by Anne Jones RN, BSNE
You buy an adorable dog, and all Bichons are adorable, of course. You know someone else who has an equally adorable dog of the opposite sex. Oh, goody - you can already see the puppies they will produce! Let's get them together!
A good idea? Probably not unless you have a complete health history of at least 3 generations of ancestors - for both the potential mom (dam) or dad (sire). But why does that matter? If you have taken the time to research, you will know there are at least a few health issues in every breed of dogs, some breeds having more health issues than others. But any health problems must be taken into consideration and not just those of potential parents but also at least the grandparents and the great-grandparents as well. The genes that produce genetic faults (any malformation is a fault) or disease can be carried forward and can be produced for several generations.
So what health issues exist in Bichons? If you have read our health web site, you know that there are several that occur with some frequency, primarily found in Bichons produced in casual breedings or by for profit breeders who look for numbers of puppies (to sell) without concern for their future welfare. Our booklet Your Bichon Frise also addresses health. As the parent club, we have the responsibility for educating owners of Bichons and we do so openly.
Right now we hear from veterinarians that they consider Bichons to be a pretty healthy breed except for some of these truly unfortunate ones. We strive to keep it that way. That is one reason you find so much material on our site that tells you about the illnesses that may occur in all breeds with a focus on the ones we know to occur in Bichons. We also want YOU, the owner of a beautiful and much loved Bichon, to be educated and to understand why we discourage casual breeding of pets.
Another consideration is whether to spay or neuter. Spaying females is definitely an advantage - if for no other reason than to avoid the issue of seasons twice a year which can be messy and attract the strays in the neighborhood to your doorstep. Moreover a spayed female is unlikely to develop mammary carcinoma, the most common cancer in female dogs. Since obesity is sometimes associated with reduced hormonal activity, attention to weight gain is recommended.
In some of the larger breeds, early neutering of males is found to contribute to some developmental issues that may not be a problem in smaller breeds. This is a topic still being researched and we continue to advise early neutering of male Bichons. Neutered males are far less likely to mark territory and neutering is important in any dog that appears to have any tendency to aggression or over excitability. Neutering, when done, usually occurs in the second half of the first year. It is always wise to consult with your veterinarian in making your decision, whether you own a female or a male. They should have heard of recent research regarding health advantages
Back to those puppies you thought you wanted to have. The papers are full of rescues, abandoned pets and shelter animals, often pups from unplanned breeding. Unless you have an educated understanding of the breed, are prepared to breed healthy puppies and to provide the expensive care needed to keep them healthy, leave the breeding to those who are recognized as "responsible breeders". They have spent a lot of time learning about desirable characteristics described in the standard for the breed and to know about health and structural problems to be avoided, as well as the best methods for training, socializing and placing any puppies they produce. Enjoy your beautiful pet and leave the breeding to those who know what they are doing. That is YOUR contribution to keeping Bichons healthy and happy.