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To Breed or Not To Breed

Dr. Andy Answers the Question
To Breed or Not to Breed
    According to the ASPCA, “approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats).”  With numbers like these, breeding a pet should be undertaken with a great deal of thought and consideration. 
    First and foremost the prospective parents must be extraordinary examples of their breed. Any congenital defects present in the parents will be passed on and are sometimes magnified in the puppies.  Good temperaments and excellent health should be tested and verified by impartial experts.   The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is an organization where board certified experts review x-rays and blood work for breed specific congenital defects and then certify potential parents.  The AKC also has a program called the Canine Good Citizen, where the temperament is tested and certified.  These are just two of the programs that are great ways to insure your pet has the qualities needed to pass on to the next generation.    As a general rule mixed breed dogs have fewer congenital defects than purebred dogs, but there are so many of these already up for adoption.  Even though an owner of a mixed breed dog loves their pet, unless they are prepared to keep the offspring, breeding that pet may just add to the unwanted pet population.  
    Some of the myths about allowing a female dog to have one litter of puppies are that it will calm her down, keep her from getting overweight or make her more loving.   Spaying a female dog before the first heat cycle gives her a less the 1% chance of developing breast cancer.  After the first heat cycle the risk of breast cancer increases to 8%, and after the second heat cycle in goes up to 26%.   Pyometra is a life threating condition where the uterus become infected and filled with puss and the only treatment is spaying.  Ovariohysterectomy is complete removal of the ovaries and uterus, thus eliminating the risk of pyometra and ovarian and uterine cancer.   Neutering a male pet is not as medically necessary, but can reduce or eliminate certain types of cancer.  It can also make him a much more pleasant companion.  An intact male dog is more likely to roam, fight and mark his territory with inappropriate urination.   Neutered pets are often calmer, but just as protective of their family and home.  Spaying and neutering can insure a long and healthy life for your pet.
    After the great amount of time, money and effort required for breeding a dog, the probability of profit is very low.  I recommend consulting a veterinarian about costs before beginning a breeding program. Some of the tests and procedures a breeder should be prepared for are expensive.  There are only a few days within a dog’s heat cycle that fertilization can occur and determining the optimal breeding dates can be a pricey endeavor.  If artificial insemination is required, those costs must be considered as well.  During the pregnancy the mother will require extra nutrition and care.  In the week before the due date, x-rays should be used to determine puppy counts and sizes.  In some cases a costly caesarian section must be performed, when live birth would threaten the life of mother and puppies.  In the state of Florida a puppy must be at least eight weeks of age before it can be sold, and the breeder is responsible for providing deworming and the first temporary vaccine.  It is also possible to incur most of the expenses and in the end have only one or two puppies, or in a worst case scenario lose both the mother and litter of puppies.  Breeding responsibly usually costs more then it makes and can quickly become a heartbreaking situation. 
      As a veterinarian, I assist with the breeding programs of several of my clients.  I also perform hundreds of spays and neuters a year.  If you are considering breeding your pet, I will be happy to consult with you, give my expert recommendations, and review the associated costs and complications of pregnancy.  If you wish to pursue O.F.A. certification we can schedule a time to come in for the necessary blood draws and x-rays.  As always, feel free to give me a call at 850-433-2812 or stop in the office at 2101 N. Palafox St.