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When it comes to breeding or neutering your precious furry friend, especially bitches, there is no right or wrong answer but we would like to shine some light on the matter to help you make an informed decision. You may even be tempted to have a litter from your girl before neutering her… if so, here are a few things to bear in mind…
Having your very own litter of puppies or kittens is certainly an experience, but whilst this can be very rewarding if all goes well, a few things need careful consideration if you have never bred before. In some cases, it might not be a good idea at all.
To make sure you’re breeding to the highest standard, ensuring the health and well-being of your fur-friend, we ask that you please think about the following before making this important decision.
Time and effort
The decision to have a litter of newborns is not one to make lightly. Before taking the idea further, carefully consider the amount of time, effort and expense it will take to breed from your pet. Do you have the space for starters? Do you have the free time to provide for them? Puppies especially require roughly 2-3 months of your full attention when you will need to be available around the clock to look after them! Are you able to cover the cost of essential vaccinations and healthcare treatments? And remember that bitches can sometimes have up to ten or more pups in one litter!
In dogs especially it is important to be sure that your bitch’s temperament is compatible with being a good mum, bearing in mind that she is likely to need at least a few visits to the vet for things like check-ups or ultrasound scans. If she has a nervous or flighty disposition, she will not find this easy. There is also a risk that an anxious bitch may reject or even attack her pups – leaving you to hold the babies!
Pre-breeding health tests
Healthy mums are more likely to have healthy babies. It’s very important to consider serious hereditary diseases that can be passed on if their parents carry the affected genes. If you’re keen to breed from your pet, we advise that you don’t go ahead without first checking with your vet. Do your own research too. Find out if your breed is prone to any particular health issue for which your pet should be tested – the Kennel Club and breed society websites are a good starting point. Be especially aware of the multiple health issues that can affect short-faced breeds like French Bulldogs and Pugs.
Your vet can perform a general health check and will advise which pre-breeding health tests are available at your practice. Commonly performed tests include hip and elbow dysplasia testing, eye testing and heart testing. Gene tests for many breed-related problems are available and often may need just a simple cheek swab or blood sample. These can be very cost-effective. Some results can take several weeks to come back, so allow lots of time to complete health testing before your bitch comes into heat. When choosing a stud dog, it’s vital to ensure that he has been tested for any breed-related conditions.
Remember, many popular crossbreeds can suffer conditions inherited from the primary breed. For example, Labradoodles may be at risk of hip and elbow problems, or Cavachons may suffer from heart murmurs. And health testing is essential for ALL dogs, not just pedigree and KC registered dogs!
Once you’ve thought about health testing, consider also the need for veterinary care during the pregnancy and whelping. How will your pet cope with this? What if she has difficulty whelping and needs an emergency caesarean? What if she suffers from complications after the pups are born? You should consider the potential costs, both financial and emotional, if things don’t go according to plan.
Finding suitable homes
Pups should never be passed on to a new owner until they’re at least 8 weeks old and, by law, you need to have them micro-chipped before this. Sending off the right puppy to the right family is very important if all are to be happy in their ‘forever home’. This is a big responsibility – and could be quite a big job for you. Think about all of the advertising involved, as well as the potential struggle to find the right family for each pup. There is always the chance you might not be able to sell all of the pups, so could end up with more pets at home than you’re able to care for.
The benefits of neutering
Early neutering greatly reduces the chances of some common, potentially life-threatening diseases.
Non-neutered dogs and bitches are at much higher risk of certain cancers (ovarian, uterine and mammary in females, testicular in males), pyometra (infection of the uterus), prostate disease, unplanned litters, birthing problems (such as Dystocia), straying and related injuries, and sex-linked aggression.
Find out more about the benefits of neutering here.
If you’re ‘umming and ahhing’ about having just that one litter, and your bitch is first and foremost a family pet, consider how the health benefits of early neutering weigh up against the potential risks of having a litter.
Overall, breeding a litter can be a rewarding experience – after all, what kind of place would the world be if nobody brought new puppies and kittens into it? However, breeding a litter brings with it significant risks and responsibilities in terms of health and welfare for your girl and her babies, and commitment from you. If you have decided to have a litter, have done your research and are prepared for all of the risks, costs and work involved, that’s great! If you’re yet to think it through, we advise that you do so carefully before making any spontaneous decisions.
If you’re unsure, come and have a chat with us! We’re always very happy to advise further.
Until next time, with very best wishes,