Finding a “Breeder’s Vet”

Spend enough time talking with dog breeders, and you will hear all sorts of stories—stories about veterinarians who “didn’t know anything,” about veterinary costs, and about veterinarians who didn’t jump when the breeder said so. Ask those same veterinarians about those clients, and you’ll hear about rude individuals, people who didn’t pay their bills, and breeders who demanded services or treatments that the veterinarian felt would be detrimental to the animal’s health.

There is a happy middle ground. Working at a veterinary clinic that draws reproductive clients from three states and having experienced breeder-owners on staff gives us a unique perspective. We believe that sharing what we have learned, both as veterinary personnel and as breeders, can help breeders develop a good relationship with their own veterinary clinic.

The key to finding a clinic experienced in helping breeders is to do your homework. Find a veterinarian before a crisis. Talk to other local breeders and find out who they use. Visit the sites for the Society for Theriogenology (therio.org) or the American College of Theriogenologists (theriogenology.com) for information on board-certified theriogenologists—veterinarians who specialize in reproductive medicine.

Decide on how you might use various veterinary hospitals in your area. Can you use the same clinic for routine care, emergencies, reproductive procedures, and health testing, or do you need to visit different clinics and veterinarians for these services? Find out who covers emergencies locally. Is your clinic available after hours, or would you need to go to a rotating-location or emergency-only clinic? Some clients travel long-distance to our clinic for services such as reproductive procedures, pre-breeding screenings, or complicated surgeries but use a closer clinic for routine exams, vaccinations, and minor issues.

Since it seems that breedings always need to happen on weekends and holidays (and puppies are whelped in the middle of the night), discuss the schedule and availability of the veterinarian(s) you will be working with. Doctors need time off, so you may not be able to always have your favorite veterinarian on hand. But if you have a working relationship with the clinic, this needn’t be a problem. In addition, most veterinarians who “speak breeder” have support staff who are familiar with the needs and questions of breeders. It’s helpful to know and cultivate these people.

Plan ahead! Be sure to discuss with the reproductive clinic or veterinarian what options will be available if you need assistance with a breeding or whelping. Forewarn them if you anticipate an AI or whelping over a weekend or holiday.

Additional questions that you might ask include:

What reproductive services do you offer?

Which doctor(s) and staff will I be working with?

What is the clinic’s anesthesia and drug protocol for this procedure?

Is the staff experienced in performing C-sections?

If my bitch needs a C-section, will I be able to help rub down puppies?

Is a spay always performed at the time of a C-section? (Some clinics-especially those not used to working with responsible breeder-clients-make it a practice to spay any bitch presented for a C-section. This is fine in the case of a pet-quality bitch who was caught by a wandering male before the owners could have her spayed, but is not necessarily so fine with a bitch who is part of a breeding program.)

Is blood for transfusion available on-site? What about plasma for the puppies if they do not get colostrum from the dam? Discuss potential problems and what you would want to do.

—Dr. Cindy K. Pratt, Amanda Pough, and Carole A. Patten, for the Canaan Dog Club of America (AKC Gazette)