Information for Dog Breeders

Thanks to your generosity as a dog breeder we can all enjoy dogs as family pets. Dogs are treasured family members but it can be easy to forget that dogs, and particularly breeding animals and puppies have their own very specific and special needs. At MSD Animal Health we are dedicated to the promotion of a proactive approach to your breeding animal’s health and wellbeing, as well as of their offspring, by considering 6 key areas of focus. Knowing what makes for a happy healthy dog isn’t always obvious but within this page you will find key information about the health and wellbeing of your breeding animals and puppies – If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, always ensure to consult your local veterinary practitioner as soon as possible. We have prepared a comprehensive dog breeder guide which goes into further detail than the information contained in this page.



We have decided to begin our advice on the topic of health – simply because that’s our area of expertise. That doesn’t diminish the other key areas of care below. Quite frankly – its close to our heart!

As a dog breeder, you are the single biggest influencer on your puppies’ future health. By taking appropriate preventative measures many of the risks that may damage your breeding dog’s (and their offspring’s) health and welfare can be minimised. Regular inspection of claws, grooming, and dental care can help ensure you spot and manage problems early. An annual health check for your dog is a valuable opportunity to assess all potential risks to your dog’s health including those posed by infectious disease. For further information please visit our page on the range of infectious diseases and solutions available to address them.

There are two key elements to routine preventive healthcare – Vaccination and Parasite Control.


Ensure all of your dogs are vaccinated against key infectious disease and that puppies begin their primary course at 4-6 weeks old. We will now look at some common questions owners pose regarding vaccination with a view to allaying any concerns you may have about proper veterinary care of your dog.

Why does my dog need to be vaccinated?
Vaccination stimulates the dog’s immune system, teaching it to recognise and fight important infectious
diseases. Some infectious diseases can prove very serious and may not be treated effectively. Vaccination provides the best way of reducing the risks that these diseases pose. Your veterinary practitioner will advise on the diseases your dog can be protected against through vaccination, such as:
Canine Hepatitis
Canine Cough

Vaccinating dogs also helps protect their litter when the puppies arrive as it means that the dam passes valuable antibodies to their offspring.

Why does my dog need booster vaccines?
Your dog’s immunity following vaccination wanes over time, and for certain diseases your dog will require an
annual booster to ensure that immunity is maintained throughout life. For other disease your vet will decide
when or whether your dog needs a booster depending upon the risks your dog is exposed to. In order to ensure appropriate vaccination, your dog must be in good health. This is one reason why your vet will first perform a complete health check.
Why do we protect dogs against some diseases that we see more rarely?
Ensuring as many dogs as possible are protected by vaccination helps prevent these diseases spreading and keeps the incidence low. However, if we stop vaccinating we risk these diseases re-emerging and outbreaks occurring.


Regular safe and effective control of internal and external parasites according to risks not only protects your breeding animals and their puppies but also reduces the likelihood of spread to other litters. Fleas and ticks can cause serious health problems in dogs and are a year-round risk. Do the best for your pet and keep your pet protected by regularly applying parasite treatments, as directed by your vet.

5 key facts you should know about parasites:
• Fleas can infest your dog from a very young age and at any time of the year. A single female flea can
produce up to 50 eggs per day which will fall off your pet into your home. The eggs hatch into maggot-like larvae, then develop over the following weeks in the carpets and soft furnishing of your home.
• Flea larvae change to pupae that are resistant to treatment and may lie dormant in the home and garden
for many months before emerging as adults. The adults will seek out and feed on your dog‘s blood once
emerged, but will also bite dogs and humans too.
• Ticks are a growing threat. Your pet can be exposed to ticks on walks, in public parks, woodland, grassland or farmland. Ticks are not just a problem in rural areas; urban gardens and parks provide good habitats for ticks. These blood-sucking parasites are a serious health risk, and can transmit diseases such as Lyme Disease to pets and people.
• The best product for your pet may depend on a range of factors – please speak to your local veterinary practice for their advice.
• There are a number of different worms which can infest dogs, including roundworm, hookworm, lungworm and tapeworm. Although they may not be visible, dogs are commonly infected with worms.
The roundworm, Toxocara canis, can affect humans too, if eggs are accidentally ingested. Children are most at risk, as they may play in areas (sandpits, gardens etc.) where worm eggs are commonly found. The parasite can cause a variety of problems, including damage to the liver, lungs or eyes. Regular treatment will
help to protect your dog and this will help to protect your family too…

Fleas and ticks can cause serious health problems in dogs and are a year-round risk. Do the best for your pet and keep your pet protected by regularly applying parasite treatments, as directed by your vet.

In spring, as the weather warms up, ticks and fleas start to become more active. In summer, the risk from both fleas and ticks is high, just when we are spending more time outdoors with our pets. Flea populations are at their peak in early Autumn, and ticks remain active throughout the milder months. Fleas will happily live indoors in centrally heated homes if protection is not maintained. This is why experts recommend year-round protection against fleas. The protection required against ticks is based on the timing of likely exposure and consequential risk. A long acting product is now available from your local veterinary practitioner which allows seasonal control of fleas and ticks.

Even with fewer doses to remember, it can be easy to forget! Keep on top of your animal’s treatment by:
• Asking your vet about treatment reminders
• Set up a recurring reminder using your smartphone calendar

Care & Companionship

Dog ownership brings both physical and mental benefits to our wellbeing – our dogs deserve to benefit from a good quality of life in return.
Microchipping helps ensure your dog can be identified and that you can be reunited with your pet in case of loss or an accident. It is now legally required to do so.
Dogs like to frequently go outdoors; prolonged periods left alone at home should be avoided – ideally, regularly. There is an extensive list of requirements in the Dog Breeding Establishment Legislation which owners of 6 or more breeding bitches must adhere to. However, as these rules constitute international best practice, it is advisable that all breeders should consider adopting these standards. As this legislation is frequently reviewed the most recent copy is best found by conducing an internet search for “Dog Breeding Establishment Legislation Ireland”.

Ensure they have suitable care and supervision at all times including while on holiday. This is also required in the DBE legislation.
Keep your dog safe from summer heat – the main reason hot weather is an issue for dogs is because they are not able to cool off efficiently. They don’t sweat and have to pant to release the heat. Issues that arise from overheating in summer heat can include dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn. Having automated control systems for ventilation, cooling and heating of breeding animals and their puppies is highly recommended.

Feeding & Diet

Dogs should be fed a specifically formulated commercial dog food (ideally dry for adults and moist for puppies). This is the most practical approach to feeding, which ensures a balanced diet that can be adapted to their age, weight, breed, lifestyle, physical activity and state of health.
Ensure your dogs have fresh clean water readily available. Basically what a dog needs is a complete, balanced diet, made with top quality ingredients and added nutrients to meet their individual needs – to make sure that your dog develops strong teeth and bones, muscles and a healthy immune and digestive system. For older dogs, feeding twice a day is fine while puppies should be fed 5-6 times per day to encourage successful weaning. They don’t need milk or any other supplements as these may not contribute to a balanced diet – just the correct amount of the correct type of food, formulated for dogs and free access to water. Weigh your dog regularly and use the guide below for adult dogs to assess whether your dog is the ideal weight or not.

Behaviour & Interaction

Early training and socialising are the best way to create good manners and a solid bond. It is more challenging to amend behaviour later. Early efforts ensure your puppies will interact well with other dogs, animals and people and reduces the chance of fearful, anxious and aggressive behaviour. Socialise your puppies with kind and effective methods involving positive reinforcement – a happy and obedient dog is a pleasure to own and enjoy. Training and socialisation are mutually related – a well socialised puppy is invariably a well trained dog and vice versa. They should be handled by family members and strangers as soon as possible but ensure that everyone handling puppies is appropriately clean and sanitised before handling. Meeting loud confident people through to quiet timid people, those wearing hats, glasses, beards and various types of clothing will all broaden your puppy’s socialisation programme. Meeting the vet as early as possible and being examined on a table gently will encourage confidence in the experience.
Make sure playtime doesn’t encourage or reinforce undesirable behaviours – choose suitable toys that don’t resemble things you don’t want chewed and avoid those, such as thrown sticks and stones, that might cause injury. Ensure you dog becomes accustomed to various sounds and experiences. Learn to read your puppies’ moods! Scent marking, body posture and tail movement, as well as the barking and sound made by older dogs, can all indicate when they feel unhappy or threatened.
Even small changes in behaviour may indicate an underlying medical or stress-related issue. Consult your practice as soon as possible if you see a change in your dog’s attitude or demeanour.

Environment & Security

Practical tips for creating the right environment for your dog’s needs

Make sure your dogs have a safe place to go to sleep and rest comfortably away from disturbance. Use a suitable dog bed where your dog can sleep and rest undisturbed. They can be interested in exploring their environment actively including, what is perceived to be, damage to their own bedding or anything within reach. Ensure poisonous and hazardous substances and items are stored safely out of reach. Dogs are naturally inquisitive and may injure or poison themselves by accessing drugs, medicines, household chemicals, or inappropriate foodstuffs (see feeding and diet). Ensure electric cables for equipment and appliances are tucked safely away. Seek advice early if you spot signs of stress when your dog is left alone for short periods – barking, whining, wetting or soiling in the house and destructive behaviour can all relate to separation anxiety. The environment in which breeding animals and their puppies are maintained must be carefully monitored. Conditions of temperature, humidity, light and ventilation as well control of odours and disposal of wastes are all key areas in need of address. Consider obtaining professional advice on elements that can improve each of these areas, especially if you are encountering disease problems. Always consult your vet if this arises as soon as possible.

Some puppies learn quicker than others so don’t draw comparisons to previous puppies you experienced. and how fast they trained. We’re all different and they are too!

Ensure adequate opportunities for regular daily exercise out of home and play area ideally off the lead – at the times and frequency appropriate to needs of dog breed, age and fitness. Remember, however, that you as the breeder, are responsible for control of your dogs so only allow off-lead exercise if it is safe to do so. Always ensure safe and secure travel within vehicles – within a secured travel cage or behind a dog grid. It is often useful to accustom your dog to car travel at an early stage, and ensure they have clear visibility of the horizon as this lowers their likelihood of car sickness. Ensure all vehicles are properly cleaned and sanitised between dogs or groups of animals.


As a breeder, you are the single biggest influencer on your puppies’ future health. By taking appropriate preventative measures many of the risks that may damage your dog’s health and welfare can be minimised. Ensure your dog’s bed is cleaned regularly – all faeces removed twice per day and the area kept dry. Look out for soiling with urine and faeces and address immediately. Hygiene of feeding utensils, toys and other items that your dog uses regularly is of paramount importance. Ask your vet for further advice concerning parasite control that is appropriate for your dogs. Regularly inspect your dog’s and puppies’ skin surface and address any hygiene issues accordingly. If you wash your animals, ensure you use an appropriate pet shampoo and that the animal is rinsed and dried thoroughly afterwards. Bathing of puppies early in life can make the process of a full body makeover easier in later life when items like hair dryers, brushes and combs are less well accepted. This can make life easier for the new owner.