Should you do “back to back” breeding? Find out what I think here!

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!

Find more videos like this on Royal Canin Canada Elite Breeders' Club

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!

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Comment by Classic Dachshunds on May 13, 2014 at 3:19pm

Thank you so much for this information.  I too love this product and my bitches are always in optimal condition during and after pregnancy. 

Comment by Emmanuel PRO Technical Service on October 9, 2013 at 7:57am

Thanks for this feedback on our products! I am glad to read these positive comments!

Comment by Catherine Betts on October 8, 2013 at 2:32pm

I appreciate this information and whole heartedly agree that body condition should be one of the main determining factors in the decision to do a repeat breeding.  Where I have bred my bitches back to back, the bitches had two large litters so clearly smaller litters is not an issue if the bitch is in prime condition.  I am very grateful to the Royal Canin Reproductive line.  I find I am able to get my bitches back to their starting weight (I weigh them when I breed them and then again once their pups are 8 weeks) when they are on the Royal Canin Starter....something I was not always able to do when I used other brands of food.  They eat so much less food but seem to maintain a generous milk supply and very good body condition all through the lactation period.  Thank you for a great product!

Comment by Emmanuel PRO Technical Service on August 19, 2013 at 6:08am

Hi, thanks for your question and sorry for this delayed answer, it had been an hectic week and I am still catching up with all the emails I received! Concerning pyos, the risk of it reccuring at the following estrus period is around 20%. Pregnancy is definitely the best prevention against pyos' development, and that's why we would always recommend to breeds bitches that werre treated medically at the following estrus period (which BTW usually comes earlier than expected - can start as soon as 3 months after the previous heats-, but with good fertility results). In my experience after the bitch carried out a normal pregnancy the pyo does not reccur (at least in the bitches I followed !). I personnaly think that the first estrus period following the pyo is the most critical, but then the risk is definitely lower (again, if again was carried out). The reason I am saying that is because unfortunately, it will be hard for the bitch to keep an optimal body condition if she is bred at each cycle and that's why I think after two consecutive breedings, it should be better to do a kind of break and pass one heat cycle. In the future I hope we will have ways to temporarilly suppress the hormonal secretions related to the estrous cycle (=temporary chemical neutering) to avoid this risk, there are some molecules that are relatively safe to use to do this but unfortunately they are available in Europe/Australia but not North America yet...Hope this will help, don't hesitate if you have more questions! 

Comment by Moorbern Kennel on August 15, 2013 at 1:04pm

Dr Fontaine, with a bitch that had a pyometra treated successfully, should back to back breedings be considered a necessity until such time as her breeding days are over?  I am under the impression that once a bitch has had a pyo, she is more susceptible to it again - therefore, by breeding her at each heat you are keeping her safe and healthy by making sure something good is in her uterus (puppies) rather than something bad (infection).  I look forward to your comments.  Thank you. 


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