Last week I was lecturing near Halifax, Nova Scotia -always great to be so close from the ocean, this reminds me of my little island overseas! I was presenting what is definitely my favorite talk over the years, “Basics in canine reproduction”. I must thank the audience; there were lots of questions and great interactions. And interestingly, the following question was asked twice: “what do you think of back to back breeding?”. Not the first time I got this one, so I thought I should write down a post to let everybody know what I think.
For those of you who at this point still wonder what back to back breeding is, let’s clarify a little bit. It just means that the bitch is bred on two consecutive heats: the bitch is bred, delivers and nurses her puppies, and is bred again on the following heats. And this often raises many questions: aren’t we going to “hurt” the bitch by doing this? Is it good for her breeding career? Is it good for the puppies?
To make things clear: back to back breeding can be done. However there is one mandatory prerequisite: before breeding, the bitch MUST always be in optimal body condition.
Why? Because carrying out a pregnancy AND then lactating requires energy… Even a LOT of energy! If the bitch cannot cope with her energetic needs during these specific stages, she will lose weight. And not sure she will have recovered at the beginning of the next estrous cycle. It’s a kind of vicious circle then, where the body condition slowly deteriorates…
How to avoid this? For sure, the feeding management during gestation is of great importance. If you want a fresh reminder on what are the usual recommendations, watch our video below that will answers all your questions!
Energetic demand is higher during gestation, but nothing compared to what will be needed to maintain lactation: it’s like the bitch was doing a 60km run on daily basis! That’s the only time when we recommend to free feed the animal with an energy-dense diet (like our Starter diets for instance).
Despite the best feeding management, in my experience bitches always lose some weight after gestation+lactation period. To breed her back to back, it is important that this bitch is back to a normal body condition. Three reasons for that:
- Remember that the adipose tissue does not only act as an energetic reserve, it also produces hormones, among them estrogens and leptine. This last one acts on the central command of the reproductive function in the brain, the hypothalamo-pituitary axis. Basically if the secretion of leptine is somewhat altered (because the bitch is too skinny or overweight) the hormonal functioning of the reproductive tract can be disrupt and we suspect it can play a role in the occurrence of problems like ovarian cysts. It can therefore definitely impact fertility results.
- If the bitch is not in optimal body condition, the uterine contractions pattern might be altered. The risk of dystocia (=difficulties to give birth) will therefore increase, as well as the neonatal mortality rate.
- If the bitch is not in proper body condition (typically skinnier than she should be), the back to back breeding will accentuate this and the bitch will become even skinnier after gestation with difficulties to maintain proper lactation. This again has an impact on neonatal mortality and puppies survival.
I completely understand that sometimes, back to back breeding might be something interesting to better manage the reproductive career of the bitch. Be reassured, this can be done provided that the bitch is in optimal body condition. That’s definitely THE thing you should focus on!