Why does a mother dog stop feeding her puppies at 3 weeks old?

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In this article, you will know the answer to the query “Why does a mother dog stop feeding her puppies at 3 weeks old?“.

You know that puppies are a lot of work if you have ever owned one or raised your own litter. Carrying, giving birth, and caring for her puppies is an involved process for the mother dog.

Despite the fact that most mother dogs do a good job with their puppies, some are not suited to motherhood, and others are simply hindered by the following problems.

So what’s a person to do when things have been going well all of a sudden, and then they don’t? Can you imagine if a mother dog stopped feeding her puppies? How would that make you feel?

Regardless of how many litters of puppies you have raised, it is scary to learn that your mother’s dog no longer feeds her puppies.

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As a first step, we should acknowledge that a mother dog begins weaning her pups when they are three to five weeks old (Paretts, 2020).

Naturally, the pups will undergo this process over several weeks, typically ending by the time they are eight weeks old (Breeding Business, 2021).

It is more likely that something is wrong if a mother suddenly refuses to feed her pups when they are weaned rather than that something is wrong with the mother. As we will discuss below, there are a number of reasons for this to occur.

The following are some reasons a mother dog might stop feeding her 3-week old puppies:

  1. Issues or concerns regarding health
  2. Problems with milk production
  3. Irritation or pain caused by puppies
  4. One or more puppies are rejected

Health Concerns

One of the main reasons a mother may suddenly stop feeding her puppies is a medical problem.

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Almost every medical condition we will cover will be painful to nurse, and there are times when the dam’s body simply won’t continue to produce milk (Besteiros, 2019).

It is vital to diagnose and treat these conditions because they can spread rapidly, making both puppies and mothers very sick or even causing death. 

It is common for a mother dog to refuse to feed her pups if she has mastitis. It causes swelling and a lot of pain because of a bacterial infection in the mammary glands.

Milk may also be affected by the infection in terms of its appearance, composition, and scent. Thankfully, most puppies will refuse to drink milk affected by mastitis because the infection makes it toxic for them (Besteiros, 2019).

Symptoms of mastitis include swelling of the breasts or teats, blood or pus in the milk or oozing from the teats, and hot mammary glands (Kruzer, 2020).

As another common infection in nursing dogs, metritis is a bacterial uterine infection that generally begins during labor or shortly thereafter.

Although the infection is initially located in the uterus, it is capable of spreading to the blood and infecting other parts of the body.

Without treatment, this can lead to sterilization of the dog and even septic shock.

There are several signs and symptoms of this condition, including fever, a foul vaginal discharge, blood oozing from the vagina, and a swollen abdomen (Pet MD Editorial, 2016).

Eclampsia or milk fever is another common and serious condition. During nursing, a dam’s calcium levels are severely depleted, leading to this condition.

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There is usually heavy panting, fever, tremors, lack of coordination, and restlessness associated with it (Besteiros, 2019). It is crucial to provide prompt veterinary care in this matter (Llera & Ward, 2019). 

Veterinary care should be sought if you suspect your dog is suffering from any of these conditions, or any other illness not listed here.

The survival of your dog and pups depends on early and urgent veterinary intervention. In the case of all of these diseases, it may be necessary for you to take over feeding the puppies as it may not be in the dam’s best interests to allow normal nursing to continue.

Milk Production

When pups refuse to eat, it’s not always due to illness, but rather to problems with milk production (Besteiros, 2019).

Such issues frequently cause a mother dog to reject her litter or even abandon it completely. To prevent the dam from becoming disinterested, the issue must be corrected as soon as possible.

The first scenario describes a problem with the flow of milk from the breast to the teat. Malformed teats or stress can cause this problem.

A specialist may be able to treat this condition in some cases, but it must be done as quickly as possible, and that is not always the case.

The dam may also have agalactia, or an insufficient supply of milk (Besteiros, 2019). There can be genetic disorders, illnesses such as those listed above, or a litter of puppies that is unusually large.

Enhancing the mother’s diet and treating any health issues can improve milk production. To provide enough nutrition to the puppies, it may be necessary to supplement formula and puppy food in very large litters.

Pain or irritation

It is natural for the pain to be irritating and discouraging. It usually takes puppies only a few weeks to develop sharp little claws, despite their small size.

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Puppies may cause chafing or scratching on the dam’s skin as they move around and knead against her breasts.

Puppies’ nails should be gently trimmed once they are a few days old so that their mother is not injured.

As the pups’ teeth nip against her teats, there is little that can be done to ease the dam’s pain (Paretts, 2020).

As with other mothers, especially first-timers, the dam may become frustrated and irritated by the constant presence of the puppies.

It can be quite a challenge to feed, clean, and care for five or six puppies. It is particularly difficult for a dam to deal with this if she does not have a place to escape to for a few quiet moments to reset and relax.

It is easy to resolve this issue by allowing the dam to enter and exit the whelping box at will, and by making sure she is fed away from the puppies.

Rejection of one or more pups

Despite doing everything right and not having any issues, sometimes a mother dog may reject one or all of her puppies (Bunny, 2018). 

It is likely that a puppy that seems to be rejected is sickly or has a birth defect (Besteiros, 2019).

The mother’s sacrifice of a weak puppy for the sake of the strong ones may seem cruel, but it is her natural instinct to do so. With the right veterinary care, most sick puppies will recover, and no one will ever know.

A mother dog who rejects several puppies, or even the entire litter, is more likely to be suffering from a medical condition.

In addition to medical issues, problems associated with milk production, and feeling overwhelmed, a dog’s mother can reject or abandon her puppies.

Lack of maternal instinct may also be a reason for a mother dog rejecting her pups.

Typically, this results from dogs being taken from their mothers too young or becoming pregnant before they are mature (Bunny, 2018).

Dogs who have undergone cesarean sections are also susceptible to this condition.

According to experts, these scenarios cause a lack of maternal hormones like oxytocin, which are meant to encourage motherly behavior and attentiveness to the pups.

What to do if your mother’s dog refuses to feed her puppies?

We now come to the crux of the matter. How should you handle this situation if this is occurring to you? Your dog has stopped feeding her puppies. What should you do?

You should bring your puppy and your dog to the veterinarian.

Both the dam and pups will be examined by the vet to ensure there are no health issues, problems with milk production, as well as no pups at risk of rejection (Bunny, 2018). 

You should follow your veterinarian’s advice.

Veterinarians are experts in this field, so you should follow their advice. This includes any possible treatment plans, formula feeding, or special care your animals may require.

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You will be responsible for the consequences if you do not follow your veterinarian’s advice. Occasionally, there are scenarios that seem cruel or unnatural, like separating a dam from her puppies if she is deemed likely to hurt them.

The responsibility lies with you, however, to ensure that all involved animals are treated as humanely as possible.


No species is immune to the challenges of pregnancy and raising young, and dogs are no exception. It is possible for your dog to stop feeding her puppies even if she has done everything right.

Take a deep breath if this happens to you and you’re searching the internet in a state of panic. You now have the necessary knowledge about what is going on, why it is happening, and what can be done about it after reading this article.

Put your phone down, contact your veterinarian, and rest assured that everything will work out.

If you want to read more about puppies-related updates, read here: Puppies.

Why does a mother dog stop feeding her puppies at 3 weeks old? (Watch Video)

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