Parkway Animal Hospital's
PET OWNER'S GUIDE TO
Breeding Your Dog
We think it is extremely important to learn the facts and possible consequences in advance if you are contemplating breeding your dog. In today’s overcrowded world, we must breed responsibly.
CONSIDER THESE POINTS:
AKC registration is not indication of quality. Most dogs, even purebred, should not be bred! Many dogs, though wonderful pets, have defects of structure, health, or personality that should not be perpetuated. Breeding animals should be proven free of these defects through proper evaluation and health screening before starting on a reproductive career. Breeding should only be done between individuals who are likely to improve the breed.
Dog breeding is not a large moneymaking proposition when done correctly. Health care, vaccinations, extra food, stud fees, advertising, etc. are all costly and must be paid before the pups can be sold. An unexpected Cesarean section or emergency intensive care for a sick pup will make a break-even litter even more expensive. And this is if you are able to sell all the pups!!
First-time breeders have no reputation and no referrals to help them find buyers. Previous promises of “I want a dog just like yours” evaporate. Consider the time and expense for caring for pups that may not sell until four months, eight months, or more! What would you do if your pups did not sell? Veteran breeders with a good reputation often don’t consider breeding unless they have cash deposits in advance for an average-sized litter.
Veteran breeders of quality dogs state that they spend well over 130 hours of labor in raising an average litter. This is over two hours per day, every day! The bitch should not be left alone while whelping and only for short periods for the first few days after. Be prepared to take time off from work if needed.
Even after delivery, mom needs care and feeding; puppies need daily checking, weighing, and socialization. Later on, the pups need grooming and training, and the whelping box needs lots of cleaning. More hours are spent doing paperwork and interviewing buyers. If you have any abnormal conditions, such as sick puppies or a bitch that can’t or won’t care for her pups, count on double time.
It’s midnight do you know where your puppies are? There are three and a half million unwanted dogs put to death in pounds in this country each year, with millions more dying, homeless and unwanted. Nearly a quarter of the victims of this unspeakable tragedy are purebred dogs “with papers.” The breeder who creates a life is responsible for that life. Will you carefully screen potential buyers? Will you turn down a sale to irresponsible buyers? Would you be prepared to take back a grown dog if the owners can no longer care for it?
Consider adopting a homeless animal instead of breeding;
Female dogs complete the “estrus cycle” every 6-12 months, depending on many factors. Most dogs repeat the cycle every 6-9 months. The “heat cycle” generally begins at 7-12 months of age – the age of “puberty”. Don’t worry if your pet does not show a heat cycle until one year of age--this can be normal. It is important that you do not breed until at least one year of age – two years in large breeds, or the second heat cycle to insure proper development of the female dog. The period of estrus (“heat”) is approximately 21 days. The dog is usually receptive to the male only during the second week. Most breeding occurs from the ninth to the fifteenth day.
If breeding is not desired, the dog must be confined and restricted from male dogs for the entire three-week period since ovulation can occur at any time. Some animals, especially pets, will not stand for the male, and must be physically held or bred artificially. These dogs must have close veterinary supervision, using vaginal smears examined under the microscope or progesterone testing to determine the proper breeding time. If dogs do breed, we recommend breeding every other day as long as the female will accept the male to insure the best size litter. After a “normal” breeding, the dogs may remain “tied” together for up to 30 minutes.
Occasionally, the male dog will turn around, making the dogs look “end to end”. This is normal and to be expected, and is no cause for alarm. Since pregnancy represents a considerable strain on the female, we do not recommend breeding every “season.” Acceptable breeding programs include breeding every other “heat”, or breeding two consecutive “heat cycles” and then skipping the third.
If pregnancy results from the mating, the puppies will be due in about 63 days. Begin counting from the first breeding. Remember that 63 days is the average. Your dog may vary three days either way. We recommend examining all pregnant females that go over three days past the due date.
Before a planned breeding, the female should be checked for intestinal parasites and be current with vaccinations. She should be fed a high-quality commercial dog food.
FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Ultrasound can be used to determine whether the bitch is pregnant between 14 and 21 days. Abdominal palpation can be done between days 24 and 30 on most females. X-ray can be used to diagnose pregnancy 45 days after the breeding. Milk generally will form in the breasts l-3 days before delivery due date. Make a “whelping box/bed” (4’x 4’ and 6” tall for small breeds, 6’x6’ and 6” tall for large breeds). Temperature should be maintained around 80 degrees F. Use shredded newspaper for bedding. Place bedding in a secluded, but familiar area of the house. A child’s plastic swimming pool is ideal. Clip the hair around the breasts and vulva. Wash these areas before whelping to insure good hygiene. Twenty-four (24) hours before the onset of labor, the rectal temperature will usually drop from 101.5 degrees to 100 degrees or less. It is a good idea to begin monitoring rectal temperature 2-3 times daily starting 1 week prior to the anticipated birth of pups to help determine which day the pups will be born.
The next step is active labor. Usually, dogs have puppies with no difficulty. Problems do, however occur, and WE are always available for advice or assistance. If hard labor goes on for two hours with no sign of delivery, call us. Straining, bearing down, and pushing are the signs of active labor. If a puppy’s head, feet, or tail can be seen, and the puppy is unable to be delivered in l5 minutes, please call us. If everything appears normal, leave the dog alone!! Noise and movements often distract the dog so that she does not concentrate on delivering and/or nursing the pups.
A green or black vaginal discharge with no pup delivered indicates a problem, call the clinic.
If the female is bred to a male dog larger than herself, the puppies may be too large to be delivered without assistance. Many times when the male is a mixed breed, he will be carrying “genes” that will result in very large pups – causing a life-threatening problem.
The pup is usually delivered in a “sac”, but a small green sac of fluid may appear before the pup is delivered. If the female doesn’t break the sac, after the pup is delivered, you must remove it or the pup will suffocate. Wipe off the pup with a clean towel, cleaning the head and mouth first. Keep the pup’s head down lower than the body to help fluid drainage. You may cut the cord one inch from the body if the female doesn’t do it herself. Tie the cord with sewing thread before cutting.
The female may rest 30-40 minutes between delivering each pup. Sometimes, this period may extend several hours on large litters. Pups often come in pairs, with a longer period of time between delivering each pair. If a period over three hours has occurred, contact the clinic. Make sure the pups nurse within two hours after birth. When the female dog is done with delivery, she will rest and nurse the pups. Food and water should be available to her. Take her outside to exercise and relieve her. Some dogs make poor mothers and will not let the pups nurse. Some dogs will actually kill the pups – especially if very nervous. This is one reason it is important to keep the environment as quiet and calm as possible. Do not let children or friends handle the pups or stand around to observe. The female should be brought to the clinic for examination within 24 hours after delivery. Bring her during the first normal clinic hours the morning after delivery. We also want to be sure she has milk available. Some females do not produce milk, or worse yet, develop “mastitis”, which is infected milk.
POST-NATAL CARE FOR THE MOTHER:
Pregnancy is a major stress to your pet. This stress continues after delivery because as the offspring grow, the female is required to produce more milk to nurse the puppies.
NOTES ON PROPER CARE:
- The mother and offspring should be brought to the office for a post-birth physical examination within 24 hours after delivery. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have at that time.
- Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
- We recommend feeding a “puppy food” to the nursing bitch because of the higher protein level.
- Mothers should be fed all they want to eat - remember they are eating for several mouths.
- Try to keep the “new family” in quiet surroundings and avoid commotion as much as possible for the first two weeks. Excitement causes many of the problems we see in both the female and offspring. Allow the female to get all the exercise as she desires.
- Females often develop soft “stools” for a few days due to the diet changes, vaginal discharges, and “cleaning the offspring.”
- Palpate the breasts and observe nipples daily. Wash with warm water if needed. Notify the clinic of any discoloration of the skin, tenderness, or severe engorgement that occurs. Watch for sores on the nipples as the pups begin to get teeth.
- A vaginal discharge and the passage of blood clots are to be expected for a few days. Notify the clinic if it should persist more than seven days.
- Notify the clinic if the nursing female has a change of disposition or if nervousness or muscle tremors develop.
- Bathe the nursing female as needed during the nursing period. Daily brushing is important for proper sanitation. Notify the clinic if you begin to see a significant loss of hair, or “bald spots.”
- Some weight loss is to be expected, but consult us if the nursing female becomes thin. Routine fecal examinations should be performed to guard against intestinal parasites, especially those that could be passed on to the offspring.
- If you decide to spay your pet to avoid future “heat cycles” and pregnancy, we feel the best time is several weeks after the offspring are weaned. This gives the breasts time to stop milk flow.
- In the dog, expect to see a normal “heat” cycle about six months after the cycle on which the dog was bred.
- Food quantity to the female should be reduced at weaning to help decrease milk flow. Sometimes antibiotics are required if the breasts are engorged to prevent breast infections.
POST-NATAL CARE FOR THE PUPPIES:
Very little care is required of the owner for the puppies during the first few weeks after birth. The mother’s natural instincts provide for most needs of the offspring. The best advice is leave the new family alone as much as possible and simply watch for anything you feel might be abnormal. Don’t hesitate to call us for advice.
NOTES ON PROPER CARE:
- Be sure the puppies nurse within the first six (6) hours following birth. This provides the antibodies, which fight disease in the pup for the first 6-8 weeks of life. These antibodies are only absorbed during the first few hours after birth.
- Maintain a warm environment: Room temperature should be maintained at a minimum of 72 degrees F. Remember that it’s about 10 degrees colder on the floor (since heat rises) than at eye level. Avoid drafts and keep the pups warm. Dampness and chilling can be fatal to young pups and kittens.
- A properly nourished pup sleeps most of the time, stays quiet, and has a full stomach: Notify us if the puppies cry frequently. Extended crying may be a sign of problems: such as no milk available in the breasts or mastitis (infected milk). If the pups must be hand-fed use Esbilac™ or Nurturall™, which is made to most closely resemble milk of the bitch. Human pediatric formulations are not satisfactory. Canned goat’s milk can be used as an emergency substitute.
- Tail docking and dewclaw removal is routinely done at 3-5 days of age at our hospital.
- Eyes usually open at l0-14 days of age. Swollen eyes or discharges should be reported to us when observed.
- Begin feeding puppies at 3 weeks of age. We recommend using Gerber High Protein or Rice Baby Cereal mixed with 2% milk diluted 1/2 with water. Place food in a flat saucer to be sure the pups can get to it. After one week, switch to a premium puppy food thoroughly softened with warm water in place of the baby cereal.
- Puppies should be allowed to nurse the female until six weeks of age. Smaller breeds often do better if allowed to nurse for eight weeks, even though you begin the solid food feeding at four weeks of age. Pups should be treated for internal parasites at 3-4 weeks of age. Start immunizations at six weeks of age. The major disease that is our major concern at this age is Parvovirus. Pups may be bathed whenever necessary, but dry thoroughly! Be sure they do not become chilled. Discuss flea control with us before using any product on young pups.