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Breeding and Whelping

Are you prepared to be a responsible breeder? - This includes those wanting "just one litter"

1. Do you have firm commitments for several pups before considering breeding? There is a large population of unwanted pets and breeding can exacerbate this issue.

2. Are you prepared to screen prospective buyers to make sure your pups are placed in great homes where they will be well cared for?

3. Are you willing to keep your pups until they are well placed, no matter how long that takes?

4. Do you know enough about genetics in your breed to balance your dog’s shortcomings to get what you want, and to understand what happens if that does not occur?

5. Have you done enough homework on the lines you are breeding to feel comfortable giving your buyers a solid assurance of health, temperament, and soundness?

6. Are you willing to perform the recommended pre-breeding testing on your animal? This includes OFA testing (see

7. Do you have the financial reserves not only to do routine pre-breeding testing on the male and female, but also to provide veterinary care for the female and the litter? This can include:

a. Potential whelping assistance or caesarean section.

b. Health examinations, deworming, and vaccination of the puppies prior to rehoming.

c. Treatment of sick puppies.

d. Treatment of illness in the female such as uterine infection and mastitis.

8. Are you prepared for the possibility of losing pups, even your female, to birthing problems?

9. Are you willing to accept the health risks associated with your female and/or male being intact?

a. Unplanned breedings

b. High rate of mammary cancer in females

c. Risk of life-threatening uterine infection requiring emergency ovariohysterectomy (spay) and intensive medical care

d. Increased risk of testicular cancer and prostate issues in intact males

10. Are you willing to supervise the female to ensure that she doesn’t harm or even kill and eat the young?

11. Are you prepared to bottle feed every few hours around the clock and hand rear the young in the event the female can’t nurse them?

12. Do you have the time it takes to socialize the puppies properly?

13. Will you help your buyers learn the best way to raise the puppies and be there if they need your help?

14. Are you willing to track the litter’s progress to measure the success of your breeding program?

15. No matter what the reason, will you always be willing to take a dog or cat of your breeding back if the owners cannot keep it?

If you did not answer yes to each of these questions, you should not think of breeding at this time.

Breeding dogs


  • The normal female dog will come into heat every 6-8 months.
  • Canine estrous cycle consists of 4 stages:
    • Proestrus
      • 4-25 days, average 9 days.
      • Bloody discharge, swollen vulva.
      • Male will be interested in the female, but she may chase, growl, or snap at the male and will typically not allow mounting.
    • Estrus
      • 2-15 days, average 3-10 days.
      • First day that the female allows breeding.
      • Standing heat – flags tail and stands for the male.
      • Discharge often changes from red to straw coloured.
    • Diestrus (Metestrus)
      • Begins with the female’s refusal to mate, although some females may stand for up to 1 week into diestrus.
    • Anestrus
      • Sexual inactivity.

When to breed

  • Cycle length varies between individual dogs, but most reliable is breeding on day 10 of the cycle (from beginning of proestrus/bleeding).
  • Then breed every 2-3 days throughout the acceptance period (standing for male).
  • Another option is to base breeding time on the female’s progesterone levels.

Pregnancy detection

  • Ultrasound can be done 30 days post-breeding to determine if your dog is pregnant or not. Please keep in mind that we cannot give you an accurate puppy count using ultrasound.
  • Radiographs can be performed between 45-60 days after breeding. We prefer to have the dog fasted for 12 hours prior to radiographs to make it easier to identify and count individual puppies.
  • Mammary development starts around week 6.
  • A non-stinky, clear discharge on about day 32 is a strong indication of pregnancy but is not 100% reliable.
  • Pseudopregnancy (false pregnancy) usually ends around day 42-44. This is when a female may show every sign of being bred, including coming into her milk, but she is not actually pregnant.

Managing the female during pregnancy

  • Vaccinations
    •  Should be up to date at least 2 weeks before breeding.
  • Nutrition
    • A good quality adult maintenance food for the first 5-6 weeks of pregnancy. Some females may have trouble maintaining their weight during pregnancy and lactation, in which case feeding a good quality puppy food is acceptable.
  • Increase amount of food during the last 3-4 weeks of pregnancy (1.5 times maintenance amount).
  • It is normal for the female to have a decreased appetite around week 4-5 of pregnancy, usually lasting for about 3-10 days.

Establish a whelping pen & preparing the female

  • Quiet, warm, dry room without drafts and with adequate amount of newspapers or towels.
  • Put the female in the whelping pen 1-2 weeks before whelping to get her accustomed to it.
  • Provide an area that the female can exit but the pups can’t. This could be a box that is large enough for her to move around in and can climb in/out of the box, but with high enough edges that the puppies can’t climb over.
  • Long haired breeds usually start to lose hair around their nipples at least 2 weeks before the pups are due.

Read the clues! Just prior to whelping the bitch may exhibit the following:

  • Nest building.
  • Exhibit a decrease in appetite.
  • Start to have mammary secretion.
  • Have a drop in body temperature by about 1-2 degrees 17-24 hours prior to whelping. It’s helpful to start regularly recording and keeping a journal of her rectal temperature several days prior to her due date so that you can understand her normal temperature trends and detect the drop.


Stages of parturition

  • Stage 1
    • 6-12 hours prior to birth
    • Abdominal muscles relax
    • Restlessness, loss of appetite, nest building, vomiting
  • Stage 2
    • Fetus enters vagina / birth canal
    • Strong uterine and abdominal contractions
    • Pups delivered with sac (membranes) surrounding them – female should rupture these but if they aren’t you will want to do this for her
    • Pups usually delivered every 20-60 minutes
    • Bitch may rest between pups
  • Stage 3
    • Passage of fetal membranes – do not let the female eat too many of these as she will probably get diarrhea.

How long should it take?

  • May take 4-5 hours or more from first pup to the end.
  • Most will be delivered at about 30-40 minute intervals, but the bitch may occasionally rest for 1-2 hours. If she is resting quietly this may be okay. If she’s having strong contractions and is unsettled for longer than 30 minutes she may need assistance.
  • Please keep in mind that bloody vaginal discharge can last for 6-8 weeks after whelping (up to 12 weeks in some dogs). This should be odourless and your dog should still be happy, eating, and nursing the puppies well.

When should I call a veterinarian?

  • 65+ days since last breeding and she hasn’t whelped yet. It’s possible for the fetus to become too large for the blood supply or birth canal.
  • Greater than 24 hours since a recorded drop in temperature with no signs of whelping.
  • 1-2 hours since the beginning of mild contractions (weak/intermittent straining) with no pup born.
  • Strong, continuous contractions and unproductive labor for more than 20-30 minutes.
  • 1 hour since the rupture of fetal membranes (water breaking) without expulsive efforts by the bitch, or the birth of a pup.
  • More than 2 hours since the birth of the last pup.
  • Abnormal fetal posture causing hang up in the pelvic canal.
  • Appearance of pup at vulva, but not delivered within 5 minutes. You can give a little tug but be careful to not use too much pressure or force it as this could harm the puppy or the mom.
  • Abnormal discharge (green in dogs, reddish-brown in cats = placental separation) without delivery of pup. This can be a problem in multiple litters.
  • Delivery of dead puppies or kittens. Keep in mind that with intervention there might be something we can do to save the other puppies/kittens.
  • If you are uncertain if birth process is complete. Pre-whelping radiographs between 45 and 55 days can help give an idea of how many puppies to expect, taking some of the guess work out of the process.
  • Bloody vaginal discharge lasting more than 8-12 weeks after whelping or foul smelling discharge.
  • Systemic signs of illness in mother such as inappetance (not eating), not producing milk or nursing the puppies well, signs of mastitis (red, hot, painful, infected mammary glands), fever, or lethargy (lack of energy).

Tail Docking and Ear Cropping

We do not support unnecessary medical procedures and abide by the ABVMA's guidelines banning procedures such as tail docking, front dewclaw removal, and ear cropping. 



Other Helpful Resources:

Breeding for Pet Owners:

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA):

Feeding Orphaned Puppies:

Feeding Orphaned Kittens:

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