How much does it cost to have a litter of puppies?

Breeding dogs can be costly; like anything in nature, sometimes things don’t go to plan. There are a few hidden potential costs that people wishing to become a breeder should be aware of.

Health testing

Depending on the breed of dog or mix that you have, you should research the genetic diseases that the breed is prone to carrying and being affected by.

DNA testing can be done through a number of labs:

Embark – USA based

Orivet – Australia based

Animal Genetics – USA based

Expect to pay from $200-$400 for DNA testing depending on who you go through. Embark provides the most comprehensive breed health and trait genetic screening. They also have impeccable customer service, reviews and results are usually available within a couple of weeks of them receiving the swabs.

Hip Scoring


Expect to pay a vet fee of around $500 in total for the X rays (done under anaesthetic) and specialist screening. We now use the PennHIP score system to screen all our poodle studs and appreciate that it checks the laxity of the hips. Movement in the hip joint can result in arthritis and is a good measure of hip dysplasia risk.

Hip screening is particularly important for breeds that have a predisposition toward developing hip dysplasia labradors, golden retrievers, cavaliers, cavoodles, labradoodles, groodles, mastiffs, golden doodles, spoodles, spaniels, bulldogs etc.

Progesterone testing

How much does it cost to progesterone test a dog?

In Australia the progesterone test costs on average $60 per blood test. This makes progesterone testing a handy and affordable tool for breeders, to determine optimum time to mate or AI.

How can I test my dog’s progesterone at home?

The cost of a progesterone testing machine is currently prohibitive for many small scale breeders. Being guided by an experienced reproduction specialist vet is invaluable in interpreting the readings and best time to breed your female with the male stud dog. Working with a vet also allows you to be guided by both vaginal smears and progesterone readings which together can provide useful information for bitches that have atypical cycles.

How do you check progesterone levels in dogs?

Visit a vet near you that does in-house progesterone testing. The vet or nurse will draw blood from your dog and run it through their progesterone testing machine. The result will be available in approximately 1.5 hours.

It’s important to use the veterinary services of a reproduction specialist who does the blood testing and runs the analysis at their surgery. Most vets will send the blood sample away to pathology and won’t get the result back for 12 hours or so – this can be too late if you’re coming to the end of your dog’s fertile window.

Try searching “vet near me that does in-house progesterone testing”. Our vet of choice for progesterone testing is Colyton Vet; their nurses are highly skilled at drawing blood in the fastest and least stressful way possible for the dog. They also provide an accurate interpretation of their results and can advise on best time to re-test, mate or inseminate semen.

Determining Ovulation Timing

It is the only way to accurately determine when a bitch has ovulated (smears can also be used). It’s recommended to start on day 5 of bleeding and check every 2-3 days depending on how quickly the progesterone level is rising. Expect to spend around $200 on progesterone tests depending on your girl’s cycle.

The later your girl ovulates, the more progesterone tests you’ll need to do. We’ve serviced girls that have ovulated as late at day 17 of their cycle. Inexperienced breeders and stud dog owners that go by the day of your girl’s cycle, amount of blood, behaviour etc will sometimes miss the day the dogs is most fertile, resulting in failed breeding attempts.

Sometimes dogs just can’t or won’t mate naturally – we see this in about 15% of cases. We offer onsite Artificial insemination (AI) at no extra charge. Vets charge approximately $120 for each AI.

If your female doesn’t want to co-operate for our stud dogs during the service or us for AI; a vet would then need to do the procedure.

Vets in Australia charge approximately $120 for a single transvaginal AI and for a transcervical insemination, expect to spend around $300 for each TCI.

So inseminations can cost you up to $700 depending on which route you choose. If a female is particularly aggressive, making it difficult for the vet to do the AI, extra charges might apply to sedate the female.

Confirmation of Pregnancy – Ultrasound or X ray

You’ve mated your dog and can’t wait to find out if she’s pregnant. Good news, at 4 weeks post mating or insemination you can go to a vet (highly recommend going to a reproduction specialist vet near you, as vets inexperienced in reproduction are not skilled at detecting pregnancy and checking heart beats of puppies etc).

Vet horror story

We’ve had clients, severely let down by vets that don’t understand or support canine reproduction. In one case, a client was advised to do an X ray on a bitch that was only 5 weeks pregnant. Not surprisingly, they said she was not pregnant, I told them to visit a reproduction specialist vet, who conducted an X ray at 8 weeks gestation and found puppies.

This vet clearly had no idea about the stages of development that puppies go through in utero. Puppy skeletons are not formed or detectable by X ray until at least 52 days (7.5 weeks) post breeding.

Find a reproduction specialist vet to guide you through your dog’s pregnancy and postpartum.

Ultrasounds cost around $120 and X rays about the same.

The arrival of your litter – Birth or C-Section?

We all imagine that our dogs will have a natural birth and selecting a stud that is smaller than your breeding female goes a long way to ensuring a smooth birth. Sometimes things still go wrong, it only takes one puppy to get stuck and they all need to be saved, with caesarean being the only option in many cases.

Be prepared to spend anything from $1500 – $2500 in normal daytime hours, to $3000 and upwards in the case of an emergency C-section needed during the night. After hours vets charge $1000’s to carry out surgery during the night.

Failure to act quickly and seek emergency treatment, can result in the loss of your litter and potentially the mother in extreme circumstances.

The cost of raising puppies

Using chilled semen in dog breeding

Puppies take time and to raise puppies well; the best breeders take 8 weeks off work to devote all their time to mother and pups.

Consider the time and cost associated with –

Newborn to 6 weeks –

  • whelping box – $150, vet bed $200, heating pad $50
  • weaning
  • sleep loss associated with checking the puppies every hour or so in the first week to ensure they aren’t squashed, are warm, feeding etc
  • worming 2, 4, 6, 8 weeks of age. Mother should be wormed at the same time as puppies – Milbemax is the wormer of choice for professional breeders, it’s gentle on tummies and effective against all worms including tapeworm
  • wash and groom (nails – so many nail trims!)
  • wash bedding, soft toys and clean all surfaces daily
  • buying and preparing the best quality puppy foods – grain-free raw and organic dry food is best, along with human grade meat proteins, vegetables, raw meaty bones etc
  • potentially having to bottle feed a litter every 2-3 hours if the mother isn’t interested, doesn’t have milk, eclampsia, mastitis etc
  • toileting newborn puppies if their mum doesn’t clean them – they can’t toilet without stimulation

Post 6 weeks –

House raised puppies

House raised puppies

  • vet checks, vaccinations and microchips – about $80 per puppy
  • dedicated indoor (warm in Winter, cool in Summer) and outdoor space. Rental properties can be a problem with landlords. Ideally you will own your own property before breeding
  • flea treatments (Advocate treatment at 7 weeks $20 each puppy)
  • puppy play gym – your indoor and outdoor puppy play areas will be stimulating for your pups’ senses. A good environment for puppy development is conducive toward growing life skills like confidence, optimism, flexibility, resilience, tolerance to frustration etc. Reputable breeders invest in ball pits, tunnels, A frame, see-saw, dog walk, wobbly bridge, wobble boards and expose their puppies to various sounds, sights, textures, car rides, ENS etc. Good quality wooden equipment will be around $1000 but can be re-used
  • environmental enrichment – your puppies have access to stuffed Kongs, snuffle mats, food puzzles, interactive toys, chews, bones and are not just fed from bowls
  • training – the best dog breeders do some training with their puppies before they leave. Training such as crate training, going through doggy doors, potty training to grass loo, place training on a bed or boundary, four feet on the ground for attention give puppies a great advantage during the transition to their new home. Studies have shown that pups raised by commercial breeding facilities, backyard breeders and puppy farms are less resilient and more fearful.
  • advertising – in today’s highly competitive puppy market, you will want to stand out. Poor quality photos, dirty puppies, and poorly written descriptions can make you look like a scammer, puppy farmer or someone who doesn’t take pride in their dogs.
  • puppy buyers want to buy from breeders who are passionate about what they do, not backyard breeders only breeding for profit.


Breeding dogs can be an expensive process; there’s potential for significant extra costs that breeders should factor in before making the decision to breed with their dog. Something unexpected like an emergency caesarean during night time hours can cost in excess of $3000. Breeders will also need to take time off work to care for their puppies and if feeding issues arise, pups could require bottle or tube feeding every 2-3 hours. Sleep deprivation is something breeders are familiar with, caring for a litter of puppies is definitely a labour of love and not for the faint hearted.

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Dog breeding business cost

Dog breeding costs

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