RESPONSIBLE BREEDING AND PREPARING YOURSELF FOR YOUR FIRST LITTER

If you are planning a litter, ensure you have contingencies in place -

1. It is a good idea to advise your vet of the impending birth, and have their out of hours telephone number in the case of an emergency.

2. Check what happens if your bitch needs a C Section - The average price is between £800/1600 in the West Midlands area as at June 2018. If you use Vets4Pets, from feedback I am getting, they will 'not' operate without money up front. Some vets have installment plans, some will agree to perform a C Section if they spay bitch at same time (which is not always wise anyway), if you agree to pay within 7 days, but not all, so be prepared.

3. Have your car ready to go or transport on hand 24 hours a day in case you need to get to the surgery quickly.

4. Try to have another experienced dog owner available 'on call' to help you if needs be.

5. If you have children or any other pets to think about, you may need someone who can look after them if you need to accompany your bitch to the vet.

Breeding dogs is both rewarding as well as time consuming, expensive and occasionally heartbreaking, and breeders of purebred dogs will ultimately breed to improve the breed rather than increase its numbers.

There is a trend now for mixed-breed dogs which some people believe are healthier than their purebred counterparts. On the surface, it makes sense as breeders believe if we dip too often into a shallow gene pool the pet is more likely to inherit health problems. So mixing things up between breeds should create healthier genetic hybrids, right? Sadly no, mixed breeds can inherit both sets of genetic disorders from both parents.

Lets look at just one of the popular crossbreeds, the Labradoodle.   If you cross a Labrador that has hip dysplasia with a Poodle that has hip dysplasia, what do you get? Chances are, a Labradoodle with hip dysplasia. In addition to hip problems, Labradoodles are now being diagnosed with Addison’s disease (a deficiency in adrenal hormones) and elbow dysplasia, two genetic disorders that are common to purebred Labradors and Poodles. Unfortunately, Poodles and Labs are also predisposed to inherited eye diseases such as cataracts and prcd-Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Sebaceous Adenitis is not the most common form of dog dermatitis, but it is the most smelly and Poodles are prone to this congenital autoimmune skin disorder and can pass it on to a 'Doodle' puppy. 

Labradoodles became popular because of their coat which many believed were non shedding - unfortunately this is not always the case, and the coat can be unruly at best. On bad days, it is a groomer's nightmare. The long, coarse hair can become like Velcro, picking up burrs and debris everywhere the pup goes. It mats easily and must be brushed frequently. If you wait too long, your groomer may need to shave your shaggy beast. Caring for the coat is clearly not as critical as Labradoodle health problems, but it is a task that takes constant attention.

THE COMMITMENT

Raising puppies is a full-time job. During the first couple of weeks the dam normally takes care of the puppies' needs, but a lot of breeders want to be around the litter 24/7 to avoid any puppies being squashed, trod on etc and you also have complications, such as a dam with no milk or an orphaned litter, so you need to be aware that you may not get much sleep, for the first few weeks anyway! You will need to provide a safe, warm, dry place for the puppies away from other dogs and young children, together with good nutrition for the bitch.

Puppies are even more work (and more fun!) when they are weaned. The extra feeding, cleanup, grooming, training, and veterinary care adds up to a lot of hours, and not much free time for you.

Another factor that you must consider is the financial cost of having a litter of puppies. From the genetic screening and health tests before breeding to the extra food, supplies, and medical care required after the puppies are born, the cost of whelping and raising puppies can be very high, especially if complications arise.

Responsible breeders make sure that their puppy goes to an owner who will provide it with the same love and devotion for life that the breeder has provided. This means careful screening and evaluation of each person or family interested in getting a puppy.

Responsible breeders learn everything they can about their breed and know all the pros and cons of ownership. It is important to share this information, including the negative aspects with prospective puppy owners. You should be ready to explain why a dog requiring a lot of coat care or training may not be the best match for a workaholic or why a tiny dog may not be appropriate for a family with small, active children. You should be committed to placing puppies with owners who will provide excellent care, and take them back at any time during their life if the owners circumstance should change.

BEFORE BREEDING

One month before breeding, you may want your bitch to have a thorough pre-breeding physical examination by a veterinarian, or if you plan to have progesterone testing, your vet will usually carry out an examination at that stage to ensure she is suitable for mating. Her vaccinations should be current, and she should be tested and treated for worms.

The age at which dogs reach sexual maturity depends to a large extent on their breed. Small breeds tend to mature faster than large breeds. On average, however, males become fertile after six months of age and reach full sexual maturity by 12 to 15 months. Healthy stud dogs may remain sexually active and fertile to old age. Adult males are able to mate at any time.

Bitches have their first season after six months of age, although it can occur as late as 18 months to two years of age. Most breeders generally do not breed a bitch at the first season to avoid imposing the stress of pregnancy and lactation on a young, growing animal. It is also customary to avoid breeding a bitch on consecutive heats to allow sufficient time for recuperation between pregnancies.

The bitch's cycle is divided into four periods.

Proestrus
The bitch attracts males, has a bloody vaginal discharge, and her vulva is swollen. Proestrus lasts approximately nine days; the bitch, however, will not allow breeding at this time.

Estrus
 During this period, which also lasts approximately nine days, the bitch will accept the male and is fertile. Ovulation usually occurs in the first 48 hours; however, this can vary greatly.

Diestrus
 Lasting 60 to 90 days, diestrus is the period when the reproductive tract is under the control of the hormone progesterone. This occurs whether or not the bitch becomes pregnant. False pregnancy, a condition in which the bitch shows symptoms of being pregnant although she has not conceived, is occasionally seen during diestrus.

Anestrus
 No sexual activity takes place. Anestrus lasts between three and four months.

WHELPING

You can have an extremely easy delivery, right out of the book, but you may also have situations which require experience.

DYSTOCIA
Dystocia is the medical term used to diagnose a difficult birthing experience. 

Symptoms

More than 30 minutes of persistent, strong, abdominal contractions without expulsion of offspring
More than four hours from the onset of stage two to delivery of first offspring
More than two hours between delivery of offspring
Failure to commence labor within 24 hours of the drop in rectal temperature - below 99° F (37.2° C)
Female cries, displays signs of pain, and constantly licks the vulva when contracting
Prolonged gestation - more than 72 days from the day of first mating
A greenish black discharge preceding the birth of the first puppy by more than two hours, indicative of premature placental separation
Presence of bloody discharge prior to delivery of the first offspring or between fetuses vaginal wall to elicit abdominal straining, this could indicate uterine inertia

Pre-eclampsia/eclampsia normally can happen ten days after whelping, but can also happen with a large litter, and more in toy breeds in the last few days of pregnancy. (Hypocalcimic shaking and pre-labor shaking can seem the same at first), but if dam is hypocalcimic, and gets eclampsia, the shaking quickly turns to convulsions, muscle weakness, muscle tremors, spasms, rigidity and twitching needing immediate vet assistance before seizures, coma and death. It is wise to give your dam calcium when puppies are five days old (for the next few weeks). Eclampsia (sometimes referred to as Milk Fever) is a very serious condition, and can come on suddenly. It is caused from a shortage of calcium in the bloodstream.

Uterine inertia can also happen with a large litter or large pups. The dam will fail with weak attempts to deliver the pups. She may not even show contractions as her uterus is too stretched. The biggest cause of this is from too much calcium in the diet while pregnant. You should limit the amount of calcium given during pregnancy and give it during, or after puppies are born.

Rupture of the uterus, torsion or hemorrhage can happen. The dam will pass heavy, ongoing flow of blood from vulva. This is a medical vet emergency.

Green discharge, before puppy birth, means early separation of placentas. Call the vet. Sometimes this is okay, if the puppy is to come soon, sometimes not. You You should not see a green discharge until after a puppy is born.

If two puppies try and come out at the same time, it is physically impossible. This may be a cause for concern. This presentation is best discussed with your vet. It could be a medical emergency, or things could just fix themselves if you are comfortable waiting. Call your vet for his advice, as every situation is different. This situation needs an experienced hand. Delivery could progress uneventful, or delivery could get held up and stop.

If after the dam has strained for some time only one foot appears, it may be that the puppy is in an abnormal position, an inexperienced person should NOT attempt to remove the puppy. Call your vet, any delay could risk the life of the puppy and the dam.

It is very important to know how to revive puppies and get them breathing. Not all puppies come out, cry and start breathing. This also takes experience. Puppies need to be rubbed vigorously till they cry and start moving. Some are born and cry easily, but very often they need extra help, and it sure feels good when you know what to do. You will need to get your vet to show you how to get the fluid out of the pup’s nose and throat. A centrifugal force drop done by swinging the puppy down between your legs (holding head VERY secure) is a very useful tool to learn. You do not shake the puppy, nor flick it. The movement is not jerky, but a smooth down-swing with a slow stop. Constant exchanging of warm blankets is also needed. If puppies get chilled in the first days of life, there is a good chance they will not survive. The box needs to be 85 degrees. Puppies are very susceptible to heat/cold. Have your heat pad on, and hot water bottles filled.

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

I see a lot of people who are breeding for the first time...... during October/November, 75% of the dogs I scanned were pregnant due to accidental matings - bitches left with family members while the owners go on annual holiday, not realising the bitch was in season and get back from holiday to be told she has been 'tied' to a male dog several times before anyone realised.

Whilst some owners are happy their bitch is pregnant, I also see owners in utter panic, they either work full time, or have young children, nowhere to raise a litter and don't know how they will cope. Three bitches I saw in one month alone were under only 8 months of age, one was very immature and natural instincts did not kick in - she didn't produce any milk and had no idea what to do with her puppies leaving the owners hand rearing them. Another young mother went into labour, became totally exhausted after a few hours, had to be rushed into the vets out of hours for an emergency c section, four puppies were already dead, and the other two were very small, again needing hand rearing - both owners being totally unprepared in more ways than one.

Fortuntely, the majority of litters are born and everything goes by the book, but before having a litter, it is wise to know what can go wrong so you are prepared and know the signs and when to contact a vet.

Another sad story came from a lady who's bitch gave birth to one puppy with the intestines on the outside, that died a few moments after birth, the bitch became restless, had a few contractions and the owner realised the next puppy was stuck. She rushed her to the vets for an emergency C section, of the remaining three puppies, two were already dead and had started to decompose, and the third was malformed and put to sleep.

Canine Maternal Hydrops or Excess Fetal Membrane Fluid

Premature Placental Separation - Placental Abruption
The bitch was on day 56 (to the first mating), and had a dark green discharge. Clearly this wasn't normal and the bitch was rushed to the vets, she had an open cervix, but no other signs of labour. She was scanned and all but one puppy had viable heart beats, some stronger than others. The vet did a C Section hoping to save any live puppies, but unfortunately they were all very premature, and it is likely that the bitch conceived on her second mating making the puppies around 52 days. Unfortunately due to the stress, the bitch had a heart attack and she died along with her litter.

I scanned a Great Dane bitch a while ago, first litter for the bitch and the owner - the bitch was 7 years of age and the owner believed she had such an exceptional temperament, she wanted to reproduce this in puppies so they could keep one within the family. The bitch, and the stud dog were both blue merles, and neither the owner of the bitch or the stud were aware that blue merle matings could result in puppies being double merle, and being blind as well as deaf. Unfortunately, the mother and puppies died during an emergency C section.

A popular mis conception with new breeders is that they want a puppy 'exactly' like their mother. Dogs, like people, and vary greatly. No matter how careful you are in selection of a mate, there is no guarantee that you will get the puppy of your dreams. Is it really worth risking up to twelve or more additional lives? I hear of many people who say that Uncle John and best friend Fred and Matilda down the road want a puppy, but unfortunately, there is a great difference between initial enthusiasm and final acceptance of the puppy. Many people change their mind in the period between birth and weaning and even more lose their enthusiasm when they have to deal with housetraining a puppy.

Remember your puppies will all need to be microchipped before they go to their new homes.

Even after the whelping is finished and you have a healthy litter, problems can come. A new mom may have doubts about these puppy things, especially if she had a hard whelping The faster you get all the pups nursing the better. They will get the needed colostrums, and the dam will produce hormones that will actually turn her into a better loving mom. Keep her fluids up, and give her a bowl of warm broth. Some puppies do not take to nursing; you must be prepared to be up around the clock, 24/7. To feeding a slow starting puppy that just will not nurse, have a Puppy milk replacer on hand. Hand feeding one puppy happens, but the worst one must prepare for is feeding an orphaned litter.

Are you prepared to do this as a breeder?
There are so many questions to ask yourself before you breed your dam, as very frequently things go wrong, and being prepared and educated can save your dam and puppies’ lives.

 

 


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