The proper course of action for breeding dogs
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
The decision to breed a dog is a personal one, but it is a decision that needs a lot of time and consideration. You will be creating new lives that will be in their homes for 10 or more years. You want to make them good, healthy years.
The first thing to consider is whether the mother is healthy enough for pregnancy. Mother dogs should be fully vaccinated as they pass on immunities that protect the puppies for the first six to eight weeks of life. Both parents should be examined to evaluate for health problems such as heart disease.
Depending on the breed, hip dysplasia, hernias, overbites, or underbites may make a pet a poor candidate for parenthood. The parents’ personalities and puppies’ early experiences also shape the life of the puppies.
Many genetic diseases can afflict the puppies. Depending on the breed, tests are available to see if there is a possibility to pass them to the puppies. Fathers contribute to the genetics of the puppies and should be tested too. Examples include progressive retinal atrophy, causing blindness, and degenerative myelinopathy, causing paralysis.
Once the parents are chosen and deemed healthy, getting them to mate is next. Many people will let “nature take its course,” but sometimes this can fail. Inexperience of the male or size differences can play a role. Sometimes the females are not appreciative of the males’ advances.
Artificial insemination is an option. Some people use this option if the male does not live nearby. Pregnancy length is very predicable in dogs and based on ovulation. Determining ovulation can pinpoint the best days to breed and provide a predicted due date.
Pregnancy can be determined in about 28-30 days. Ultrasound or blood tests are frequently used. After pregnancy is confirmed, nutritional recommendations are made to keep the mother healthy and the puppies growing. Your veterinarian can help determine what is best for your pet.
As your pet’s due date approaches, it is important to have a whelping area ready in advance. Radiographs can determine how many puppies there are and how big they are. Big puppies or a small birth canal can lead to birthing problems called dystocia. A caesarian section may be needed, and many times it is an emergency. Being financially and emotionally ready is important.
Healthy dogs help make healthy puppies. Having a litter of pups is hard work but can be rewarding. Your veterinarian is there to guide your way.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at