Uncover the Causes and Prevention of Cannibalism in Dogs

‘Why would a dog eat its puppies? Is cannibalism in dogs real?’ Last week, I was watching a documentary dubbed Cannibalism in Animals and asked myself this question.

As a dog owner, I needed to know if my dog would kill its puppies if she gave birth. Read on to learn what I discovered about this surprising phenomenon.

Do Dogs Kill Their Puppies

Yes, dogs kill their puppies. But this is a rare occurrence since mammals have a natural breeding instinct. 

four puppies close to each other
via Unsplash

If your puppies are disappearing without a trace that is a bad sign. So take action to ensure the safety of the litter. However, this does not mean you have to separate the dam and her puppies.

Find the reason why your furry friend shows this uncommon dog behavior. There is always a reason behind the cannibalism.

5 Causes of Cannibalism in Dogs

Cannibalism in dogs will often show during the first week after giving birth. And as stated above, this unusual behavior happens for a reason.

  1. Mastitis

Mastitis is a painful health condition affecting a dog’s teat. It is evident by redness, hardness, and soreness. 

While newborn puppies look innocent to our eyes, the little creatures have a strong suction grip on the dam’s teats. This grip is painful and can cause the mom to get aggressive.

Some moms endure the pain for their offspring but an inexperienced one may will not. The dam can make a poor decision of killing and cannibalizing the puppies.

  1. Presence of Stillborn and Sickly Pups

As painful as it is, stillbirths are present in animals. A stillbirth happens when the newborn is born dead. The dam can remove the dead puppy or eat them to separate it from the healthy litter.

As she removes the dead pup, she risks mistaking the healthy pups as stillborn and cannibalizing them. The dam can also recognize the weakling among the litter and decide to remove it. Remember nursing is not easy and various hormones are at play.

  1. Accidental Moment

Unexpected accidents happen. Newborn pups are usually born in a sac that the mom eats off later. 

As the dog eats its placenta, chances are they can eat the pup. The good news is that this does not mean she will eat the rest of the litter. 

  1. Sudden Puppy Noises

A puppy’s sound brings joy to pet parents, these noises assure you that your new friends are still holding on to the new world.  However, it can be overwhelming for the dam as these sudden sounds and movements can frighten the mom.

I have had such an encounter where I had visited a friend whose furry friend gave birth to seven puppies. A pup made a sudden noise that startled the mom from her sleep, she stood up, walked to a corner, and lay there. Seemed to me she wanted some good sleep after hours of suckling.

While sudden puppy noises do not mean the mommy harm, a new mother can get aggressive. 

  1. Stressful Conditions

Your dog experiences stress only that she cannot talk about it. Carrying a pregnancy is tiresome and it leaves your dog vulnerable hence quick to succumb to stress.

While this does not mean direct threats, a dog nursing in stressful conditions is prone to making poor decisions. Sources of stress can be:

Speaking of diet, check out this YouTube video from eHowPets on what to feed a lactating dog.

How to Prevent Cannibalism in Dogs

As a doting pet parent, you avoided spaying your dog so she could raise babies. That said, she is responsible for nursing her puppies unless there is a reason for you to intervene and offer puppy milk replacers. 

There is no straight solution to preventing dog cannibalism. However, some good dog management skills can help lower this rare behavior.

  1. Feed Her a Good Diet

Like a pregnant woman needs to eat a quality diet for her baby’s nutrition, so does your furry friend. The babies in her tummy depend on what she eats and a good diet ensures they are born strong and healthy.

After the dam gives birth, continue feeding her quality food for lactating dogs to help in milk production. This will ensure she has enough to suckle her babies preventing cannibalism instincts.

  1. Give Her Space

Your dog’s maternal instincts kick in when her due date inches closer. She will look for a quiet place within the house to build her nest, give birth, and raise her litter.

You can help her find a quiet place where no one and other pets will disturb her. Some soft washable blankets would be a great addition to keep her and the puppies warm.

  1. Be Available

When the big day arrives you want to be there for your furry friend. However, do not interfere with the process because she can take care of herself. 

As she licks the sac off her puppies so does her love for them increase. If puppy birth complications arise, consult your vet.

After birth, you can be available for the new mother by ensuring she has enough food, water, and a clean nursing space. The goal here is to ensure she can look after her puppies without stress.


  1. Should I Remove a Dead Puppy from its Mother’s Nest?

It is best to remove a dead puppy from the mother’s nest to avoid a foul smell arising from decomposition. However, ensure the mom does not see you do this to avoid aggression.

  1. Why Do Some Dogs Eat Their Puppies?

It is rare for a mommy dog to eat its puppies but it happens. There is a reason behind a dog eating its puppies like stress, inexperience, or by accident.

  1. Why is My Dog Biting Her Newborn Puppies?

While it can seem alarming, it is common for a dog to bite its puppies. There is nothing to worry about since it’s a way of scolding for being naughty. Only intervene if she is ripping the pup’s skin.

Final Thoughts on Cannibalism in Dogs

As a doting pet parent, the last thing you want is your dog to eat its puppies. But there is nothing you can do to ensure your dog’s cannibalism instincts do not kick in.

While dog cannibalism is rare, it’s essential to understand its causes and how you can prevent this uncommon behavior. It is now up to you to ensure a better living condition for the new puppies.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Scroll to Top