Animal Care Clinic Tips

Apr 12, 2010 3:52 PM by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP

Before You Breed

Many pet owners dream about breeding their beloved pets. The thought of having a bunch of puppies or kittens in your home can be very exciting. It is so good for children to learn about life by helping with the birthing process. Unfortunately, there are many things that can go wrong, and the breeding of family pets often turns out to be a nightmare for people.

I always tell my staff to "begin with the end in mind," advice from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The end of breeding involves finding good homes for the offspring. Before you breed your pet, you must be sure that you have homes for all possible offspring - this could mean fifteen homes for Lab puppies! It is not fair to breed your pets thinking you will give away kittens at the grocery store and take puppies to the shelter.

Next you need to think about the birthing process. Most dogs and cats deliver on their own. In fact, trying to help, watch or intervene can make things worse. On the other hand, some animals need lots of help. Small breed dogs and those breeds with "smashed faces" (Bulldogs and sometimes Persians) will need to have caesarean sections. It is important to be around when the babies are born and to understand what is normal versus what means "call the vet." You will need to spend some time with your veterinarian before birthing begins so you are prepared.

Sometimes getting a dog or cat pregnant is the biggest challenge. Animals have very different heat cycles from people. Dogs come into heat only once or twice a year. They have a long cycle that involves a period of proestrus during which you will notice bleeding and males will be attracted, but fertility is not at its peak. After this there is a period of estrus during which the female will allow breeding and conception can occur. Every female has a unique cycle and it is best to "map" that cycle with your vet during the estrus previous to the one you want to use for breeding. Cats only cycle during the beginning of the year and cycle often. They can be rather loud when looking for a mate!

The true beginning of breeding dogs and cats involves being sure you are not passing on detrimental genetic diseases. Many of our favorite pets who have temperaments that we want to pass along are carrying genetic diseases. This can include hip dysplasia and other orthopedic conditions, clotting abnormalities, epilepsy, ocular diseases such as cataracts and eyelid abnormalities, thyroid conditions and even hernias. Always consult your veterinarian to determine how best to screen your pets for genetic disease before you breed.

The doctors and staff at Animal Care Clinic are available to talk to you about breeding decisions and about the benefits of spaying and neutering. Call us or stop by Monday through Friday 7:30-6, Saturday 9-3 and Mondays until 8pm.

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