Unsure how to identify if your vets are breeder friendly?
Looking to understand what flexibility you have with your veterinary-supported breeding choices?
Worried about how to best communicate your needs to your vet?
I remember driving to Ashby-del-la-Zouch to collect my first, and currently only, Labrador Spice like it was yesterday. I visited dog friends not too far for a BBQ the night before. I remember being asked by one of their friends, who I didn't know if I was a lawyer or solicitor. I was a bit confused (and slightly flattered) by the question and wondered what had given them that idea.
"Oh, you keep saying about your clients."
I hadn't realised I had done that, but upon reflection, I've always called my clientele' clients' because I consider a 'customer' a one-and-done kind of transactional interaction.
And I'm not that type of person or business. I support my dog owners through the entire breeding journey and experience, if not once, but many times.
Jay Abraham, an American business executive, speaker and author, considers a client as someone generally deemed 'under the protection' of another.
This kinda makes sense. I try to look after and out for you as much as possible, but for ultimate breeding success, you'll need a good team around you to help you achieve your breeding goals. That's why being surrounded by a community of like-minded dog owners and breeders is vital. Another critical asset to your network is a vet who understands your breeding needs and requirements.
Initially, you picked your vet, most probably because they were the closest to you, offered an excellent puppy introduction plan or seemed competitive on price or value for money. They ticked all your boxes - at that time.
Things have changed for you and your expecting canine mum, so you must consider how your vet practice would meet your new needs and requirements…
What are breeder-friendly vets?
One of the most important steps in your girl's pregnancy is ensuring you have a "breeder-friendly" vet. And it's not a category 'tick box' they display proudly on their webpage or in reception. It's an attitude that you need to seek out and research.
These vets will not be judgemental or feel inconvenienced when you ask questions about your dog's pregnancy. It's best to have these conversations early in the journey to help you avoid pregnancy predicaments further down the line.
Please don't leave it to the point where you or your dog are distressed and seeking help but not receiving the expert information or support you need or expect.
You should seek a vet now with breeding experience and an overall pro-breeding attitude. They should be able to support and guide you through the experience and provide expert clinical care.
You have a choice.
You must remember, effectively, your dog has private health care. You have the pick of any vet at your expense.
You don't have to be tied to only one practice. You may find a practice which provides proper puppy health checks and vaccinations, but a local vet is more suitable for everyday bits and bobs such as wormer and flea treatments.
You may even use a third for breeding-related aspects, because they offer out-of-hours service or have excellent continuity between their vets within their practice.
There should be no issue with you doing this.
Ultimately you'll need a nearby vet to confidently offer reassurance during pregnancy and birth. You should be able to rely on them if required, in and out of hours.
It would help if you did the homework now, so should any medical drama arise, you are prepared. This is a massive step to avoiding them in the first place.
Now don't be mistaken.
According to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) guidelines, you can't "officially" have accounts at many practices. They believe the treating vet might not have the most relevant, up-to-date clinical information on your dog. This is a more than acceptable reason.
From my experience, this will only become apparent, or an issue, if records need to be shared. I assume the female bred has a minimal clinical history reflecting her excellent health and vitality.
Otherwise, it questions why she is being bred in the first place.
If you have a dog with an ongoing illness and medical records that need to be shared for consistency of treatment. This approach of registering with multiple practices is unsuitable, nor may it be possible with insurance coverage.
Build your team
I currently use four different veterinary practices. But in the perfect world, I would need only one.
You might be lucky? If you can find a practice you can trust, a team of vets you respect and who respects you, then read no more and skip to the next Trade Secret. I would encourage you to 'build your own' team if you aren't sure.
I'll admit it's taken me many years to build a quadrant of veterinary professionals I'm now happy with.
You'll need time to develop your own triangle or quadrant of qualified practices for your breeding needs.
If you are eligible for low-cost or free vet care from PDSA, they strongly recommend getting your pet neutered and would advise against breeding from them.
As a charity, they will not use their resources to support any breeding practices and will expect you to take the pet to a private vet for any treatment relating to pregnancy or birth.
They will always provide life-saving treatment if a pet's life is in danger because of pregnancy or birth. However, they may neuter your pet during treatment, and once the pet is stable, you'll be referred to a private vet for any further treatment.
Your vet needs to be kept in the loop; once your girl has been confirmed in pup, you should contact them with the news. Ensure they pencil her due date in their calendar, so they know you might contact them for advice or services.
A canine pregnancy is typically 9 weeks (63 days) from ovulation. People get confused and think it's 63 days from mating, putting you two days out. If you did not have an ovulation test, you could be working with a due date up to one week out! In this instance, gestational measures of the foetal sac or skull during the ultrasound pregnancy scan will help narrow the due date window. Identifying ovulation through testing can help you plan for a more accurate birthing date and schedule your elective section should you need one.
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Some owners prefer an elective c-section, which removes the stress and worry of an out-of-hours delivery, enabling them to manage costs and organise reliable veterinary care. It also generally increases puppy survival rate, reducing puppy losses if delivery becomes difficult.
So knowing your girl's ovulation date not only gives you a more accurate delivery date and is hugely advantageous for organising elective c-sections, but most importantly, it helps to increase puppy survival rate. It also helps you manage your diary, organising any additional support or assistance needed for the expected delivery, particularly with weekends and bank holidays.
Some vets will insist on first-stage labour before c-sectioning - given that this can last up to 36 hours, it may be possible to negotiate around weekends and out-of-hours charges. They may also request that the female is 'reverse progesterone' tested. They may be able to do this for you or find a local canine fertility clinic within your vicinity that offers this service.
We hope and wish that the most natural route is taken with puppy delivery and that the female self-whelps the litter with little assistance at home with your support. But you must understand that financially you can have a significant outlay if the birth doesn't go as planned and a c-section is required.
Listed are local vet practices that are amiable in accommodating the needs of breeders. I would consider the listed vets as "Breeder Friendly". I strongly recommend contacting the vets before you require their services to check you meet their requirements to become a registered client.
- Medivet (Forest Row) www.medivet.co.uk/vet-practices/forest-row, Tel: 01342 824452
- Cobie Vetcare, www.cobievetcare.co.uk , Tel: 01323 646329
- Cliffe Veterinary Group (Lewes) www.cliffevets.co.uk, Tel: 01273 473232
- Companion Care (Burgess Hill) www.companioncare.co.uk/practices/companion-care-burgess-hill, Tel: 01444 248830
- Essex vets, www.essexvets.co.uk , Tel: 01245 328400
- Gayton Vets (Redhill) www.gayton.co.uk/redhill, Tel: 01737 761475
Effective teamwork requires good communication, trust, and coordination among all parties. It is important to establish clear goals, roles, and expectations and to foster a positive dynamic. When these elements are in place, teamwork can significantly contribute to the success of your dog breeding projects.
Have more questions about this article?
If you want more support and advice during your breeding journey, join the Canine Family Planner's Very Important Breeder Winner's Circle membership. Dog owners in the VIB's Winner Circle are a tight-knit community of like-minded breeders who desire access to world-class resources within a private and safe environment. It's the only place you can access me and my 23 years of experience, covering every aspect of dog breeding, pregnancies, and puppy rearing.