As a vet, you are likely to encounter a number of clients who want to breed their dogs. There are a variety of possible motivations behind breeding: financial gain, wanting a puppy similar to their own adult dog, the desire to provide an educational experience for their children, and many others.
Regardless of their motivations, many pet owners do not fully understand the time, effort, and expense that go into proper breeding. By asking the right dog breeding questions, you can help clients better understand this process and make informed decisions for their pet.
1. Is the dog up to date on preventive care, including vaccines, heartworm prevention, flea prevention, and intestinal dewormer?
Pregnancy places significant demands on a female. Therefore, it is essential that she be up to date on preventive care and in good overall health prior to breeding. Additionally, some parasites and infections can be passed from the dam to her puppies during pregnancy or nursing; appropriate preventive care helps maximize the health of the puppies. A female should not be bred unless she is up to date on recommended vaccines and parasite prevention.
2. Have both dogs been tested for brucellosis and genetic diseases?
Brucellosis is a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection that affects dogs and other species. In females, brucellosis causes infertility, stillbirth, and late-term spontaneous abortion. Affected males develop testicular pain/inflammation and infertility. There is no cure for brucellosis, so both dogs should be confirmed brucellosis-free prior to breeding in order to prevent transmission. Brucellosis is diagnosed with a simple blood test.
Both dogs should also be screened for genetic diseases that are common in their breed. A list of recommended tests can be found on the website of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or obtained through the parent breed association. A number of genetic tests can be performed on blood samples, while other screening tests require radiographs or specialized examinations that are performed at a specific age. A pet should not be bred until all recommended tests have been performed and results have been evaluated.
3. Is the client prepared for emergencies, such as dystocia?
While clients often assume that the female will have a healthy delivery, the reality is that their dog may require a C-section for her own safety and/or that of the puppies. Ensure that the client is prepared for this possibility prior to breeding. Can the client provide adequate supervision during parturition and recognize signs of trouble? Does the client have reliable transportation, in case the dog needs to be taken to the emergency clinic? Is the client financially prepared for a C-section or other emergency, which may cost thousands of dollars? A dog should not be bred unless a client is in a position to handle emergencies.
4. Is the client prepared to care for the puppies?
In most cases, the client will need to provide veterinary care for the first 6-8 weeks of the puppies’ lives. Each puppy will require multiple dewormings, one or more fecal parasite examinations, at least one vaccine, and a health certificate (if required in your location). Clients should be educated about this care up front, to ensure they are prepared for this expense.
Clients must also be prepared to provide additional care to the puppies during their early weeks, if necessary. Although the dam typically feeds and cares for her puppies, this is not always the case. Is the client prepared to perform around-the-clock bottle or tube feedings if necessary? Some clients may find this challenging, so it is important that they understand and prepare for this possibility prior to breeding.
While the questions above do not cover all possible scenarios, they serve as a good conversation-starter with most clients. If your client understands the above issues and is still interested in breeding, direct them to their breed association so that they may educate themselves more thoroughly.