Jump to content
BC Boards

Too Old?


Recommended Posts

Well... you're pushing it a bit, IMO. Bearing in mind I can't see your dog and your vet can, my concerns with this would be more about canine repro in general than your dog in specific. In general, the risk of dystocia (difficulty in whelping) goes up in dogs having their first litter after the age of four. Dogs that have whelped successfully before that age do better than ones trying it for the first time at that age. It's sort of like having your first pregnancy at the age of 40... if you'd already had three successful pregnancies in your earlier years, you'd be lower-risk than if you were doing your very first one at 40. We do have dogs who go through this without a hitch even if their first try is at 5 or 6 years old, but (apart from the tiny breeds and the big-headed ones, like Bulldogs, where C-sections are common due to the breeds) it's unusual for us to have to C-section a young bitch. We do it much more often on older bitches, particularly first-time older bitches. Usually we save the bitch (better than 95%, I'd guess) but we don't always get live puppies. Sometimes we get partial-litter puppy survival, sometimes we get 100% puppy survival, and sometimes we get no puppy survival.


The other thing to bear in mind is that in general, fertility is on the decline in bitches at about 6 years of age. (In dogs, it starts to decline, on average, around eight). So, you do run the risk of having a small litter (like one or two pups) which increases the dystocia risk (smaller litters usually mean larger pups, so more difficulty in producing them.)


If it were me, I'd be asking myself these questions:


Why do I want to breed this bitch? Is it a good enough reason to justify the risks to the bitch, and the expense to her and to myself?


How important is it to me? If it's only a little important, should I take the chance?


Do I have $1000 (or more, depending on where you live) set aside in case she needs an emergency C-section? Do I have additional funds set aside for medical and general care of the pups and post-partum care of the bitch?


Will I be satisfied if I get only one or two live pups, or will it only be worth it if I get 4 or more live pups?


Do I want to breed her to get another dog like her? If so, would it make more sense to go to her original breeders and try to get a dog from the same lines as her so as to get a related animal without the risks to her?


Am I prepared (in terms of money, time, space and most ESPECIALLY knowledge) to handle the needs of a pregnant bitch, a whelping bitch, and a lactating bitch, not to mention 6 to 8 weeks of puppies? Do I know (or can I learn in time) the nutritional requirements, the environmental requirements, the medical requirements, how to predict whelp, the signs of a normal whelp, the indicators that the whelp is not normal and requires intervention, the signs of a normal neonate, the signs that a neonate needs help (and how to give it), etc? Am I prepared to hand-rear one or more puppies if necessary?


These questions are not to say "don't breed your bitch", or to tell you you can't do it. These are questions to ask yourself to see if this is *really* what you want to do and if you can do it in a way that maximizes the chance of a successful outcome. To be perfectly blunt - and sorry if I'm being TOO blunt, but this is not a risk-free proposition, so best to be honest here - if I had a 6-year-old maiden bitch, unless she was the best bitch I'd ever seen and VERY valuable genetically, I wouldn't be breeding her. I'd be spaying her. And I'm a vet, and can assure you I know everything I need to about getting through all this - not to mention that I can drive in to my own clinic and C-section my own bitch - without it costing me $1000 - at 3 a.m. if I want to. This means it is considerably easier for me to face this than for most people, and *I* don't think I'd want to take it on. Maybe that's just me, though.


Bear in mind that, living in Alaska where there are sled dogs galore, we do see a fair amount of breeding. Some of those dogs (if it's a good musher) are not bred in earliest youth, because they need to prove out before they're worth breeding. This means that we have quite a lot of middle-aged bitches having pups, compared to other areas of the country. The ones who do best have had litters before 4 years old. We just did a C-section on a 6 year old first time bitch who had a litter of two, of which one survived. The owner - one of the good mushers - had spent about $1000 achieving the pregancy in the first place (frozen semen, surgical implantation, ultrasounds, checkups, etc.), and probably $600 on the C-section (since it didn't happen after hours, luckily). Pretty expensive for a litter of one - BUT, the bitch's genetics were important to preserve, the owner was comfortable with the expense, and was willing to be satisfied with a single live puppy. She's also very capable and experienced at whelping out bitches. So, for her that was a positive outcome. For a lot of people it wouldn't be.


Anyway, sorry that was so long, but I hope it gives you some information that helps you make the decision about breeding or not. You may already have asked yourself all the appropriate questions, but even if you hadn't, good for you for checking before you reached the point of no return. It's a real pain in the butt to be asking yourself these questions for the first time at 4 in the morning when your bitch has been laboring for 4 hours and now she's in trouble.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My youngster's granddam was bred for the first time at around that age, after achieving eighth overall sheepdog in the nation. She did not have a good pregnanacy and had some trouble delivering, after which two of the litter of four remaining alive died and one of the two that survived had her eyes damaged during birth.


I know many other older bitches who are bred (working sheepdogs) and overall I'd say it's better to breed around 4-5 if possible. It seems like both fertility goes down and what I'd call mothering abilities start to peter away after that time.


That's a VERY unscientific observation, though. And as AK Dog Doc said, if the bitch is working to a very high standard it may be worth the risk to preserve the line.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...