Assured Breeder Scheme members recently contributed to research looking into rates of puppy losses in the first three weeks of life (the neonatal period). The survey found that just under 50% of all litters born suffered puppy losses. A third of these deaths were due to stillbirths and the remainder died mainly in the first week of life. According to the results of this survey dog breeders can expect to lose 8% of puppies born alive in the neonatal period.
Veterinary surgeon Samantha Scully hosted an anonymous online survey of ABS members to establish current UK rates of puppy losses in the first three weeks of life. The survey was introduced to Assured Breeders via social media and direct email from the Kennel Club. Data was collected from 330 litters born in 2013 and 2014, representing 95 breeds and 2165 puppies.
Puppy losses are often quoted between 10% and 26% but much of this data is from laboratory breeding kennels and is several decades old. The most up-to-date information on puppy death rates comes from registration information submitted by breeders to the Norwegian Kennel Club. They found neonate deaths occur in 25% of all litters born; 4% of puppies are stillborn and just under 4% die in the neonatal period. Dr. Scully’s study suggests however, that in the UK about half of all litters suffer losses, with nearer 9% stillborn and 8% lost by 21 days of age. All modern studies agree that the large majority of puppies that die will do so in the first week of life.
The survey also found that stillbirth rates for large breed dogs (over 52cm at the withers) was double that of the small breeds (under 30cm at the withers) and that bitches aged 2-4 years of age have the highest rates of stillbirths.
This is the first time that online anonymous data collection has been used to gather information on litters of puppies in the UK. Dr. Scully says “the apparent difference in UK mortality rates from Norway may simply be due to the method of data collection. Perhaps breeders felt more able to report deaths anonymously or maybe we really do have double the mortality rate in the neonatal period compared to our Norwegian counterparts”. She continues “a larger, more comprehensive survey is required to answer this and to try to establish what factors affect stillbirth rates and puppy mortality rates”.
Samantha Scully (nee Bloomfield) is a veterinary surgeon based in Lincolnshire with a life-long special interest in new born puppies. She is the author of ‘Bloomfield’s Manual of Puppy Hand Rearing’ and hosts the website www.puppyandkittenclinic.com.