To breed or not to breed?
Deciding to breed from your bitch or queen is a big commitment. It is important to consider carefully whether you are able to offer the time and resources necessary to support your pet through pregnancy and take responsibility for her puppies or kittens.
It is also important to make sure that we only breed from dogs and cats that have a good temperament and that are free from inherited disease. The Kennel Club (www.thekennelclub.org.uk) and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (www.gccfcats.org) have some good information to help you consider whether breeding from your pet is a good decision; and if you decide to go ahead, detailed information on particular considerations for particular breeds. For some canine breeds screening schemes are recommended prior to breeding – these may involve blood or saliva DNA testing for genetic faults or X-rays for hip or elbow scoring – again the Kennel Club website has a comprehensive list of recommended tests for each breed. We would be happy to discuss these tests further with you and assist with blood tests, X rays or physical examination as needed to help you ensure that your pet is suitable for breeding.
If you are breeding pedigree puppies or kittens, your own pet’s breeder, breed club or other breeders in the district will help you select a suitable stud dog/ tom cat.
Although it is sometimes possible to profit from breeding cats and dogs, you must be prepared that this may not be the case. Some animals may fail to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term and others may require expensive emergency attention for assistance with delivery / caesarean section or complications with the mother or new-born pups/kittens. You should also research and make sure that you would be able to find suitable homes for the puppies or kittens prior to deciding to breed.
When is the correct time to mate your bitch/queen?
We recommend a combination of vaginal cytology (assessed in house) and blood progesterone measurement (sent by courier to an external laboratory) every few days from day 5 after your bitch comes into season. We use these tests to work out on which day your bitch is ovulating. Most bitches ovulate between days 11 and 13 but this can vary widely from day 7 to day 28 – hence the recommendation that we use these tests. The best time for mating will then be day 2 after ovulation (or days 1 and 3 if you have arranged two matings). Determining the day of ovulation in this way maximises the chance of conception and also enables us to accurately predict the date of whelping.
There is no place for working out ovulation dates in queens because they are triggered to ovulate by the mating itself. As soon as your queen comes into season and begins calling (vocalising, rolling, positioning herself with her bottom in the air) you should contact the stud owner and arrange to take your queen. Many stud cat owners require that your queen has tested negative for leukaemia virus prior to mating so check this out well in advance and let us know if you would like us to take any blood tests / provide certification for this purpose.
When can pregnancy be diagnosed?
We recommend an ultrasound examination approximately 4 weeks from mating (day 30 from ovulation in bitches, if you have used the progesterone testing to be accurate with dates). This examination will be performed in a regular appointment slot and you are welcome to be present with your bitch or queen if you wish.
Bitches or queens with a negative ultrasound scan will be offered a free of charge repeat scan two weeks later just to be absolutely sure.
If the ovulation date is known, then bitches can be expected to whelp at day 63 after ovulation, and queens usually 65 days after mating. If the ovulation date is not known, it is difficult to predict whelping dates accurately from mating dates alone.
For both species, labour follows the following stages:
- First stage of labour – this may last 48 hours as the bitch or queen prepares for giving birth. She may be restless, have a reduced appetite, and begin to “nest”. It is a good idea to prepare a suitable place for the mother to give birth in (clean, private and comfortable) but make sure that you do this well in advance so that your pet does not feel suspicious of any new arrangements. If your pet chooses an alternative site to give birth, there is probably not a lot you can do about it once her mind is made up! During the first stage of labour the bitch’s temperature usually drops by 1-2C so it is a good idea to measure her temperature twice daily during the last week of pregnancy. A prolonged first stage of labour; if a bitch goes over the 63 days from ovulation; or if there is any blood or green-stained discharge from the vulva are all reasons to contact the surgery.
- Second stage of labour – this is when the bitch or queen is actively straining and the puppies or kittens are born. We recommend that you contact the surgery if your bitch or queen strains for more than 20 minutes without a puppy/kitten being produced, or if there is a gap of more than 20 minutes between puppies/ kittens. If a puppy or kitten is visible at the vulva but is not being born, then please contact and attend the surgery immediately if you are unable to gently assist in the delivery yourself.
- Third stage of labour – this is when the placentas are passed. The placentas may be delivered along with each pup/ kitten or you may have several births and then a series of placentas. There is no need for the bitch or queen to eat these placentas so we recommend that you remove and dispose of them. If your pet wishes to eat something offer her a small amount of food instead – placentas are liable to cause mild diarrhoea which we would rather avoid!
If problems arise during whelping or kittening we may be able to assist manually or with medication, but in some cases a Caesarean section is required. This would be carried out in our sterile operating theatre, and if at all possible we will aim to send the mother and puppies/ kittens home very shortly after surgery as there are big advantages to mother and babies to being in their usual environment.
During a Caesarean section we will provide our usual high standard of anaesthetic monitoring for the mother, and intravenous fluids will be provided to optimise the blood supply to the uterus and mammary glands throughout. The pups will be assisted to feed from their mother before discharge. If you would like to have your bitch or queen spayed at the same time as the Caesarean operation please let us know, as this is perfectly possible and will not affect the mother’s milk supply or ability to mother her new arrivals.
Elective Caesarean sections
As of July 2020, elective Caesarean sections may only be booked at Acorn House for bitches that have undergone progesterone testing to correctly determine the ovulation date prior to mating. This is to ensure that puppies are not delivered prematurely.
Care of the new-born puppies/kittens
The mother and her puppies/ kittens must be provided with clean, comfortable accommodation away from other pets in the household. Close supervision is strongly recommended throughout the birth process and for the first couple of weeks afterwards, particularly in new mothers.
The most important thing to provide for a new litter is a very warm environment. Temperatures of around 28C in the entire room/ pen are recommended, which will be far warmer than is comfortable for adult animals and humans! This is because puppies and kittens cannot control their own body temperatures for the first two weeks of life.
It is also recommended that puppies and kittens are individually identified (you can use special collars or non-toxic markers if they look similar) and weighed twice daily to ensure that they do not lose weight. If new-born puppies or kittens are losing weight, please contact the surgery straight away so that we can advise you – it may well be necessary to provide supplementary feeding with a special milk replacer.
It will definitely be necessary to treat the mother and her pups / kittens for roundworms several times after birth. Please contact the surgery for specific advice – you will need to know the weight of the puppies or kittens so that we can advise you appropriately.
Following new legislation introduced in April 2016, all puppies must be microchipped before the age of 8 weeks whilst in the care of the original owner of the bitch and registered in this person’s name. The registration is then transferred to the new owner when the pup is rehomed. You may bring the puppies into the surgery for microchipping, or we can attend your home to carry this out. It is a good idea to have the puppies checked by a vet at the time of microchipping to make sure that there are no problems identified before the pups are rehomed.
It is not compulsory for cats or kittens to be microchipped but it is a very good idea and this can be done at any age in the same way as for puppies.
Breeders have a huge responsibility to ensure that the puppies they produce are not only physically healthy, but are also well socialised and adapted to living in a home environment as pets.
There is a critical period of social development in puppies and kittens between 7 and 13 weeks of age. If puppies and kittens experience sounds, smells, sights and situations in a relaxed manner during this period it is very likely that they will accept these stimuli as normal as they grow up. This means that puppies and kittens intended to be kept as family pets should be brought up inside the house, experiencing all of the usual sounds and activities that go along with domestic life. Puppies that are raised in outbuildings rather than within the house are known to have an increased risk of fearful behaviours later in life.
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Acorn House Veterinary Surgery
Linnet Way, Brickhill, Bedford, MK41 7HN