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Stillborn Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and High-Risk Breeds

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Stillborn dogs are puppies that die before birth, which can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as the health and fertility of the mother, breed type, and litter size.
  • Certain dog breeds are more predisposed to having difficulties in birth and higher stillborn numbers, such as Dogue de Bordeaux and Dalmatians due to factors such as head size or larger litter numbers.
  • Preventative measures to minimise stillborn births include ensuring that the mother and stud have undergone thorough health checks for bacteria, viruses, STIs, and physiological abnormalities.
  • It is important to research the effects of medication on pregnant females and not to breed from females who have miscarried because of STI, age, or bacteria such as Brucellosis.
  • While a mother dog may consume her young to dispose of a body before it can affect the other puppies, it is best to avoid this practice by removing the body to prevent her from developing this behaviour.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Wednesday 23 October 2019
Last updated on
Friday 19 May 2023
stillborn dogs
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Even the most knowledgeable and experienced breeders can still produce litters with stillborn dogs. This article has been created to help educate you on the reasons why and preventative measures.

A stillborn dog is one who has died within the womb and before birth. The reasons behind this are very far spread. Including the health and fertility of the mother, breed type, and litter size to name a few. Miscarriages may terminate a full pregnancy but few breeders know why one puppy may have died while the rest lived. There are ways to help avert stillborn births as much as possible and we will be detailing them here.

Let us answer your general questions about stillborn dogs, and make sure to read through our other articles on fetal absorption.

What is a stillborn dog?

When a puppy dies before birth, it’s called a stillborn. This can happen to the whole litter or just one puppy. On the other hand, when a dog miscarries, the pregnancy ends, and no puppies are born. It’s important to note that a miscarriage results in stillborn puppies, but not all stillborn puppies come from a miscarriage.

Sadly, stillborn puppies can pass away at any point during the pregnancy, and their death may be a result of various reasons. Stillborn puppies can cause a significant impact on the litter’s and the mother’s health, even if the mother is healthy otherwise. The timing of a stillborn puppy’s death can affect the pregnancy’s birth date and result in premature and weak puppies or undeveloped litter. It’s essential for breeders to understand this to prevent stillborn births and save the lives of the mother and the remaining litter.

In conclusion, it’s crucial to understand the difference between stillborn and miscarriage and know the possible consequences of stillborn puppies. By preventing stillborn births, we can ensure the health of the mother and the litter

What causes dogs to be stillborn?

There are many different reasons for a stillborn birth of which we will explain here:


  • Breed: Certain dog breeds are more prone to difficult births and higher stillborn rates due to poor health, oversized heads (like Mastiffs), or narrow frames (like Greyhounds).
  • Dystocia: This occurs when there are difficulties during birth, which can be caused by factors such as puppy size, hip width in the mother, or infections in the vaginal or urinary tracts.
  • Bacteria or viruses: Bacterial or viral infections can be passed from the mother to puppies during pregnancy or birth, which may result in stillborn births or deaths shortly after birth.
  • STI: Sexually transmitted infections can also be passed from the mother to puppies, potentially causing stillborn births. Checking the health of both parents before breeding is essential.
  • The mother’s health: If a mother is in poor health, her body may terminate the pregnancy if it cannot support it. Factors like age, stress, nutrition, or weight can influence this.
  • Drugs: Prescription medication or herbal remedies can negatively affect pregnancy and may result in stillborn puppies.
  • Defects: If a puppy in the womb has severe physical or mental defects, the pregnancy may be terminated, or the puppy may die in the womb.

Can you resuscitate a stillborn puppy?

Reviving a stillborn dog is very unlikely, but it’s not impossible. The success of resuscitation depends on the situation. If you’re trying to revive a stillborn puppy, here’s what you can do:

First, use a suction bulb to remove any liquid from the puppy’s throat. Then, gently turn the puppy onto its back while supporting its head.

Next, rub the back and neck of the puppy gently to stimulate blood flow. Although this technique is the best option for resuscitating newborns, it’s still unlikely to work.

canine dystocia
Labor is divided into three phases and problems can arise in any of the three phases.

How to prevent stillborn puppies in pregnant dogs?

First and foremost, it’s essential to ensure that both the male and female dogs have undergone thorough health checks, which include bacteria, virus, and STI checks, as well as physical examinations. Identifying any physiological abnormalities in the female, such as abdominal growths or vulva deformities, is crucial to minimize the risk of passing on illnesses. This significantly reduces the risk of difficulties during birth or stillborn puppies.

Continuing to check the female dog’s health is equally important. Consider individual differences, such as age, when choosing a female. Stress is another factor that can affect hormone levels and blood flow, which can impact the health of the puppies. To minimize stress in the female dog:

  • Ensure her living environment is calm, quiet, and not too cluttered or loud
  • Provide access to water at all times and ensure her diet is sufficient for a pregnant dog
  • Allow her to exercise when she wants to, but avoid taking her to a busy dog field, especially during certain stages of pregnancy
  • Provide her with a private area to retreat to when she needs it

It’s also essential to note any medications given to the female dog, whether prescribed or herbal. Some medications can contribute to stillborn births, depending on the type. If your dog is on any medication, consult your vet before trying to mate her.

If you have any concerns or wish to have your dog checked by a professional, it’s highly recommended to take her to the vet. They can provide physical health checks, medication recommendations, and individual advice

What dog breeds are the most at risk of stillborn dogs?

According to a study in 2012, these are five breeds prone to stillborn births.

  1. Dogue de Bordeaux: This breed has a high number of stillborn births due to large litter numbers, the narrow hips of the mother, and the large head size of the puppies. The puppies may be unable to get enough oxygen during pregnancy and may also struggle during birth.
  2. Dalmatian: This breed often has larger litters, which can lead to longer labor times and complications that increase the risk of stillborn births.
  3. Rhodesian Ridgebacks: These dogs are bred with a desired ridge that weakens their lower back, stomach, and leg muscles, making it harder to push during birth and provide enough oxygen to the puppies.
  4. St Bernard: This breed is naturally born with very large heads, which can make it difficult for the mother to give birth. The puppies may get stuck in the birth canal, causing them to suffocate or have the umbilical cord wrapped around their throats.
  5. Pug: Although small, this breed has a large head and shoulders, which can make it difficult for the mother to give birth due to size. Additionally, the larger bone structure of this breed can mean that puppies struggle to find enough space in the womb and may not receive enough nutrients
Dog Whelping Timeline
Read our article detailing the dog whelping timeline.

Can I breed a dog who went through a miscarriage again?

If a female dog has had a miscarriage, it’s important to understand why it happened before deciding whether to breed her again. If the cause was due to hormone imbalance or genetic abnormalities, she may be able to carry a litter after recovering. It’s best to take her to the vet for advice, ultrasounds, and blood tests to monitor her hormone levels and overall health to ensure that she’s ready for another pregnancy. However, it’s crucial not to breed her until she’s fully recovered and your vet recommends doing so.

On the other hand, if the dog miscarried due to STIs, age, or bacteria such as Brucellosis, she won’t be able to carry a pregnancy again. These dogs need to be supported to recover fully, and breeding should not be attempted again.

It’s always wise to seek a professional opinion from a veterinarian regarding whether to breed a female dog again after a miscarriage. They can offer guidance on how to help her recover properly and prevent any future complications


What should I do with a puppy born dead?

When a puppy is stillborn, it can be difficult to decide what to do next. You have a few options. You can contact your local veterinarian who will dispose of the body for you. Some vet clinics may even offer to return the ashes to you. Another option is to contact animal control, but it’s unlikely that you will be able to receive the ashes back.

Alternatively, you can visit a pet crematorium in your area. They may offer cremation, a casket, or even a place to bury the puppy on their land for a fee. If you choose cremation or a casket, you can receive the remains to bury on your own property if you have the space

Should I remove puppies dead at birth?

It is essential to allow the mother dog time to grieve over her lost puppies. When a mother dog gives birth, she usually knows how many puppies she has delivered. If you immediately remove a dead puppy, she may become agitated and even aggressive, which could put you, her, and the rest of the litter at risk. Leave the puppy with her, do not clean it, so it retains its natural scent. Eventually, she will understand that the puppy has passed away because of its temperature change and lack of movement.

Regarding ill puppies or mother dogs, it’s important to remove the body immediately to prevent any further harm. Although it’s necessary to let the mother grieve, leaving the dead body for too long may cause it to rot and become a hazard for the mother, puppies, and yourself.

causes of puppy absorption
Younger female dogs and first-time canine mothers tend to be more at risk with puppy absorption.

Can old age cause stillborn puppies?

Yes, old age can cause stillborn puppies. This happens when a female dog is not able to carry the pregnancy to term or if it puts her own life at risk. As a dog gets older, it may become more difficult for her to carry the extra weight of the pregnancy, and she may struggle with mobility. Also, older dogs may not be able to birth the puppies due to the amount of energy required. Therefore, the probability of stillborn puppies is much higher in older dogs than in younger ones.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a specific age limit for dogs to breed, as each breed differs. It’s best to research the breed you are breeding from and consult with a veterinarian. If the mating is between two different breeds, it’s essential to research both the mother and father. Veterinary recommendations are always the best course of action when it comes to your dog’s health

Can having stillborn puppies cause trauma to the bitch?

It is possible for physical trauma to occur in stillborn puppies, but it depends on the reason for the stillbirth. In most cases, the reason for stillbirth is more likely to negatively affect the mother dog, such as an infection that can cause scarring of the womb or vaginal lining.


While it’s unlikely for a mother dog to suffer permanent emotional trauma due to stillbirth, it’s common for her to mourn and even become depressed. This depression can show up as lethargy or a lack of interest in food. It’s essential to pay close attention to your dog and monitor any changes in their behavior

Are genetic problems an issue to result in stillborn puppies?

Some medical problems in dogs can be inherited from their mother. This means that the problem is passed down from the mother’s genes to her puppies. Sometimes, these genetic issues can result in stillborn puppies, which means they don’t survive after birth. Even if a puppy has a genetic problem, it doesn’t always mean that it will be stillborn, but the chances are higher.

If both the mother and father carry genes for the same genetic issue, they can produce puppies that may be stillborn, even if they both appear healthy. It’s important to avoid breeding dogs that have genetic issues because this increases the risk of the puppies inheriting the same problems. Instead, it’s best to breed only from healthy dogs to reduce the chances of any medical issues in the puppies

Is it safe for a dog to eat stillborn puppies?

It’s natural for a mother dog to eat her stillborn puppies to keep their surroundings clean, but when it comes to breeding our pets, it’s important to handle things differently. If a puppy is stillborn due to an infection or bacteria, it’s best to remove it from the mother to prevent any health complications.

Allowing the mother to consume the puppy may lead to her developing a habit of eating unhealthy stillborn puppies or even live young ones. To prevent this, it’s best to discourage the behavior from the start.

8 comments on “Stillborn Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and High-Risk Breeds”

  1. Ayo Handy-Kendi

    Thank you so much for the information and resources you have offered here. We have a mixed Yorkie/Poodle who we mated with a pure-Yorkie. They are both approximately 5 years of age. Just your suggestion of checking out their breed to learn more about their individual breeding traits was most helpful. And I was concerned about “eating puppies” as I had heard this. Again, I can’t thank you enough.

  2. TJ

    I have a female frenchie who lost her whole liter sometime after the 40th day of pregnancy. A whole slew of tests were done on the mother and one of the fetuses. Nothing came back in terms of infection, virus, bacteria, brucellosis, STI etc. – nothing. All samples were negative and uterine biopsy was healthy. Around that time we had very smokey days as we were about 40 miles from wild fires and also everyday for 2 weeks over 100 degrees. Could anything external like this have been the cause?

  3. David

    My boxer has lost all ten puppies all still birth all came out fully formed full term any one have any answers please

    1. Richard burbidge

      Hi David so sorry reading this my border terrier gave birth to a stillborn and it was the only pup she gave birth to,
      Ow is your boxer now? My terrier is morning her pup we took it away after15 mins and two days later the mother is still nesting and hardly eating,
      I hope your boxer recovered from its emotional trauma?

  4. Lorna

    Hi my cockapoo just had 3pup 2weeks early and they were sillborn but she wont eat is this normal pls help.

  5. Chontelle

    If a dog looses 2 out of 5 puppies during birth. Will the surving puppies be healthy? Or is this a sign of a genetic or health issue?

    Should I get one of the remaining puppies or find a new breeder?

  6. Kya

    My pit bull had four puppies the frist one was fine the second tcame out stillborn the third one was okay and the fourth one was bleeding very dark blood from the mouth and stillborn she still looks pregnant but it’s been 10 hours any answers?

  7. Abbey

    Good morning all,my colonel just give birth to a still birth and a half body puppy, the stomach is still heavy and she is dripping blood , what can I do to rescue my dog,pls urgently

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