How Many Litters Can a Dog Have? 14 Dog Breeding Questions
When it comes to breeding, you might get confused about when to start, how long to breed, and when to let your dog retire. And it’s not that there’s too little information on the matter. In fact, there’s too much of it and it’s quite inconsistent. One of this article’s goals is to offer some clarification on the subject.
Things to consider before breeding
Dogs are a monocyclic species, which means that in the natural environment the female has only one sexual cycle per year. If she does not fertilize for some reason, the next heat will be almost a year later.
As a result of housekeeping, with the breeding of many different breeds, including small ones, many females get their heat twice a year, sometimes even more often. But in any case, not only fertilization, but also mating itself is only possible on a strictly fixed date.
There are many myths, strange stories and unsubstantiated claims related to dog mating among dog owners, especially beginners.
The owner of a male dog should have a clear idea of how much breeding value their dog has. In other words, whether or not he will be used regularly as a stud dog. In order to confirm the breeding value, it’s necessary to regularly attend dog shows. This entails time and money, but still doesn’t guarantee regular breeding.
If a male dog is a non-pedigree, he definitely doesn’t need a “bride”. Accidental mating, in addition, is fraught with the risk of contracting venereal sarcoma.
Female dog owners should think about other equally important things. How good a dog is your dog as a representative of the breed? Is it necessary to get puppies from her at all? Are you willing to spend a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money on keeping a pregnant and then nursing dog and raising puppies? No one can be sure that mating will be effective, that pupping and nursing will go without complications, and the puppies can find good owners.
Don’t forget that labor can be complicated, and the dog might need some help or even a C-section. The possibility of death of a bitch in labor can’t be completely ruled out.
What is a suitable age for the first breeding?
Dogs of different breeds reach puberty at different times. The general tendency is the following: small breeds become adult at the age of about half a year, medium and large breeds at about 8-10 months, the largest breeds – from 8 months to a year and a half.
Sexual maturity, that is, the ability to conceive, is quite early in most dogs. It’s generally accepted that females become sexually mature from the time of their first heat (depending on the breed, the time of the first heat varies from 6 to 12 months of age). Males become sexually mature somewhat later than females, at approximately 9 months of age. A sexually mature male dog has both testes sunk into the scrotum. If the testes are in the abdominal cavity, i.e., didn’t descend after reaching 12 months, such a male dog is infertile and called cryptorchid (the name of the pathology is “cryptorchidism”). Males with one descended testis can conceive but aren’t allowed for breeding, since cryptorchidism is hereditary.
It’s important to understand that when a male or female dog reaches puberty, it doesn’t mean they are ready to mate and produce offspring. Despite the fact that technically the body has already matured for reproduction, physiologically it’s not ready for this (especially for bitches, for whom pregnancy and childbirth after the first heat can become a very heavy load and lead to complications). For small dogs of decorative breeds (Chihuahuas, Toy Terriers) additional restrictions bring requirements for height and weight. If these indicators are less or more than the breeding standards require, the dog can’t be bred.
Specialists recommend that the first breeding should happen during a bitch’s third heat. A male dog can be bred when he reaches the body size of an adult animal at the age of about 2 years. Owners of bitches who plan to get puppies should keep a journal with a detailed description of each heat, starting from the first. Based on these observations, when the dog is ready to carry puppies, it’ll be possible to choose the best time for mating.
For how long can stud dogs be bred?
There are no strict limits on the oldest age for males. Restrictions can only be imposed in case of illness but in the absence of abnormalities and health problems a breeding male can be used for breeding for almost his entire life.
That being said, specialists recommend that you let your dog retire after the age of 7. Whether you decide to do just that or continue to breed your stud dog, do regular semen tests to make sure he is still capable to provide healthy offspring.
What’s the oldest age for a bitch to be bred?
For a bitch, the first mating should be done no later than at 4 – 5 years old. Once she’s bred for the first time, she can be mated until 7-8 years old. It’s considered normal to receive 6 litters from one bitch during her lifetime. However, there’s no definitive answer to the question “Is it possible to mate a bitch in the next heat after pregnancy”. In fact, such a strain on the dog’s body is undesirable, but in some cases, you can breed your dog two times in a row, provided there’s a break of at least 6 months between the last litter and new breeding. You must also make sure that the dog has no health problems, and that the previous pregnancy went without complications.
Are there any legal regulations on the number of litters a dog can have?
There seem to be no strict laws as to how many litters your dog can have. Only UK and Netherlands have rules in this regard. The British Kennel Club says a bitch must produce no more than 4 litters, only one litter per calendar year. Netherlands has the same regulation for a number of litters per year but allow 5 litters per lifetime.
Things to consider when you want to breed your dog
When deciding whether or not to breed your dog, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons and considering the following factors:
1. The age of the dog.
The ideal age for a dog to first mate is approximately two to four years old. This is due to the fact that at an earlier age the animal is not yet fully formed, the body itself still requires an increased amount of minerals, vitamins and nutrients, the chest and skeleton are not yet fully developed. Therefore, breeding the dog too early can lead to undesirable health problems in the future. Breeding a bitch over the age of five can lead to a very difficult birth, as the pelvic ligaments ossify, resulting in the dog not being able to give birth to puppies.
2. The dog’s health and hereditary diseases.
Before an intended mating, you need to assess how healthy an offspring your bitch will be able to produce. If she has any serious genetic diseases that are peculiar to the breed, or if she is a carrier of unsound genes, it’s best to refrain from mating. These conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia, cryptorchidism, severe bite problems, hereditary cardiomyopathy, and eye disease.
If you’ve weighed all the pros and cons of breeding your dog, you should prepare carefully for the birth of puppies. A female dog’s pregnancy lasts about 60 days (56-70 days), and you can get a more accurate idea of when she’s due by learning how long her mother was pregnant. One month after mating, it’s advisable to have an ultrasound of the uterus to confirm the pregnancy and the approximate number of live puppies.
Normally, dogs can give birth without the help of a vet (except in dwarf breeds, where the bitch weighs less than 3 pounds, and such breeds as the Neapolitan mastiff and English Bulldog, which usually need a Caesarian).
However, owners should do some reading on how it works and how to deliver the puppies. Otherwise, excessive excitement and interference of the owner, can significantly complicate the process of bringing the puppies into the world. It’s also advisable to contact a veterinarian in advance, and, in case of an emergency, call them and ask for their assistance. It’s also worth noting that natural birth should take place in a calm home environment but if an emergency surgical procedure is required, it’s better to have it at the clinic.
How to determine the optimal day for breeding
The most accurate methods of determining the timing of mating are medical:
- Cytological examination of a vaginal smear
- Hormonal blood test
Together these methods are much more effective and accurate than the visual method, which is never a guarantee that the bitch is pregnant.
The cytological examination of a dog’s vaginal smear is a simple and reliable method of determining the timing for breeding. A smear of vaginal mucus is taken and examined under a microscope. The swab contains a certain percentage of nucleus-free cells. At the time of mating, there should be at least 80%. The smear tests start on the 4th or 5th day of the heat, and are observed over time, for a few days.
When the level of nucleus-free cells reaches the optimal number, they do a blood test for progesterone levels. The dog’s hormone blood test allows to determine the time during which fertilization is possible. This time is the 2nd day after ovulation, and that is the perfect day for mating.
In addition to the tests, it’s advisable to prepare the dog for mating medically. Depending on the bitch’s age and health, the veterinarian may prescribe vitamins, complex medications to maintain hormone levels, or simply a nutritional adjustment for the period of heat. These methods are aimed at obtaining a multiple pregnancy and its safe resolution even in dogs who breed for the first time.
Breeding small-sized dogs
The mating of dogs takes place during a special period, heat. The most favorable days for mating are the second week of heat, namely day 8-15. But not all dogs ovulate during this period. It’s important to closely monitor the behavior of your pooch, so as not to miss the favorable days for fertilization. The main signs of a bitch’s readiness for mating are the lightening of the discharge, restlessness and heightened interest in male dogs.
The mating of small breeds has a number of peculiarities. First, because of the special value of small-sized breed males that often find it hard to mate a larger bitch. In this case, they need help. For example, put a thick book under his hind legs or just support the pooch.
Secondly, the age of the first mating is of great importance. Breeding of small breeds is officially allowed from 18 months for females and 12 months for males. However, delaying the first mating, especially for miniature bitches, isn’t worth it. The later you mate your little pupper, the more likely the chance she won’t be able to give birth on her own.
Breeding large-sized dogs
Large and giant breed dogs often have their first heat later than small and medium breeds and may not start until they are 2 years old. It’s better to wait until their third heat before breeding. Large-sized breed bitches should retire no later than after the age of 7.
What are the things worth knowing before breeding?
Make sure your dog is free of infectious diseases such as brucellosis. Ultrasound examination of the reproductive tract will allow visual evaluation of the uterus and ovaries. In bitches, the first cause of infertility is incorrect timing of the fertile period, so determining the timing of ovulation by vaginal cytology and consistent measurement of progesterone hormone levels in the blood during heat will increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.
Evaluation of male fertility consists of examining the quality of semen, and the spermogram.
How to choose the right mate for my dog?
Experienced breeders know what breed qualities they want to develop in their animals even without consulting a veterinarian. As for the health and success of pregnancy, the quality of the sperm is a guarantee of a male dog’s fertility. Remember that when they reach middle age (5-6 years) dogs have changes in the prostate gland and it affects fertility. So ultrasound examination of the prostate should be part of the diagnostic plan of the breeding male. Timely treatment will ensure that the problem is not neglected.
Does the time of year affect mating?
Unlike in cats, dogs have not been found to depend on the seasonality of their sexual cycle. It all depends on when the bitch is in heat.
How does a dog’s diet affect fertility?
From a reproductive standpoint, a balanced diet plays an important role in the life of dogs, especially during pregnancy and lactation. A dog’s diet should be full of important nutrients to improve mating performance and promote proper fetal formation.
From the second half of pregnancy onwards, dogs have a greater need for energy, so specialized foods with a higher caloric density should be used.
How does weight affect mating performance?
Overweight dogs are prone to musculoskeletal disorders. Therefore, for example, overweight male dogs may find it difficult and painful to do a mating. Overweight bitches have a higher risk of primary weakness in labor.
Low weight or rapid weight loss may indicate systemic diseases.
How long after the treatment of health issues can I breed my dog?
It all depends on the specific disease. By the time of mating, you need to be sure that the animal is healthy. For example, the absence of bacterial growth in the urine culture indicates that there is no longer an infection, the treatment has been effective and mating can take place.
What are the health risks of undiagnosed diseases for the bitch and offspring?
Diseases of the uterus and ovaries can be the cause of infertility. They can be characterized by both the impossibility of pregnancy, and the inability to conceive (fetal resorption or abortion). Pregnancy abnormalities can be predisposing factors for abnormal delivery and early neonatal mortality.
How to prepare an animal for testing?
If we are talking about male dogs, the collection of semen at the veterinary clinic, especially if it is the first time, can cause stress, so the procedure will be more effective in the presence of a bitch in heat.
What medical conditions make it impossible for dogs to mate?
Certain dog breeds are genetically predisposed to a number of diseases. Breeders are well aware of these pathologies, and animals suffering from them are excluded from breeding. Examples include the prevalence of hip dysplasia in German shepherds and some other breeds.
How do I choose when to breed my pet if she has a prolonged heat?
First of all, it’s necessary to identify the cause of a prolonged heat. There are bitches that ovulate late, and the heat lasts longer than 21 days. However, the cause of prolonged heat can be cysts and neoplasms of the ovaries, the presence of which should be excluded by an ultrasound examination. Hidden heats are insidious because they are difficult to recognize, as signs of heat may be weak or completely absent. In this case, the first task will be to diagnose the onset of heat itself. This can be done by performing a vaginal cytology examination every 2-4 weeks until signs of proestrus appear in the smears.
Diagnosis of the timing of the fertile period should begin on days 4-6 of heat with a vaginal cytology study, ultrasound examination of the uterus and ovaries, and examination of the progesterone hormone level in the blood. Progesterone is measured several times during the heat period, 1-3 days apart until ovulatory levels are reached.
How to maintain the reproductive health of breeding animals?
Preventing disease and treating it early increases the chances of maintaining reproductive health.
First of all, one should have as complete an understanding as possible of the health of the animal, including the urinary and reproductive systems, and remember that some diseases tend to appear with age. Starting from the age of 6-7 years, dogs should be examined before mating, since the risk of changes in the structure of the mucous membrane of the uterus increases with age, which may cause infertility.
What should I do if my dog has had unproductive mating in the past?
Identifying the cause of infertility isn’t an easy task. All previous mating data should be thoroughly reviewed, the reproductive health of the bitch assessed, the fertility of the male dog ascertained, and a further plan of action developed. Infertility can occur due to lack of normal mating, infertility of the male, lack of ovulation, inability to implant fetuses due to uterine diseases, or inability to carry fetuses.
What mistakes can be made when mating planning?
One of the common problems is the wrong time of mating. Of course, every owner knows their dog better than anyone else but keep in mind that clinical signs and behavior during heat can be deceptive – they do not always accurately indicate the onset of ovulation. Not all bitches ovulate on day 11-13 of heat. What’s more, the time of ovulation can vary from heat to heat. Statistically, 40-50% of infertility cases are due to incorrect determination of the fertile period.
How do I avoid mistakes when planning mating?
Before mating, infectious disease diagnostics and sperm quality assessment of the male dog can be performed. During the heat period, vaginal cytology and/or bacteriological culture of the vaginal contents, uterine and ovarian ultrasound, and progesterone blood levels to determine ovulation will help.
Based on their size and peculiarities of health and build, dogs can normally have from 3 to 5 litters during their lifetime. While it’s physically possible for them to breed and give birth to puppies more time than that, it’s highly undesirable. Exceeding the number of litters, the frequency of breeding, and the breeding age cap, can lead to grave consequences for the health and life of your dog and their puppies.