Reasons Why Dogs Eat Their Young

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Anticipating the birth of a litter of pups is an exciting time for any pet owners. Unfortunately, there are times when things go wrong and mother dogs end up eating their young. Puppy deaths are common especially among first-time mother dogs. Eating the young among dogs is actually pretty rare. But before you get angry, disturbed or disgusted by her actions, it’s important to know the reason she killed her pups. In today’s post, we are listing down possible reasons why mother dogs eat their young:


The most common reason why mother dogs eat their young is cannibalism. Cannibalism occurs when an animal eats another animal of the same species. This is common among wild animals. But domesticated dogs aren’t above cannibalism, it happens too. Puppy cannibalism could occur at birth. Sometimes, it happens several days after the mother dog gave birth. Female dogs of any breed cannibalize their puppies. This trait could be inherited.

Unrecognizable Scent

Occurrence of cannibalism is common in inexperienced mother dogs. That’s because first-time mothers could not recognized the puppies as her own. When the scent of the puppies is not familiar to her, she won’t recognize it as her offspring. This is common among dogs who went through a C-section. This happens because dogs who went through cesarean sections do not release hormones produced during natural birth. That’s why it’s critical to never hold newborn pups without gloves. You want the mother dog to recognize the pups as her own. If not, she would either eat her young or refuse to nurse them.

Mistaken for Prey

Newborn puppies move erratically. They also make high pitched sounds. These behaviors are associated with how prey animals behave. And this triggers the dog’s predatory instinct. If this instinct is triggered, the mother dog will instinctively feed on her young.


Mastitis is a condition wherein the mother dog’s teats become inflamed or painful. The teats become infected, tender or swollen. While Mastitis is a serious condition, it can be treated with ointments. Unfortunately, puppies demand to be fed all the time. If the pups clamp down on the mother dog’s teats, she could feel enough pain to refuse her young. In very rare cases, the pain is enough to agitate the mother dog into killing her puppies.

Excessive Fear or Stress

First-time mothers tend to get too stressed out after giving birth. This could lead to the development of negative reactions – such as aggression or predatory instinct – driving the mother to eat her young. If the mother dog becomes too stressed out, she will direct her aggression to her pups. This leads to injuries, puppy deaths and sometimes cannibalism.

Unhealthy Puppies

Animals will instinctively eat unhealthy or stillborn young. This helps keep the rest of the litter healthy. If a puppy is born unhealthy, the mother dog will instinctively eat it to make sure the rest of the litter survives.

Usually, unhealthy pups are called the runts. Mother dogs would refuse to feed the runts until they die on their own. If it’s stillborn, the mother dog would try to bury it someplace in the house.