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

correct answerThe Short Answer is:

The following are some reasons a mother dog might stop feeding her 3-week-old puppies: Issues or concerns regarding health Problems with milk production Irritation or pain caused by puppies and One or more puppies being rejected.

In this research 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 whats a person to do when things have been going well all of a sudden and then they do not? 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 mothers dog no longer feeds her puppies.

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.

Almost every medical condition we will cover will be painful to nurse and there are times when the dams body simply would not 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 dams calcium levels are severely depleted leading to this condition.

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 dams best interests to allow normal nursing to continue.

Milk Production

When pups refuse to eat its 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 mothers 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.

Puppies may cause chafing or scratching on the dams 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 dams 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 mothers 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 dogs 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 mothers 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 veterinarians 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.

You will be responsible for the consequences if you do not follow your veterinarians 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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