Infections Puppies Get From Their Mothers

Mother dogs provide antibody-rich colostrum within the first 24 hours.
Mother dogs provide antibody-rich colostrum within the first 24 hours. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Although puppies get their immunity from deadly diseases from their mother's colostrum, worms and diseases can occasionally infect puppies through their mother. It's important to protect these youngsters since they have underdeveloped immune systems. Your veterinarian can help you protect your dog's puppies from serious health problems by ensuring your dog is in good health through vaccinations and wormers.


Since many dogs are infected with roundworms, the roundworms may pass through the placenta and infect the puppies. Roundworms can also infect puppies through the mother's milk. These worms live in the intestine and digestive system where they live off of nutrients your puppies need. Puppies infected with roundworms often have pot bellies, diarrhea, poor hair coat and poor growth. Your veterinarian can prescribe wormer if the mother and puppies are diagnosed with roundworm infection.


Hookworms are often contracted through the mother's milk that the puppy drinks or in utero before the puppy is born. Hookworms will then lodge in the puppy's small intestine and feed off the blood of the growing puppy. Hookworms are especially dangerous because they can cause anemia or even death. Symptoms may include dull coat, weight loss, weakness and pale gums. Your veterinarian will need a stool sample to determine if your puppies are infected with hookworms and should prescribe the appropriate treatment.


Puppies can get severely sick from an infection if the mother has mastitis or a milk infection. The puppies will cry during or after nursing and may become ill even a few hours after drinking the tainted milk. The puppies can even die a few hours after becoming ill. If you suspect that the mother has mastitis, put the puppies on a puppy milk replacer immediately and bring them all to the veterinarian for an evaluation.

Canine Herpesvirus

Mother dogs can contract canine herpesvirus from her mate, or may contract it from contact with other dogs. If she contracts the disease close to whelping the puppies, she can give it to her puppies because her immune system is low and the colostrum may not protect the puppies. Chances are you will lose most or all of the puppies before they reach three weeks. In some cases, some of the puppies will be born stillborn. The way to prevent canine herpesvirus is to vaccinate against it. Be sure that your female dog and her mate are clear of it. Your veterinarian can help you determine this.

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