FIRE MOUNTAIN VETERINARY HOSPITAL
CANINE BREEDING AND WHELPING INFORMATION GUIDE
BEFORE YOU BREED: The most important question to decide is do you really want to breed your dog? Many people never really decide until the dog is too old to effectively breed. The pet is then spayed or neutered but many of the advantages of early spay/neuter are then lost.
Dogs normally come into heat 6-12 months of age (average is 9 months). Breeding recommended when the bitch is at least 1 ½ to 2 years old.
Hip x-rays for large breed dogs are recommended to determine the potential for developing hip dysplasia (a debilitating arthritis). This is done under anesthesia when the dog is at least 2 years old.
A routine health check-up including intestinal worm test or deworming and updating on vaccinations before breeding is essential. Many breeders require a blood test for Brucellosis, a sexually transmitted disease.
Both males and females should be tested within 30 days before breeding. Acquaint the bitch with the stud before breeding if possible.
BREEDING: There are four stages to the bitch’s heat cycle.
1. Pre-heat: bloody discharge, vulva swells, males are attracted but the bitch will not allow them to mount. Usually lasts 5-10 days. 2. Heat: discharges changes to clear color, bitch will stand to be mounted. Usually lasts 4-9 days. Breeding is recommended every other day (usually 2-3 breedings). Part of the normal breeding behavior is for the male to be “tied” to the female for 5-60 minutes after ejaculation. Do not attempt to separate them.
3. Pregnancy: pregnancy can often be confirmed by an exam 4-5 weeks after breeding. Pregnancy lasts 58-66 days (average 63). You will notice an increase in your dog’s appetite and body weight, and after about 4 weeks her belly and mammary glands will enlarge. Higher protein, top quality dog food is recommended during the last half of pregnancy (Science Diet, canine growth). Vitamins are optional. A bitch can be x-rayed after 50 days of pregnancy to help determine the number of pups to expect. Be sure to consult a veterinarian before giving any medication during pregnancy. 4. Inactive period between heats or pregnancies: usually lasts 5-7 months.
DELIVERY (WHELPING): A few weeks before your bitch is due to deliver, prepare a nesting box for her. A large cardboard box works well indoors. The box should be large enough for room to stretch out and nurse the pups comfortably; the sides should be low enough for her to go in and out while keeping the pups in. Use newspaper, towels, or sheets in the box, and be sure to clean it regularly.
The following signs are usually seen 22-24 hours before delivery: restlessness, nest building, frequent urinations, clear or bloody vaginal discharge, milk, loss of appetite, and a drop in the bitch’s body temperature from 101.5 to below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Contractions are seen as obvious straining. The first pup should be born within 2 hours of the onset of labor, and subsequent pups should be no more than 1-2 hours apart. It is natural for pups to be born either feet or head first without any problems. If labor continues for longer than 2 hours without a pup being produced, or if a greenish discharge is seen, you should call a vet immediately.
Puppies are born in a fluid filled sac. The bitch will normally chew open the sac, chew the umbilical cord off, and lick the puppy to stimulate breathing. If she fails to do this, you will need to assist by cutting the sac away and tying the cord off with dental floss or string about 1 inch from the pup’s belly. Then rub the pup vigorously with a towel. You may need to remove fluid from the pup’s mouth with a bulb syringe or kitchen baster.
Each pup should be followed by afterbirth. A bitch will normally eat this if allowed, but this often causes vomiting and should be discouraged. AFTER DELIVERY: your bitch should be examined within 12-24 hours after delivery. Bring along the pups also so they can be examined for birth defects or other problems. Be sure to keep them very warm as they cannot regulate their body temperature until several days after birth. A vaginal discharge may be seen for up to 6 weeks after delivery. The normal color is clear, slightly bloody, or brownish. If it is green, have her checked by a vet (green means go!).
If at any time the bitch seems listless, will not eat, or is not taking care of the pups, seek veterinary advice. Likewise if the pups are cold, restless or crying excessively.
Tail docking and dewclaw removal (if appropriate for the breed) is done at 2 to 4 days of age. If puppies are large, they should be done closer to the 2 days age.
Pups will open their eyes at around 12-17 days, and should be moving around well by 4 weeks.
Deworm the puppies for hookworms and tapeworms at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age. Even if the bitch showed no worms before breeding, pregnancy causes a release of undeveloped worms into the milk and therefore into the pups. Deworm the bitch 2 and 6 weeks after whelping. We have an excellent, safe dewormer available (Nemex-2).
Weaning begins at 3 weeks of age by offering Science Diet canine growth mixed with water. Put this slurry in a low plate so the pups can find it easily. They will usually walk through it until they realize it is something to eat so be prepared for a mess. Pups can be fully weaned and adopted at 6 weeks of age.
Vaccinations should begin at 6-8 weeks of age every 3-4 weeks until the pups are 16 weeks old. Boosters are required once a year.