“Should I let my dog have puppies?”  

The  answer   depends on many factors which is why you may find the subject being brought up during your first visits with a new puppy.   Although it might seem a bit soon there are many good reasons for making a decision as early as possible.  Forward planning helps to avoid many of the common problems.  The unplanned pregnancy that results in a caesarian section, or mammary cancer in an older un-neutered bitch are just two examples.  Making the decision  early on to have your female dog neutered  allows her to get the maximum health benefits.  Neutering female dogs before they have their first season gives the best protection against certain types of mammary cancer. This protection drops a little after having one season but then drops off rapidly with each further season.   Neutering your female dog at any age will also prevent an unwanted pregnancy, uterine infection, prolapse of the vagina or cancer of the uterus or ovary.  However breeding from your dog can also be a very rewarding experience provided your dog is suitable to breed from and you are well prepared.

If you do decide to breed from your dog  a decision made early on will allow plenty of time to plan.  Usually dogs are over two years of age once they are fully mature before they are bred from.  There  are many factors to take into account when deciding if your dog would make a good parent.  Temprement is very important.  Behavioural problems are one of the commonest reasons for dogs being euthanased.  By only breeding from dogs with good temprements we can help reduce this number.   Most breeds have health screening tests available such as hip and elbow scoring, eye testing and blood or urine testing for inherited conditions.  These help ensure the future health of the puppies.   Some tests need to be done within a few months of breeding but many like hip scoring can be done in advance as long as the dog is over a certain age.   Other problems such as allergic skin disease and umbilical or inguinal hernias can also be passed on from parent to pup so dogs with these problems should not be bred from. 

Advanced planning also allows plenty of time to choose a suitable mate.  The Kennel Club of New Zealand has a list of breed societies and contacts as a starting point.  They also have information on inherited health problems within breeds and on the screening tests available.  Working dog  and gundog owners may  choose a mate based on its conformation and success in the field or at trials.  Always ask if this potential mate or its close relatives have had any health problems.

If you will be having a litter of puppies at home consider where your dog will have the puppies. Do you know what to expect when your dog gives birth – what is normal and how to spot problems? What would be suitable for a  whelping box? Where will you put the puppies as they grow and become more active? Will you be able to take time away from work  if there are any problems or the puppies need hand reared?  How will you find good homes for the puppies?  It’s also important to budget for the extra food and worming medication that will be needed and for any emergency veterinary treatment if things don’t go to plan.  Most of the caesarian sections we perform  are not planned and are often needed outside of normal clinic hours. 

We would be very happy  to help or advise you whether you want to breed  or choose to neuter your dog.

We want to help you make the best decision for you and your dog. Some of us have even bred from our own dogs and there’s nothing like first hand experience!

Catherine Copland
SA Vet