Before You Breed
Breeding is often an expensive and time-consuming adventure. It is important to consider the health of the adults, the placement of puppies, and financial constraints of the owner before breeding.
- The first heat cycle in cats and dogs is at approximately 7-8 months of age.
- Female dogs come into heat 2-3 times a year.
- A female dog is in heat for approximately 3 weeks.
- Female cats come into heat at irregular intervals, usually more often during the spring and summer.
- Female cats may not go out of heat until they are bred.
- Dogs and Cats are pregnant for approximately 63 days.
- Cats can get pregnant again while nursing.
- Intact Males and Females in the same house will breed even if they are brother and sister or father and daughter.
- Intact male Dogs and Cats can travel miles if they sense a female in heat. Male dogs have jumped through windows, screen doors and over fences to get to females in heat. Intact males are more often hit by cars then any other animal because they frequently travel to find females in heat.
Who to Breed
- Small dogs are much easier to place then large breed dogs because of the large number of pet owners who live in apartments or rent their homes.
- Small breeds are more likely to require c-sections for delivery, then larger breeds
- Females and Males should be evaluated for congenital problems that can be passed on to puppies – these include hernias, knee problems, heart problems, hip problems, viral diseases, and mange mites. Males should have two descended testicles.
- Females should be larger and weigh more then the male they are bred to, in order to decrease the chances of a c-section.
- Females should not be bred before 2 years of age. They need time to mature and grow in size so that they can handle the pregnancy and nursing.
- It is also important to remember the more heat cycles a female experiences, the greater chance she will have of developing mammary cancer.
- Dogs should have their hips x-rayed under anesthetic and certified by the OFA before being bred. Certain breeds, such as the German Shepherd also need their elbows x-rayed.
- Cats should test negative for FeLV (feline leukemia) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), as these diseases are incurable and can be passed to the kittens.
- Females should be current on their vaccinations before they become pregnant. Some vaccinations can not be given to a pregnant animal.
- The most successful way for female to become pregnant is to be allowed free access to the male.
- Females can be bred several times during a heat cycle, even by different males
- In dogs, if the male will not be around for the entire heat cycle or if artificial insemination is done, cytology and blood work can be performed to determine the best time to start breeding or insemination. This can cost $200-$400 depending on how many times the tests need to be done. The more breedings or inseminations that occur after the female is ready, the better the chances of the female becoming pregnant.
- Cats will often stay in heat until they are bread by a male.
- In Dogs the male and female will "Tie" or be stuck together for a period of time, during this time young males can become distracted and try to run off causing damage to the female.
- Pregnancy can be confirmed by ultrasound (~$500) three to four weeks after breeding, or radiographs (~$80) one week prior to parturition (birth). Palpation and exam can be done at 4-6 weeks but a definite answer can not always be established.
- The female should be placed on a good quality (Purina One, Royal Canine, Science Diet) puppy food mid pregnancy, and stay on the puppy food until the puppies are weaned.
- Pregnancy lasts and average of 63 days.
- False pregnancies frequently occur in dogs, they may gain weight, produce milk, nest, or adopt stuffed animals, even though they are not pregnant.
- All adult animals in the home, including the pregnant female, should be treated with flea control before the babies are born. Fleas can cause severe anemia and death in newborn puppies and kittens. Advantage is approved for use on pregnant and nursing females.
- For 1 to 2 weeks before the due date, you should take and record the female’s temperature every 1-2 days. A significant drop in temperature is a sign that she will give birth soon.
- Puppies and kittens may normally be born either head first or back feet first.
- When contractions start, puppies should be born every 1-2 hours and kittens every 30 min – 1 hour. If contractions continue for 2 hours without progress, a veterinarian should be contacted.
- A placenta should be produced with each puppy or kitten. If a placenta does not pass, it may remain in the female and cause infection. A veterinarian should be contacted if this happens.
- The mother should clean the babies and take care of the placenta and umbilical cord when they are born.
- If the mother does not seem interested in the babies, or is not cleaning them, take a clean dry towel, dry the babies well, make sure the nose and mouth is clean and free of fluid and rub them aggressively to stimulate breathing.
- Make sure each baby latches on to a nipple and nurses from mom as soon as possible and several times in the first 24 hours.
- The first milk produced by the mother is Colostrum. It provides the babies with antibodies to protect them from infection. It can not be adequately duplicated by any other product. Puppies and kittens need to nurse on mom for the first 24 hours when the colostrum is being produced.
- New mothers may take 2-3 days to become interested in the babies.
- Babies should be weighed daily to ensure that their weight continuously increases and that they are receiving enough nutrition.
- Large litters, or individuals that are not gaining weight well may need to be supplemented with bottle-feeding of Espilac for puppies or KMR (kitten milk replacer) for kittens. Cow milk should not be used.
- Puppies with front or back dewclaws should have them removed at 3-4 days of age, by a veterinarian. Tail docking is done at the same time, in the recommended breeds.
- Puppies and Kittens are born with fur, but with their eyes and ears closed.
- Puppies and Kittens may be offered canned food when they start walking.
- If babies start sneezing, have swelling around or discharge from their eyes, do not grow well or gain weight, or become injured, they should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.
- Mom will start weaning between 4 and 6 weeks.
- Babies should receive their first vaccination, and Advantage, at 6 weeks of age, and then every 3 weeks after that.
- Puppies and Kittens should stay with mom until they are 8 weeks old.
Birthing and Pregnancy Problems
- When a pregnant female is brought in that is having difficulty delivering puppies or kittens, a through exam is done, and may be followed by blood work, radiographs, observation with medical treatment, or surgery.
- Low calcium or glucose can cause the uterus to stop contracting. This is diagnosed with blood work, and treated medically. The cost for this can be $150 - $300.
- A common cause of birthing problems in a large puppy or kitten that can not pass through the birth canal. The treatment for this is a c-section. This usually costs $800-$1200, depending on the size of the female and the number and condition of the puppies or kittens.
- Females may deliver prematurely or deliver still-born babies. There are many reasons for this and only a thorough history, exam on the parents and fetuses, as well as laboratory testing can determine the cause for losing a litter.
- If a puppy or kitten dies in the uterus, it can lead to severe uterine infection, putting the other puppies and kittens and the mother at risk.
- Puppies and Kittens may also be born with deformities such as clef pallets.
Make sure you evaluate the time cost and commitment before you breed. Take into consideration the pet over population problem and make sure you are not adding to it. Remember not everyone who wants a cute little puppy is able to care for it. We recommend you have $1000-$1500 set aside in savings before you begin breeding to cover the costs involved. Many breeders discover this is not a way to make money and usually lose money on litters. Breeding should be done to improve the breed you love.