Your first litter
Is your bitch expecting puppies? Royal Canin is at your side during a wonderful journey
Even the very best of life’s adventures aren’t always problem free, so it’s better to be prepared well in advance.
One of the commonest misconceptions is that each bitch should have at least one litter, but this is just not true!
If, after considering everything, you do decide to breed from your bitch, you need to appreciate what an important decision this is and the responsibilities it entails.
Take stock of the facts
If you do decide to breed from your bitch, you will need to commit a considerable amount of time and effort, and make sure you create an environment that suits the needs of both the mother and her litter.
Above all, you must be aware that the proper follow-up of the mother’s health and that of her puppies costs money.
Gestation and whelping are also not without risk. Most of the time, nature does a good job but complications can arise, such as a caesarean delivery or sickly puppies!
Lastly, the future of the litter depends on you as you will be responsible for finding the future owners, not always an easy task.
And litters of ten or so puppies are not so unusual!
There’s no room for improvisation in breeding
The aim of this guide is to help private individuals to understand just what dog breeding entails.
This is a new and unique experience for you and it’s important to remember that dog breeding is what the professionals have done for years.
These people have the necessary skills to guarantee gestation and birth in optimal conditions.
A vet check is a must !
Start by making an appointment with your vet.
He or she will do a complete check-up to make sure that your bitch is in ideal physical condition.
This is a precaution that can save you many a worry later on.
If your bitch is overweight, for example, this might cause problems towards the end of gestation and at the time of whelping.
Your vet will also suggest a monitoring plan for throughout the entire pregnancy.
Health points your vet will check
Absence of parasites
Your first litter
Helping nature along…
You’ve decided to breed your bitch and your vet has given you the go-ahead.
Now you just need to find the male to cover your bitch and agree with his owner as to the organisation and the future of the litter to be.
Heats and ovulation
Regardless of breed, heats occur every 6 months on average (4 to 12 months according to breed), depending on the individual bitch.
The optimal period for fertilisation, however, lasts only 48 to 72 hours.
Therefore, mating needs to take place either just before or exactly at this time.
Several coverings, with two days in between, might be required.
The visible signs that your bitch is in heat
The first heats
The first heat is often not very visible but males will be attracted.
It is more than likely, in this case, that the bitch will refuse the male.
She will adopt different positions, such as sitting down or tucking in her tail, in order to prevent covering.
Monitoring heats and ovulation
It is not always possible to forecast the time of ovulation precisely from the date of the beginning of the heat.The vet can monitor the heat and determine the most favourable date of ovulation for reproduction using different techniques such as vaginal smears or hormonal tests.
These methods are extremely helpful in confirming the ideal day for mating and therefore being able to identify exactly when the puppies will be born.
If your bitch becomes receptive to the male, it means that her body is secreting sufficient hormones to stimulate ovulation and that she finds the male acceptable.
He will thus be able to cover her.
Mating and fertilisation
Following a short phase of courting and playing, the dogs sniff each other and, if the bitch accepts the male, mating can take place.
It might take several attempts before the bitch manages to hold the male captive, due to a vaginal locking reflex which can last from 15 to 30 minutes.
Whatever happens, do not try to separate the mating animals as this could cause a haemorrhage or tear, even if the dog sometimes does a complete 180Â° turn – as strange as this might seem.
The beginning of pregnancy
When a sperm succeeds in fertilizing an ovum, this produces an egg, a new cell, of which half carries the father’s genetic heritage and half, the mother’s.
This new living being is called an embryo until the 35th day of gestation, when it becomes a foetus and finally a future puppy in the final third of gestation.
How old should my bitch be before I breed from her?
The first step is to check that your bitch is old enough to bear a litter safely.
Puberty starts at around 6 months for small breed dogs, 8 to 12 months for medium sizes and 18 to 20 months for the largest breeds but despite this, the bitch’s physical development is not yet entirely complete and it is not advisable to breed her during her first heat.
For larger breeds, it is generally recommended to wait until the age of 3.
Do I have to sterilise my bitch?
Ovariohysterectomy is almost a “standard” recommendation for bitches.
There are two medical reasons to spay bitches:
– First reason is the prevention of mammary tumours. When ovariohysterectomy is performed prior to the first heat in a bitches, the risk of mammary cancer later in life is less than 1%, compared with ovariohysterectomy performed after the second heat when the risk is about 25%.
– The second option is to avoid the risk of pyometra.
Is it true that every bitch should have puppies at least once in a lifetime, for reasons of health and wellbeing?
There is no scientific evidence showing that pregnancy prevents genital tract diseases in the bitch.
The view, that having the puppies at least once in a life time is beneficial for the bitch’s wellbeing is anthropomorphic (having human characteristics).
In bitches not intended for breeding (pets) spaying should be carried out at a young age.
When performed before the first heat, it significantly decreases the risk of later development of mammary tumours.
It is obvious that neutering (castrate or spay (a domestic animal) prevents pyometra and false pregnancy.