dog breeds that are prone to larger litters.

If she has a sick puppy that needs extra attention and care, she might have to make the difficult choice to remove that puppy from the litter. 

This would be regarded as a mercy killing because it puts an end to the sick puppy’s suffering and ensures the survival of the rest of the litter. 

A Stressed Mom

For any mother—human, dog, or other—pregnancy and childbirth are stressful times. Your dog will be anxious, worn out, and overwhelmed, which can occasionally result in poor judgment. 

An entire litter of wailers can make a female dog irate, causing her to growl, bark, or even bite the puppies. In rare instances, cannibalism may occur as a result of predatory instincts taking over. 

While there are strategies you can use to lessen her stress, they must be preventative measures, which we will cover below. You run the risk of making things worse or even coming under attack yourself if you try to help her when she is already experiencing a mental crisis. 


Mastitis is a serious condition that can cause a mother a lot of pain and have a negative impact on her entire litter as well. After delivery, it is a type of breast tissue infection.

It will be painful for her to feed her puppies because her teats will become extremely sensitive, red, and swollen. 

Although you can step in with puppy nursing replacement kits, it’s always best for a mother dog to feed her puppies herself because it’s more nourishing for them and a great activity for bonding.  

Veterinary care must be sought right away for mastitis. In spite of being in excruciating pain, a female dog without it will frequently continue to attempt to feed her puppies.

Without medical care, a bitch may start to reject her puppies or completely abandon the litter. In extreme circumstances, she will devour her puppies in order to numb her pain. 

Hormonal Problems

This is one of the saddest causes, and aside from raising the litter yourself, there isn’t much you can do. If a dog, due to hormonal reasons, does not recognize her puppies as her own young, she may resort to cannibalism. 

When a litter is born, dogs produce hormones, some of which are in charge of identifying the puppies and establishing an automatic maternal bond.

In particular, if the delivery was non-traditional—through a Cesarean section, for example—these hormones aren’t always released. 

The hormones needed for bonding are sometimes absent when puppies are delivered outside of the birth canal. A female dog recovering from surgery might find herself surrounded by crying puppies that she doesn’t recognize as her young.

She typically takes care of them instinctively and fairly quickly. She may, however, occasionally become prey-driven and attack the strange, noisy small creatures she has found next to her. 

Too Young To Be A Mommy

The final explanation for why dogs eat their young is that they aren’t ready to be mothers. The best course of action for a bitch is to hold off until she is at least one year old. But the maturation rates of various breeds vary.

As a result, it is advised that female dogs wait to breed until they are between the ages of 18 and 2 years old. 

A dog that has been bred too early is still just a baby, incapable of providing for anything as it should be. A mother who is unprepared may act in ways that are anything but maternal.

She might lack maternal instincts and simply abandon a litter, or she might react out of fear of the unknowable and turn to cannibalism to escape the frightening, foreign situation she has been placed in. 


You shouldn’t have to worry about your dog eating her puppies if she’s mature, healthy, and otherwise well-behaved.  Mothers rarely eat their young, but it does occasionally happen. The best thing you can do to prevent this behavior is to keep a watchful eye.