Signs of Dead Puppies in The Womb – A Guide for Dog Owners

The joy of expecting puppies can quickly turn to sadness if some pass away before birth. As a dog owner, knowing the signs of dead puppies in the womb can help you make decisions on the next …

two puppies sleeping

The joy of expecting puppies can quickly turn to sadness if some pass away before birth. As a dog owner, knowing the signs of dead puppies in the womb can help you make decisions on the next steps. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know.

Overview of Puppy Mortality

Unfortunately, puppies dying in the womb (known as intrauterine mortality) is not uncommon. Statistics show that around 10-15% of puppies in a litter may be stillborn or die in the womb. The rate is higher in larger litters, first-time mothers, and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds.

Some common causes include:

  • Genetic defects – Issues like organ malformations. More prevalent in heavily inbred dogs.
  • Infections – Bacterial infections like Brucella canis spread from the placenta.
  • Maternal health issues – Conditions like eclampsia and uterine inertia.
  • Placental problems – Detachment or insufficient blood supply.
  • Congenital defects – Physical issues present from birth.
  • Umbilical cord accidents – Compression, twisting, or entanglement.
  • Toxins or drugs – Pesticides, medications, etc., may cause fetal or placental damage.
  • Unknown – Even in healthy dogs, some pup deaths remain unexplained.

While sad, puppy loss must be viewed as a natural part of canine reproduction. However, unusual rates of mortality indicate an underlying problem needing veterinary attention.

See Also: 7 Best Dog Clippers for Doodles of 2024

Recognizing Signs of Womb Death

How do you know if puppies have died in the womb? Here are the most common signs:

1. Lack of Fetal Movement

From around day 45 of pregnancy, you can generally feel puppies moving inside the womb if you gently press on the abdomen. Lack of movement indicates potential problems. You may also see less rippling movements under the skin.

2. Loss of Appetite and Energy

A mourning mother dog may go off her food and appear lethargic once fetal death occurs. She may also vomit. Look for these behavioral changes.

3. Nesting Behavior Stops

When puppies die, mom often stops nesting behaviors like digging beds and gathering toys. She seems to “know” something is wrong and won’t prepare a whelping site.

4. Mother’s Body Temperature Drops

A pregnant dog’s temperature normally drops to 98-100°F in the final week before delivery. But with puppy mortality, this temperature decrease happens earlier. Check for a lower than normal temp.

5.Continuous Green or Black Discharge

Normal discharge turns from clear to milky white before whelping. But constant green or black discharge can indicate placental detachment and womb infections from dead puppies. The foul smell is also possible.

6. Mother Dog Acting Sick

Signs like lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite often accompany dying puppies. The mother’s body recognizes a problem and goes into self-protection mode.

7. Early Labor Contractions

Dead puppies trigger prostaglandin release, inducing pre-term labor. If you see strong contractions 1-2 weeks pre-delivery, it likely indicates puppies in distress.

8. No Weight Gain or Weight Loss

In late pregnancy, female dogs should gain up to 50% of body weight. Lack of weight gain or actual weight loss flags the potential for womb death.

9. Puppies Overdue

Normal gestation is 58-68 days. Pregnancies rarely go beyond 70 days. Overdue litters point to mortality, as dead puppies don’t initiate labor hormones.

10. Lack of Fetal Heartbeats

An ultrasound from 28 days into pregnancy can check for puppy heartbeats. Their absence indicates a loss. Doppler devices can also monitor heart rates through the abdomen.

If you notice any combination of these signs, take your dog to the vet for an emergency check. Timely action gives the best chance of saving surviving puppies.

See also: What Happened to Annie Wilkins’ Dog: A Heartwarming Tale of Love and Loss

Your Vet Checklist With Suspected Womb Death

If you suspect puppies have died in the womb, your vet will likely undertake these steps:

  • Physical exam – Check mother dog’s temperature, discharge, abdomen, and overall health.
  • Lab tests – Blood work, urinalysis, and bacterial cultures to uncover any infections.
  • Diagnostic imaging – X-rays or ultrasounds to see puppies and placentas.
  • Fetal monitoring – Dopplers detect heartbeats. Lack of movement is also important.
  • Womb flushing – Infections may be flushed out with sterile saline.
  • Oxytocin – Elicit contractions to expel dead puppies and placentas.
  • Antibiotics – Given prophylactically or if infections are found.
  • Eclampsia prevention – Calcium supplements if whelping is delayed.
  • C-section – To remove any remaining deceased puppies.
  • Aftercare – Fluids, nutrition support, pain relief.

Don’t try home remedies. Get veterinary assistance immediately at the first warning signs. Time is critical.

What Happens If Puppies Die In Utero?

So what happens if puppies pass away in the womb at different pregnancy stages? Here’s an overview:

Early Pregnancy Loss

  • Before day 35 – Resorption occurs, where dead embryos are absorbed into the mother’s body for expulsion. The pregnancy may terminate entirely.
  • Up to day 45 – Abortion happens, expelling deceased embryos similar to a normal miscarriage. Pregnancy may still continue normally if some embryos survive.

Mid-Pregnancy Loss

  • 3-5 weeks – Expulsion of deceased fetuses along with placentas typically triggered by oxytocin release. This can happen alongside live births.

Late Pregnancy Loss

  • Over 5 weeks – Dead puppies initiate labor hormones resulting in premature birth. They are expelled first, followed by live puppies, if present.

In all cases, the dead puppies and placentas must pass, even if surgically removed. The mother dog may continue having contractions and show nesting behaviors until everything has been discharged.

Caring For The Mother Dog After Womb Death

Seeing your dog through pregnancy loss can be difficult. Here’s how to support her:

  • Keep her hydrated with frequent water drinking. Add bone broth for nutrition.
  • Feed small, frequent, high-protein meals. Opt for bland foods like boiled chicken and rice if nauseous.
  • Make a nesting area with blankets. Provide comfort and calm stresses.
  • Gently walk her outside for bathroom breaks. Limit strenuous exercise.
  • Monitor for post-birth discharge and take to the vet if foul-smelling.
  • Discuss pain medication and anti-inflammatories with your vet if needed.
  • Limit visitors and noise. The loss may make her skittish and anxious.
  • Shower love with gentle pats and affection. Reassure her it wasn’t her fault.
  • Keep a close eye on behavioral changes like loss of appetite, lethargy, or restlessness. Notify your vet promptly.

With attentive aftercare, most mother dogs bounce back physically and emotionally. Ensure she feels protected, comfortable, and loved.

See also: Was That a Real Dead Dog in Cool Hand Luke?

Questions and Answers

Here are some common questions about dead puppies in the womb:

1: How long can dead puppies stay inside the mother?

A: Up to 3 weeks, after which infection risk rises. Veterinary assistance is recommended for safe removal within 1-2 days max of noticing signs of mortality.

2: Can a dog miscarry just one puppy?

A: Yes, individual puppy death and miscarriage are possible, especially in larger litters. The deceased puppy will get expelled while others continue developing.

3: Do dead puppies decompose inside the womb?

A: Decomposition does occur but slowly until birth due to amniotic fluids. Puppy remains may become mummified and flattened over time. Discharge and infection can result.

4: What happens to surviving puppies if one dies in utero?

A: They are typically born healthy at term. The deceased puppy often forms a dark mass in the placenta, leaving the living puppy sacs intact.

5: Can another dog in the home sense the puppies died?

A: Yes, dogs can detect hormonal changes and behavioral differences indicating distress in their housemate. They may attempt to comfort her.

Preventing Pregnancy Loss

While some amount of natural loss should be expected, you can take these measures to nurture a healthy pregnancy:

  • Start prenatal care early. Discuss diet, supplements, exercise, and risk factors.
  • Feed a high-quality diet with additional protein and minerals. Continue exercise.
  • Avoid toxins like pesticides, chemicals, plants, and medications (unless vet approved).
  • Perform genetic testing and consider outcrossing away from direct inbreeding.
  • Vaccinate against Brucella canis to prevent placental infections between parent dogs.
  • Plan C-sections for high-risk breeds if medically suitable.
  • Avoid the first heat period, as eggs may not be viable yet for young females.
  • Check for congenital issues like umbilical hernias, which increase mortality risk.
  • Screen for parasites and diseases. Treat accordingly.
  • Know the whelping timeline and prepare a birthing kit. Be ready to assist.

Although sad, try viewing some puppy loss as inevitable. With supportive care, mom dogs usually recover well physically and emotionally. Focus on the joy of new life and nurturing the surviving litter.

See also: Why Are Dog Handlers So Fat: Unraveling the Mystery


Puppy death in the womb can be heartbreaking but often happens naturally. As a dog owner, watch for the signs, contact your vet, and take comfort knowing you provided the best care possible. Most moms bounce back when given affection, rest, and time to heal. With each litter, celebrate the little lives you get to raise while remembering those meant for another purpose.


  1. Miscarriage in Dogs – VCA Hospitals
  2. Signs of a Dead Puppy Inside Mother’s Womb – Emergency Vets USA
  3. Absorbing a Puppy in the Womb – Dog Breed Info

Featured Image:

Read More:

Leave a Comment