Why Do Dogs Eat Their Puppies? 7 Possible Reasons

We are sure you have heard of instances where the mommy dog has devoured her pup. Although we cannot deny the gruesomeness of such incidents, there remain some viable reasons behind such acts.

It is not advisable to be angry at the mother dog, who apparently might cause puppy deaths. However, analyzing and comprehending the deep-rooted reasons may prove helpful in putting a stoppage to such incidents and aiding the mother dog in giving some emotional relief.

However, there are a few hypotheses that justify dogs eating their puppies. We’ll go over some of the most notable ones below and suggest ways to prevent them in the future. But before doing so, let us understand if cannibalism is an inherent trait in mommy dogs.

Is Cannibalism an Inherent Trait in Dogs?

Is cannibalism an inherent trait in dogs
Image Credit: A close-up shot of a dog’s face from Pxhere

Before anything else, we humans must understand that dogs do not follow the moral code of conduct as we do. Instead, they are animals driven by their primitive urges and needs. So, it is recommended not to judge a dog’s actions against the set of rules made for humans.

The question that may bother most of us is whether cannibalism or eating their pups is an inborn trait in dogs. Well, no study has yet asserted this trait as an inborn thing among canines, the exception being Staffordshire Bull Terriers that are pretty infamous for killing their puppies. However, judging every Staffordshire Bull Terrier with the same perception is not wise. Being vigilant can avoid any fatality.

Outside of that, there doesn’t appear to be any genetic feature that makes dogs more prone to commit cannibalism. That said, the majority of the causes, however, appear to be external.

Possible Reasons for Dogs Eating their Puppies

Cannibalistic traits in the mother dog persist only for a few hours or days after the birth. It isn’t limited to a single breed. As previously said, there are various reasons why mothers can do this type of activity.

Hence, having an explicit knowledge of why a dog would eat its pup might assist you in analyzing what’s going on with the pups and whether any medical intervention is needed.

So, without much ado, let’s begin our search journey!

#1. Postnatal stress

Postnatal stress
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Whether humans or dogs, postnatal stress is real for both species. However, in the case of dogs, this stress can impact the mother’s psyche to such an extent that she may end up eating her pup.

A crowded birthing place is one of the most stressful environments for a new canine mother. A mother may become enraged and start eating puppies if she gets stressed out immediately after birthing. Hence, it is advisable to do everything possible to provide a calm, private nursery for a new mother.

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Create a separate space for her to birth and keep plenty of fresh water and some food that she can access without leaving her pups. Stress is one of the easiest causes for a mother to eat her children; therefore, try to avoid it as much as possible.

Also Read: How To Groom A Dog At Home

#2. Accidental cannibalism

Sounds strange? But its occurrence is not that strange!

Yes, you heard us right. A dog would rip off the umbilical cord and ingest the placenta after birth. She does, however, eat more than just the umbilical cord on occasion, resulting in devouring the whole puppy. In such circumstances, mothers will eat stillborn puppies by accident.

Some moms, however, are thought to fail to distinguish the hormones of the deceased puppies. As a result, they are completely unaware that a dead puppy is in the batch. As a result, they might just eat the stillborn along with the placenta, mistaking it for another part of the afterbirth.

#3. Mastitis

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Mastitis is a dangerous and prevalent disease that affects the newly mothers. It’s a painful infection of the breast tissue that can happen after birth. As a result, the mother dog’s teats might become swollen, inflamed, and sensitive. This, however, can cause a lot of problems for the mother and her pups.

Mother dogs with mastitis find it excruciatingly painful to feed their pups. But the pups don’t realize that. As a result, the mother may experience enough discomfort when the puppies clamp down to breastfeed that she rejects the puppies. The pain is sometimes enough to drive her insane to the point that she kills them.

However, on occasions when she doesn’t kill her puppy immediately, she may reject and abandon it. And in certain circumstances, the mother will return to devour it if it fails to survive.

#4. Inexperience

In the race to commercialize breeding and earn money, breeders often push bitches to conceive at a very young age. Consequently, the mother may be too young to know how to deal with newly born puppies. In this context, research studies have shown that incidents of cannibalism are more likely to occur in dogs who are bred during their first heat.

Forced motherhood can also cause a lot of stress for the new mother. And as we have mentioned earlier, stress is not good for the dam and can drive her crazy. This, in turn, can also provoke her to kill her puppy within a few hours of birth.

That said, if your dog is giving birth early, you will need to keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t eat her puppies. As a result, spaying and neutering dogs is the best way to stop any possible cannibalism.

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#5. Mercy killing

Mercy killing
Image Credit: A newborn pup from Maxpixel

Although mercy killing may not be a legal act among humans, it’s not illegal among dogs.

Not every puppy that is born would be healthy to survive. The dam’s instinct will influence to remove the unhealthy puppy from the litter. As a result, instead of allowing the puppy to wither and die, she will end its suffering by devouring it.

Although this may appear savage, it is the only method to ensure that the rest of the litter lives healthily. From a Darwinian standpoint, it’s a behavior that benefits the animals- based on the survival of the fittest.

However, you can intervene in such situations by keeping a close watch on the litter and checking if any puppy is unwell or abandoned. Then, you can just bring it out and take it to the vet for the necessary medications and aftercare.

#6. Psychological instability

Psychological instability
Image Credit: Holly Dog from Public Domain Pictures

Let’s just face it! All dogs are not meant to be good mothers. They may be all-loving and adorable to you but fail terribly as a mother. So, however suitable they may seem in other contexts, they may display innately dangerous behavior after birthing and should not be permitted to have puppies.

This, however, should not be a premise to judge your dog. Instead, what you should do is take her to the vet for consultations and medications, if needed, and take medical advice before letting her mate and conceive. And if it seems impossible for her to have puppies, spaying is the best possible alternative.

You May Also Read: 10 Big Dog Breeds That Don’t Shed

#7. Not recognizing the puppies

One of the saddest realities is that the mother dog may sometimes fail to recognize her puppy. As a result, whenever she sees her youngster, her inherent predatory impulses may kick in, perhaps leading to catastrophe.

Though not prevalent among all the dogs, it is only the case with dogs that have undergone a C-section. Their bodies do not release natural hormones that cause them to recognize their young.

Here, it is crucial to note that pups tend to make shrill and loud sounds immediately after birth. These habits are similar to those of prey animals like mice. And certain breeds, particularly terriers and terrier hybrids, have a history of catching mice and, as a result, may confuse their puppies with prey and kill them straight away.

Although any dam is capable of cannibalism, these breeds may have a higher tendency to display such acts.

Why Do Male Dogs Kill their Puppies?

Why Do Male Dogs Kill their Puppies
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Like female dogs, male dogs also do not intentionally kill or eat their puppies. And even when they do so, there remains some viable reason(s), which we often fail to recognize.

When it comes to male canines, their job often ends after a successful mating. So do not anticipate the father dog to jump for excitement when you introduce him to his puppies, even if the male and female canines live under the same roof.

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Dogs uniquely react to emotions. In most circumstances, the father dog will show little interest in the puppies or may even ignore them. However, in rare situations, he may act aggressively toward the newborn.

We must recognize that the paternal relationship in humans does not usually exist in dogs. As a result, a male dog may attack his puppies in most circumstances because he sees them as undesirable competition.

An alpha dog may eliminate other male dogs contending for the bitch’s affections. As a result, you should watch for any male dogs near the newborns during or after birth.

After the puppies arrive, keep a close check on the male dog’s behavior, and if he shows any signs of discomfort, keep him at a distance. You can also seek the advice of a veterinarian.

Does Eating their Puppies Make a Dog Bad?

Does Eating their Puppies Make a Dog Bad
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As we stated, dogs do not lead their life according to moral conduct. There are always some underlying reasons, as we mentioned above, behind their actions. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that we cannot judge a mother dog good or bad based on her cannibalistic behavior.

As a result, a dog that eats her puppies should not be punished. Please attempt to prevent her from doing that again, but don’t judge her. She may not be a malicious mother, after all.

Also Read: My Dog Doesn’t Bark: Should You Be Worried?

Can We Help?

Sometimes, human intervention is necessary to stop a mommy dog from devouring her pups. Although it is never advisable to take away young puppies from their mothers. The best way is to prepare a positive environment during the birth process that minimizes any cannibalistic act.

We can alter the parameters that will result in healthy puppies. It is because mommy dogs often kill their puppies if they are weak or indicate any birth problem. This, in turn, will impact the mother’s ability to maintain a pleasant frame of mind.

Apart from killing, if we find the other dog has abandoned her puppy without apparent reason, we must take the pup to the vet. After the initial check-up, we can start thinking about caring for an abandoned puppy.


Before concluding this post, we’d want to emphasize that it is solely educational. If your dog has any physical or psychological health issues, you must take it to the veterinarian. We have no plans to give any medication or perform any medical treatment on dogs or puppies.

Aside from that, strive to establish a cheerful environment at home to avoid the possibility of cannibalism. Although there isn’t much we can do to stop it entirely, we can attempt to prevent it from happening in the first place.