Biosecurity - are you a biohazard?
Although breeding time is very exciting -- for both the breeders and observers (potential puppy buyers, admirers, or friends and family) it is also a very stressful and concerning time. Breeders must be worried about many factors, the foremost of which is the viability and health of the dam and puppies.
Biosecurity is the best way a breeder can battle these concerns. The periparturient period is noted as the period of highest risk (Dendoncker, et al., 2018). This is the period immediately prior to and following birth. Through proper management, we reduce the risk during this period. We utilize a number of tactics.
When our dogs leave the property, whether to attend shows, visit friends with dogs or other outside events during a breeding period, we then quarantine the dogs who left the property for at least 10 days. As we do not have facilities to do this on site at this time, we instead house them off site at friends or families that do not have travelling dog populations or no dogs. This acts as a 'closed herd' for the time being.
A 'closed herd' is a population of known health status, with no one from the population going to exhibition, no new animals coming in, and proper management to keep outside factors away; a closed herd is the safest way to maintaining a disease free population.
Once a minimum of 10 days has passed (which is a common incubation period) in which no symptoms have been recorded, quarantine has been achieved and we can bring the dogs home. We then bathe them to wash any topical agents away, and preemptively treated with immune boosting homeopathic and vitamins. It must be noted that for some infectious agents there is no length of isolation sufficient -- in such cases animals may shed these agents for their lifetime. These would have to be dealt with as as they occur (Daly, 2007).
We also do not take grooming or boarding clients at the time.
In regards to human visitors, we have a two step method. First, after the first trimester (21 days) we do not allow visitors. We call this "going into lockdown". It reduces the chance of passively transferring pathogens such as canine infectious herpesvirus or corona virus, which we have seen result in the health of an entire litter of 3 week old puppies (as a result of the dam being introduced -- potentially -- to the pathogen prior to parturition). Some pathogens can travel in as unsuspecting methods as nasal passages and under fingernails, as well as on skin and clothing. The best way to combat this is to require fresh clothes and for visitors to be freshly washed as well as scrub their hands upon arrival.
Once the puppies are 4-5 weeks old we can comfortably allow visitors, as long as they wear clean/fresh clothes, wash their hands and do not visit other kennels that day. No canine visitors are allowed.
At 7-8 weeks we then have a veterinary house call to allow the puppies to have their vaccinations without being exposed to the potential pathogens in a clinic, prior to vaccinations.
We attempt to consider all venues and preventions for our dogs. Quarantine is historically effective, however other venues such as indirect transmission (humans, vehicles, rodents, wildlife, food, and water) must also be monitored.
Biosecurity is not just limited to outside factors. We must also ensure their living areas, from whelping pen to puppy play areas, are kept clean and disinfected. Consistent use of disinfectant and cleaning protocols is key.