January 7, 2019

General Medical Issues

5 Things to Consider Before Breeding Your Dog

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

Who doesn’t like a cute puppy? But, what’s even cuter than a puppy? A whole litter of cute puppies! And your own dog is adorable, so why not breed her for even more adorable puppies, right?

While puppies can be cute and heart-melting, the decision to breed your dog can turn into more than you bargained for if you aren’t careful. Below is a list of things to consider before breeding your dog.

1. Screening tests 

Did you know that some health problems, like hip dysplasia and heart abnormalities, can be passed on from the parents to their pups? Many of the hereditary diseases that can be passed onto offspring may need long-term medications, and other diseases may lead to early death.  By running certain screening tests prior to breeding, you can reduce the risks for certain problems in the dog’s future litter.

For example, OFA x-rays can screen for a genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a condition whereby the hip joint doesn’t develop correctly, and the dog may develop arthritis or lameness. To screen for this, we take specific x-rays of your dog’s hips and send them to the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals. A team of experts then reviews the x-rays and determines if your dog’s hips are normal or abnormal. If your dog’s hips are abnormal, breeding is not recommended because genetic hip problems may be passed onto the puppies.

There are additional screening tests for other conditions of the eyes, heart, immune system, and more. Some of the tests can be performed in our office, while other tests need to be performed by veterinary specialists. Good and reputable breeders screen their dogs for certain traits to prevent litters of puppies with health problems.

2. Emergency C-sections

We all hope that pregnancies go well, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. While a majority of dogs whelp (birth) at home without any major difficulties, there are others that may struggle and require emergency Caesarean-sections. Emergency C-sections can be risky for both the puppies and the mother because they occur when the dogs are already in distress.

If your dog does have trouble whelping, your regular veterinarian may not be available to do the surgery, and you may need to go to the nearest emergency vet for care. This can be an unexpected and costly experience for breeders. For some breeds, like French Bulldogs, that traditionally have problems whelping, the breeders will schedule a c-section according to the dog’s due date. Even then, sometimes things don’t go according to plan and the dog may need emergency care. 

3. Nursing problems 

Some females just can’t produce enough milk to feed all their puppies. Other times, there may be a puppy or two that doesn’t understand how to nurse. You may have to step in and help bottle feed the new puppies. While the image of bottle feeding a puppy once or twice seems adorable, newborn puppies may require a feeding every couple of hours. It’s just like having a newborn child in the house, getting up throughout the night for feedings and care. 

4. Finding homes for the pups

Puppies are adorable, there’s no denying that! But sometimes, finding homes for a large group of puppies at one time can be more difficult than it sounds. Some dog breeds may have just a few puppies, while other breeds may have litters of 8-10 or more pups! The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that there are currently 3.3 million dogs a year entering animal shelters. The sheer number of animals looking for homes can make it difficult for you to place your new puppies in good homes.

5. No maternal instinct 

Believe it or not, some females show no interest at all in mothering her pups. A new mother may push the pups away or ignore their cries. In some cases, the mother may actually harm her pups. This doesn’t mean that she isn’t a good dog; it just means that, for whatever reason, she isn’t accepting of her pups. If this happens with your dog, you may need to raise the pups completely until they are ready to go to their new homes.

Before breeding your dog, do your research and be prepared for the “unexpected.” If we can help you in your decision as to whether or not to breed your dog, call us at (920) 863-3220. We want to ensure that both the mother and her puppies will be as healthy as possible. 

Dr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.