Suppose your pet is not cleaning her puppies; it may be a case of dog rejection. This occurs when your dog feels no emotional or maternal connection with its litter. Consequently, your pet will have no interest in its puppies.

However, even if you find it hard to believe, your dog can reject its puppy due to its adorable nature. Unfortunately, the truth is that it is more than possible.

A mother dog can turn on her puppies and reject her litter. It could be due to illness. Additionally, it could be because a puppy appears too weak to be worthy of her care or simply due to a lack of maternal instinct.

Your dog’s maternal instincts may not always kick in after it gives birth. You should know which indicators to look for ahead of time if you want the best chance of protecting your pups. Your pet’s puppies may die if you don’t intervene during rejection.

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Table of Contents

Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Lick Her Puppies

cleaning her puppies
cuddling cute puppies – image by Elena Mozhvilo

Stress or Anxiety

When your dog is under a lot of stress or is frightened, she will not be able to feed or clean her puppies. In some cases, it might attack them. It is essential to provide a good, quiet space for your new dog mother and its pups to be away from other people.

Inexperienced Mothers

It is never advisable to breed your pet during its first heat cycle. This is because your pet is too young and inexperienced in caring for her litter or cleaning her puppies. Your inexperienced dog will find it challenging to create a bond with its puppies.

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Furthermore, it is likely unable to cope with the stress of giving birth to its puppies and caring for them during their formative period. Moreover, it will be unfit to feed or clean its puppies. This is why seeing an inexperienced dog not cleaning her puppies is unsurprising.

If this is your dog’s first litter of puppies, she may be terrified or overwhelmed, unsure of what to do. Encourage her to nurse and speak softly in a friendly tone to help her. If it refuses to care for its puppies or gets violent, you should feed and care for them yourself.

Illness or Infection May Be Why Your Pet Is Not Cleaning Her Puppies

Suppose your new mother dog is sick, has an infection, or is in pain. It may not feel like caring for its puppies and will not want to nurse them. Mastitis, for one, is an infection that can cause a dog to reject or ignore its puppies.

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Metritis is another infection that affects a dog. This uterus infection occurs after birth and causes vaginal discharge, lethargy, and a fever in some mother dogs. If left untreated, these infections in dogs can be lethal.

These infections can affect a mother dog’s ability to nurse and cater for its puppies. It would be best if you cared for your puppies yourself until your pet recovered sufficiently to assume her responsibilities and care for its puppies.

Defective Puppies

Sometimes, when your pet gives birth in its litter, there may be one or two defective puppies. If the puppies are unhealthy or malformed, your dog mother may reject them and refuse to clean her puppies.

The preference will be to concentrate on the healthy puppies and leave the ailing ones to die or kill them as it is their nature. Suppose this occurs; you can easily care for the puppy yourself with assistance from your veterinarian.

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Birth Through Surgery

It does not feel the same for your dog when it gives birth through surgery compared to delivering its puppies. Your pet is likely to have a sort of disconnect from its puppies if it gives birth through a cesarean section.

During a normal birth, the mother generates oxytocin, which raises hormone levels and makes her want to look after her puppies. If your dog has a cesarean section, she will not receive the hormone boost that encourages her to become a mother.

Litter Size

The sheer number of puppies can be overwhelming for your pet. It might be unable to cope with taking care of such a large number of puppies, which might cause it to take care of some and neglect some of the other puppies.

You can help your pet by ensuring that you cater to some of its puppies by feeding and cleaning them, which will help reduce the stress on your pet.

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What You Should Do If Your Dog Is Not Cleaning Her Puppies

Suppose your dog is not cleaning her puppies. You should contact your veterinarian right away. Suppose it displays signs of illness or injury; a veterinary doctor will evaluate your pet to determine why your dog is rejecting its litter.

At the same time, you should assess your puppies to ascertain if they have an infection or defect causing their mother to reject it. If the dog mother is not licking its puppies, you must contact your vet to direct you to nurse them.

Remove your puppies quickly if their mother shows signs of aggression toward them, which could lead to canine infanticide. Ensure you do not return them to their mother until you have determined the cause of the aggressiveness and addressed it.


As earlier stated, low oxytocin levels are associated with a lack of maternal instinct in dogs. And a dog will reject its puppies because it lacks motherly intuition. Oxytocin is why most dogs that deliver themselves develop a strong bond with their puppies.

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Your pet may have all the required maternal instincts and still be indifferent to its puppies. However, this may be due to the illness of the mother or its puppies or defects in the puppies.

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