The Importance Of Weight Control For Breeding Animals

by | Dog Breeding, Dog Health

Other than an accidental breeding a/k/a an “oops litter” most people plan their breedings well in advance. Some of the early plans include choosing a stud dog and deciding what method will be used to do the breeding. One other early plan that you need to implement is how you will get your girl in great physical shape before she is bred.

Years ago we leased a bitch, took her to the stud dog for a natural breeding and sent her home after she had been bred. Her owners pampered “the little momma” while she was home giving her lots and lots of extra treats and very little exercise. When she came back to us for the whelping she was very overweight and really out of condition! Her whelping was very difficult for her taking over 16 hours, almost twice the time it has taken any of our girls to whelp their litters.

In addition to the physical challenges out-of-shape bitches face, the dam’s and sire’s condition may also impact the puppies from an epigenetics perspective. FMI on epigenetics, check out our blog Might Dog Dads Contribute More Than Just DNA?

What we do know is getting your bitch and stud dog in shape prior to breeding is important for their fertility, the best chances of conception, an easy whelping, a successful litter raising experience and their general health.

Other than an accidental breeding a/k/a an “oops litter” most people plan their breedings well in advance. Some of the early plans include choosing a stud dog and deciding what method will be used to do the breeding. One other early plan that you need to implement is how you will get your girl in great physical shape before she is bred.

Years ago we leased a bitch, took her to the stud dog for a natural breeding and sent her home after she had been bred. Her owners pampered “the little momma” while she was home giving her lots and lots of extra treats and very little exercise. When she came back to us for the whelping she was very overweight and really out of condition! Her whelping was very difficult for her taking over 16 hours, almost twice the time it has taken any of our girls to whelp their litters.

In addition to the physical challenges out-of-shape bitches face, the dam’s and sire’s condition may also impact the puppies from an epigenetics perspective. FMI on epigenetics, check out our blog Might Dog Dads Contribute More Than Just DNA?

What we do know is getting your bitch and stud dog in shape prior to breeding is important for their fertility, the best chances of conception, an easy whelping, a successful litter raising experience and their general health.

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Underweight bitches can have:

  • Small liter size
  • Low birth weight
  • Increased neonatal morbidity and mortality
  • Decreased milk yield
  • Decreased immunity and decreased response to vaccination
  • Decreased fertility in later years

Overweight bitches can have:

  • Decreased ovulation
  • Decreased fertility
  • Increased incidence of silent heat
  • Prolonged interestrous intervals
  • Smaller litter sizes
  • Increased risk of false pregnancy
  • Increased incidences of dystocia

Overweight stud dogs can have:

  • Increased scrotal fat deposits which can contribute to overheating of the testes and decreased sperm.
  • Difficulties in mounting and breeding, including decreased stamina and increased breeding associated injuries, such as cruciate injuries.
Overweight dog

Overweight dog

In addition to breeding issues being overweight leads to increases of these general health problems in both dogs and bitches:

  • Orthopedic problems such as joint pain, increased risk of cruciate injury, exacerbation of dysplasia and patellar lunation
  • metabolic diseases such as heart, respiratory, liver disease and Type 2 diabetes
  • exercise intolerance and heat sensitivity
  • increased anesthetic and surgical risks, especially important for bitches that end up requiring a caesarian section

If your bitch is underweight or overweight when she comes into season we suggest that you seriously consider skipping breeding her on this cycle, and instead focus on getting her properly conditioned to breed on her next cycle.

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So how can you tell if your dog is the correct weight?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask your veterinarian for an honest evaluation of your dog’s condition.
  • Ask your breeder to evaluate your dog or bitch if they don’t live to far away.
  • Check out the Body Condition scoring system developed by Nestle Purina.

Here are three key points to look for so to see if your dog has an ideal body weight.

  1. Their ribs are easily palpable.
  2. They have a waist (narrowing behind the ribs) when viewed from above.
  3. They have a tuck up of the abdomen when viewed from the side.

(Coated dogs may require hands on to determine their ideal weight.)

How to use the hand analogy to gauge a dog’s weight

Make a fist with your left hand and run the fingers of your right hand over the knuckles. If your dog’s ribs feel like that they are too thin.

Open your left hand placing your palm up. Run the fingers of your right over the bottom of the knuckles. If your dog’s ribs feel like that they are too fat.

Open your left hand placing your palm down. Run the fingers of your right hand over the knuckles. If your dog’s ribs feel like that they are just the right weight.

RESOURCES

1 Gross, Kathy L., and Steven C. Zicker. “Chapter 15 : Feeding Reproducing Dogs.”Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Edition. By Jacques Kathy L. Gross Steven C. Zicker Debraekeleer. 5th ed. Topeka: MMI, 2010. 282-94. Print.

2 Lopate, Cheryl, MS DVM, Diplomate American College ofTheriogenologists. Infertility in the Stud Dog (n.d.):

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1 Comment

  1. Dog Breeding Business

    Agreeing with this article and also extra care and extra daily logging must be applied when dealing with newborn puppies. In the event of a (rare) emergency, you want to bring with you all the data possible to your vet so he can see what may have happened prior to the emergency.

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