Everyone loves puppies and breeding your own can be hugely exciting and rewarding. But sadly, things can, and do, go wrong. When most other veterinary problems arise, pet insurance can be a great financial safety net, but what about problems related to breeding? Do standard policies provide cover for pregnancy-related complications? And if not, what are the options?
The worst case scenarios
Many people successfully breed many healthy dogs and produce many healthy puppies every year. But as vets, we unfortunately see quite a lot of situations when things don’t quite go to plan.
- Fertility issues – if the dog doesn’t seem able to hold to a service or her oestrus cycles seem abnormal, investigations may be required. These usually take the form of blood samples or ultrasound scans, both of which will obviously incur costs.
- Problems during pregnancy – although most pregnancies pass without incident, occasionally the dog may encounter problems such as miscarriage.
- Problems at whelping – this is possibly when the majority of issues can arise and is often the time at which an owner is most anxious. The reason for this is that the most common breeding-related problem we see as vets is dystocia; or an inability to give birth naturally, frequently leading to a caesarean section. As well as being a risky procedure for both mum and puppies, it can also be costly. Especially if it occurs ‘out of hours’ as they often seem to do!
- Problems after whelping – this is the time period where conditions such as mastitis and eclampsia can affect the mum. She may also not have enough milk. Or if she has undergone a caesarean section, she may suffer from post-surgical complications such as bleeding or infection.
- Problems with the puppies – the puppies are also at risk of a number of complications such as physical deformities, infection or ‘fading puppy syndrome’.
How do I prevent problems occurring?
The risk of complications occurring during pregnancy, whelping and after the puppies are born can never be completely eliminated. However, by being aware of potential problems and what symptoms to look for, you can at least seek early veterinary intervention and hope for a better outcome should the mother or puppies succumb. Always speak to your vet before you begin the process of breeding your dog. It is important that you know what to expect and understand when intervention may be necessary.
What standard policies cover
All insurance policies will vary. It is vital that you understand what you are covered for and what you are not covered for on yours. Broadly speaking, most policies will cover an animal for illness and injury, but there may well be exclusions and often, complications relating to breeding are amongst those exclusions.
What ‘breeding’ policies cover
Again, there is a lot of variation between companies, and even between policies within the same company, so always read the terms and conditions carefully. Comprehensive breeder’s insurance is likely to cover all the potential problems above and may even extend into the first weeks of the puppies being in their new home. It is designed to give extra piece of mind at what can be a very stressful time. Rather than needing a whole new policy, some companies will offer breeding insurance as an ‘extra’ to be tagged onto an existing policy.
What‘s unlikely to be covered at all
As with every insurance policy (with a few exceptions), some situations will not be covered at all. These include
- Pre-existing conditions – those that have begun or occurred prior to the insurance policy being taken out
- Claims that exceed your policy limit
- Claims for treatments or procedures that have not been prescribed by a vet
- Purely elective procedures such as artificial insemination or pre-breeding tests
Alternatives to insurance
Insurance isn’t for everyone, and you certainly don’t have to have it. But if you choose not to take out any insurance for breeding purposes, then it is not fair to be naive about the potential risks. Some owners save up and put money aside to be used for any complications, some accept that they may need to pay out a lump sum should the worst happen. What is not advised is to keep your fingers crossed and not have a contingency plan in place. This is not fair on the mother or her puppies and could lead to a degree of suffering, or even death if complications are ignored or if the only fair option would be euthanasia.
The most likely reason for breeding not being covered on regular insurance policies, is that breeding is in its own category in relation to veterinary treatments. It is neither ‘injury or illness’ which would be covered, nor ‘routine’ such as vaccinations or parasite control which generally wouldn’t be covered. It isn’t done for the health of the dog and is a choice made by the owner. If standard insurance policies did cover pregnancy-related complications, it would likely encourage unscrupulous breeding – a situation we certainly do not want. But if you are seriously looking to breed from your dog, then the help is there. Work with your vet, go in with your eyes open and always put the health of the mum and the puppies first.