Several animals are known to eat their offspring. Hamsters eat their babies, and so do cats. But do dogs eat their own puppies? How can our furry pals resort to homicide?
The query is unpleasant but read on, as we dig deeper to find out why and under what circumstances dogs eat their own puppies.
Do Dogs Eat Their Own Puppies?
Yes. Unfortunately, dogs do eat their own puppies, but it is quite uncommon. While mother dogs are generally very protective of their puppies, sometimes, they do eat them from their own litter. The behavior mostly emanates from the canine ‘social structure,’ psychology, and physiology.
1. Random Cannibalism
Though cannibalism is almost non-existent in dogs, the specie is not 100% free from it. Moreover, the chances of such occurrences plummet further if the canines of concern live in a home, as opposed to those in the wild.
The act of mother dogs eating their babies happens either right after the delivery or within the first week of birth. Besides, there is no restriction on which breed is more likely to consume their young ones – the dam of any lineage can be cannibalistic. It is just a random anomaly that can occur in any animal.
2. Failed Recognition
Dam failing to recognize her own litter may abandon the litter, and if they don’t go away, she may even eat them. This usually happens when the puppies are not born naturally. For instance, if a cesarean section was performed because of some anomaly in pregnancy, the mother dog might not have the necessary hormones to develop the close bond between her and the litter.
Because of the small size of puppies, mother dogs might think of them as rodents. When the newborns move erratically or make certain noises, chances are high that the mama dog will judge them based on their actions and ultimately consider them to be prey.
And given that dogs used to prey on small rodents in the wild, they might end up eating their puppies—thinking that they are eating some prey rodent.
Did You Know?Mother nature is so caring. Sometimes, despite giving unnatural birth, the hormones in the dams necessary to develop a close bond between her and the children still kick in.
3. Pain From Mastitis
Teats in dogs can become inflamed due to infections that can occur right after delivering babies. The nipples become swollen and very painful to even touch, let alone the nursing process.
When puppies try to suckle milk from their mother’s nipples, it may instill excruciating pain, making the mum dog abandon her own litter. In the worst-case scenario, the pain might be unbearable, causing mother dogs to take extreme steps of killing and eating their own babies.
Eating their own babies is very rare; if the mother dog has mastitis, she might only abandon her puppies and push them away. And when her condition is resolved, she may come back and accept her litter.
4. Mother Too Young
Dogs that are bred too young are prone to committing cannibalism. Most dogs experience their first heat cycle as early as six months to one year of age. While dogs are not fully mature at this age, they will get pregnant if they mate.
While this mostly happens at puppy mills, where owners breed dogs as soon as they enter their first heat cycle to get more and more puppies to maximize their profits. However, pet puppies may also experience unplanned pregnancies at a young age.
This usually happens when dog owners slack on getting their pups spayed or neutered.
5. Birth of an Unhealthy Pup
In the canine world, unhealthy young pups are rarely welcomed. If spotted, dog moms try to discard the defective kids from the healthy litter. It is instinctual.
Most probably, she thinks that the unhealthy pup will put the rest of the litter at risk, and therefore, it must be gotten rid of for the greater good. To get rid of the defective pup, the dog mom will try to simply bury the pup or even consume it.
6. Fear and Mental Strain
Due to several environmental factors, a dog might become extremely anxious and stressed. For instance, giving birth in a crowded kennel and lack of ample resources – space, food, etc. – could be mentally stressful for the dog.
In such circumstances, it is common for canines to develop behavioral issues, such as chewing on objects, excessive barking even at nothing, etc. However, the worst form of it happens when the dog becomes too aggressive that it kills and consumes her little ones.
7. It Is Accidental
Dog moms clean up their children after they have been born. She starts by licking the whole body and biting off anything undesirable. This way, she removes the umbilical cord and placenta and keeps the newborn close to maintain body heat.
However, while the ‘cleaning’ process, some injuries can unintentionally occur to the baby, damaging their health or even killing them. Once dead, the mother dog may consume the body.
How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Her Own Puppies?
Knowing the reasons behind the cannibalistic tendencies in dogs towards their young ones, you can take certain prudent measures to make sure that nothing of the sort happens under your roof.
a. Healthy Diet
Ensure proper, timely, and nutritious feeding to the mom-to-be. This will fulfill the increased nutritional requirements of pregnant dogs and support healthy pregnancies. A healthy pregnancy means a lower risk of dogs eating their own babies.
b. Never Breed Underage Dogs
Underage dogs become inexperienced parents. If your doggo has not fully matured yet, do not even think of breeding her. If your young puppy has gotten pregnant accidentally, you should talk to your veterinarian and consider spaying the dog. Spaying a pregnant dog will terminate the pregnancy.
c. Keep a Check on the Health
If your dog has mastitis, get her treated immediately, especially if she is pregnant – else, the newborns may have to pay the price for the pain.
d. Calm Environment
When your dam has delivered litter, keep the environment as calm as possible. Put down the music and other noises for the time being until the puppies have grown significantly. This will ensure that no stress is caused. Also, do not let people near the family unnecessarily.
e. Keep Looking
If you notice that any of the pups is stillborn or not in good health, take it to the vet immediately before the mother takes any extreme steps.
f. Spaying and Neutering
If you do not want your dog to breed, spay her to make sure that no accidental births occur and, thus, no puppy cannibalism happens.
g. Be Proactive
Consider taking the mom and her kids to a vet right after the delivery. The vet will help determine if anything has gone wrong or if the chances of the mother eating the newborns exist. Similarly, sleeping close to the family is always a good idea, and even placing a camera nearby to monitor the situation 24/7.
There are several myths floating around. Do not complicate your mind by paying heed to them and stick to the facts, or you might end up feeling guilty that you were involved in the episode of your pooch eating her babies.
It Is Fine to Touch the Newborns
It is thought that mother dogs reject their puppies if they get the human scent on themselves. It is an entirely baseless myth.
However, unless it is necessary, you should not handle the litter, as the mother dog is super protective and may hurt you.
It Is Normal for Mother Dogs to Snap at Their Puppies
Who knows the mother dog could be angry and try to discipline the young ones? This does not make them monsters – they care for the pups, and they might be just angry a bit sometimes.
You Might Be Transferring Viruses
You might have several viruses on your clothes, such as parvo, which can infect the puppies if handled. Being neat and clean is the key to avoiding such incidents.
Conclusion: Do Dogs Eat Their Own Puppies?
Yes, dogs do. But note that cannibalism is very rare in dogs, especially among pet dogs giving natural birth to their puppies at home. Dogs eating their own puppies is an uncommon anomaly that may occur in any dog breed.