A good understanding of the normal reproductive cycle and timing for ovulation in the bitch is essential for anyone interested in breeding dogs. Prior to the planned mating of the bitch, other factors that should be evaluated and considered include:

1)  Age of the bitch

2)  Body condition - including body condition scoring and a complete physical exam

  • The exam should include an assessment of her mammary glands and conformation of the genitalia (perineal area, vulvar conformation, vagina and vestibule)
  • Specific evaluation of body systems will vary with the breed but may include:
    • Hip evaluation - OFA or PennHIP
    • Patella evaluation
    • Elbow evaluation
    • CERF - eye examination
    • Cardiac evaluation
    • Tracheal evaluation
    • Thyroid evaluation
    • Genetic disease screening (blood tests)

3)  History of medical problems

  • Temperament
  • Vaccination status
  • Medications and/or supplements
  • Nutrition
  • Environmental conditions and housing
  • Performance of work demands
Some of these factors can affect fertility, pregnancy and lactation. For example, bitches that are overweight or that have a sedentary lifestyle can have fertility problems including an affect on ovulation and their ability to whelp normally.
 
In addition to their general medical history and physical condition, a pedigree analysis and attention to the bitch's reproductive health status should be considered. Specifically, this includes:
  • Number of prior litters
  • Cycle history and length of interestrous intervals
  • Breeding history - When, types of breedings, breeding management (previous progesterone testing; male fertility testing)
  • Number of pregnancies - How were they determined (ultrasound, x-ray, physical appearance of the bitch, whelpings)
  • Number of pups in previous litters
  • Dystocia (history of problems during whelping)
  • History of stillbirths
  • Mothering behavior with previous litters
  • Lactation - normal or previous problems
Laboratory testing should also be performed. All bitches should have a Brucella test, and adults (bitches 4 years of age or older) should have a CBC, Chemistry profile, and Urinalysis to ensure normal internal organ function.

 

Listen to a podcast on this topic presented by the AKC Canine Health Foundation.