Dog Reproductive Services - What to Know If You Want to Breed Your Dog

What do I need to know if I want to breed my dog?

Good question. If you want to breed your dog, the biggest thing to consider, which may be the next question, is the health of the dog. You want to make sure that the male and female are both healthy and able to have a pregnancy, and that you're ready to have puppies and prepared for complications that may come up along the way—both in workload and financial responsibility. Unfortunately, if an emergency comes up, it can be a cost situation that is worth considering beforehand so that you're not stuck at an emergency clinic and surprised.

Dr. Julia Zuercher
Animal Hospital Of Statesville

What is the most important factor when considering canine reproduction?

Again, you want to make sure that the breeding dogs are healthy, they're up to date on vaccines to pass to the puppies or titers, the heartworm test is negative, and that they have the best shot at getting pregnant and carrying a healthy pregnancy to produce healthy puppies.

Are there any things that your dog might have that you would not want to pass on to other litters?

That is a great question. We do encourage breeders to do breed-specific health testing. Certain breeds have things like elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, or other things like that. It's good to screen against those before breeding them so that we know that the pair has the best chance of producing healthy puppies. There are recommendations for those health testing on the Breed Club of America's website, so for example theLabrador Retriever Club of America or things like that. These kinds of health tests help you focus on breeding for health and breeding puppies that are going to be healthy and have good lives.

What about things like cherry eyes and hernias when it comes to screening dogs for breeding?

Health screening is a difficult thing. Yes, we want to breed out things like hernias and cherry eyes and luxating patellas in little dogs. But in little dogs, something like 80% of little dogs have luxating patellas. If you throw them all out, then you run into some problems. The bottom line of health screening is that you're trying to give the dogs the best chance. It's about coming up with pairs that work better rather than completely throwing a dog out of the breeding pool. But if there are multiple strikes against a dog, cherry eyes, and hips and whatever, then, yeah, you should consider not breeding that dog because they're probably not going to pass on the best genes for their puppies.

Will my dog need breeding screening, and do they get that from a vet?

That's partially what we just talked about. We offer hips, elbows, cardiac, PennHIP, thyroid, and other tests here. Those are strongly encouraged for breeding. But then we also do a pre-breeding exam. Within 30 days of when you're planning to breed, we check that the dogs are healthy and ready to be bred and that we can touch base on what the breeding plan is for them.

With how slammed practices are these days with COVID, ideally, we would start seeing you around day three to five of her heat cycle, so when you start noticing the discharge. Within 30 days of when you expect the heat cycle to start is a great time to touch base with us so that we can work you in, and it's not a full emergency. We'll do our best.

What is involved when assessing my dog's fertility?

For female dogs, we start with a physical exam and history. In female dogs, one of the biggest causes of infertility is mistiming when the breeding is, which is why progesterone timing is so important. That's usually where we start. With male dogs, what we do is take a sample of the semen and look at it under a microscope to see what it looks like and how much there is and things like that. We can assess how fertile they are and what their chances are of getting a dog pregnant.

Can dog semen be shipped across the country?

Those are other things that are a little more complex. You can do things like test shipments if you're shipping semen across the country to make sure that when it gets where it's going, it's still alive. Otherwise, you're just hoping a little bit. If that is something that you're running into, that's something we can discuss. But a good place to start is looking at the semen.

Do veterinarians offer dog progesterone testing?

Yes, we do. Here, at the Animal Hospital of Statesville, we use the send-out test because it's more accurate. We have a bit of a time gap. But because it's significantly accurate, we can plan better for a higher chance of getting pregnant.

How is my dog's pregnancy status evaluated?

Two ways. Starting about one month after she ovulates, around day 28, we can see on an ultrasound little heartbeats of the fetuses. That's where we would start. Then, as you get later in pregnancy and the bones start to form, you can take an X-ray and then see how many puppies are there.

Can dogs have cesarean sections?

Yes, they can. Some dogs need it. If it's an emergency situation, and a puppy is stuck, or there's some complication that requires an emergency C-section, we'll perform that. Then, we also schedule some C-sections. For instance, we do so for some of our smushed-face, or brachycephalic, breeds. Some of them need a little bit of help delivering puppies. We'll plan a C-section so that it's a safer delivery.

Are there any risks associated with me trying to breed my dog?

Yes. Breeding is always a risk. I mean, even pregnancy in humans has complications. It does put stress on the heart and some of the other organs. That's why we screen our dogs before we breed them to make sure that they're healthy—to give them the best shot of getting through the pregnancy because there are complications that can arise just like when a human has baked the baby.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Reproductive Services - FAQs

Dr. Julia Zuercher
Animal Hospital Of Statesville

What is the reproductive age range of a dog?

Peak fertility in a dog is between two and five years old.

What is progesterone timing, and why is it recommended?

Progesterone timing is a very complex thing, but to boil it down, the premise is that you pull blood every other day about when she comes into heat and can track when she ovulates and when she's going to be most fertile. So using that to guide breeding has been shown to increase pregnancy rates, increase litter sizes, and give you an accurate due date, so you know what day to be on the watch.

What do you require to breed dogs?

Here at the Animal Hospital of Statesville, we're committed to helping healthy dogs produce healthy puppies. So all of our requirements revolve around the health of the dog. We require that the mother dog has been seen regularly by a veterinarian, preferably with a visit in the last year—that they're up to date on vaccines or titers, their heartworm test, and a Brucella test, which is a sexually transmitted disease in dogs that can be passed to humans and cause infertility. So we cover our bases to make sure they have the best chance of getting pregnant and are healthy to carry the pregnancy.

Some of the things that we can do at the visit if we need to - like the heartworm test and vaccines - are not safe to give before pregnancy, so we can pull titers if we need to in order to check that they have appropriate immunity. Or we can wait a heat cycle if we absolutely have to, to make sure that everybody's healthy.

How will I know if my dog needs help breeding?

So the more significant thing for that is going to be if you've tried to breed them before and they didn't get pregnant, or if you're trying to breed a dog that isn't local. So if you're shipping semen, you'll need some help with that. And progesterone timing, like we already talked about, is recommended for any dog when you're breeding her on her cycle.

Are there any breeds of dogs that are predisposed to needing reproductive services?

Many of the smushed-face, brachycephalic breeds need help breeding and whelping and having the puppies, but not all of them. Those tend to be the ones that we watch out for.

What options are there for artificial insemination?

So there are two main types of artificial insemination — vaginal and trans-cervical. So vaginal is used for fresh semen. If the stud dog is here and we're using it, or if it's shipped chilled, if we're having it shipped across the country overnight, we can use those.

And then trans-cervical places the semen all the way into the uterus, past the cervix. And so you have to do that for frozen semen because frozen semen doesn't live as long, so that gives it its best shot to get to where it needs to go. So the shipped semen is not frozen. Shipped is chilled. It usually comes on ice, but it's ready to go from the night before. Whereas frozen could have been frozen 30 years earlier, and you can still thaw and use it.

What is the difference between vaginal and trans-cervical insemination?

I got ahead of myself earlier, but the vaginal goes just in the vagina, and that can be anything except frozen semen. And trans-cervical can be anything. We use an endoscope to get the semen into the uterus, and it's essential for frozen semen, but it can be used with any type of semen. And trans-cervical procedures are very minor. The dog is awake, and we typically have someone holding cheese, and the dog is eating cheese, and it can take 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the dog. It's speedy, and then they're done, and the dog walks out of here just fine.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.