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Why Do Dogs Sometimes Eat Their Placenta? Is It Normal?

Dogs have a much different way of doing things than humans—it’s no secret. No matter how relatable they are, they are still animals with instincts that we don’t always understand. If you have witnessed or heard of a dog eating placentas after birth, it might strike you as disgusting.

However, this is an act of nature that is easily understood if you look at the scientific facts. So, why exactly do dogs eat their placentas? We’re going to go over all of that and more.

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What Is Placenta?

placenta of a dog
Image Credit: Marina Veder, Shutterstock

A placenta is an organ that is a direct result of pregnancy. The placenta is a crucial part of the development process with fetuses, carrying all of the necessary developmental oxygen and nutrients.

Dogs can have up to 12 puppies per litter, and each of them has its own placenta. Once the puppy is born, the placenta serves no more purpose once the puppy detaches. Sometimes it comes out on its own once the pup passes, and the mother tidies up the afterbirth.

Birthing Puppies

During the labor process, the mother will give birth to one puppy at a time. As each puppy comes out, the mother will lick them clean.  She then severs the umbilical cord that connects the placenta to the pup.

Dogs typically give birth to a litter of four to six puppies at a time, but it can be a few more or less, depending on the breed. The birthing process itself can take 3 to 12 hours to complete.

caesarean birth
Image Credit: Henk Vrieselaar, Shutterstock

Why a Mother Eats the Placenta

Typically the mother will not eat the placenta from each puppy, but she may eat a few. Not only is she cleaning up, but she’s also reaping the nutrients that the placenta provides. She is losing a lot of her physical resources and overall nutrition by delivering the puppies.

Here are a few benefits:

Replenishes mother’s energy

Having a litter of puppies takes a lot out of a lady. Eating the placenta is like the mother’s first meal served on a platter. It gives her back the nutrients that her body is losing as a way to recover.

It offers a boost of protein

Since the placenta is an organ, it is chock full of protein. The protein works to feed the muscles after delivery.

Keeps weaning area clean

Mothers are very particular about the cleanliness of their birthing area. Cleaning up the afterbirth by eating it ensures that the area remains sanitary.

Why a Mother Would Eat a Puppy

As unfortunate as it sounds, in addition to eating placentas, sometimes a mother will eat a puppy. There are a few different reasons this can happen, although it is very uncommon.

One of the first reasons is because something is wrong with the puppy. There could be an underlying illness, or the puppy might just not be developmentally viable. In this case, the mother will eat the puppy to prevent contamination to the other litter members.

Post-Birth Process

Once all of the puppies are born, cleaned, and warm, you can check out how much is left to clean up. Some others are extremely clean, while others leave quite a mess. The bedding will need to be changed, and you will need to monitor each of the puppies.

Try not to disturb the mother as much as you can. As you probably know, she just went through quite a traumatic bodily experience.

If the mother doesn’t pass afterbirth, it can lead to a condition called metritis. Metritis is a bacterial infection inside of the uterus, and it can be deadly if left untreated. If you notice the mother being unusually lethargic, lacking appetite, or showing puppy neglect, don’t hesitate to call your vet.

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So, if your dog ate a few of the baby’s placentas after they were born, it is perfectly normal. In fact, it’s quite expected—not to mention healthy for your dog to be able to reap the beneficial nutritional value.

Not every motherly instinct is the same. If the mother is eating puppies, it isn’t an everyday phenomenon but it might be necessary due to illness or lack of viability. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the birthing process, contact your veterinarian.

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Featured Image Credit: XIE WENHUI, Shutterstock