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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Factors affecting reproductive performance in the Swedish Bernese mountain dog

Axner, Eva; Rasmus, Linda Sofia; Melangen, Toril


Background Good reproductive performance is fundamental for the development of a breed. Previous studies have indicated that the Bernese mountain dog has a relatively high prevalence of reproductive problems such as a high prevalence of dystocia and a low mean litter size. When reproduction is impaired, selection for other traits, including improved health, will become more difficult. The aim of this study was therefore to evaluate reproductive data and factors affecting these in the Bernese mountain dog. Data collected by the Swedish Sennenhund Club during the years 2010-2020 were evaluated by statistical analyses. Results Information from 1287 reported matings were included with a total of 614 bitches and 399 sires. For five reported matings that did not result in a litter, there was no information about the male identity. The reported matings resulted in 798 litters (62% whelping rate) from 502 bitches and 314 males. Paternal and maternal age had a significant effect on whelping rate with a negative effect of increasing age (P < 0.01). Median litter size at birth (LSB) was 6.00 (range 0-14) and was significantly affected by both paternal (P = 0.021) and maternal age (P < 0.001). Parity affected litter size at birth with a lower litter size in 4 year old bitches giving birth to their first litter compared to bitches giving birth to their second to fourth litters. Stillbirth occurred in 51.6% of the litters with a total of 15.4% puppies being stillborn. Total puppy mortality, including stillbirth, was 19.1%. The only factor affecting stillbirth was LSB while both LSB and season affected the risk of having post-natal puppy loss in the litter. The total prevalence of caesarean sections (CS) was 33.0%. The risk of CS decreased significantly with increasing parity and increased with increasing age. The risk of CS was significantly higher for litters with 1-2 puppies compared with litters with 3-9 puppies. The coefficient of inbreeding (F) calculated on 5 generations had no effect on any of the outcomes. Conclusions Parity and maternal age had opposite effects on reproductive outcomes with a positive effect of parity on increasing litter size and decreasing CS rate. The proportion of unsuccessful matings was high with a negative effect of increasing age of both males and females.


Caesarean section; Litter size; Seasonality; Puppy mortality

Published in

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica
2022, volume: 64, article number: 28
Publisher: BMC

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Rasmus, Linda Sofia
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Melangen, Toril
No organisation

UKÄ Subject classification

Clinical Science

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