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The Pitfalls of Dog Breeding: Alice’s Story

Thinking about breeding your dog? Then educate yourself about the risks.

Consider your dog’s age before orchestrating her pregnancy. By: Ben Kubota

This is a cautionary tale about dog breeding.

Many folks think about mating their own dog(s) to experience their beautiful puppies.

But the reality is that breeding can be risky to your dog’s health — and to that of your bank account.

Think Carefully Before You Breed

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Face the fact that your dog may have complications with the pregnancy.
  2. Financial profit should never be the primary reason for mating your dog.
  3. Approach any breeding situation as if it might cost you money and worry.

The Heartbreak of Dystocia

Dystocia describes any complications during delivery.

Recently, I had a situation with a client who wanted just 1 litter from her beloved dog. Over the years, she’d tried to breed her 2 dogs unsuccessfully. Finally, Alice the Bichon became pregnant.

Sara, her human, was delighted. Alice was 7, close to a sensible cut-off age for puppy-bearing, when the miraculous conception occurred. Advanced maternal age increases the risk of pregnancy complications.

When Alice’s labor began, she produced 1 pup on a Friday night.

When Sara woke up Saturday morning, the pup was fine, but Alice was tired of pushing.

Saturday passed, and no more puppies.

Sara waited until 5 p.m. to call for advice and found all veterinary hospitals had closed for the weekend. I was out of town, but Sara called me anyway, and I told her to take the dog immediately to an emergency vet hospital.

I’d assumed Alice did fine as the weekend passed, but Sara called the office Monday morning: “I took Alice home from the emergency hospital Saturday night. There’s still a puppy left inside. What should I do?”


Are having puppies around worth the potential risk to your dog’s health? By: optictopic

Dystocia’s High Cost

Here’s what happened: On Saturday, in the emergency room, Alice was given drugs and IV fluids to help the delivery along, and she birthed another puppy. Dead.

An ultrasound revealed 2 more pups inside. The ER doc recommended an immediate C-section. Sara’s bill was already up to $600. The estimate for the surgery was another $2,000–$3,000. Sara had $1,200 but no credit card. Against medical advice, she took Alice home with 2 puppies still inside and not showing any signs of active labor. This is called uterine inertia.

Poor Alice passed another dead puppy at home on Sunday, Sara told me on Monday. “Come down immediately,” I said. Upon arrival, Alice was lethargic, weary and frightened. We verified the 1 puppy in utero by ultrasound. Again, dead.

Taking Alice to life-saving surgery was the only option. If the C-section had been performed in a timely fashion, some pups might have lived.

The Best Ending Possible

Thankfully, Alice got through her surgery fine. I spayed her to ensure less risk of infection from a compromised uterus. This also meant 1 surgery instead of 2. After several hours on IV fluids, Sara and pup went home that night.

Sara called a few days later and said both Alice and Dodo the puppy were doing great. But when she asked me about removing Dodo’s dewclaws, I told her, “I think we’ve all been through enough. No dewclaw removal for Dodo.”

This vet gives some good advice if you think your dog is pregnant:

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The Reality of Pet Emergencies

Some of you might be thinking how heartless the emergency vet was in not performing the C-section, possibly saving the pups, and getting Alice out of danger sooner. But this decision isn’t up to individual doctors at big emergency hospitals — their policy is to never extend credit to anyone. Payment is due at time of service. This is a harsh but true reality.

Sara learned that she should’ve had a larger rainy-day fund set aside for Alice. I had walked her through the “what ifs” when she first talked about breeding Alice, the possibility of an emergency situation and the risk to Alice.

But what I didn’t know was that Sara was unaware of what a veterinary emergency can cost. Would it have made a difference if I had told her she needed to save $2,000 “just in case”? Vets need to be doctors, financial advisors, ethicists and psychologists in many situations.

Now, 5 weeks later, Dodo is not so little anymore and gets lots of nourishment, being an “only puppy.” And Sara has said she will pay off Alice’s reasonable maternity bill in time.

The key takeaway from this story is be prepared, both emotionally and financially, when considering breeding your dog. Alice experienced pain and suffering throughout this ordeal, puppies died and Sara was not prepared financially or mentally for the cost of the dystocia. Keep this in mind.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed May 17, 2017.