Back to Back?
Is it Safer than Skipping Heat Cycles
Breeding dogs is a topic of great controversy, particularly when it comes to the frequency and number of litters a female dog should have. As someone who prioritizes the well-being of my dogs, I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to breeding. However, I have conducted extensive research to determine the best practices for my program.
According to current veterinary reproductive medicine, back-to-back breeding is the healthiest option for female dogs. Waiting for the female to mature significantly or skipping cycles can be detrimental to her health. As long as the female is healthy and recovers well after giving birth, it is recommended to breed her during her next cycle. As they say, "start young and breed until done."
Determining when a female dog is done breeding can be a tricky matter. However, as long as the dog is healthy, she can continue to breed. The indication that a female dog is done breeding is usually a decrease in litter size.
In my program, I have decided to follow the back-to-back breeding program while considering each female's unique needs and circumstances. Ultimately, my priority is always the health and well-being of my dogs.
Extensive research has been conducted on the optimal breeding schedule for female dogs, and the results have shown that breeding every heat cycle is preferable to every other heat cycle for their overall health and well-being.
It is important to note that while we do breed every heat cycle, we exercise caution and do not breed during the first and second heat cycle, and may also skip the third cycle depending on the age of the female dog. We recognize that different females may have varying heat cycles, some coming into heat at a younger age than others. However, our policy is not to breed continuously, and we retire our breeding females earlier than breeders who choose to breed every other heat. Our females are typically retired by the age of four and are spayed.
This approach ensures that they are breeding during their prime years, which is healthier and safer for both the dam and her offspring.
While we acknowledge the benefits of breeding every heat cycle, we believe that breeders must also exercise good judgement and use common sense when it comes to their female dogs' health. It is crucial to ensure that they are at a healthy weight and have had a vet exam and clearance before being bred again and to assess their overall health and well-being on a case-by-case basis.
Back to Back Breeding and Pseudopregnancy
The Australian Journal of Professional Dog Breeders
February 5, 2011 By Dr Kate Schoeffel
It is frequently claimed that breeding dogs on every heat or “back to back breeding” is bad for a bitch’s long term health and well being. However the research in canine reproduction shows that not breeding a dog when it comes into heat can in fact be bad for its health. Scientist have shown that pseudopregnancy ['phantom pregnancy'] increases the risk of mammary cancers which are the second most common cancer in dogs after skin tumors and are 3-5 times more common than breast cancers in women
1: Pseudopregnancy often occurs when a bitch is not bred. She will show signs such as nesting, weight gain, mammary enlargement and lactation – usually about 6 to 12 weeks after oestrus. Pseudopregnancy represents the extreme of the changes which normally occur during the oestrus cycle and it is suggested that it is a hang over from dogs evolution from wolves. Subordinate nonbreeding pseudopregnant female wolves in a pack can help to raise pups by nursing the litters of other females”
2 In 1994 Donnay and his associates showed that there is a relationship between the number of pseudopregnancies a bitch goes through and the development of mammary cancer
3. Verstegen and Onclin (2006)1 have also studied canine mammary cancer and found that a large number of bitches presented for mammary tumours also show pseudopregnancy, that a large percentage of these females had frequent pseudopregnancies and that the bitches with recurring pseudopregnancy at each cycle tended to develop mammary tumors significantly earlier than other animals. Both of these authors say that there is need formore research but clearly bitches which don’t breed are likely to become pseudopregnant and pseudopregnancy increases the risk of cancer.
Skipping cycles in breeding has been linked to mammary cancer Pregnancy protects against life threatening uterine diseases. The most common uterine disease in the bitch is cystic endometrial hyperplasia. It is linked to several serious uterine diseases including the potentially life threatening disease “pyometra”(literally – a uterus full of pus) which affects nearly one quarter of dogs under 10 years old which are not desexed
4 . According to canine reproduction specialist Dr S. Romagnoli “bitches whelping regularly throughout their reproductive life almost never develop pyometra, while those who whelp rarely or never in their lives have a greater chance of developing this condition”. Furthermore a standard textbook of veterinary internal medicine notes that uterine diseases are less common in kennels where bitches are bred and conceive regularly indicating that pregnancy has a protective effect on the lining of the uterus or “endometrium”
Given that artificially restricting bitches, which haven’t been desexed, from breeding is bad for their health, it is not surprising that many breeding dogs bred have reproductive problems. If they are show dogs they often don’t start breeding until they are three years old, and have finished their show career, and then kennel club rules and even government regulations require that the bitch is only bred on every second season. Frequently older bitches need veterinary intervention to reproduce, and good bitches may end up being bred well beyond 6 years of age when their fertility is beginning to decline.
No responsible breeder who cares about their dogs would breed their bitches until they are exhausted, and rules certainly need to be in place to ensure that irresponsible breeders don’t exploit their dogs, however the current regulations in place in some states do not take into account the biology of the bitch. Breeding should be regulated by limiting the number of litters a bitch can breed or the age at which they should be desexed and retired. Breeding dogs regularly while they are young,followed by desexing and rehoming them early is in the best interest of the bitch and a good pet breeder can use this knowledge to work with the natural biology of their animals. Breeders must be aware of and comply with any government regulations regarding dog breeding in their state and unfortunately in Victoria, NSW and QLD current regulations do not permit this approach to dog breeding.
1.J.P. Verstegen III and K. Onclin. Prolactin and Anti-Prolactinic Agents in thePathophysiology and Treatment of Mammary Tumors in the Dog. NAVC Proceedings2006, North American Veterinary Conference (Eds).
2.Canine Pseudopregnancy: A Review (Last Updated: 23-Aug-2001). C.Gobello1, P. W. Concannon2 and J. Verstegen III3, Recent Advances in SmallAnimal Reproduction, Concannon P.W., England G., Verstegen III J. andLinde-Forsberg C. (Eds.)
3.Donnay I, Rauis J & Verstegen J – Influence des antécédents hormonaux surl’apparition clinique des tumeurs mammaires chez la chienne. Etudeépidémiologique. Ann. Med. Vet. 1994, 138, 109-117
4. Simón Martí Angulo Clinical aspects of uterine disease in the bitch and queen.Proceeding of the Southern European Veterinary Conference Oct. 2-4, 2009. S.Romagnoli, How I Treat… Pyometra. Proceeding of the SEVC. Southern European Veterinary ConferenceOct. 17-19, 2008 – Barcelona, Spain
5. Davidson AP, Feldman EC. Ovarian and estrous cycle abnormalities. In: EttingerSW, Feldman EC (eds) Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. WB Saunders,2004
6. Johnson CA. Cystic endometrial hyperplasia, pyometra, and infertility. In: Ettinger SW, Feldman EC (eds).Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine WB Saunders, 1992, pp. 954.
Recently at an AKC Dog Breeding Discussion held at Michigan State University with key note speaker Dr. Claudia Orlandi Ph.D. (AKC's breeder of the year and author of The ABC's of Dog Breeding) shocked many breeders when it was disclosed that there have been scientific studies to show that it is detrimental for dams to skip heat cycles. It was shared that once you have begun to mate a dam that you should NOT skip any heat cycles until she is completely finished breeding. A dam is said to be "finished" breeding when her litter size is drastically decreased. The study involved following females that were bred every heat cycle and females that were bred every other heat cycle. After they were "finished" breeding, the dams were spayed and their uterus dissected.
Those showing most stress, and damage of the uterus were the females that were bred "every other" heat cycle. Part of the rational that skipping heat cycles is harmful stems from the fact that with consecutive heat cycles there is no "flushing action" of the uterus, which normally occurs by having a litter of puppies. The female will go through Estrus no matter if she is bred or not and by breeding a healthy dam back to back, can lessen the chances of the female experiencing pyometra, infections and false pregnancy. The choice to breed or not, should be contingent upon the goals the breeder has and for sure the mental and physical health of the female, above all else.