Responsible Dog Breeding
Many people see dog breeding as a quick way to make some extra cash, or simply because they would love a puppy from their adorable bitch. However, it is often under estimated the time, money and effort that is needed for well produced, healthy puppies.
Firstly, when breeding your bitch you should look at the bitch herself. Does she have the best temperament to be potentially passing to her offspring? Is she fully vaccinated? Is she the correct age for breeding? Has she passed all relevant breed specific health tests? After all, we don’t want to produce a litter of potentially unhealthy puppies because Mum has passed on her faulty genes. Most importantly, do you have the time and money to care for Mum and a potentially large litter of puppies?
When assessing temperament, we should be breeding a happy bitch without any aggressive tendencies, whether this is aggression shown to people or to other dogs. The bitch should be of a nice nature, pleasantly trained and be happy to please her owner. If she get’s a big thumb up, great! Now we need to think about her maternal antibodies which she will pass to her litter. Is your bitch up to date with her annual vaccinations? You should not breed a bitch that has not had sufficient immunisations to infectious diseases. Mum passes her maternally derived antibodies to her litter during pregnancy, which last in the puppies immune systems until around 8 weeks old – which is why we then vaccinate the puppies at that age to produce new life long antibodies. If Mum has had no vaccinations, or her vaccinations have ‘ran out’ by the time she falls pregnant, her litter will not receive necessary antibodies and are therefore susceptible to nasty and infectious diseases.
If your bitch has passed the previous assessments, we now need to ensure she is the correct age for breeding. Overall we recommend that bitches are bred between 2-5 years of age, however The Kennel Club provide breed-specific requirements for individual breeds, some stating exact ages bitches should be bred. If you breed your bitch outside of the time frame provided by The Kennel Club, then you may not be able to Kennel Club register your litter of puppies.
Once you have made the decision to breed from your bitch, approaching the suitable breeding age you should then take responsibility for the health of your future puppies by ensuring Mum passes all relevant breed specific health tests. These tests differ for individual breeds as different breeds of dogs are susceptible to different genetically inherited health problems. All recommended breed specific health screening tests can be found on The Kennel Club website, and can be completed and sent away for analysis by your Veterinary Surgeon.
Breeding from your bitch is not a quick, easy and cheap process. You should have money put a side to pay for health screening and to provide relevant treatment to Mum & puppies when necessary, and to ensure that puppies receive gold standard care once they arrive. It is not uncommon for bitches to have birth complications, this means you are required to pay for medical treatment if complications at birth occur, and this can also mean paying the high costs of a caesarean section. We also have to take into consideration the chance of Mum rejecting her new arrivals, do you have the time and money to hand rear her litter every hour until they are weaned?
By this point, your bitch should be healthy, happy, passed all relevant health screens and be at a suitable breeding age. You should now find a similarly exceptional stud dog that has also passed relevant health screens. Once your bitch comes into season, you need to ensure she is mated on the correct days of her cycle for a successful mating. You should educate yourself on this before your bitch comes into season so you can be fully prepared for the mating process. Ovulation kits are available to track your bitch’s cycle, or you can monitor Mum’s discharge and behaviour to decide when is the correct time to mate. There are some fantastic books to help educate you on the tricky mating process – my personal favourite is ‘The Book of The Bitch’ by J.M. Evans & Kay White, which covers all aspects of breeding.
After what we hope is a successful mating, you have a few weeks wait until your Veterinary Surgeon can confirm pregnancy by ultrasound scan – we aim to scan potential pregnant bitches between 5-6 weeks of pregnancy. Once pregnancy is confirmed, you should then change your expecting Mum to a good quality puppy food, which should be offered until the litter has been weaned onto their own food at around 5 weeks of age. We should also ensure that Mum is regularly treated for internal and external parasites, including a prescription strength flea treatment which is licensed for pregnant and lactating bitches, and also given regular worming treatments. We recommend Panacur oral paste for worming Mum and puppies, which should be given from day 40 of pregnancy to day 2 post-whelping (approximately 25 days). Puppies should also be routinely wormed with Panacur oral paste at 2, 5 & 8 weeks of age.
You should educate yourself on how to plan for your fury new arrivals prior to birth, including how to prepare Mum’s nest and also how to recognise any early signs of complications. It is important to have a vet on hand to contact if required, and have transport encase an emergency veterinary visit is required. Be prepared that high cost veterinary treatment may be required if your bitch faces complications out of hours.
It is recommended that Mum whelps no more than 4 litters in her lifetime, any more than this will be declined for registration by The Kennel Club – nor should Mum undergo more than one pregnancy per 12 month period. Your bitch must not undergo more than two caesarean sections in her lifetime, whether these are booked as elective caesareans for breeds with known birthing difficulties, or emergency caesareans. A caesarean section is classed as ‘A procedure which alters the natural conformation of a dog’ and again, The Kennel Club will not register a litter of puppies from a Mum who has undergone more than two caesarean sections. As a veterinary practice, we also have a professional obligation to report such procedures to The Kennel Club.
At St Clair we take pride in promoting responsible dog breeding, and our fully qualified staff are on hand to help you along the way. If you have any more queries that I haven’t already covered, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01670 457271.
Amy Fletcher RVN