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10 Common Female Dog Breeding Problems

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Most dog breeds are mature and capable of breeding safely at two years of age
  • Dogs retiring age varies by breed and should be considered based on health and number of litters produced
  • A female dog can get pregnant without tying in a "slip mating"
  • A responsible dog breeder must be familiar with female dog breeding problems and be prepared to help in an emergency
  • Prospective breeders must be familiar with their breed's health issues and reproductive problems and be able to help their dog in an emergency.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Wednesday 11 August 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 20 June 2023
breeding problems in female dogs
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Responsible dog breeders need to be familiar with common breeding problems that female dogs may face. It’s crucial to know how to help your dog in case of an emergency and understand why mating may not go as planned. From birthing issues to anxiety during mating, your job is to ensure your dog’s safety and well-being throughout the breeding process. As a responsible breeder, it’s important to have a good understanding of these issues to care for your dog properly.

1. Abnormal Cycling

Abnormal cycling is the term for when your bitch’s heat cycles don’t come on normally. These abnormalities include irregular cycles, absent cycles, split cycles, and delayed cycles. Irregular cycles such as these can come on due to malnutrition, genetic disorders, infections, and hormonal imbalances. But what does each type of abnormal cycle entail?

For starters, a silent heat happens when your bitch shows no obvious signs of being in heat. During a silent heat, your bitch can still get pregnant, and male dogs will be attracted to her. Your vet can confirm a silent heat with a quick blood test as well as a vaginal secretion test. If your bitch has an absent heat, it means that she skips her cycle completely. In contrast, a persistent estrus happens when your dog stays in heat for more than 21 days. This type of abnormal heat cycle can occur due to ovarian cysts and tumors, as well as exposure to exogenous hormones. Lastly, a split heat occurs when your bitch’s heat begins but stops before the second stage. Bitches will typically come back into heat within 3 to 4 weeks to continue their cycle.

2. Pyometra

One of the most common problems that unspayed female dogs face is a life-threatening infection of the uterus called pyometra. Pyometra usually affects older female dogs. When the uterus becomes infected, bacteria and toxins spread into the bloodstream, and the uterus can begin to die off.

There are two types of pyometra: open and closed. In open pyometra, the cervix stays open, and pus will leak from the dog’s sanitary area. Closed pyometra, on the other hand, means that the cervix is closed, and pus builds up inside. This type is more dangerous.

The treatment for pyometra is surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus along with antibiotics, pain relief, and additional hospitalization. While other treatments like prostaglandin therapy are available, they may not be as effective, and there is a risk of complications that could endanger the dog’s life.

In summary, pyometra is a severe condition that can affect female dogs that have not been spayed. The best way to prevent pyometra is to spay your dog. If you suspect your dog has a pyometra, seek immediate veterinary attention

3. Rejection Of The Stud

A common problem for new breeders is when a female dog rejects a male dog for mating. This can happen if the mating is attempted at the wrong time. Female dogs usually ovulate 48 hours after they experience a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH). This usually occurs between the 11th to the 14th day of their heat cycle, which is about 11 days after they start bleeding.

If your female dog is not interested in mating, you can talk to your vet about progesterone testing to confirm if you have missed the right time for mating. However, in some cases, the female dog may not want to mate right away due to stress or apprehension. In these cases, the breeder may need to hold the female dog still and calm for mating. It is important to note that the female dog should not become aggressive towards the male dog.

misconceptions of a female litter
Some people are convinced that a female dog has to produce at least one litter before getting fixed.

4. Overweight or Underweight

Apart from being dangerous for your dog, obesity brings a whole host of reproductive issues for the bitch, too. Overweight and obese bitches have more issues with their fertility, ovulation rates, and ability to whelp normally. Similarly, malnourishment in the bitch will result in a lack of heat cycles, embryo loss, abnormal fetal development, small litter size, and puppies that fail to thrive. Your bitch needs a highly digestible, high-quality puppy or development formula during her pregnancy, especially during the third trimester! These diets provide the calories and higher levels of key nutrients that your dam needs.

5. Anxiety or Panicking

Anxiety is a common issue for female dogs who have not been bred before. Some dogs can become frightened when the male dog first enters, while others can become anxious if the male is too insistent. To prevent any potential problems, it’s important to have at least one handler present during the mating process.

If either dog becomes panicked, they might fight and hurt each other. If the dogs panic during the copulatory tie, they may rip away from each other, causing internal injuries. To ensure the safety of both dogs, make sure that one or more people are present to keep them calm and hold the female dog if necessary.

In summary, it’s essential to use language that’s easy to understand when discussing veterinary issues, so that pet owners can ensure the best care for their pets. If there’s any jargon or technical language, it’s important to simplify it for everyone’s benefit

6. Overly Large Puppies

A common problem during the birthing process for female dogs, or dams, is the presence of abnormal puppy sizes. If a puppy is too large, it may not be able to pass through the birth canal naturally, causing issues for both the dam and the puppies.

Additionally, if a puppy is in an abnormal position or retains fluid, it may also lead to birthing difficulties. In these cases, a veterinary surgeon may need to perform a C-section to safely deliver the puppies. This is especially a concern when breeding two dogs of different breeds and sizes, as it can result in unpredictable puppy sizes and health issues for the dam during delivery.

It’s important to note that breeding two dogs of different breeds and sizes may seem exciting, but it can pose serious risks during the birthing process. It’s essential to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that the dam’s health is not compromised during delivery.

7. Dystocia

Dystocia” means a difficult birth, which can happen to female dogs (bitches) if their puppies are too big, their birth canal is too small, or their uterus fails to contract properly. This condition is more common in certain breeds like Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers.

If your female dog has been having contractions for more than 30 minutes without giving birth, or if she has been straining weakly for more than two hours without delivering a puppy, it’s time to call your veterinarian. Other signs to watch out for include bloody vaginal discharge, a lot of clear discharge, or greenish-black discharge from more than three hours without delivering puppies.

It’s important to seek veterinary help promptly to avoid complications that could harm both the mother and her puppies. Avoiding jargon and simplifying the language helps ensure that pet owners can easily understand and take appropriate action when necessary.

8. Fertility Problems

There are several health problems that can affect your pet’s fertility, such as infections, hormonal imbalances, and chromosomal abnormalities. One common cause of fertility issues is hypothyroidism, which is more common in breeds like the Boxer, Dachshund, Golden Retriever, and Irish Setter.

Your veterinarian can perform tests to evaluate your pet’s hormonal levels and screen for infections by analyzing a blood sample and urinalysis. Additionally, imaging techniques like ultrasounds can help identify any structural abnormalities in the uterus that could prevent conception.

To make it more understandable for non-scientific audiences, we can replace technical terms with layman’s terms, such as subclinical uterine infections instead of cystic-endometrial-hyperplasiapyometra-complex. It’s important to note that “bitch” is a technical term for a female dog and can be replaced with “female dog” for clarity. Additionally, we can remove any unnecessary jargon and improve the grammar for readability.

9. Pregnancy Loss or Miscarriage

A miscarriage happens when a fetus dies before birth. The fetal death can occur at any stage of the pregnancy, but signs of miscarriage vary depending on when exactly the miscarriage occurs. A miscarriage can occur early on in the pregnancy, leading to reabsorption of the embryo. In this case, the miscarriage is often undetectable. One or more puppies may be resorbed while others are born normally.

Where a miscarriage occurs later in the pregnancy, a puppy may be stillborn. Unfortunately, infection is a common cause of miscarriage in dogs. Infections from organisms like Brucella canis, E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Toxoplasma gondii can cause miscarriages in bitches. Miscarriage can also be the result of hormonal abnormalities, such as abnormally low progesterone levels caused by some medications. If your bitch has abdominal pain, fever, or abnormal vaginal discharge (green, black, brown, pus) during her pregnancy, be sure to check in with your vet right away as these are all signs of miscarriage!

period of pregnancy
It’s important to know how long a pregnant dog is supposed to be carrying its puppies.

10. False Pregnancy

A false pregnancy, or phantom pregnancy, occurs when your bitch appears to be pregnant when she isn’t. This condition can come on even if your bitch has not mated. The signs of a false pregnancy begin four to nine weeks after her heat period. Your bitch’s mammary glands may become larger, she may produce milk, become lethargic, vomit, and lose her appetite. She may also begin nesting and showing mothering behaviors. Some bitches even show signs of false labor, with contractions, and then protectively guard small objects.

About half of all female dogs go through a false pregnancy in their lifetime, making this one of the most common female dog breeding problems. For some breeds, the incidence of false pregnancy is as high as 75% – these breeds are the Beagle, Dachshund, and Afghan Hound. False pregnancies typically resolve on their own within 14 to 21 days. Beyond this, it’s best to talk to your vet about your treatment options.

Common Female Dog Breeding Problems: FAQs

Have any more questions about common female dog breeding problems? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions for more details. If in doubt about your dog’s health, always ask your vet for advice.

Can my female dog live without mating?

Dogs do not need to breed to live a fulfilling life. It’s important that prospective breeders do not project their own desires onto their dogs! A dog who never has puppies or never performs stud work will live just as fully as any other dog, as they do not have the same desires as people do.

How old should a female dog be to breed?

For most dog breeds, two years of age is the safest minimum to start breeding. By this age, most dog breeds are mentally, physically, and emotionally mature and are capable of mating. Most importantly, your two-year-old bitch should also have all of her necessary health tests done by this age. For example, the OFA evaluates hip dysplasia radiographs on dogs who are older than two years. A test done before this age is unreliable as hip dysplasia will not be clear on imaging until your dog is older.

How do I know if my dog should stop breeding?

Most kennel clubs ask for bitches to be younger than 8 years old to register litters. Also, many vets recommend retiring bitches around 8 years old. This is only a general rule, however, and you must know when your specific breed should retire! Chihuahuas and other toy breeds, for example, may need to retire much earlier at around 5 years of age. You must also consider the number of litters that your dog has produced. Most vets will recommend retiring a bitch after she has had a maximum of 4 litters.

Perhaps most importantly, you must consider the health of your bitch. Does she show signs of medical problems, especially those that can make breeding dangerous for her health? Do not risk her safety just to produce more puppies. If she is unwell, retire her from breeding. Many backyard breeders will produce large numbers of puppies regardless of the health and safety of their dogs, so always put your bitch’s safety first above all.

Can a female dog get pregnant if she doesn’t tie?

A dog can get pregnant without a tie. This is called a “slip mating.” In a slip mating, the stud does not tie with the bitch. When this happens, ejaculate that would be released into the bitch in the third phase of mating does not happen. There may also be some leakage of the second phase ejaculate. Fortunately, the section of ejaculate that is most rich in sperm is the second one, making it very likely for your bitch to become pregnant.

Any responsible dog breeder must know about common female dog breeding problems. Miscarriage, false pregnancies, and dystocia are just some of the many issues that bitches might face during the process. As a responsible owner, it’s up to you to get familiar with each and every possible problem before embarking on your breeding program. You must be able to help your bitch in an emergency. If you are unfamiliar with your breed’s health issues and reproductive problems, you are not yet ready to start breeding your dogs!

One comment on “10 Common Female Dog Breeding Problems”

  1. Judy Slater-Moody

    Bitch had three ties on days 12 and 13. She was very receptive to the male. (Repeat breeding).
    Has had one litter. She is now 4.

    She is having bleeding similar to when her cycle started. She does not seem sick and is eating regular.

    My vet said it is rather common however I have not seen this before (maybe slight spotting)

    Should I be worried?

    Have ultrasound scheduled at day 30 from first tie.

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