The answers to your questions following our last webinar on canine reproduction


I am under the impression that time just flies lately !!! Feels to me like we were having our webinar on timing of ovulation yesterday, while it was already almost 2 weeks ago ! Anyway, as promised, I took the time to answer all the questions that were asked during these sessions. You'll find all the answers in the thread below. Hope this will help, and let me know if you have some more, I promise to answer as quickly as I can !

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What is available to bring bitches into heat when you want?

There are several medical protocols described in the literature to induce fertile estrus in bitches, and some of them give excellent fertility results. If this is something you are interested in, we have a video on our website describing the different techniques available today in veterinary medicine and the results that can be expected, just follow the link  

When a bitch has been mated and not gotten pregnant on two or more occasions what would be the next steps to get to the bottom of the problem?

Infertility is always a pretty complex disease and there are plenty of different ways to approach it, and try to solve it. The 1st step we recommend is always to perform a timing of ovulation (this causes 40-80% cases of canine infertility) with quantitative progesterone assays. The development of imaging techniques such as ultrasounds and endoscopy also allows us to do a complete check-up of the genital tract, to be sure there is nothing abnormal here that can explain the problem. If everything turns out normal (which can happen sometimes), then I would definitely recommend an intra-uterine insemination. There are indeed different techniques (surgical, TCI, if you are interested you can read a blog post I wrote on the topic few months ago ), but the most important thing in my opinion is that the veterinarian who performs the intra-uterine AI is confident in his technique.

When before estrus can you prevent mycoplasma infection ?

Mycoplasma are indeed described as a potential cause of infertility in many different canine reproduction textbooks. These bacterias are said to cause inflammation of the genital tract (vaginitis, endometritis, placentatis) that would lead then to infertility/pregnancy arrest/abortion. To tell the truth today, we are however not really sure what the real impact of this disease is on canine fertility. I recently got into a discussion with one of my colleague from the US, who thinks mycoplasmas do not impact canine fertility at all. There is therefore no perfect answer to this question, I think today it is always important to ask your veterinarian for an assessment of the health of the genital tract of a bitch that previously suffered from infertility just before breeding. The decision wether to treat or not should be taken based on the results from these investigations.

My female is extremely friendly but with this male she is showing her teeth. Will she allow him near her when she is ready or has there been cases where she might not allow the male at all?

Unfortunately there is no way to tell for sure ! Canine behaviour in these situations can sometimes be hard to predict. I always tell a story I heard from my former boss in Paris. He had two Siberian Husky couples coming for artificial insemination. The two females were showing their teeth to the males the breeders had chosen... but while in our waiting room, they realised that if they had switched partners, natural breeding would have apparently occured. These situations are not uncommon, some dominant females will simply not allow the males to mount them anytime. If this occurs and this is for you an important breeding regarding your genetic selection program, there is one solution : artificial insemination.

Can the female have red blood when she is ovulating or does the colour usually change when she is ready? And does all females swell when ready?

The answers to both questions is unfortunately no. Sure, it is usually said that the vaginal discharge gets clearer when getting closer to ovulation. However, some bitches will still lose loads of blood during their optimal fertility window (I've seen this often in Afghan Hounds, but the truth is it can happen in any breed). Same thing for vulvar swelling. We had some bitches coming for the consultation because the owners had never seen any vulvar swelling. But we found out after a timing of ovulation, that these animals were ovulating normaly, and if AIed, they got pregnant.

Do you have to take blood work at the beginning of a cycle to determine when is the best time to have the bitch bred and to know how much the prosterone level is ?

As I explain in the webinar, there are many different ways to proceed in terms of timing of ovulation. Some will start with vaginal smears, see the estrus smear and start blood progesterone assays. Others will start with blood progesterone assays straight from the beginning. Whichever approach is used however, it is important to keep in mind that this is a follow-up. One assay will never tell you from the beginning when the bitch is due to ovulate. Remember my story with the German Shepherd : some bitches can ovulate 6 days after starting their season, while others will not do so before 30 days into it...

Is the LH test kit available for us to use in our homes?

To my knowledge, the semi-quantitative LH kits are only available through your veterinary clinic.

How often should we breed a bitch, every day for a week or more?

There is a problem with this approach in my opinion. We know that we need at least 150 million motile sperm cells deposited in the vagina of the bitch to ensure pregnancy. And we know that, to get a bitch fertile, we want these motile sperm cells to be present when the eggs become ready.

Sperm usually survives 2-4 days in the bitch's genital tract (and this is for good quality semen, this might be less in case of average/poor quality). While spermatogenesis is a continuous process, if a dog sires a female this often, maybe when the eggs will finally be ready to be fertilized (and remember, this can happen sometimes up to 30 days after beginning of the season), there might not be enough sperm left to ensure this...

Moreover, the more matings, the higher the risks to deal with mating accidents like broken os penis in the male, vaginal tears in the female,..., that can impact further fertility. I know it is not always possible but I think when you want to do a valuable breeding, the best way to optimize your chances will be to go for a timing of ovulation (so less matings/AIs required, but at the optimal time) rather than breeding the bitch on a regular basis throughout her seasons.


How often / what is the likelihood that the vaginal smears not correlate with the quantitative progesterone assay ?

Interesting question ! This can indeed happens, I had a case a few years ago on a Setter Gordon. According to the vaginal smears, there was no estrogenic impregnation, while according to the ultrasounds and the progesterone there was an ovarian activity, she ovulated, we did an AI and she got pregnant. I recall at least 2 other similars cases in my years at the vet school. So this can happen, but it is definitely really uncommon and fortunately on this point, most of the bitches will follow the books !

Is vets in-house progesterone testing as accurate as sending out to a lab ?

As I said in the webinar, the person who interprets the test is more important than the test itself. I worked in several private practices in France where we had an in-house machine. The fertility results were as great, because we knew how to properly interpret  the results we were getting. That's for me the real key to success here !

If a bitch had a progesterone test and that says she ovulated on a certain day, is there still a chance that they will definately deliver pups (if it takes ) on day 63 or 64 from the ovulation date?

That's for me one of the key aspects of timing of ovulation in canines. When you know the ovulation date, if the bitch is pregnant, you can be very accurate in determining the date of parturition. Pregnancy length is indeed 63 +/- 1 days from the day of ovulation in the bitcj, and that's pretty accurate. One of my former colleague at the vet school published a paper few years ago that showed that, based on the size of the bitch, we could be even more accurate. I wrote a blog post on that middle of next year, feel free to take a look at it here 

The ferning techniques I've heard of test the saliva. Some people swear by it. Maybe wrong end?

As I said during the webinar, I was not aware of any scientific publication on the use of saliva for determining the ferning peak at this time... But then I did some research and found this paper from 2010 . Their conclusions was that I quote " the test sensitivity was 40.6%, i.e. too low to reliably discriminate the fertile period ".

Despite this, if this is a technique you would like to use, remember there is an easy way to check if it is accurate for your animals : the bitch should give birth around 63 days after the estimated ovulation date.

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