Most puppies become adult dogs between 1 and 2 years old. Image: Melissa Jansen van Rensburg/Pexels

Why does my dog eat her puppies?

Possibility of dogs eating their puppies: Natural behavior due to factors like stress, survival instincts, and health issues in puppies.


Most puppies become adult dogs between 1 and 2 years old. Image: Melissa Jansen van Rensburg/Pexels

It can be very distressing to see a mother dog eating her puppies. While uncommon, it does happen.

According to Pet Helpful, while eating puppies is not normal behaviour for a mother dog, it can happen. The most common reason is when a puppy is weak or sick and isn’t behaving normally. The mother might start by eating one or two sickly pups, and unfortunately, this can develop into a habit. Stress can also be a factor, leading some mothers to harm even healthy puppies. Here are some reasons why this might occur:

Instinctive Culling

Sadly, a mother dog might instinctively cull a puppy that is weak or deformed. This harsh reality ensures the survival of the litter by removing sickly pups who are less likely to thrive.

Do Stressful Mothers Eat Their Puppies

First-time mothers or those in unfamiliar environments can become overwhelmed. Feeling stressed or anxious, they might accidentally harm or even eat a puppy.

Nutritional Deficiencies

A mother needs extra nutrients while nursing. If her own dietary needs aren’t met, she might resort to the placenta or even a deceased puppy to compensate for missing vitamins or minerals.

Accidental Puppy Ingestion

During cleaning, a mother dog might accidentally ingest part of the afterbirth or a stillborn puppy.

In rare cases, a severe infection in the mother or puppies can trigger this behaviour.

What to Do When Dogs Eat Their Puppies

If you see your dog harming her puppies, it’s crucial to act quickly:

  • Separate the Mother and Puppies: Gently separate the mother from the puppies and place them in a safe, warm environment.
  • Take the Mother to the Vet: A vet can check for underlying health issues like infections or deficiencies.
  • Provide a Quiet Space: If the vet gives the all-clear, create a calm and familiar space for the mother to recover with her puppies.
  • Nutritional Support: Ensure the mother has access to high-quality puppy food and plenty of fresh water.

Preventing Puppy Cannibalism:

  • Prenatal Care: Regular vet checkups during pregnancy can identify potential issues.
  • Proper Nutrition: Provide the mother with a nutritious diet formulated for nursing mothers.
  • Calm Environment: Offer a quiet and secure whelping box for the birth.
  • Veterinary Advice: Consult your vet for guidance on caring for a new mother and her litter.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s behaviour or have any questions about caring for newborn puppies, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.


Artificial Intelligence assisted in compiling this article.