Reproduction: Things to Consider

Do you REALLY want to breed your dog?

Birth is often at night or at the clinic if problems arise.  There is a lot of work and risk for you as the breeder, and you have to find homes for all the rest of the puppies.  It may be better to refer people to your dog’s breeder or to someone else.

Things to consider:

Is your dog a good candidate?    For the betterment of dogs it is important to only breed dogs with good temperaments and which are healthy and free of genetic defects.

What are your reasons for breeding?   Showing kids “the birds and bees”, I want another “just like him/her”, and friends and family “want one too” are not good reasons for breeding.  How many kids turn out to be replicas of their parents?

Are you prepared for unexpected costs? There are a number of expenses that you could incur associated with breeding: Stud fees, transportation and boarding of the female to get bred, Vet bills – whelping assistance, cesarean sections, mastitis or metritis in the mother, puppy dewclaw removal, sick puppies, first vaccinations, feeding are all possible costs that may come up.

Do you have the time that mother and litter require?  Consider the following: If the mom is unable to nurse, puppies need to be hand fed every 4 hours the first week then every 6-8 hours for the next 3 weeks;  If the mom develops mastitis (a mammary gland infection) she needs to have hot packs applied and the milk drained 5 times a day; Once puppies are getting mobile the pen needs to be cleaned frequently to minimize mess, smell and contamination; Once puppies are old enough they should spend short periods every day getting individual socialization; you will need to interview prospective puppy buyer’s to ensure they go to safe, healthy, happy homes

Are you aware of the disadvantages of not fixing your dog?  There are health and behavioural issues that should be considered in any decision to breed.  Intact females have an increased risk for mammary tumors; there are heat cycles with bloody discharge approximately twice a year; older females are at risk of developing pyometra (uterine infections); risk of unwanted pregnancy.  Intact males have an increased risk of prostate infections, prostate cancer, testicular tumors and perianal gland tumors; increased urge to roam at large (increasing the risk of being hit by a car); increased mounting tendencies and increased tendency towards aggression and urine marking.

So you have decided you really do want to breed your dog…

What do you need to know?

Discuss with your veterinarian any genetic tests that should be done on your dog before breeding (such as hip dysplasia, eye problems, heart problems, etc).  Your female’s vaccinations should be up-to-date to ensure the maximum levels of antibodies in the colostrum (first milk).

Most females have heat cycles every 6 months, however there can be some variation.  There are 3 stages to the heat cycle, generally breeding occurs in the second, but can occur as late as the third stage.  Progesterone assays (a blood test) can be done to determine exactly where your dog is in her heat cycle and when she should be breed.

Diagnosis of pregnancy, although not necessary, it is nice to have your Veterinarian confirm pregnancy so you are prepared and can adjust for the nutritional requirement changes that the mom will need.   Gestation is 63 days from breeding +/- 5 days.

  •  Ultrasound – can be done from 23 days on.  This will also allow us to give you an estimate of the number of puppies to expect.
  •  X-ray – this is done after 50 days (individual puppies can’t be seen prior to this). This is the most accurate way to determine the number of puppies to expect.

Care During Pregnancy

Switch to a high quality puppy food for the last 1/3 of gestation (approximately 6 weeks from breeding).  Slowly increase the quantity of food so she eats an extra 25-50% by the time she whelps.  Feed small amounts more often as the enlarged uterus restricts stomach capacity.  Be sure to check body condition with a Veterinarian so she doesn’t become too thin or fat.  Deworming should also be done at least twice during gestation.  Pregnancy will activate worms that are dormant and meant to infect the puppies.


Provide a whelping box in a familiar, but private, environment.  The wall of the box should have a ledge around it, to prevent the mom from accidentally crushing a puppy.  Provide blankets or towels for bedding and keep the area warm.

There is a decrease in the mom’s temperature by approximately 1 degree, 12-24 hours before whelping, so start taking a rectal temperature in the a.m. and p.m. 1 week prior to the due date.

Most often the dog will not want to eat the day of whelping.  Commonly she will be agitated, panting and nesting a day or so before whelping.

Labour consists of Three Stages

Stage I – usually lasts 6-36 hours.  It starts with uterine contractions (which are not visible) and ends when the cervix is fully dilated.  During this stage, she may be restless, nervous, panting, and nesting.  Now is the time to provide her with privacy and a whelping area.

Stage II – this stage is widely variable in its length.  It starts with dilation of the cervix and ends with expulsion of the fetus.

Stage III – begins with the expulsion of the fetus and ends with expulsion of the afterbirth or placenta.

The mom will alternate between Stage II and Stage III until all the puppies are born.

Common timings

The whole time for delivering her puppies can range from a few hours to as many as 24 or 36 hours.  Active straining for more than 20 minutes is a concern and a Veterinarian should be consulted.  The time between puppies can range from a few minutes to as much as 4 hours – the mom should be relaxed with no visible contractions between puppies.

Placentas are usually passed 5-15 minutes after the birth of a puppy (2 placentas may follow the birth of 2 puppies).  The mom may try to eat the placentas, but there is no known benefit and may cause diarrhea, so this practice is discouraged.

Approximately 40% of puppies are born breach (rear feet and tail first) this is normal and doesn’t predispose whelping difficulty.

Mom should remove the membranes and lick the puppy vigorously to promote respiration.  If this doesn’t occur immediately you should intervene and rub the puppy with a towel.  Mom should also sever the umbilical cord or you can tie two knots with thread 1″ from the puppy and cut off the excess cord.

Leave the puppies with the mom and handle them as little as possible.

Care of the mom after whelping

Express milk from each teat and feel each mammary gland.  Swollen hard glands, blood and/or pus may indicate infection, which requires immediate attention.

Let the mom have free choice of a high quality puppy food and fresh water – milk production requires a lot of energy and fluids.

In the weeks (up to 8) following, mom will pass an odorless, green, red/brown or bloody vaginal discharge known as “lochia”.  This is normal and mom should be normal in all other respects.  Lack of appetite, lethargy or a foul smelling or yellow discharge may indicate the she has a uterine infection.  A large amount of bloody vaginal discharge also warrants further investigation.  Contact your Veterinarian for any of these.

Care of the Litter

Newborn puppies should be weighed daily for the first 2 weeks.  Failure to gain may be your only clue that there is a problem.  Puppies are expected to lose a small amount of weight the first day (1/2 oz) and gain 1/2 – 1 oz each day depending on the breed.  Puppies should double their birth weight in the first 7-10 days.

Failure to gain weight for the whole litter may indicate mom doesn’t have enough milk, isn’t allowing them to nurse or has mastitis (mammary gland infection).  This means that puppies will need to be supplemented .  Consult your Veterinarian for more information.

Weaning can occur around 4 weeks.  This begins with drinking milk replacer out of a dish, to eating softened kibble to eventually eating dry kibble.  By 6-7 weeks they should be eating mostly dry kibble and drinking only water.

It is important to note that just because the puppies are able to eat on their own does NOT mean they are ready to go to their new homes.  They should continue to interact together, with their mom, and undergo individual socialization and exposure to new objects and environments within your home and yard.  Puppies that are placed in their new homes too early may not adjust well and display inappropriate social behaviour toward other dogs.

Puppies should also have their first Vet exam, vaccination, and deworming several days before they go to their new homes at 8 weeks of age.

For any questions or concerns give us a call 306-545-7211