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Canine Reproduction


Fat is vital for fertility. In fact, when Native American couples had trouble conceiving, the elders put them on bear fat diets! Breeders know that fat bitches are unlikely to conceive but when we put them on crash diets, we guarantee temporary sterility. Here’s why.





by Jill Maner, RN


Fat dogs are rarely fertile and suffer flakey seasons and low reproductive ability.All dog breeders want our animals to be strong, healthy and fit. We vaccinate, worm, add vitamins, minerals, assorted and sundry trace elements, herbs and anything anyone else claims to have had any success with.


Yet all of us have had picky eaters, over eaters, thyroid problems and fertility problems.


I've spent more than twenty years working in both human and animal medicine and have come to the conclusion that we have a lot more in common with our dogs than is immediately apparent. The obvious similarities are those common to most mammals; we both bear live young, the ability to suckle that young, internal regulation of body temperature (unlike reptiles) and we are both driven by the biological imperative to reproduce.


In our prehistory, wolves and man were both “opportunistic eaters” and when meat supplies dropped to or below subsistence levels, existing young perished or were sacrificed in favor of group survival. Pregnancies which did not abort spontaneously produced small, weak offspring with poor viability.  Mating and new pregnancies decreased or ceased altogether.


When wolves first joined the man-pack both groups benefited. Man acquired a hunter protector with great strength and intense loyalty and the dog acquired shelter, warmth, and man's weapons to aid in the kill. The survival ratio for both groups improved significantly and neither species was required to spend all of its time seeking food. Greater numbers of offspring were born and survived. Talented (useful) animals were bred and trained to perform specific functions, ultimately leading to the variety of breeds we now enjoy.


This didn't happen overnight which is not a news flash to most of you. Man and Canidae share thousands of years of evolution and as our circumstances improved so did his.


Today most of us have sedentary lifestyles. We ride to work, get our food out of packages and our exercise on the couch. Our dogs exercise in small yards and eat what we provide, mostly grain-based dog food. That is NOT the way nature designed carnivores and it shows in our overweight, sluggish house dogs.


We humans have problems with obesity, depression, infertility, and boredom (beginning to see the connection?) so why should it surprise us that our animals exhibit the same symptoms? And why do we want to treat the symptom instead of the cause?


I'm asking you to really look at what we do to our animals to get them breeding fit and then wonder why they don't conceive.


Recently we had three bitches near mid-life, none ready to retire but not producing puppies either. All three dogs were due to come in heat and were also a little lazy and on the chunky side. So, we reduced their calorie intake and initially they each dropped a few pounds then stopped. We felt another reduction was in order so their intake was dropped to about 800-900 calories. Boy, did we get results then!


The bitches were pacing constantly, drinking excessively, and cropping grass like Farmer Brown's prize bull and getting fatter or at least they looked fatter. I just couldn't figure it out until one day as I watched one of them WOLF her food in a few seconds and then begin pacing again, the reason hit me like a ton of bricks. She was doing what both humans and animals have done for thousands of years.


She was "hunting" (in her run) and when out exercising, she attempted to satisfy her hunger with water and grass. That's when I realized she wasn't losing weight because  her metabolism had gone into starvation mode, was hoarding fat to replace a calorie deficit diet. 


No wonder the poor dog hadn't come in heat! She was "starvation stressed" and burning calories "hunting" for non-existent food in her kennel run.  Mother nature intends for females to have a fat reserve so their young don't starve. Her metabolism ordered her reproductive system to shut down or find food!


Well, she got an extra breakfast that day and as a registered nurse, I got a lesson. CRASH diets don't work.  Ask any woman... although I've seen obese women who were pregnant, dogs are more primitive and their reproductive system more attuned to nature.  So keep your brood bitch in good weight for her size and breed and remember, in her natural state she would burn calories by hunting for every morsel of food... EST 1998 ©   1303165197



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