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Why Do Dogs Absorb Puppies?

If you are wondering why mother dogs absorb puppies, it could be your expecting dog had an ultrasound and 3 puppies were confirmed and then on whelping day your vet confirms that there are only 2, or it could be your dog looked pregnant and now she no longer does, meaning that possibly she sadly lost an entire litter. Where did the puppies go? It's as if they dissolved in thin air. Instead, more likely, mother dog could have absorbed the puppies, a natural occurrence that makes many dog breeders disappointed.

Understanding Puppy Absorption

Absorption of puppies refers to the phenomena where the fetuses die and their remains are destroyed by enzymatic breakdown. Basically, the fetuses dissolve and you won't notice anything as there are no contractions when this happens. This occurrence mostly takes place within the first half of pregnancy and it's unlikely to occur after 45 days as the pups' skeletons are mineralized by then and absorption is unlikely to occur. Therefore, prior to 45 days, dead fetuses will be absorbed; whereas after 45 days, stillborn pups will pass.

An Economical Solution

So why do dogs absorb puppies? It's an economical solution allowing a dead fetus to be broken down considering that at an early stage of pregnancy the fetus is only made of soft tissue and cartilage, explains veterinarian Steve Dean. But why do mother dogs absorb puppies in the first place? There may be various underlying causes for mother dog to absorb puppies. However, if your dog looked pregnant and now no longer does, consider that there are also other possibilities.

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A Health Complication

Absorption of puppies (the correct medical term is fetal resorption) can occur because of some health complications affecting mother dog or the puppies. Veterinarian Tracy Powell explains that the infectious causes may include bacteria such as Brucella canis, Salmonella, E- coli, Campylobacter and streptococci, parasites such as toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum and viruses such as herpesvirus, parvovirus, distemper and mycoplasma. Other potential causes may include abnormal fetal development, abnormal levels of progesterone, defects of mother dog's uterine lining, inefficient placentas, side effects of drugs given to mother dog, mother dog age, not to mention various nutritional and environmental factors such as presence of metals in water, trauma, exposure to smoke etc. Often, the exact cause is impossible to pinpoint.

Other Possible Causes

When a vet does an ultrasound and determines an exact number of puppies, and then, when mother dog whelps, there's a shortage or no puppies at all, there may be other factors other than resorption at play. It could be the vet performing the ultrasound failed to count the number of puppies correctly, which can happen sometimes. In the case of mother dog who looks pregnant and then suddenly doesn't, other than resorption, it could be she aborted the puppies or it could be she wasn't pregnant at all, but was undergoing a false pregnancy, which can also cause enlargement of the abdomen and even milk production.

A dog absorbing her puppies is surely an upsetting experience, especially when breeders do their best to grant a healthy pregnancy in hopes of a large litter. The rate of occurrence appears to be higher in younger dogs compared to adult dogs. While there are many steps breeders can take to lower the chances for such complications, one must consider that it's a natural phenomenon.

Did you know? Several studies reveal that fetal resorption is a normal occurrence and that it's more common than thought. A study by Anderson and Simpson in 1973, revealed an incidence of 11 percent, whereas, a 1993 study by Nothling and Volkmann foud an incidence rate of 12.4 percent.

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