As cute as it can be to have a litter of puppies born in the lounge room, this can quickly turn into a stressful time if the whelping bitch rejects one or all of her puppies. Bitches have been known to not only reject puppies, but to try and kill them as well.
There are a few reasons why this happens.
New to motherhood.
A maiden bitch (first time mum) may be too enthusiastic when it comes to cleaning the puppies. Rather than just licking and cleaning the amniotic fluid from the pup, and severing the umbilical chord, the bitch starts to chew, occasionally biting the puppy.
Some bitches actually appear frightened of the puppies and will attack them. This can be quite common if the bitch has had a Cesarean section rather than whelping the pups herself.
Giving birth once is painful, but giving birth multiple times can leave most bitches feeling very sore and tired. Just as it is all over and the puppies are clean, the bitch tries to get some rest and the puppies start trying to feed.
Suckling from the puppies causes the uterus to contract, which can be very painful. It is not uncommon for bitches to want time away from their puppies for the first hour or so.
If she can not get away from their suckling, she may growl at them, try to push them away with her feet, or as a last result, snap at them.
Some bitches (especially first time mom’s) find the whole whelping, cleaning and feeding experience stressful.
Compound this with an owner eagerly hanging over the pen to see the little bundles of joy and you suddenly have a bitch that wants to protect her babies, wants to be left alone and wants her owner to stop fiddling with her and her babies.
Stress can cause a bitches milk to dry up, the bitch can attack her puppies, or reject them entirely.
Sometimes not all of the puppies will be born with the rest. At times, there may still be a puppy inside (usually stillborn) and it is not evident on the part of the owner.
This can cause sepsis if the puppy is not removed, which can lead to Pyometra, and eventually, death of the whelping bitch. If the whelping bitch has suffered from uterine inertia in the past, or has a history of stillborn puppies, this may be the reason she is not interested in her puppies.
Mother nature has a way of telling who is healthy and who is not. A whelping bitch (even a first time mom) will know long before humans do if there is something wrong with a particular puppy. Instinct tells them to remove the puppy.
If this is not an option, they will often kill and eat this puppy. Often, the owner will rescue the pup and try to hand raise it. Sometimes this works, other times the puppy will die, even with veterinary attention. It is the way of nature.
To avoid causing a bitch to reject her puppies, there are a few things that can be done.
# Make sure that the diet of the bitch is the best it can possibly be. New mom's do not need to be paraded in front of the neighbourhood to show off their puppies.
# If the puppies are to be viewed by people outside of the family, wait until they are weaned and their mom has finished with them.
# If the bitch is showing any signs of stress or illness, or there is a chance that there is still a puppy inside and the birth of the other puppies was more than 6 hours ago, contact a veterinarian immediately.
# Give the bitch somewhere safe, warm and comfortable to nest and have her babies, and handle them as little as possible.
Let mother nature do what it does best, but stay close enough so that if help is needed, it can be given quickly. Try not to crowd the bitch, and avoid letting small children or strangers near within the first week or so after whelping.
Bitches give birth out in the wild without the assistance of veterinary surgeons, and instinct tells them what to do, when to do it and how to care for their puppies. Left to their own devices, a healthy bitch will happily whelp and care for her babies without interference.