Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 18th 2015 Contents B8
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt October 18, 2015
"I m not fat, I m pregnant!" are words we some-
times see on T-shirts sported by expectant mothers.
The conversation naturally turns to "how far along
are you?" and mum-to-be proudly states the due
date. After approximately nine months of careful
preparation and anticipation the miracle of birth
takes place and...mum eats the newborn baby?
Something is definitely wrong with that ending!
While infanticide in humans fills us with shock and
horror, this behaviour is perfectly normal, albeit
still not considered acceptable by humans, in many
species of animals.
The average gestation period for a dog is 63 days
or about two months. Those owners who have chosen
to responsibly breed their dog should be well-educated
in the additional care that they need to provide for
the mother throughout her pregnancy---such as special
diet requirements, regular medical check-ups and a
comfortable, secure, quiet environment in which to
whelp the puppies. When the time for parturition
draws near the mother will prepare a nesting area
where she gives birth, with approximately 15 to 30
minute intervals between deliveries. The number of
puppies relies on a variety of factors including breed
and maturity of the dog. Once the puppies are born,
the mother devotes all of her time and resources to
their welfare. Puppies are born blind, deaf, with no
teeth, unable to regulate their body temperature---in
short, they are helpless and without mom s undivided
attention they would perish.
Why then do some mums kill their puppies?
It is important not to jump to conclusions and
wrongly assign blame to your dog which may make
you view her with repulsion and anger. If you find
a dead puppy, it does not necessarily mean that the
mother killed the pup. You can only justify this
assumption if you witness the mother in the act of
infanticide. Puppies may naturally die for a number
of reasons including infection, physical defects and
being too hot or too cold.
There are cases of accidental infanticide where the
mother may inadvertently crush or smother and kill
a puppy by rolling, stepping or lying down on the
hapless pup. The nesting area should be roomy enough
to reduce this likelihood, and the provision of a well-
designed whelping box with safe areas for the pups
will further decrease any possibility of accidental
In other cases, the behaviour performed by the
mother is deliberate and seemingly cruel. She may
bite the puppy, shake the pup to death, rip the head
off or even eat the puppy. While humans will be nat-
urally disgusted by such an incident, this may be
part of natural selection. The mother may be able
to sense that the puppy is sick, deformed or stillborn.
It makes evolutionary sense for the mother to make
use of the food resource provided by that puppy by
eating it, as well as conserve her resources for the
healthy puppies who are likely to survive, and to
remove the carcass which may attract predators.
Some mothers may simply have been bred too young
and are unable to cope with the stress while others
are psychologically unstable. Such dogs should be
spayed and never bred as there is a suspected genetic
link meaning that this form of cannibalism may be
Mothers who have not been able to give birth nat-
urally and have undergone Caesarean sections may
fail to recognise their offspring because of the lack
of natural hormones (such as the bonding hormone,
oxytocin) produced during natural birth. Puppies
handled too much by humans or taken away to have
their tails docked and then returned to the mother
may also be killed as the mother may consider them
contaminated or damaged. A stressful environment
such as too many people coming to see the puppies,
too much noise, or too large a litter may cause the
mother to do the unthinkable.
It is therefore important that you monitor mother
and puppies during the first few weeks after she has
given birth but as always, prevent unwanted preg-
nancies by spaying your female dog.
Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath
2015. For further info, contact 689-8113
or bestpetsbehave@ hotmail.com
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