Stress can have both short and long-term effects on the body. Maternal stress can have a negative impact on pregnant and whelping dogs. The most important time to prevent maternal stress is just before, during and after birth (peripartum period).
Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It can negatively impact a dam in many ways. When stress hormones are released, blood vessels constrict. This changes blood flow to many parts of the body, and can result in digestive issues, decreased immunity, increased thirst, and sleep disruption.
Minimizing stress is important for dam health and well-being. Her health impacts her puppies physical and behavioral health. Caretakers should reduce stressors in the pregnant or whelping dam’s environment.
If a dog experiences stress during pregnancy, it can have harmful effects on her litter. Her puppies may have more fear or show repetitive or abnormal behaviors. Puppies may have lower birth weights, or be born prematurely. Stress in the dam can also compromise the immune systems of her puppies.
Sosnowski, D.W., Booth, C., York, T.P., Amstadter, A.B. & Kliewer, W. (2018). Maternal stress and infant methylation: A systematic review. Developmental Psychobiology, 60, 127-139.
Puppies that experience stress before birth are more stressed later in life. They may show more aggression towards people, other dogs, children, and objects. These puppies have difficulty during walks and are more sensitive to touch. They may also be at greater risk of separation anxiety.
Battaglia, C.L. (2009). Periods of early development and the effects of stimulation and social experiences in the canine. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 4, 203-210.
MATERNAL STRESS Library
Bare BoneS – If you only have a few minutes for the basics
SNACKS – If you want to learn more
Kibble – If you want to take a deep dive into the science
Additional Resources to Support Dogs in Other Environments
SHELTER & RESCUE
Dogs living in shelter or rescue kennels face challenges specific to their living environments. Practical applications for their management and care may also differ. Additional resources for their caretakers, including those caring for dogs in home-based foster systems or rescue networks, are provided to support efforts to improve, maintain, and protect their welfare.
Dogs living in homes as family pets face challenges specific to their living environments. Practical applications for their management and care may also differ. Additional resources for their caretakers, support the human-animal bond, keep pets in their homes, and improve, maintain, and protect their welfare.
Research & Teaching
Dogs living in research or teaching kennels face challenges specific to their living environments. Practical applications for their management and care may also differ. Additional resources for their caretakers are provided to support efforts to improve, maintain, and protect their welfare.
Applications for Research & Teaching
Applications for Pet Families
Applications for Shelter & Rescue
What to Expect When Your Pregnant Foster Dog is Expecting
Austin Pets Alive. (2019). WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOUR PREGNANT FOSTER DOG IS EXPECTING. Retrieved June 20, 2023, from https://americanpetsalive.org/uploads/resources/What-to-Expect-When-Your-Pregnant-Foster-Dog-is-Expecting-1.pdf.
How a Mother’s Stress Can Influence Unborn Puppies
Hekman, J. (2021). How a Mother’s Stress Can Influence Unborn Puppies. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved June 20, 2023, from https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/puppy-health/how-a-mothers-stress-can-influence-unborn-puppies/.