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Ask the Vet: How Many Times Can You Breed a Dog?

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How Many Times Can You Breed a Dog?

How many times can you breed a dog is something many dog breeders may wonder about. Overbreeding is a continually growing concern in the world of modern dog breeding. More often than not, overbreeding is motivated and promoted by unethical breeders with dubious and shady financial goals. An irresponsible breeder can either overbreed in general or overbreed a single dog.

 This dog is certainly not a good candidate for back-to-back breeding!

This dog is certainly not a good candidate for back-to-back breeding!

Back to Back Breeding- To Do it or Not?

The term back to back breeding is used to describe the practice of breeding an intact female dog for several consecutive heats without giving her a time to rest. When talking about back to back breeding we often think of extreme cases – when the female dog is bred for three, four, five or sometimes even all of her heat without considerations towards her overall health and well-being.

Answering the question: "How many times can you breed a dog?’’ can be quite tricky. Each case requires individual approach and taking into considerations certain factors. For example, before answering the above stated question it is advisable to answer the following questions:

  • Were there complications during the last pregnancy?
  • Was the delivery natural or was there a C-section?
  • Was the last litter size above the breed’s average?

Even if one of the above questions was answered with yes, the responsible thing to do is to leave the female dog rest for at least one heat. This is not a rule, but it is responsible and should not be argued.

The dilemma stands when all of the above stated questions were answered with no. If there were no complications during the pregnancy, the delivery was natural and the litter size was average and within the breed’s standards, then is it better to let the dog rest for at least one heat between two pregnancies or is it better to breed her consecutively without a rest?

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From an ethical point of view, back to back breeding is an inhumane practice because it puts too much pressure on the mother. From a physiological point of view, according to a vast number of canine reproduction specialists, back to back breeding is actually healthier for the female dog's uterus.

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These experts state that once the bitch is fertile and ready (which usually happens from the second or third heat) she should be continuously bred until she is done. A female dog can be classified as done when her litter size drastically declines. She can also be classified as done when the owner decides that he no longer wants to breed her.

The statement that back to back breeding is healthier for the uterus can be explained through analyzing the role of the hormone progesterone. The hormone progesterone is necessary for maintaining a pregnancy but it is also inflammatory to the uterine lining. Regardless of whether a dog is pregnant or not, she will go through and experience the same progesterone effects. Because of its inflammatory properties, the progesterone is likely to cause cystic endometrial hyperplasia followed by mucometra, or worst case scenario – pyometra ( the accumulation of pus in the uterus).

Preparing to Breed Your Dog

"Humans feel affection for animals with juvenile features: large eyes, bulging craniums, retreating chins (left column). Small-eyed, long-snouted animals (right column) do not elicit the same response."--Konrad Lorenz[1]

Regardless of which side you choose to believe, if you decide to breed from your dog, it is advisable to follow these guidelines. They will help to ensure that your animal is both physically and mentally ready for reproduction, as well as being suitable for breeding.

  • For an intact female dogs, ensure that she is in good physical health, over 18 months old and emotionally mature.
  • If you have a male dog, check that he has both testicles descended in the scrotum. Recognize that if you use your dog for breeding he will be more interested in and successful at mating than he might otherwise have been.
  • Train your dog so it is well-socialized to other dogs as well as to people. Intensely people-oriented dogs, denied an early opportunity to learn how to behave with other dogs, may be unwilling or unable to mate.
  • Ensure that vaccinations and worming are up to date, especially for a female. Recent vaccination ensures that pups inherit good levels of maternal antibody protection against the common infectious diseases. Worm a female regularly before and during pregnancy. Although some parasitologists say that this treatment does not make any difference to a pup’s subsequent worm burden.
  • Choose your dog’s partner by temperament and health not simply by looks and bloodlines.
  • If the dogs are purebreds, ensure that both partners are registered with a kennel club. Pups with documents are easier to home.
  • If you are the owner of a female, always ensure that you have good homes for each pup in the litter.

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  • Check that you conform to local legal obligations concerning dog breeding.
  • Have both the male and the female checked by veterinarians and certified healthy and free from known inherited diseases. In breeds that are known to suffer from inherited eye or joint disorders, have your breeding dogs certified disease-free and registered with the appropriate organizations. To minimize the risk of diseases for which there are now genetic tests, such as progressive retinal atrophy in Irish Setters, have genetic screening tests carried out to ensure that the breeding dogs are not carriers.
  • If brucellosis, a canine venereal disease, is a problem in your area, ensure that both the stud dog and the bitch have been checked and cleared. In addition, ask your vet about blood tests for herpes virus infection.
  • During pro-estrus and estrus, exercise your bitch only on her leash to eliminate any risk of mismating.
  • Breeding is most successful when it occurs within two days of ovulation (when the female’s ovary releases an egg). Ten days after the onset of estrus, take your dog to your vet for vaginal cytology (examination of cells from the vagina) or measurement of blood progesterone. Cytology is simple and helps to show generally where she is in her estrous cycle. Blood progesterone tests are more accurate, but these procedures are best done at referral laboratories.

In Conclusion

All in all, do not breed from your dog simply to satisfy nature. Pregnancy is riskier than not being pregnant. Helping to raise a young litter is a time-consuming and messy business.

Last but not least, it may be more difficult than you think to find homes for the resulting puppies. So, if you do not plan to breed from your dog, have it spayed/neutered as early as possible. If you decide to breed from your dog, talk to your trusted vet on whether you should breed continuously or with rests.

About the Author 

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.

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