Nine Lives Vets

 Redbourn: 01582 793636            Harpenden: 01582 763265 

Breeding Your Dog: 

Before Mating:

Pre-Mating Screening: Hips & Elbows

We recommend all pedigree dogs are hip scored prior to breeding. This involves taking a hip x-ray under GA, which is sent for an expert panel to review and score. Although a good score is not a guarantee that your puppies won't develop hip dysplasia, avoiding breeding poor scoring dogs has significantly reduced the incidence of this crippling disease in many breeds, especially labradors. 

The working breeds (especially retrievers and collies) should be screened for elbow dysplasia at the same time. 

Pre-Mating Screening: Eye and Blood Tests

There are 11 hereditary eye disorders in more than 50 breeds that can be screened for under the BVA healthy dog scheme - collies in particular. 

Some breeds carry a genetic disease and should be screened with a blood test, in particular Setters and Dobermans. 

See the BVA healthy dogs scheme for more information

Successful Mating:

When to mate your dog:

To be successful, your bitch needs to mate (including tying with the male) within 48 hours of ovulating. Ovulation usually occurs around day 9 to 12 after the onset of bleeding, however the range can be day 4 all the way up to day 30. Your bitch should instinctively know when she is ready to mate, so you can visit the stud-dog every day until she stands for him. This is not always an option, on your bitch's first attempt we recommend visiting the male on days 9 and 14. If she does not become pregnant, then next season try again - but use the Pre-Mate blood screening process to tell you exactly when she ovulates. This simple blood test can save many wasted journeys to visit the stud!


Pregnancy can be confirmed by an ultrasound scan between day 30 and 40. We can estimate the number of puppies, in particular identifying if there is only one pup as this could grow too large to be born without help. 

During pregnancy do not over-feed your dog, and allow her to eat lots of small meals towards the end when the abdomen becomes heavy and distended with puppies.

If your bitch has ever lost puppies, especially in the last trimester or new born pups, then please consider having her vaccinated against herpes. This is given by injection 7 days after mating, then 7 days before giving birth.

Giving Birth

The average gestation is 65 days, but be prepared from day 63 and worry at day 68. 

On the morning of giving birth she should go off her food and seem restless; however the best way of knowing is to check her rectal temperature with a digital thermometer every morning from day 62. On the morning of the birth it will drop by 1 degree, usually from 37C to 36C. 

Please watch some YouTube videos of whelping bitches to familiarize yourself with the process. Be ready with some cotton thread in case you need to tie off a bleeding umbilical cord, and have lots of small towels ready to rub any quiet or lifeless puppies. We recommend you have some Royal Canin Puppy Milk at home ready in case any of them struggle to feed. 

Rules of thumb for when to call for help: 

1. If her temperature dropped the previous morning but she has not given birth over night

2. If she strains continuously for 15 minutes without producing a puppy

3. If you can see part of a puppy in the canal for longer than 15 minutes

4. She takes longer than 3 hours rest between puppies (we may not worry - but call to discuss) 

Looking After Puppies

Week 1: check they are all feeding well and gaining weight. Excessive crying indicates lack of food. 

Week 2: Worm them all with Drontal Puppy or Panacur liquid wormer

Week 3-4: make sure they all have their eyes and ear canals open, start to offer ad-lib puppy food

Week 5: Worm again

Week 6: Pre-sale health checks with the vet

Week 7-8: Last dose of wormer and off to their new families

We recommend all the vaccinations are done with the new owners - this enables a good bond to made with the puppy's new vet and ensures vaccine types will match.