Here at Kent Family Farms we have changed our breeding policy on whether to breed back to back or every other heat. There have been several studies done on what is healthier for a breeding female and the results of these studies conclusively show that it is healthier for a female to be bred every heat instead of every other heat (I have attached articles below). While we do breed every heat, we never breed first heat and sometimes not on second heat either depending on the age in which they have their second heat is. Sometimes a female does not come in heat the first time until they are close to a year and a half old, others will come in heat when they are 8 months old for the first time. We do not believe that because you breed every heat that you should continue to breed as long as those that don’t breed every heat, which means that our breeding females retire earlier than those breeders that breed every other heat. Our girls are usually retired by 4 years old and spayed. This way they are breeding in their prime when it is healthier and safer for dam and puppies. While it is healthier to breed every heat we also think that breeders need to use common sense and make sure that their females are back to a healthy weight before breeding again, as well as, judging on a case by case knowing what is right for your female and her health.
Here are a few articles:
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.