Many mother dogs enthusiastically approach their duties of caring for their tiny newborn puppies. However, for one reason or another, some mother dogs feel the need to physically push one or more of their puppies away -- an act of rejection. Rejection is often a sign that something just isn't 100 percent with a puppy in the health department.
Why Would a Mother Dog Push Its Newborn Away?
A mama doggie might find it necessary to reject her puppies if they're born premature and seemingly fragile. Canine preemies are usually easy to spot, as they're markedly tiny and generally lack fur. Since rejected puppies don't receive any vital warmth or nourishment from their mothers, they quickly develop hypothermia, which is a fatal condition.
If a puppy for whatever reason experiences chilling, his mom might also push him away. If she touches his body and it seems inordinately cold, or if he's acting in an unusual manner, she might sense it and respond accordingly. Cold puppies cry frequently, as the behavior is rare in healthy youngsters. They also move around at notably sluggish paces. If the mama doggie picks up on these signals, her rejection might just be because she doesn't think the little one has a realistic chance of staying alive, growing and thriving.
Some newborn pups enter the world seemingly completely healthy and alert, only to have things change extremely swiftly -- typically in the span of a week or two post-birth. This drastic change involves lengthy crying spells, weight loss and the complete cessation of growth. Previously energetic and "normal" puppies become mobile and inactive, and even stop partaking in feeding sessions. Sometimes they can't even position their wee bodies into vertical positions. They are known as "fading puppies," and the change is often associated with a variety of issues, including infection, birth defects and even strain in living circumstances. Mother dogs frequently push away any fading puppies. Once this occurs, the puppies rapidly become excessively chilly and pass away due to lack of sustenance -- think within a time frame of two days, maximum. Canine mothers are usually extremely intuitive, and a lot of puppy rejection has to do with ill health, whether because of fading, chilling or anything else.
"Only child" puppies are often on the large side, and this often calls for delivery via canine cesarean section. However, this procedure sometimes has a downside. If a mother dog's labor isn't totally underway, C-sections can occasionally interfere with the emergence of key hormones that encourage the nurturing maternal instinct. Without these hormones, a mother dog might have no idea how to proceed with caring for her pups -- and therefore might push them away out of confusion. Although experienced mothers often remember how to care for offspring despite these situations, young canine mamas with zero mothering experience frequently reject their litters.
Rejection by a mother dog doesn't always have to have an unhappy ending. Commercially manufactured puppy milk replacer, which is available at pet supplies stores, is designed to keep the little guys healthy, with its content that is made to emulate exactly what mama's milk does. If you have access to any lactating female dogs, you also might be able to recruit a furry foster mother for your rejected cutie. Outside of feeding duties, contact a veterinarian immediately if you think that one of your pups might be ill -- no time to hesitate. Newborn puppies don't only need food for survival -- they also need plenty of warmth. Puppy-specific heating pads can do the trick -- as long as you keep a close eye on them. It is crucial to ensure that the fluff balls can always easily escape the pads, should they get uncomfortable and too warm.
By Naomi Millburn
DogChannel.com: Breeders and Newborn Puppies
Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook; Debra M. Eldredge et al.
Vermont Veterinary Medical Association: Raising Newborn Pups
ASPCA: Newborn Puppy Care
American Kennel Club: AKC ENewsletter
Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets; Patricia Schenck
Understanding and Training Your Dog or Puppy; H. Ellen Whiteley
The Dog Trainer's Resource; Mychelle Blake
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.