When to Stop Breeding a Dog — Fertility, Health, Age & Progress

when to stop breeding dogs

Being a responsible dog breeder means knowing when to stop breeding a dog. Reasons why to stop mating a female or male dog are multiple and range from health issues to past complicated pregnancies.

Although it is hard to stop producing puppies from a dog you have worked with for years, there is nothing to be shameful about, quite the contrary. Stopping a dog’s breeding career early is the right thing to do sometimes.

The hardest part of ceasing the breeding of a dog is to know when it is the right time to do so. You most certainly do not want to do it too late as it could damage your dog’s health, especially female dogs. And you do not want to stop breeding your dog too early since it would be a waste of quality puppies!

Health Problems

This is the most obvious sign that inhibits future breeding in a dog. Health problems in either the mother or father are at higher risk to pass onto the puppies. Additionally, a dog may not even show signs of sickness, nor will produce positive results in a physical exam, yet that doesn’t exactly mean your dog is in the clear — your dog could be a genetic carrier.

You need to take into account the quality of the litters to determine whether sickness is going to be an issue in the future. If there seems to be a pattern of sick puppies in any given litter, with or without a known cause, do not continue breeding the dogs. Health concerns can arise at any given time and have various causes in both the female and the male dog. However, health problems are not limited to just mother and father dog, but considerations must be taken on behalf of the health of the offspring as well. If one or more health complications have been repeated in previous litters it is time to stop breeding the dogs. This is why you must stay in touch with old customers: to feed your feedback loop!

Take both, mother and father dogs, to the vet and get them thoroughly examined for any health conditions; including possible genetic traits that may show up later in time. Even the slightest sign of sickness or health concern should be sufficient to decide not to breed the dog. Take note of any reproductive issues in both male and female that they have had in the past or currently possess such as injuries or infections.

That said, it’s important to be aware of any inheritable conditions that the dog has had previously which can seriously hamper the evolutionary growth of that bloodline. Thyroid disease, blindness, and hip dysplasia are common ailments that are inheritable in the female dog that passes on to the offspring.

when should you stop breeding dogs
Do not hesitate and “risk it one more time”. Stop breeding your dog at the first ounce of doubt!

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition in which the hip socket is out of place and can be very debilitating for the dog and may lead to future arthritis. Look for signs such as not being to get up straight or not being able to perform normal physical tasks. If mild, therapy and pain meds can be used to treat it, and in a worst-case scenario, surgery may be required. The very same goes for elbow dysplasia!

Thyroid Disease

A thyroid illness can be marked by hypothyroidism (lack of thyroid hormones produced), or hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormones produced) which can both be equally dangerous to the dog. A breeder should stop breeding dogs affected by thyroid problems to avoid metabolic issues in the parent and whelps, transforming dietary nutrients and turning them into fuel for the body.

Eye Conditions

Various forms of eye disorders can be passed on to the offspring including inherited retinal diseases, congenital stationary night blindness, and canine multifocal retinopathy which all may lead to blindness. The problem with a dog’s eye problems is that they are not easy to notice, especially during the onset. Ask your veterinarian to practice eye checks every year for all your dogs, especially your breeding stock.

Other Genetic Disorders

Other genetic disorders in dogs to watch out for include:

  • epilepsy,
  • heart disease,
  • degenerative myelopathy,
  • urinary bladder stones, and
  • brachycephalic syndrome.

Keep in mind, that many genetic diseases are breed-specific, so doing a thorough research on the specific breed types of your dogs will aid greatly in your efforts of reducing the chances of disease. And lastly, just because your dog doesn’t have a disease doesn’t mean he is healthy. Always check for malnutrition or infections and weigh them regularly to make sure they are at a healthy weight for breeding, and always keep up with regular check-ups at your vet clinic.

Complicated Pregnancies

In respect to female dogs, it is essential to check back on her history of pregnancies to help determine her current condition and ability to produce more esteemed litters of puppies. This is also important to judge her health post delivery. As a rule, a history of dystocia (complicated canine pregnancies) means there is a higher chance for more complicated pregnancies in the future. Especially if the birthing problem was more recent as in, the last pregnancy the dog experienced.

Some of the most common types of complicated cases of pregnancies include, but are not limited to:

Unplanned C-section

Most canine c-sections, or hysterotomies, are unplanned and therefore considered emergency procedures due to various reasons. Most often it is caused by dystocia, in which the dam is having a hard time giving birth making the natural birth very tiring and impossible to complete. Uterine inertia is when the uterus is not properly contracting thus not allowing the body to push out the whelps. Other reasons for an unplanned C-section are due to the size of the whelps or any other physical abnormality that would make a natural whelping impossible.

Miscarriage

Dogs can experience spontaneous abortions, or miscarriages, that can attest to a complicated or tedious labor. Some pups are known to disappear entirely from the uterus which is referred to as canine absorption. A miscarriage can be caused by anything from adverse side effects to drugs administered to the dam to an infectious disease on the pup or mother or it could be caused by external factors like an injury.

Hemorrhage

Although some bleeding is quite common and even expected during pregnancy and labor, an excess amount of blood loss may mean your dog has a hemorrhage. This can be due to a ruptured uterus or complications with the fetuses. In either case, this is a complication that should at all costs be avoided again in future pregnancies. Excessive bleeding may be lethal to the mother (and therefore to her whelps).

Lactation Failure

Just like a complicated pregnancy can be a cause for concern for future breeding, lactation failure in dogs after the pregnancy also pose a similar threat. Lactation refers to the nursing phase of whelping. Lactation is vitally crucial to the health and sustainability of a litter; therefore, any problems will very likely increase the chances of the same happening in future litters. It may not become a major concern if the dog has experienced one bout of lactation problems in her past pregnancies, but if she has experienced more than one it is a definite sign to not breed her again.

colostrum in dogs
The colostrum provides the needed antibodies and immune defenses during the first hours, and first days, of a puppy’s life.

Common lactation problems in female dogs include:

Eclampsia

This is a serious condition that occurs immediately after the birth of puppies and can lead to death if not taken seriously or eradicated at the onset of symptoms. Eclampsia is caused by inadequate levels of calcium in the mum’s blood often due to thyroid issues. It is common in dogs who are whelping for their first time and also in smaller breed types.

Mastitis

Mastitis is marked by bacteria in the mammary glands and result in a mammary infection. Puppies will naturally reject the teat that is infected or the mother may stop nursing all together. It is generally identified as swollen teats or an unusual discharge. If you notice such behavior (e.g. mother pushing her newborns away), you will want to immediately start bottle-feeding the puppies to sustain their steady growth.

Inadequate Milk

Sometimes, for various or unknown reasons, a mother may not produce sufficient milk to feed all her pups. This can cause an array of problems for the puppies and will require human intervention for feeding. This condition could stem from hormonal imbalances, inadequate nutrition in the mother or a more serious illness.

A lot of breeders stress about their female dog’s pregnancy but the nursing of puppies is equally important and stressful. Too little milk can only be noticed if the breeder is attentive and monitor each puppy’s growth. There is plenty of puppy milk formula available so you can complement the dosage by hand.

Age & Drop in Fertility

One of the major setbacks and challenges to breeding is due to the lack of fertility both in male and female dogs. Certain diseases that affect the reproductive tract in both male and female dogs will make them less fertile. Additionally, dogs can become infected and transmit sexually transmitted diseases that also affect their fertility. Most times, however, a drop-in fertility is an issue that is caused by old age. It is often a misconception that dogs can go on breeding past a certain age with positive results. Unfortunately, many breeders make this disastrous assumption and go on overbreeding their dogs past the point of exhaustion or until their deaths.

While most male dogs can go on their whole lives breeding, many factors contribute to a drop in their fertility that will halt the number of pregnancies produced from each mating. Furthermore, the age in which a dog shouldn’t be allowed to breed any longer is proportional to their type of breed, size, and overall state of health. Small breeds or very large breeds tend to not breed well after a shorter span of years, whereas a dog of average size can breed longer. Also, take into consideration that some dog breeds are not as fertile as others, and for any reason, could lose interest in mating alone. Always consult with your vet, kennel clubs and various breeding companies for more information regarding the appropriate ages to breed your dog.

Female

In general, as a female dog ages, she tends to produce far less ovum. When less ovum is produced, the chances of getting pregnant are substantially reduced. it’s important to note that female dogs do not go through menopause like women do. Female dogs can usually breed up until around 8 years old, while some standards place the limit as low as 5 years. Smaller dog breeds usually have up to 5 years.

With increasing age, a female dog is more prone to experience stillbirths. Many vets recommend not breeding a female after she has already had 4 to 6 litters. Also, if she has bred through almost all her heat cycles she may already be too tired which would make subsequent pregnancies too tedious and laborious for her.

Male

Male canines tend to mature sexually a lot sooner than their female counterparts and they can usually breed for a longer period than females too, averaging out about 10 years, with some breeds averaging out 7 years and few going as long as 12. After 10 years, breeding should definitely be halted. In terms of fertility, sperm count is often the basis in which to judge a male dog’s capability for impregnating a female, which decreases with time. Both the viability and vitality of the sperm are directly dependent on the age. Additionally, it’s best to judge the number of litters the dog is producing over time. If the overall amount seems to decrease then it’s a sign to stop breeding.

Also, if the females are not getting pregnant after mating, then the male is no longer a viable candidate for breeding. Moreover, check for possible injuries or infections, such as those affecting the reproductive system, in the dog because these can account for possible reasons for a reduced fertility rate in the male. Motility issues may also prevent the males from performing during the act of mating.

Lack of Improvement

Breeders who know what they’re doing will be able to detect any lack of progress in quality in the offspring produced over several generations. If you see that new litters do not offer many improvements, you must refrain from using this breeding pair again. Alternatively, you can look for another mating partner, that would be more complementary to your strongest dog.

Over time, you will be able to take notice of small changes in the breeding dogs and take considerable precautions to integrate certain protocols into the breeding process to maximize the success rate. Time gives you an opportunity to determine any fluctuations and predict future outcomes in their litters.

Finding the perfect mate for your dog is not an easy task and requires steady perseverance and expertise in this line of work to set the bar high to reach the goals you are aiming for. Thus, the idea of selective dog breeding is to improve the generational evolution of the dogs you are breeding, which means you should expect every litter to be somewhat better than the last and showing no signs of depreciation over time. If no signs of improvement are showing, it is time to stop breeding the dogs immediately.

To avoid this potential pitfall, you need to be certain you have chosen the best suitable mate for your dog. You can do this by obtaining a rich background of the other dog’s history along with all the health hazards she may be prone to. Any dog that has had even one complication or health issue should be counted as null. You must also determine what the dog excels at, her potential, and also her weaknesses because these are qualities that may be exalted in the offspring. Therefore, look for dogs who come with pedigrees to get an idea of her origins and to distinguish the average number of litters and how large the previous litters were in earlier generations. Always keep in mind, just because YOUR dog is strong and healthy, none of that won’t matter unless the mate is also in perfect health and shape with a rich pedigree background, or else you are adding unnecessary risk to your breeding success.

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