Thinking of Breeding?

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To Breed or not to Breed?

Breeding a litter of puppies can be very rewarding, but if you are new to dog breeding, you should remember that it can also be a stressful, costly and time consuming experience.

We advise anyone to think very carefully before embarking on breeding from their pet, and it is expected that you have prepared yourself for the process of pregnancy, parturition (giving birth) and aftercare of both mother and her litter.

Even if you only ever breed one litter you will want to make every effort to ensure that the puppies that you breed have sound temperaments, are healthy, and are good and “typical” examples of the breed. You will also want to make sure that they go to suitable homes and be prepared to take the pups back if necessary.  Not forgetting, you will want to ensure that the mother is in good health and manages well with the consequences of having a litter.  It is a huge responsibility that should not be undertaken lightly.

Breeding is NOT as easy as it looks. Lack of experience can risk the life of your dam, and having puppies can sometimes go badly. Be prepared for anything that could happen; ask yourself: “How can I handle things if they go wrong? Is it worth it?”

Many unexpected costs can break your bank, it is absolutely necessary to have funds set aside in case there is trouble with your dam during her pregnancy or whelping. Twenty-five percent (25%) of dog births end up middle-of-the-night C-sections, which can run into the thousands of pounds. Fading puppies can also cost money to try and save, and it is very possible for puppies to contract viruses. It is possible your dam will not produce milk, or make too much and end up with Mastitis. Your dam could also haemorrhage. The list of possible complications is endless and you need to be mentally and financially prepared for these.


If you are contemplating dog breeding, there are certain questions that you will need to ask yourself before proceeding:

  • Have I the time to devote to a litter until the puppies are old enough to go to their new homes, which is usually around eight weeks?
  • Am I knowledgeable enough to advise new owners about the various aspects of caring for their puppies, including rearing, diet, training and health problems?
  • Can I afford to pay for the recommended health tests for the bitch prior to mating her and, where necessary, her litter?
  • Do I know enough to help the bitch during the whelping, if necessary?
  • Can I afford to pay for a caesarean should the dam have difficulty whelping the litter?
  • Could I cope with a very large litter e.g. 10 or 12 puppies?
  • Do I have sufficient knowledge to rear the litter correctly, including on worming, vaccinations and socialisation?
  • Would I be able to find good homes for the puppies?
  • Am I in a position to take back or re-home any puppies if it becomes necessary?


If you have not been able to say yes to all of the above questions, then dog breeding may not be for you. You may therefore wish to consider having your bitch spayed to prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

Before Breeding

  • Ensure your dog is healthy and suitable (especially in temperament) to whelp a litter.
  • Carry out all relevant health checks e.g. hip scoring, elbow grading, eye testing and DNA testing.
  • Contact a breed society for more breed specific information.
  • Ensure that the health status of the proposed stud dog is satisfactory.
  • Ensure dam is up to date with vaccines and worming
  • Ensure you are financially prepared for the eventualities which may arise during the reproductive process.


Mating and Pregnancy

You may chose to line your dam with a stud dog the conventional way, or you may opt to have your dam artificially inseminated. Which ever way you chose, it is important that you make a note of the dates as this will help your Vet in estimating due dates and stages of gestation.

We advise a pregnancy scan at around 4-5 weeks gestation to check that the dam is definitely pregnant, give a rough estimate of litter size (this is important to know particularly if there is only one puppy), and to check that there are no other problems.

Once pregnancy is confirmed, it is worth feeding your dam a high quality puppy food in addition to their normal food.  Your Vet may recommend an 8 week gestation check, particularly if your dam is considered to be “high risk” of needing a caesarean.

Bitches should be wormed daily from day 45 of their pregnancy until 2 days post-whelping with a safe wormer provided by your Vet.  Dogs have a general gestation length of 63 days.  Dams should also be up to date with their core vaccines, particularly Parvovirus.

It is also advisable that you consider a Herpes vaccination for the dam. Abortion and premature parturition can occur as a result of CHV infection in bitches. In order for immunity to be conferred to the puppies, sufficient intake of colostrum is required.

This vaccine is given as follows:

First injection: Either during heat or 7 – 10 days after the presumed date of mating.

Second injection: 1 to 2 weeks before the expected date of whelping.

Revaccination: during each pregnancy, according to the same schedule


Signs your dam is ready to give birth:

  • Restlessness, pacing, digging/nesting behaviour
  • Vomiting
  • Going off food
  • Milk from all teats
  • Mucus vaginal discharge
  • Drop in rectal temperature


Possible Problems

There are numerous issues which may arise before, during and after parturition (giving birth).  This is not an exhaustive list:

  1. Caesarian Section

Dogs often are able to give birth themselves with little to no intervention.  However, in some situations where the dam comes in to difficulty, goes well overdue, has a single pup, or with certain breeds types (British Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pugs), a caesarean is necessary.  If your dam has been pushing unproductively for one hour, seek Veterinary advice immediately.

  1. No Milk Production

Not all dams produce enough or any milk at all.  If this happens you will need to hand feed the puppies using a high quality puppy milk formula.  Your Vet can give a hormone injection which can sometimes stimulate milk production however be prepared to have to hand feed.  Instructions on how to do this are contained at the end of this information leaflet.

  1. No Interest in Pups

Not all dogs are natural mothers unfortunately.  Your Vet can give a hormone injection to help stimulate maternal instincts however this is not guaranteed to work. You may need to hand feed the pups and use moist cotton wool to wipe the pups to stimulate the pups to pass urine and faeces.

  1. Endometritis

This is where the womb gets an infection after birth.  You may notice an unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge, the dam may have a fever, be lethargic and off her food.  It is important that she receives Veterinary treatment as soon as possible.

  1. Mastitis

This is where the dam’s mammary glands become hard and inflamed, and sometimes infected.  This is painful and if left untreated can lead to necrosis and sloughing of the mammary tissue, sometimes requiring surgery.

  1. Eclampsia

This is a condition which occurs from the levels of calcium in the blood depleting as a result of lactation, causing muscle tremours, excessive panting, and hyperthermia.  This is very serious and you should seek Veterinary attention as soon as you notice symptoms.

  1. Foetal Abnormalities (Cleft palate, hernias)
  1. Fading Puppies

Puppies may fade and die at any point after birth.  This could be due to small size, viral infection, failure to feed properly, and many other causes.


How Do I Feed a New born Puppy?

It is very important that puppies receive the mother’s first milk.  This is called colostrum and contains antibodies which protect the puppies for their first few weeks of life.

If the mother is unable to feed her pups for whatever reason, caring for those pups is up to you.  It is important you do this correctly or you could end up causing the puppies harm.

You will need a high quality canine milk replacement formula and either syringes or small bottles with teats.  Feeding guidelines vary depending on the make, but as a general rule, feeds should be smaller and more frequent to begin with and as the puppies grow, these feeds can be increased in volume and be given less often.

The puppies will need feeding approx. 1ml every couple of hours initially.

Do not feed the puppy on its back.  This is not a normal feeding position and may cause the pup to inhale the milk, which may cause aspiration pneumonia which is usually fatal.


Instead, hold the puppy on its front, as demonstrated in these pictures:


Small puppy Papillon fed of baby bottle

Puppies should be gaining on average 10 – 15 grams daily.  It may be worth while investing in a set of small kitchen scales and weighing the puppies 2-3 times daily.  Their weight may fluctuate but so long as they are gaining on average 10 grams a day, they are thriving.


If you are concerned about anything regarding the health and welfare of your dam or pups, please contact the surgery for more advice on 01325 308 000 or out of hours Wear Referrals  01388 777 770

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