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German Shepherd Brood Bitch Health

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puppy nursing Are you ready? 

Here are a few things to think about before breeding your female German Shepherd.


Breed worthiness

Ask yourself these questions:

Is my female really an excellent example of the breed? Does she fit in the breed standard? Will she contribute to the breed as a whole? Why do you want to breed her? Is there a suitable stud dog available and does he meet the breed standards?

If you have any doubts about breeding your female, ask an experienced breeder for their opinion. Ask your vet about her health too. It's a big responsibility to raise puppies and find suitable homes for them. Most experienced breeders will tell you that there is very little money to be had by raising a litter of puppies. Usually, your time and money spent on raising the female and the puppies far exceeds what you will gain from the sale of the puppies.


Health Check

What tests may be required before mating?

Stud dog owner will insist on a Brucellosis test and you will need to plan ahead because most of the time, it takes about a week for the test results to come back in.

A vaginal culture is highly recommended. The culture results will take a few days to come back from the lab and will tell you if there are any abnormal bacteria that would prevent conception.

Your female should be the picture of health and fitness before mating!


Progesterone Testing

Learn what you can do to pinpoint the correct date of mating.

The early readings are: .1 - .2 .3

Start to draw blood on the 7th day.

They can go back down to .2 or even .1 – this depends on the time of day the blood was drawn

When the LH surge goes over 1.0 to 1.9 – you breed in 5 to 6 days

If the 5th day seems a little early – you breed on the 6th and 7th day – then skip a day and breed again.

If you draw blood and the level is .2 or .3 – then wait 3 days and draw blood again.

If you draw blood and the level is .7 or .8 – then you do it every other day

Once you start to see the level at:

2.0 to 2.9 ng/ml = breed in 4 to 5 days

3.0 to 3.9 ng/ml = breed in 3 to 4 days

4.0 to 8 .0 ng/ml = breed today or tomorrow - this is where the LH Surge Occurs.

Over 8.0 ng/ml with no white cells – then the bitch has ovulated

When you have bitches that do not swell up or have a lot of discharge – good idea to have their thyroid level checked.

My personal experience with progesterone testing has been good. Usually I test the female at 7 days for the first time. Then again two days later. Depending on the results, I may test again two to three days after that. The best tip is that when the progesterone level jumps over 1.0 ng/ml, the female will usually be ready to breed in 4-5 days. If the progesterone level is 5.0ng/ml or over but less than 10.0ng/ml, breeding should be done now.

Breeding the female depends on her receptiveness to the male and when the mating is good, I usually try to get another mating the day after the day following the initial mating. The sperm stays viable for 24-48 hours so you will have covered 4-5 days of estrus with the two matings. It is not the number of times you breed the dogs but the day on which you do it. Remember, if you breed your female for an entire week, you will not be able to pinpoint the day of whelping very well.

If you have difficulty in determining your female's ovulation window, there are other tests that you can do to pinpoint the correct day. Ask your veterinarian or consult with a veterinarian specializing in fertility.


58-62 Days

Whelping the Litter

You will need to find a suitable place for your female and here puppies. Many people use the large plastic swimming pools. They are easily cleaned and provide a nest-like place. Line the pool with newspapers or clean easily washable bedding. The whelping area should be located in a less traveled portion of your house or kennel. Privacy for the female is important. Most will try to find a dark den-like area even if you provide her a nice place. Closets are especially attractive to moms.

Check with your vet prior to the due date, making sure he or she can be reached in case o f a late night emergency. Ask what you should have on hand. I like to have a stack of clean towels to help dry the puppies and the ingredients for energy drink for mom - eggs, milk and honey or light corn syrup.

You may need a heat lamp or a room that can be heated or cooled to about 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature and it's important not to let them get too hot or cold.


Health after Puppies

Check your female frequently while she is nursing her puppies. Watch closely for signs of lethargy, fever or abnormal swelling in the breasts. This could be a sign of an infection and it can get serious in a matter of hours. Check with your vet immediately if you suspect mastitis.

Females will have a discharge for several days after the puppies are born. It should not be sticky or foul smelling and should clear up on it's own. If you suspect that your female has a vaginal infection, take her to the vet.

Most puppies are quite active and search for a nipple as soon as they are born, suckling vigorously. Watch for signs of respiratory distress or abnormal crying in the puppies. 

Above all, it is important to have a good relationship with a qualified veterinarian that you can call with questions and concerns.

Copyright © 1996-2009 created by Laurie K. Tollifson