For many people the prospect of producing puppies is ever so tempting. There are all kinds of reasons for wanting to bring new dogs into the world ranging from replicating that ideal dam or sire to the desire to earn money through the sale of puppies. The process appears straightforward. Get two dogs together at the just the right time and voila- a couple of months later a litter is born. The pups are adorably entertaining, and eight weeks later these little income generators go off to their new homes to live happily ever after. Who wouldn’t want to breed their dog?
Time for a reality check! Before you begin propagating puppies, please consider the following:
What are the potential complications? Only rarely do the processes of breeding, pregnancy, whelping (giving birth), and raising pups take place without at least one significant medical hitch. It is important for you to realize that all aspects of creating, growing, and raising pups pose significant health risks for the female you are tempted to breed (that girl who is likely a beloved family member). Medical complications are often serious and most of them require veterinary care. Additionally, unspayed female dogs are particularly predisposed to breast cancer and pyometra (development of pus within the uterus), both of which can be life threatening. Prior to breeding your dog, have a frank conversation with your veterinarian regarding potential medical risks and what would be involved should they arise.
Is your dog a suitable candidate? Just because you have a purebred dog does not mean he or she should be bringing puppies into the world. Breeding should be reserved only for those dogs with ideal temperament and conformation. Additionally, breed related health issues should be investigated and health clearances provided before an individual dog is bred. For example, Labrador Retrievers are predisposed to hip dysplasia. The prospective breeding dog’s hip joints should be assessed via X-rays taken after two years of age and assessed by a radiologist either at Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP . Labradors with inferior quality hips should not be bred. Visit the national breed association website for your breed of interest to learn more. I also encourage you to work with a reputable breeder or two to help you determine if your dog’s temperament, conformation, and health clearances make him or her a suitable candidate for breeding.
How much money will you make? The expenses associated with breeding a dog and raising pups are often greater than the income produced. The need for a Cesarean section (C-section), one sick puppy, or a case of mastitis (infection within the dam’s mammary gland) can negate any potential profit. Don’t forget to factor in the stud fee that should be fairly pricey if the male has been cleared for health issues and represents his breed well. Lastly, as the old adage counsels, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” There’s never a guarantee of how many pups will arrive, much less survive the birthing process. You may end up selling two pups when the financial expectation was for eight or ten.
Do you have time? Raising pups is a whole lot of work! Done correctly, a huge amount of round-the-clock cleaning and monitoring is required, not to mention at least a couple of trips to the veterinary hospital for “herd health” visits. If you are raising a litter, plan to recruit lots of help or give up your day job for a minimum of six weeks.
Is it the right thing to do? The pet overpopulation issue is not exclusive to mixed breed dogs. Before breeding your own dog I encourage you to visit your local shelter or humane organization where you will find plenty of homeless purebred dogs. Contact the local rescue organization for the breed you fancy and find out how many dogs they have in foster care waiting for placement. Abstaining from breeding your dog may be the truly socially conscious thing to do.
Still have the desire to breed your dog? If so, please consult with your veterinarian and spend time with some reputable breeders before getting started. This way you will be able to proceed in a manner that is responsible to your dog, the people who will be adopting your puppies, and the breed you are promoting.
If you have ever purposefully bred your dog, I invite you to share your experiential wisdom.
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.