Mrs. Jones and I were in the examination room with Fluffy, her Golden Retriever. It was Fluffy’s second birthday, and Mrs. Jones asked me a very important question, “I’m thinking of breeding Fluffy now. What are my considerations?”
The first and most important consideration is moral. We have an incredible pet overpopulation problem in this country. At the Humane Society of South Mississippi over 3,000 animals each year are put to death.
That happens because there are not enough homes for all of the pets that are already being born every day. Seven dogs and cats are born for each human birth.
Nationwide the problem is much, much worse. There are over 2.7 million dogs and cats euthanized every year.
The standard response from those who wish to breed is, “Every time JoJo has puppies I find homes for every one, sometimes even before they’re born! So, JoJo’s puppies won’t suffer that fate because they will all have homes.”
That doesn’t change the fact that one or more of the families who took one of JoJo’s puppies might have gone to the shelter and adopted a puppy with no home. With every adoption a life is saved.
The second most important consideration is Fluffy’s health and well-being. When Fluffy was 12 weeks old I had advised Mrs. Jones that Fluffy should be spayed before her first heat cycle, and that doing so would make the likelihood of mammary (breast) cancer later in life nearly zero. That was the first time Mrs. Jones mentioned she might want to get into the breeding business.
A current welfare concern is Fluffy’s pregnancy. The very act of carrying and birthing puppies can be risky. Complications might occur during the pregnancy or the delivery, some of which can be life-threatening and/or require emergency surgery, such as a Caesarian Section.
Eclampsia can occur during nursing, and can be fatal if not treated in time.
Then there is the matter of responsibility to owners of Fluffy’s offspring. At age two, Fluffy is old enough to have her hips certified by the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHip. Unfortunately, Mrs. Jones had already acquired Fluffy before she asked me about what parameters she should look for in a new puppy’s parents. Had she asked, I would have advised her to ensure that she saw certification of both of Fluffy’s parents ensuring that they were free of Hip Dysplasia. If we do proceed to breeding Fluffy, we will have her hip X-rays evaluated and breed her only to a male dog whose hips have received a “Good” or better rating from OFA and/or PennHip.
We don’t have the right to breed a pet that might pass on a preventible crippling orthopaedic deformity to her offspring. It isn’t fair to the pups, and it isn’t fair to the owners of those pups.
Then there’s the matter of the problems Fluffy has already had in her first two years of life. She has some moderately bad allergy problems. Like people, we know that allergies in pets have a familial relationship, and the likelihood of Fluffy’s offspring having allergy problems is quite high. It’s even more likely if the male she’s bred with also has allergy problems. Sort of a double whammy.
One of Mrs. Jones’ considerations is cost. She wants to breed Fluffy for a profit, so she wants to know in advance what the predictable, non-emergency costs associated with breeding might be. I listed some important costs for her: OFA or PennHip Hip Dysplasia certification; Brucella canis pre-breeding blood test for Fluffy and her “mate”; higher quality and quantity of nutrition for Fluffy during the pregnancy and nursing period; post-partum examination of Fluffy and the pups the day after the pups are born; examination and stool test for intestinal parasites for the pups at three weeks of age; examination, repeat stool test and vaccinations for the pups at 6 weeks of age (and again at 9, 12 and 15 weeks of age for any pups who have not yet gone to new homes); and increased municipal licensing fees for non-altered and breeding pets.
Unfortunately, many folks who are breeding are cutting corners. They are not providing this proper level of care for their pets. Or, maybe they’re not pets at all. Maybe they’re just farm animals to this type of breeder.
As you can see, the moral aspect of Mrs. Jones’ question is huge. And the financial considerations are very important.
Perhaps it’s a good time to simply love your pet for who he is, and have compassion for the millions of shelter pets who will never have homes by making sure you’re not part of the problems associated with breeding.
You may have additional questions about your pet’s reproductive health. If so, feel free to ask your pet’s doctor. He will be happy to explain the pros and cons of breeding.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.