Throughout its entire life, a female dog can reproduce multiple times. So the question is, how many puppies can a dog have in a lifetime?
Hypothetically speaking, a healthy female dog can produce up to 14 litters in its lifetime. This is assuming that the canine will start breeding at the age of one with two litters per year until it reaches the age of 8.
However, just because the female canine could get pregnant doesn’t mean that it always should. In this post, we discussed this topic together with a few things owners should know.
How many puppies can a dog have?
Take note that the number of litter and number of puppies is two different things. It’s because some breeds can have fewer litters but still more puppies than other dogs.
Some dog breeds have larger litter sizes than others. This means that they can give birth once a year and still have more puppies than those that produce two or three litters.
Usually, large litters are observed in equally large breeds. These are Mastiffs, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherd, Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers to name a few.
In fact, Mastiffs can have as many as 20+ pups in one pregnancy. Nevertheless, it’s not unusual for large breeds to have singletons or fewer pups.
In contrast, small dogs have equally smaller litters. For example, Pomeranians, Toy Poodles, and Norfolk Terriers are reported to have the smallest litters.
These small breeds usually have two to three puppies in their litter. So if we are to compare, one Mastiff litter can have more puppies than 2 or 3 litters of a Pomeranian.
Overall, the average litter size of dogs is about 5 to 6 puppies. With this, a female dog can have around 30 to 36 puppies throughout its reproductive years.
Take note that responsible breeders will retire a dam (mother dog) once it reaches 5 to 6 years old. This is for the safety of the mother dog and the health of the litter.
Factors affecting a dog’s litter size
The number of puppies a dog can have is affected by several factors. The following influences the litter size of dogs to varying levels:
1. Dog breed and size
As mentioned earlier, the number of puppies in a litter is highly influenced by the dog’s breed and size. It’s always proportional to the canine’s physical size based on its breed.
For example, a Bullmastiff from Omaha, Nebraska gave birth to 23 puppies back in 2014. On average, Bullmastiffs can weigh up to 130 lbs. and stand tall at a maximum of 27 inches.
Take note that when we’re talking about body size, we’re pertaining to build and not weight. This means that overweight dogs will not yield more puppies.
The health of the mother dog greatly influences the size of its litter. Also, it will impact how healthy the puppies will be as well as their chance of survival upon birth.
If the mother dog has an underlying illness, it may yield a smaller litter than expected. Worse, the litter may inherit the condition of its parent.
Aside from that, unhealthy canines may not survive the birthing process. Others will suffer from life-threatening consequences while some may ultimately die.
The older a dog gets, the smaller their litters will be. It’s because old age will reduce the fertility of canines.
Nevertheless, a canine’s first litter is usually smaller than the succeeding ones. After its first small litter, a dog may produce more puppies until the age of 5 or 6.
However, irresponsible breeders tend to force dogs to keep reproducing even at an old age. Please know that it’s no longer safe for a female dog to get pregnant at the age of 8 and above.
During this age, a dog will be entering seniorhood. It’s also the time when they will be prone to sickness and complications, which pregnancy will worsen or speed up.
What your dog eats can impact the number of puppies it can produce throughout its lifetime. It’s observed that high-protein and balanced diets prepare a canine’s body to produce a big litter.
This isn’t surprising as protein is the major building block of the body. With a low supply, a dog’s reproductive system won’t have enough nutrition to produce many puppies.
Aside from preparing your dog before pregnancy, you should also focus on its diet during the gestation process. It’s because female dogs will need increased dietary needs during this time, which should include high-quality protein and supplements if need be.
5. Genetic factors
Lastly, the individual genetic factor of a dog will influence the size of its litter. This means that a canine may produce fewer or more puppies than what’s usually expected of its breed.
Take note that the sire’s (father dog) genetics have less influence on the size of the litter than that of the mother. It’s because an older sire can still father a large litter if the mother dog has the ideal genetic traits.
Speaking of genetics, both male and female dogs are discouraged to be bred if they have genetic deformities. This is to stop the genetic problem from spreading and multiplying.
What is the maximum age for dogs to have puppies?
Unlike humans, dogs remain reproductively conducive up to their senior years. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe for them to bear puppies at such a young age.
Theoretically, dogs as old as 12 years can still get pregnant. However, the ethical and safe practice is to retire the canine from breeding at the age of six.
Pregnancy during senior years will endanger the mother dog’s life. Also, the puppies will have a higher risk of being born with defects.
The oldest age a dog should get pregnant is 8. But as much as possible, breeding must be stopped even before your pooch reaches that age.
When is it safe for a dog to be pregnant?
Dogs should only get pregnant once it’s at least one year old. For big and giant breeds, it’s best to wait for a few months more until they have reached their full adult size.
Generally, the best time for a dog to get pregnant is once it’s physically mature. Take note that having its first heat cycle doesn’t always mean maturity since this can occur as early as 6 months of age.
If your dog got pregnant too early, it can have hormonal problems. Aside from that, it may stymie the growth of the doggo and lead to irreversible complications.
If you’re unsure whether your dog is fit to produce a litter or not, you should consult the vet. The veterinarian can perform a thorough examination to see if your pet is ready for motherhood.
What is the size of my dog’s litter?
The size of a dog’s litter can be determined via an ultrasound examination. Through this, the vet can count the number of puppies and check if each one has a heartbeat.
However, ultrasound may not provide an accurate count on the size of the litter. In big litters, some of the puppies might be hard to see clearly.
In this case, the veterinarian will recommend radiographs or X-rays. This can be done 50 days after your dog has been bred or at least a week before the expected whelping date.
The X-ray exam will provide a clear view of the litter’s skeletal system. From there, the vet can give you an exact count of the puppies to be expected during whelping.
Overall, these tests are safe for pregnant canines as long as performed by a licensed veterinarian.
How many times can my dog get pregnant each year?
Theoretically, a female dog can give birth to up to three litters per year. However, the safe number is just one to two pregnancies annually, which is something that responsible breeders follow.
If possible, you should only breed a female dog once a year. This is to allow the canine to fully heal from the pregnancy and birthing process.
Does having too many litters shorten a dog’s life?
Overall, dogs that are responsibly bred will have long and full lives. But if the canine is bred over and over, the process will start to take a toll on its health.
Dogs that are forced to get pregnant more than twice a year are at a higher risk of suffering life-threatening complications.
Aside from that, you should know that canine pregnancy has its potential risks. There are risks during pregnancy and birthing, whether your pet is healthy or not.
By spaying your dog, you can eliminate any of these dangers. This can help secure your dog’s health and potentially increase the lifespan of your pet.
How many puppies can a dog have in a lifetime? In general, a female dog can have as many as 14 litters throughout its reproductive years.
Meanwhile, the actual puppy count can range from 30 to 70 in a dog’s lifespan. It depends on the canine’s breed, health, age, diet, and genetics.
Overall, it’s important to breed your dog responsibly. Never practice over-breeding and ensure that your dog’s health is still the priority.
Dave Bryan is an experienced editor with a passion for animals and writing. With a degree in journalism and years of experience in the publishing industry, he has honed his skills in crafting engaging content that informs and entertains readers. As an editor at Petcosset, Dave brings his expertise to ensure that the content produced is accurate, informative, and compelling. He has a keen eye for detail and is committed to maintaining high editorial standards. Dave is also a dedicated pet owner and loves spending time with his furry companions.