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Animals 2017, 7(6), 43;

A National Census of Birth Weight in Purebred Dogs in Italy

Department of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 10, 20133 Milan, Italy
Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Vanzetti 5, 20133 Milan, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Clive J. C. Phillips
Received: 23 March 2017 / Revised: 26 May 2017 / Accepted: 27 May 2017 / Published: 30 May 2017
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Simple Summary

Birth weight is a key factor for neonatal mortality and morbidity in most mammalian species. The great morphological variability in size, body weight and breed, as well as in skeletal and cranial conformation makes it challenging to define birth weight standards in dogs. A total of 3293 purebred pups were surveyed to study which maternal aspects can determine birth weight considering head and body shape, size, body weight and breed in bitches, as well as litter size and sex in pups. In our sample, multivariate analysis outcomes suggested that birth weight and litter size were directly proportional to maternal size. The maternal body shape influenced both birth weight and litter size, whereas the maternal head shape had impact only on birth weight. Sex differences in birth weight were found. Birth weight and litter size also varied among breeds. The results of the present study could have practical implications allowing one to identify pups in need of admission to intensive nursing care, as occurs in humans. A deeper knowledge of the factors that significantly influence birth weight could positively affect the canine breeding management helping to prevent and reduce neonatal mortality.


Despite increasing professionalism in dog breeding, the physiological range of birth weight in this species remains unclear. Low birth weight can predispose to neonatal mortality and growth deficiencies in humans. To date, the influence of the morphotype on birth weight has never been studied in dogs. For this purpose, an Italian census of birth weight was collected from 3293 purebred pups based on maternal morphotype, size, body weight and breed, as well as on litter size and sex of pups. Multivariate analysis outcomes showed that birth weight (p < 0.001) and litter size (p < 0.05) increased with maternal size and body weight. Birth weight was also influenced by the maternal head and body shape, with brachycephalic and brachymorph dogs showing the heaviest and the lightest pups, respectively (p < 0.001). Birth weight decreased with litter size (p < 0.001), and male pups were heavier than females (p < 0.001). These results suggest that canine morphotype, not only maternal size and body weight, can affect birth weight and litter size with possible practical implications in neonatal assistance. View Full-Text
Keywords: birth weight; dog; morphometry birth weight; dog; morphometry
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Groppetti, D.; Pecile, A.; Palestrini, C.; Marelli, S.P.; Boracchi, P. A National Census of Birth Weight in Purebred Dogs in Italy. Animals 2017, 7, 43.

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