Whilst most dogs take to motherhood instinctively without any support, sadly a mother dog neglecting or rejecting her pups happens occasionally. This may occur straight away or some days or weeks later. Obviously, when this occurs it can be quite a distressing situation to contend with. However, without any intervention the puppies will not survive so you will need to take action.
Signs of Dog Rejecting Puppies
To be certain your dog has rejected her puppies, it’s important to look for some or all of the following signs.
Directly after giving birth, the mother dog should instinctively lick each of her puppies and if she doesn’t, this is an early sign she may reject them.
Newborn pups need to be with their mother and the maternal instinct usually means a mother dog will want to stay with her litter most of the time. If your dog is lying or sitting away from the litter for long periods, it’s likely she may have rejected them. She may also show signs of stress and in some cases may physically pick up and move the puppies away from her.
Another clear sign of potential rejection is if you hear excessive cries from the litter. Newborn puppies only tend to cry when they’re hungry and if your dog is tending to and feeding them, they will be fairly quiet most of the time – at least in the early stages.
In extreme cases, a mother may kill and even eat her puppies. This is obviously a situation you will wish to avoid and why monitoring your dog throughout the early stages is a good idea.
Reasons for Puppy Rejection
There are a number of potential explanations as to why a mother dog would reject her litter of puppies, these include:
In some situations such as if a dog is particularly young or has her puppies by caesarean section, she may simply not associate the puppies as being hers.
If you dog encounters extreme stress either during labour or shortly after giving birth, this can trigger behaviours such as aggression and dissonance.
Although domesticated, dogs still possess many instinctual survival traits from their wild ancestors. As a result, if a puppy is sick or weak your dog may instinctively abandon or even kill it. The theory is that a wild puppy that is sick or defective is unlikely to survive long so the mother will prioritise her food and attention to the strongest and healthiest in the litter.
A lack of a natural maternal instinct can be due to a number of factors and is most commonly seen in young bitches or those who were hand reared separated early from their own mothers.
Illness or injury
If a dog is at all unwell and suffering from injury or illness after giving birth, this can lead to rejecting a litter. Sometimes, mothers can contract mastitis which causes inflammation, pain and discomfort in the teats which will cause her to avoid nursing her pups.
What action should you take?
If your dog is with the pups but you’re not sure if she is being as attentive as she should be, if haven’t already, ensure the whelping area is located is a quite area and stay with her to assess and monitor the situation. If the all the pups are feeding, this is a good sign.
In situations where she is not with her pups at all or is showing signs of illness or injury, you will need to contact your vet immediately. They will need to assess both mother and puppies and will be able to advise of any illnesses they may need treating. Your vet will also be able to advise on the best formula to use if you need to hand feed the puppies.
If she is showing signs of aggression towards them, remove them immediately as this could lead to a very sad scenario. You will then need to care for the puppies and if you’re at all uncertain most vets will provide free support and information over the phone.
When stress is the cause, there are certain aids they can help such as Adaptil. This is a natural pheromone that can help induce a calm state in your dog. However, your vet is best placed to inform you of other potential alternatives that may be available under prescription.