how does a mother dog kill her puppies?

It is the worst nightmare of any dog owner when they see their female dogs killing their babies. Whether it is purposeful or accidental raises the question of how does a mother kill her puppies. Unfortunately, such practice is not uncommon in the animal world. There are several reasons why the mother dog takes such a decision.

As an owner, one has to recognize whether the mother dog is actually killing its baby or if it happens naturally. If you find one of the puppies dead in the morning, there can be many possible reasons behind it. Puppies normally spend 90% of their first week sleeping. Mother dogs should take much interest in their babies during this week. If you see that the mother dog is licking their bottom and ejecting its waste, everything is fine.

The owner can also be helpful to the mother dog by using a wet cotton ball to clean the bottom of the puppies. Make sure you use soft cotton and be gentle, and do not rub hard against their bottom.

Why did Mother Dog Kill its Puppies?

If you have ever seen dead puppies in the litter, some definite signs prove that their death is natural or purposely done by the mother dog. Bite marks, missing body parts, or any sort of injury proves that their death is caused by the mother. Here are some reasons behind it-

By Mistake:

Mother dogs sometimes accidentally kill their puppies by crushing them. This happens when one of the puppies leaves the group and rolls on the sitting area of the dog. Such incidents can be prevented by installing rolling on your crate. This would prevent the dog to lie on the puppy if it slipped behind the mother dog.


Sometimes some puppies are sick and have a minimum chance of survival which can be identified by the mother dog but not the owners. In such cases, the mother dog purposely kills such a puppy so that she can concentrate on the remaining healthier puppies.

This may start with the mother dog pushing the puppy away from herself and the remaining puppies or even eating it. It is very common in canines and is not cruel as a natural selection of the fittest is quite common in the. It is believed by the canines that if one of the puppies is sick or weak, it will attract the predators and make the group weak.

Unstable or Inexperienced Mothers:

There is also a possibility that the mother has given birth to puppies at a too-young age. Female dogs must never be bred in their very first heat as they can become an unstable mother that can harm their puppies, whether accidentally or purposefully. In such cases, the owner should spay the mother dog and should not allow it to be bred in the future.

This is because such female dog growls at the puppies when they grow and can even harm them if they are undisciplined. And during the first few weeks, they are dependent on their mom as they are helpless. Oxytocin, a bonding hormone, is released when a mother dog delivers the puppies, which keeps the puppies and mother together, but if not released, problems may arise.


Some mother dogs kill their puppies due to stress. Such stress can be because of any reason, such as not having enough space in the litter or some other problems with their delivery. Sometimes it also happens that the litter is too big for the dog, and they feel uncomfortable looking after their puppies. There are also cases where dogs kill their puppies soon after they are brought home after their tail tuck, thinking that they are contaminated. An owner should look after the mother dog properly so that she may not undergo any form of stress; otherwise, she may harm the puppies.

Other Factors:

New mother sometimes does not recognize their puppies and think that they belong to some other dog or a completely different animal. In such cases, she might kill them. This condition usually arises in dogs with cesarean sections. For such dogs, new puppies might sound like rodents or any other prey animal. They kill them in an attempt to eat them. Mastitis is a problem that occurs in lactating mothers. In such conditions, it is quite painful for the dog to provide milk to their babies. Sometimes the pain is so adverse that a mother can decide to reject its complete litter.

Things to Observe:

There are certain questions that you need to ask yourself as soon as the dog gives birth to the puppies, which are-

  • Is the temperature of the room ideal for puppies? The temperature of the room should be near about 85 degrees during the first week, and make sure it should never go down than 70F. This temperature can also be achieved by a heating pad or heat lamp.
  • Are the puppies being actively nursed by the mother dog?
  • Are the puppies sleeping close enough to each other?
  • If one of the puppies is often left out, it can be a problem as he may not be thriving as it should be.

Reasons behind Death in Puppies:

Several conditions cause death in puppies. Puppy fading syndrome is a condition that causes the death of puppies within nine weeks. As per the Hilltop veterinary hospital, the reasons behind this are-

  • The temperature is too hot or cold for the puppies
  • The mother refused to nurse the puppies
  • Infections
  • Physical defects in puppies

In all the above cases, you should take the dog litter to the vet.

Ways to Prevent the Death of Puppies:

Puppies are weak, especially when they are newborns. You should closely observe them for a few weeks to see whether they are being nursed properly or not and if everything is normal. In case of any abnormal behavior of female dogs towards puppies sleeping near them, keep a continuous watch. By this, you can help immediately if one of the puppies cries. It is also essential to take the mother dog and puppies to the vet within 24 hours to ensure that their health is fine.

I hope that now you are well aware of the possible reasons behind how does a mother kill her puppies. Proper research of the litter and mother dog is necessary right within 24 hours of their delivery by your vet. You should also monitor the litter closely, especially for the first 3-4 weeks. By this, you can prevent any type of problem with the puppies and can prevent infanticide.


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