When Can You Breed a Female Dog?

This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.

What is a good age to breed a female dog?

Male dogs can begin breeding between 6 to 12 months of age. Female dogs should be bred later than males, at least after their first heat cycle. Responsible breeders wait for the bitch to be at least 18 months to breed her.

Is it OK for a 1 year old dog to get pregnant?

Your dog can get pregnant during the very first heat, or estrus cycle. Though most dogs experience estrus around 6 months of age, some small breeds can go into heat at four months old, so it won’t be long before your little princess is able to have pups of her own!

Dog breeding is a joy, but also a huge responsibility. Getting it right means careful planning and preparation. Getting it wrong can be a heartache as well as costly, if pups have health problems or are returned to you by disappointed buyers.

Exceptions are sometimes made to these rules if you can show special circumstances and/or supporting veterinary evidence. If you intend to breed from your bitch, you should make sure she has optimum nutrition and has had all the vet care she needs prior to mating.

You should also start to keep records of her heat cycles, which will help you to predict the due date of her litter when she gets pregnant. If you decide that your female dog is unsuitable for breeding, it is advisable to have her spayed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to protect her from health issues in future. You will need to be able to cover veterinary costs such as pre-breeding tests, vaccinations and attendance during the birth if whelping is not straightforward.

In a worst-case scenario, you may need to deliver the pups by caesarean section, or have the dam treated for issues such as haemorrhage or infection. By combining all your pets on a single policy, you can save money and ensure you have the cover you need. You will need to know how to support your dog through pregnancy and whelping, including understanding the signs that veterinary assistance is required.

You should be familiar with all you need to do to keep the bitch and her litter healthy in the early days, and how to socialise the pups when they find their feet. Celebrated examples include the Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise), the Labradoodle (Labrador Poodle), the Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle) and the Goberian (Golden Retriever and Siberian Husky). While crossbreeding can be very successful, producing a unique-looking dog who often escapes congenital issues associated with the parents breeds, it is also an unpredictable process.

The size and temperament of crossbreed dogs is hard to predict, and deliveries can also be higher risk, perhaps even requiring a caesarean section. To mate the dogs, they are brought into the same space and usually, nature takes its course if the female is in the right stage of her cycle. Within a few hours, the puppies should start to appear the dog can usually handle this herself, but keep watch for signs a vet is needed.

You may need equipment such as towels, thread and scissors for tying umbilical cord, and plenty of bedding things can get messy. When the pups are born, they may need to be wrapped in towels or warmed with hot water bottles while the dam is busy birthing the rest of the litter. When whelping is complete, clean out the bedding then leave the new mother alone to rest and begin nursing her puppies in peace.

On 1st October 2018, new legislation came into effect which was aimed at reducing the number of dogs bred for profit by unscrupulous owners. Regardless of how many litters you breed each year, you also need a licence if you are judged to be selling puppies as a commercial enterprise. If the income you make from selling puppies is considerably more than your expenditure on costs such as stud fees, food and vet care, you may need a licence.

Licences are granted by local authorities for one, two or three years depending on your score in a star rating system. If you do not ensure the pups are matched with suitable owners, you may well find that the puppies are returned to you at a later date.

Use the following resources as a guide to breeding by downloading the Full Guide or by following each step for more information below. You may also want to view the AKC webinar on Planning Breedings: Are you ready to breed a litter?

Responsible breeders, however, know to avoid kennel blindness in other words, they take a step back and honestly evaluate the good and bad points of their dogs before making the decision to breed. It is the breeders responsibility to provide a safe, warm, dry place for the puppies and proper food and water for the bitch.

The extra feeding, cleanup, grooming, training, and veterinary care adds up to a lot of hours and not much free time for you. The first thing to consider when choosing a mating pair is to ensure that both the sire (dog) and dam (bitch) are AKC registered. When selecting a breeding partner (most likely a sire for your dam), there is a simple principle to bear in mind: mate animals that complement one another.

Of course, practicing this common sense maxim can be very complex because you must weigh all the factors that contribute to the dogs traits and appearances. Selection over many generations eventually produced breeds with the correct temperament to pull sleds, follow scent on trails, or retrieve game. Therefore, the selection of a mating pair should not be made solely on the basis of the dogs or bitchs looks (or temperament or soundness, etc.

Diseases that follow a recessive pattern of inheritance occur in homozygous individuals, meaning dogs with two abnormal genes. Recessive mutant genes can be passed through many generations before emerging in the offspring of two dogs that carry the same genetic mutation. You have performed all necessary health checks, genetic screenings, and selected the perfect mate for your bitch.

It is an excellent idea to work out a contract with the owner of the stud dog before breeding takes place. The contract may state that the owner of the sire is not obligated to sign an AKC litter registration application until the stud fee has been paid. You may also want to have the bitch and male tested for brucellosis, an infectious bacterial disease that can cause sterility or spontaneous abortion in affected dogs.

False pregnancy, a condition in which the bitch shows symptoms of being pregnant although she has not conceived, is occasionally seen during diestrus. Responsible breeders generally do not breed a bitch at the first heat to avoid imposing the stress of pregnancy and lactation on a young, growing animal. It is also customary to avoid breeding a bitch on consecutive heats to allow sufficient time for recuperation between pregnancies.

To catch the peak fertile period, a veterinarian may need to perform hormone tests or examine vaginal smears under a microscope. Breedings involving young males proceed more smoothly if they are paired with experienced bitches. During breeding, the male mounts the female from the rear and clasps her midsection with his front legs.

Daily food intake should be increased gradually, so that at the time of whelping she may be eating 35 to 50 percent more than usual. However, some breeders advocate supplementation with a protein source such as evaporated milk, eggs, meat, or liver. Many breeders prefer to line the box with newspapers until after delivery because paper can be changed quickly when it becomes soiled.

After whelping, newspapers are typically replaced with non-skid bath mats, outdoor carpeting, or something else that provides better footing for the puppies. Approximately 24 hours after her temperature drops, she can be expected to enter the first stage of labor when the cervix dilates and opens the birth canal for the passage of puppies. This stage of labor is followed by actual abdominal straining and production of the puppies and placentas.

The mother usually takes care of this by tearing off (and sometimes eating) the membrane and then severs the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord can be tied with unwaxed dental floss and cut on the far side of the tie/knot about two inches from the abdomen. Suckling lets them ingest colostrum, a milk-like substance containing maternal antibodies which is produced in the mammary glands just after birth.

Colostrum helps the newborn puppies fight infection in their early days while their own immune systems mature. Colostrum contains a number of substances that are beneficial to the puppy, including immunoglobulins that protect newborns from the infectious diseases to which the mother is immune. Advanced canine mastitis presents itself as a hard, hot and almost black breast segment, which is extremely painful for the bitch when touched.

During this entire period, adequate calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D must be fed to avoid the onset of eclampsia. For three weeks after whelping, she will need two or three times more food than her normal maintenance diet to help her provide nourishing milk to her puppies. If diarrhea develops, immediately reduce the puppys intake to half the amount previously fed, then gradually increase it again to the recommended level.

The hole in the nipple can be enlarged slightly with a hot needle to let the milk ooze out slowly when the bottle is inverted. Gently massage the puppys anal region with a cotton ball that has been dipped in warm water. It also opens the doors for the puppies new owners to the wide array of services, information, and events provided or sponsored by the AKC.

Some breeders recommend starting them off by offering a pan of puppy formula in place of their mothers milk. To avoid digestive upsets, be sure to introduce all changes in food or feeding schedules gradually. Knowing the right questions to ask prospective owners helps breeders get a feel for the type of home they will provide.

As a breeder, you will be gratified by phone calls and letters describing your puppies first teeth, birthday parties, and other milestones. for information on sharing a long, fulfilling, active life with their new pet the American Kennel Club. Free AKC New Puppy Handbook Reduced rates for pet lost-and-found recovery service enrollment

As a not-for-profit registry, AKCs commitment is to canine health, breeder rights, and promoting responsible dog ownership. AKC funds a wide array of activities and initiatives dedicated to our achieving our mission, including: AKC Canine Health Foundation research to treat and cure dog-related diseases Canine legislation initiatives that help protect breeder rights K-9 search and rescue programs Inspections to monitor care and conditions at kennels across the country Canine DNA profiling that ensures reliable registration records Education to encourage responsible dog ownership

About This Article

To know if your female dog is ready to breed, start by tracking her heat cycles to determine when she’s fertile, and make sure she has experienced at least 1-2 cycles before breeding her. To figure out if she’s in heat, check for a swollen vulva and watch out for blood or sharp-smelling discharge left behind on furniture, carpets, and bedding. She may also urinate more frequently when she’s in heat. For more information about how to breed your dog, read on!

Top tips for successfully breeding a dog

16th April, 2020
Breeding puppies can produce a hefty vet bill. As long as you’re a non-commercial breeder, our specialist pet insurance is a great way to ensure your 8 week old puppies’ needs are taken care of.

Key things to consider before you start

You want to breed a puppy, not a problem. While the delight of seeing new puppies come into the world is certainly part of the experience, don’t let this distract you from the basic principle of ensuring you only bring new dogs into the world where they have the best chance of being healthy and happy.Each litter should be an improvement on its parents. This means you should think through issues like temperament, health issues and soundness before breeding. You need to plan ahead of mating to ensure you can give the optimum environment.You also need to be confident that you can accept responsibility for all puppies born to your dog, even after they have gone to new owners. You may need to provide assistance with issues such as training and socialisation and in some cases, you might need to take back a dog if there are problems.

Your quick guide to dog-breeding terms

Let’s take a look at some of the most common terms you’ll be using if you become a breeder:

Time

You need to be able to be able to give the dam all the care she needs through whelping and the first eight weeks of the puppies’ lives, which is the earliest they can go to new homes.You will need to keep an eye out for signs of infection in the mother, keep the whelping box clean and fresh, ensure the family has the vet checks they need and generally ensure a calm, quiet atmosphere while the pups are tiny.If something goes wrong, for example the dam does not produce enough milk for the pups, the process can be even more time-consuming, as you will need to find a foster mother or use milk replacer products.

Money

You will need to be able to cover veterinary costs such as pre-breeding tests, vaccinations and attendance during the birth if whelping is not straightforward.In a worst-case scenario, you may need to deliver the pups by caesarean section, or have the dam treated for issues such as haemorrhage or infection.The best way to protect yourself and your pets against costly vet bills is to take out multi pet insurance. By combining all your pets on a single policy, you can save money and ensure you have the cover you need.

Knowledge

You will need to know how to support your dog through pregnancy and whelping, including understanding the signs that veterinary assistance is required. You should be familiar with all you need to do to keep the bitch and her litter healthy in the early days, and how to socialise the pups when they find their feet.

Choosing a stud

The stud you choose should have a pedigree that is compatible with your bitch, as well as a clean bill of health. Before breeding, the stud should be checked for inherited diseases which apply to that breed.Of course, you can always choose to create a crossbreed litter. Some mixed breed dogs are immensely popular, mixing the best characteristics of two pedigrees.Celebrated examples include the Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise), the Labradoodle (Labrador Poodle), the Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle) and the Goberian (Golden Retriever and Siberian Husky).While crossbreeding can be very successful, producing a unique-looking dog who often escapes congenital issues associated with the parents’ breeds, it is also an unpredictable process.The size and temperament of crossbreed dogs is hard to predict, and deliveries can also be higher risk, perhaps even requiring a caesarean section.

The breeding process

Once you are confident that the bitch and stud you have chosen are suitable for breeding and that you have the resources required, it’s time to start the actual breeding process.A bitch is suitable for mating when she is over one year old and has had at least one normal season.Most bitches will come on heat twice a year once they are in season. The age at which bitches come into season for the first time can be as old as two – larger breeds tend to be later.The best time to mate a bitch is around the 11-14th day of her season (from 11 days after the first day of bleeding).However, this is hard to predict as some bitches will accept a dog earlier, while others will not accept the dog until later. A vet may be able to carry out hormonal testing on the bitch to check the best date for trying to mate.To mate the dogs, they are brought into the same space and usually, nature takes its course if the female is in the right stage of her cycle. Bitches will be in whelp for around 63 days.

The whelping process

From 21 days after mating, a vet can check if your bitch is pregnant by testing for the hormone relaxing and manual checks to see if the uterus is thickening.This may be covered by your multi pet insurance. From 28 days, puppy heartbeats may be heard with a stethoscope and the pups should show up on an ultrasound scan. This should also show how many pups will be in the litter.During pregnancy, your dog should start out with the same healthy diet and exercise regime she is used to. When she is ready to give birth, she may seem restless and scratch at the ground or her bed.This is when you make up a whelping box. This should be of a size to allow the bitch to come and go easily, but confine the puppies and keep out draughts. It should be lined with bedding that is soft and durable, such as old blankets or sheets.The dam-to-be may pant and urinate frequently as whelping approaches. Within a few hours, the puppies should start to appear – the dog can usually handle this herself, but keep watch for signs a vet is needed.You may need equipment such as towels, thread and scissors for tying umbilical cord, and plenty of bedding – things can get messy.When the pups are born, they may need to be wrapped in towels or warmed with hot water bottles while the dam is busy birthing the rest of the litter. When whelping is complete, clean out the bedding then leave the new mother alone to rest and begin nursing her puppies in peace.

Do you need a dog breeding licence?

On 1st October 2018, new legislation came into effect which was aimed at reducing the number of dogs bred for profit by unscrupulous owners. Some so-called puppy farmers had been breeding puppies irresponsibly in order to make money, failing to consider factors such as health, temperament and socialisation.If you breed three or more litters where at least one puppy from each litter is sold in a 12-month period, you will now need a dog breeding licence.Regardless of how many litters you breed each year, you also need a licence if you are judged to be selling puppies as a commercial enterprise. If the income you make from selling puppies is considerably more than your expenditure on costs such as stud fees, food and vet care, you may need a licence.Licences are granted by local authorities for one, two or three years depending on your score in a star rating system.You are graded on the welfare standards you provide, for example, the number of health tests you carry out, and the risk rating you represent based on your history of meeting the relevant standards.If you make more than £1,000 trading income, regardless of costs incurred in rearing the puppies, you will need to report this to HMRC as tax may be payable on the income.

Step Two – Breed to Improve

The motto of the responsible breeder of purebred dogs is “Breed to Improve.”Every dog is the best dog in the world to its owner. Responsible breeders, however, know to avoid “kennel blindness” — in other words, they take a step back and honestly evaluate the good and bad points of their dogs before making the decision to breed. The goal of breeding, after all, is to produce a better dog and a quality pet.Examine your dog carefully. Recognize its flaws. If you decide to continue with the breeding process, look for a mate that will eliminate or balance those flaws. The national parent club for your breed may also provide assistance.One of the best ways to get an objective opinion of your dog is to test it against others. Consider attending a dog show to determine how your dog measures up against the best specimens of its breed.

Step Three – Understand the Commitment

Raising puppies is a full-time job. During the first couple of weeks the dam normally takes care of the puppies’ needs, but complications, such as a dam with no milk or an orphaned litter, may arise. It is the breeder’s responsibility to provide a safe, warm, dry place for the puppies and proper food and water for the bitch.Puppies are even more work (and more fun!) when they are weaned. The extra feeding, cleanup, grooming, training, and veterinary care adds up to a lot of hours — and not much free time for you.Another factor that you must consider is the financial cost of having a litter of puppies. From the genetic screening and health tests before breeding to the extra food, supplies, and medical care required after the puppies are born, the cost of whelping and raising puppies can be very high, especially if complications arise.Responsible breeders make sure that their puppy goes to an owner who will provide it with the same love and devotion for life that the breeder has provided. This means careful screening and evaluation of each person or family interested in getting a puppy.Responsible breeders learn everything they can about their breed and know all the pros and cons of ownership. It is important to share this information — including the negative aspects — with prospective puppy owners. You should be ready to explain why a dog requiring a lot of coat care or training may not be the best match for a workaholic or why a tiny dog may not be appropriate for a family with small, active children. You should be committed to placing puppies with owners who will provide excellent care.

Step Four – Choose A Suitable Mate

The first thing to consider when choosing a mating pair is to ensure that both the sire (dog) and dam (bitch) are AKC registered. If both dam and sire are AKC registered, then the litter can be registered with the AKC.When selecting a breeding partner (most likely a sire for your dam), there is a simple principle to bear in mind: mate animals that complement one another. Choose a dog whose bloodlines will strengthen your bitch’s weaknesses and emphasize her good qualities. For example, if your bitch’s coat is not as good as it might be, then find a partner with a good coat, from a line of dogs with good coats. Of course, practicing this common sense maxim can be very complex because you must weigh all the factors that contribute to the dogs’ traits and appearances. This is an area where research and the advice and experience of other breeders are invaluable.Two vital factors to keep in mind as you make your selection are temperament and health.Temperament is a hereditary trait in dogs, although it can be influenced by other external factors. Selection over many generations eventually produced breeds with the correct temperament to pull sleds, follow scent on trails, or retrieve game. The inheritance factors of temperament are complex. However, you should never consider breeding a dog with a questionable temperament.As far as health goes, you should be aware that dogs are subject to many hereditary defects, some of which are potentially crippling or fatal. If you breed, your goal should be to produce dogs that are not affected by the major known hereditary diseases occurring in your breed.

Step Five – Know Your Genetics

To be an effective breeder, you should have a basic understanding of the science of genetics. Everything about your prospective puppies’ health, soundness, looks, and temperament will be determined by the genes passed on by their parents, and by their parents before them. Therefore, the selection of a mating pair should not be made solely on the basis of the dog’s or bitch’s looks (or temperament or soundness, etc.), but should be based on an understanding of how the animal’s genes contributed to its looks and of how those genes are passed on and expressed. That is why it is essential to study the pedigrees of your mating pair. The more knowledge you have as you make your selection, the more likely you are to produce a litter with the qualities you desire.You should also be well-versed in the genetic problems that affect your breed. Genetic defects can occur in any breed and can affect any system in the body. Some genetic diseases may occur in many breeds; others occur in only one or a few breeds. The following is a brief explanation of how genetic defects may be inherited and expressed.Diseases that follow aDiseases that follow a

Step Six – Finalize Stud Contract

You have performed all necessary health checks, genetic screenings, and selected the perfect mate for your bitch. Now it’s time to work out the details of the mating.It is an excellent idea to work out a contract with the owner of the stud dog before breeding takes place. The agreement concerning stud fees should be in writing and clearly state all obligations and circumstances. The contract should be signed by all parties to the transaction, and each signer should receive a copy.The stud fee is set by the stud dog’s owner. The mode of payment may differ. The stud owner may request a cash fee, “pick of the litter,” one or more puppies from the resulting litter, etc. The collection of the stud fee is the stud owner’s responsibility. The contract may state that the owner of the sire is not obligated to sign an AKC litter registration application until the stud fee has been paid. Keep in mind that the AKC cannot settle disputes between individuals in regards to contracts and breeding arrangements.

Step Eight – Mating

Good puppies start long before breeding ever takes place. Both parents need long-term care — what dog people call conditioning — to produce the best offspring. This means regular veterinary care, screening for genetic problems, pre-breeding tests, and regular exercise and good nutrition. Bitches should not be overweight and should have good muscle tone before breeding. Additionally, a bitch that is in good mental condition will make a better mother than a bitch that is insecure, snappy, or has an otherwise unstable temperament.One month before breeding, the bitch should have a thorough pre-breeding physical examination by a veterinarian. Her vaccinations should be current, and she should be tested and treated for parasites.You may also want to have the bitch and male tested for brucellosis, an infectious bacterial disease that can cause sterility or spontaneous abortion in affected dogs.The age at which dogs reach sexual maturity depends to a large extent on their breed. Small breeds tend to mature faster than large breeds. On average, however, males become fertile after six months of age and reach full sexual maturity by 12 to 15 months. Healthy stud dogs may remain sexually active and fertile to old age. Adult males are able to mate at any time.Bitches have their first estrus (also know as season or heat) after six months of age, although it can occur as late as 18 months to two years of age. Estrus recurs at intervals of approximately six months until late in life. During estrus, the female is fertile and will accept a male. The bitch should not be bred during her first season.The bitch’s cycle is divided into four periods.Keep in mind that AKC Rules do not allow, except with special documentation, the registration of a litter out of a dam less than 8 months or more than 12 years of age at the time of mating, or by a sire less than 7 months or more than 12 years of age at the time of mating.

Natural Breeding

Responsible breeders generally do not breed a bitch at the first heat to avoid imposing the stress of pregnancy and lactation on a young, growing animal. It is also customary to avoid breeding a bitch on consecutive heats to allow sufficient time for recuperation between pregnancies.Most dogs are first bred between the 10th and 14th day after the onset of proestrus. As long as the bitch will accept the male, mating every other day for a total of two or three matings is generally considered sufficient. However, signs of proestrus are not obvious in some bitches. To catch the peak fertile period, a veterinarian may need to perform hormone tests or examine vaginal smears under a microscope.Bitches are usually less inhibited by new environments so they are usually taken to the stud. Breedings involving young males proceed more smoothly if they are paired with experienced bitches. Sometimes human handlers must step in with assistance or guidance during breedings. Some breeds are more apt to need assistance than others because of anatomical considerations. Discussing this process with your own breeder will help you be prepared .During breeding, the male mounts the female from the rear and clasps her midsection with his front legs. Rapid pelvic thrusts follow until penetration and ejaculation take place. After the pelvic thrusts cease, the dog and bitch will not separate for 10 to 30 minutes. Known as a tie, this results from a swollen section of the penis called the bulbus glandis. During the tie, the male may move around until he and the bitch are positioned rear to rear. Do not try to separate the dogs during the tie because it can injure either or both animals. After some time, they will part naturally.

Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination is a relatively simple procedure that can be used when natural breeding is impractical. The AKC accepts registration of a litter mated by artificial insemination using fresh semen, fresh extended semen, and frozen semen, provided the proper procedures are followed. Registration of these litters requires DNA certification. For more information, see the AKC’s rules for registering a litter bred by artificial insemination.

Watch for Signs of Pregnancy

Canine gestation lasts approximately 63 days. Signs of pregnancy include an increase in appetite, weight, and nipple size. However, a bitch with false pregnancy may also show these signs. A veterinarian can usually confirm a pregnancy through abdominal palpitation at 28 days or by using ultrasound or X-rays.Once pregnancy is confirmed, you should talk to your vet about special feeding requirements and about what to expect during pregnancy, labor, and after birth. You should also be briefed on how to recognize and respond to an emergency.

Provide Proper Nutrition for your Pregnant Bitch

A bitch in good condition should continue into pregnancy with the same caloric intake that she had during adult maintenance. Her food intake should be increased only as her body weight increases, beginning about the last five weeks before whelping. Daily food intake should be increased gradually, so that at the time of whelping she may be eating 35 to 50 percent more than usual. As her weight and food intake increase, begin offering small, frequent meals to spare her the discomfort that larger meals can cause, especially in a small dog.If you have been feeding your bitch a well-balanced, high-quality diet, you should not need to add anything to her food during her pregnancy. However, some breeders advocate supplementation with a protein source such as evaporated milk, eggs, meat, or liver. These supplements should never represent more than 10 percent of the bitch’s daily food intake.

Accustom your Bitch to the Whelping Box

It is a good idea to build a whelping box well in advance so the bitch has time to become accustomed to it. Unless you have already accustomed her to a whelping box, she may choose your closet or another inappropriate place for a delivery room.An ideal whelping environment is warm, dry, quiet, draft-free, and away from all other dogs when possible. Confinement and whelping location of your bitch is relative to her breed and size.A good whelping box is roomy and has low sides so you can easily reach in. It should also have a small shelf or roll bars running halfway up along the sides so the pups have something to crawl under to avoid getting rolled on by the bitch. Many breeders prefer to line the box with newspapers until after delivery because paper can be changed quickly when it becomes soiled. After whelping, newspapers are typically replaced with non-skid bath mats, outdoor carpeting, or something else that provides better footing for the puppies.Suggested Whelping Supplies:

Be Alert for Signs of Labor

A few days before the bitch is ready to give birth, she may stop eating and start building a “nest” where she plans to have her puppies — if introduced properly, this should be in the whelping box you have prepared for her.Shortly before whelping, the bitch’s body temperature will drop to 99 degrees or lower (from a normal temperature of 100 to 102.5).Approximately 24 hours after her temperature drops, she can be expected to enter the first stage of labor when the cervix dilates and opens the birth canal for the passage of puppies. At this time, she will pant, strain, and appear restless. This stage of labor is followed by actual abdominal straining and production of the puppies and placentas.You should have on hand your veterinarian’s phone number and the local emergency clinic.

Step Ten – Puppies Are Born

Most bitches give birth easily without the need of human help. Each puppy emerges in its own placental membrane, or sac, which must be removed before the puppy can breathe. The mother usually takes care of this by tearing off (and sometimes eating) the membrane and then severs the umbilical cord. After delivery, she will lick each puppy to stimulate its breathing.You should keep track of how many placentas are delivered and ensure that the number matches the number of puppies because a retained placenta may cause problems.You must take over if the bitch neglects to remove a sac or sever an umbilical cord. A puppy can remain inside the sac for only a few minutes before the oxygen supply is depleted. The sac membrane should be torn near the puppy’s head and peeled backward until the puppy can be gently removed. Then you should remove mucus or fluids from the puppy’s mouth and nose and gently rub the puppy with a towel to stimulate circulation. The umbilical cord can be tied with unwaxed dental floss and cut on the far side of the tie/knot about two inches from the abdomen. The cut end should be painted with iodine to prevent infection.At the time of birth, the bitch will be busy cleaning her puppies, warming them, and allowing them to suckle. It is very important for the puppies to suckle soon after emerging from the womb. Suckling lets them ingest colostrum, a milk-like substance containing maternal antibodies which is produced in the mammary glands just after birth. Colostrum helps the newborn puppies fight infection in their early days while their own immune systems mature.To track nourishment of the puppies, it is advisable to identify and weigh puppies during the first 2 weeks.

Temperature

A newborn puppy cannot control its body temperature and must be kept in a warm environment. Chilling will stress the puppy and predispose it to infectious disease; overheating can kill it. The environmental temperature can be controlled with a well-insulated electric heating pad or a heat lamp. But make sure the puppies have a cooler place to crawl to if they become too warm.The immediate environmental temperature should be kept between 85 and 90 degrees for the first five days of life. From the seventh to the tenth day, the temperature can be gradually reduced to 80 degrees; by the end of the fourth week it can be brought down to 75 degrees.

Nursing

The first milk produced by the bitch after whelping is called colostrum. Every puppy needs to ingest colostrum as early as possible after birth and certainly during the first 24 hours of life. Colostrum contains a number of substances that are beneficial to the puppy, including immunoglobulins that protect newborns from the infectious diseases to which the mother is immune.For your nursing bitches, one thing to keep a look out for is canine mastitis. It is not that common, but you should be aware of it. Canine mastitis is a breast infection in bitches, usually occurring a few weeks after whelping. Normally, the breasts of a lactating bitch are warm and enlarged. If the breasts seem to be red, dark, hot, or painful when touched, then you should contact your vet immediately. Advanced canine mastitis presents itself as a hard, hot and almost black breast segment, which is extremely painful for the bitch when touched. Canine mastitis can be caused by weaning puppies too early, severe scratches from puppies’ claws, or some other infection. A bitch with canine mastitis may be running a fever, be listless, and may not eat. She also may not allow her puppies to nurse, and if she does, she will be “snappy” when they touch the affected area.

Caring for your bitch after whelping

Some bitches eat very little for the first day or two after whelping. Then their appetite and need for all nutrients rises sharply and peaks in about three weeks. During this entire period, adequate calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D must be fed to avoid the onset of eclampsia. Optimal amounts of these nutrients are already present in a high-quality diet so further supplementation is unnecessary. Eclampsia causes nervousness, whimpering, unsteady gait, and spasms. Although very serious, it is readily cured by prompt veterinary treatment.After whelping, the bitch ideally should be about the same weight as when she was bred, but not more than 5 to 10 percent heavier. For three weeks after whelping, she will need two or three times more food than her normal maintenance diet to help her provide nourishing milk to her puppies. This food should be divided into three or four meals. The composition of the food should be the same as it was during the last third of her pregnancy; only the amount per day should change.

Care for Orphaned Puppies

Newborn puppies must be hand fed if their mother is either unable or unwilling to nurse them. Cow’s milk is a poor substitute for bitch’s milk, which is more concentrated and has twice the level of protein, almost double the calories, and more than twice the calcium and phosphorous content. For feeding puppies, a commercial puppy formula is recommended; carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.Remember that puppies grow very rapidly so make sure you weigh them every day before you calculate how much to feed them.You may need to start with slightly less formula at each feeding and gradually increase the amount as the puppy responds favorably to hand feeding. Steady weight gain and well-formed feces are the best evidence of satisfactory progress. If diarrhea develops, immediately reduce the puppy’s intake to half the amount previously fed, then gradually increase it again to the recommended level. Diarrhea in newborns can be very dangerous so consult a veterinarian for advice.Never prepare more formula than is required for any one day because milk is a medium for bacterial growth. Maintain sanitary conditions at all times. Before feeding, warm the formula to about 100 degrees or near body temperature. Using a bottle and nipple, hold the bottle at an angle to prevent air bubbles. The hole in the nipple can be enlarged slightly with a hot needle to let the milk ooze out slowly when the bottle is inverted. The puppy should suck vigorously, but should not nurse too rapidly. Consult a veterinarian if the puppies are not nursing well. You may need to resort to tube feeding, which is best taught by a health professional.Newborn puppies must be stimulated to defecate and urinate after each feeding. Ordinarily the mother’s licking provides this stimulation, but orphaned puppies will need human intervention. Gently massage the puppy’s anal region with a cotton ball that has been dipped in warm water.Gentle body massage is also beneficial for any hand-reared puppy. Massage stimulates the circulation and thoroughly awakens the puppy. Stroke the puppy’s sides and back with a soft cloth. The best time for a massage seems to be when the puppies are waking up and you’re waiting for the formula to get warm.

Commit Yourself to the Puppies for Life

By this time you have learned everything you can about your breed, and you know all the pros and cons of ownership. It’s important to share this information — including the negative aspects — with prospective puppy owners. You should be ready to explain why a dog requiring a lot of coat care or training may not be the best match for a workaholic, or why a tiny dog may not be appropriate for a family with small, active children.A responsible breeder makes sure that their puppies go to good homes. This means careful screening and evaluation of each person or family interested in getting a puppy. Knowing the right questions to ask prospective owners helps breeders get a feel for the type of home they will provide. Some of these questions can include:AKC Breeders have the responsibility to provide AKC registration papers to the puppy’s new owners. This means applying for litter registration in plenty of time to supply applications to owners at the time of sale. You should explain the benefits of registration to the owners and help them complete the registration application. Conditions such as limited registration or co-ownership should be explained in full. You will also want to provide the new puppy owners with vaccination/health records, feeding instructions, health guarantees, return policy, any health or genetic tests, as well as a copy of the sales agreement/contract.