Brood Bitch Management

 

Breeding Soundness Exam

We offer comprehensive breeding soundness examinations for your prized girls. When your bitch is in season, we perform reproductive health screening, ovulation timing, and insemination services. Please contact our reproduction team to schedule a pre-breeding appointment so we can assist you with your breeding plans. Please bring your completed planned breeding worksheet, so we all have the same pertinent details.

The screening begins with a complete physical exam to assess overall health. Any medical problems, such as ear infections or skin diseases, are identified and treated appropriately. We are very careful with any drug therapy used during a pregnancy. A vaginal exam is part of this process to ensure that there are no physical obstructions, such as strictures, vaginal bands, or prolapses that would impede a breeding or whelping. We will also discuss which foods and dietary supplements are helpful or harmful as we plan for pregnancy.

Additional testing may include baseline labwork, anterior vaginal cultures, ultrasound, and genetic testing. Once your bitch is in season, we will do an initial vaginal cytology, a brucellosis test, and a baseline progesterone to begin the ovulation timing process.

For a complete review, please bring in all available records of your bitch's previous cycles, breedings, and litters with dates, if available. Any pertinent labwork may also be useful. We will use the above information to optimize the breeding with accurate ovulation timing.

When we talk about "breeding management" of your dog/bitch or tom/queen, you should be prepared to discuss the following:

  • Breeding goal(s) (companion, performance, or show animals)
  • Current health of your bitch/queen and prior reproductive history
  • Level of acceptable risk to your bitch/queen
  • Availability of sire and semen
  • Insemination methods
  • Amount of time you have to dedicate to the process
  • Scheduling appointments and commuting distance
  • Financial investment you are prepared to make
 

Ovulation Timing

ovulation-timing.jpgThe primary cause of missed breedings is inappropriate timing of the fertile period. We can pinpoint ovulation with progesterone and luteinizing hormone (LH) blood tests, which identify the window of maximum fertility. We utilize Idexx Laboratories for our progesterone testing, which allows us to receive results twice daily. LH testing is done at our hospital. These blood tests, used in conjunction with vaginal cytology, vaginoscopy, and clinical behavior, enable us to use the best semen sample at the most fertile time. Bring your bitch to us as needed for blood testing or leave her with us during her cycle in our safe and monitored facilities. To minimize your travel, we can also work with your local veterinarian for some of this testing.   

When we have complete ovulation timing and breeding for your bitch, we can provide accurate whelping dates, generally within a period of three days. This is in contrast to a two-week period without ovulation timing. This allows you to plan your schedule for close monitoring of your bitch during whelping at home or for a Caesarian section. Just as we follow the rise in progesterone levels prior to ovulation, we can also check for the decline in progesterone which occurs just prior to labor. For bitches who have experienced resorption or late-term loss of a litter, we may need to periodically check progesterone levels to ensure that they are high enough to support the pregnancy.

Upon completion of breeding(s) at our hospital, we will give you a timing sheet with all pertinent ovulation timing information, details of the breeding(s), and the optimal dates for ultrasonography (to verify pregnancy), radiography (to finalize birthing plans), and estimated whelping dates.

 

Artificial Insemination Procedures

Vaginal insemination

This method involves depositing semen into the vaginal tract using a pipette. We recommend using fresh semen for the best conception rates. We do not recommend using frozen semen with this technique.

Trans-cervical insemination

A fiberoptic endoscope is used to deposit semen directly into the uterine body by catheterizing the cervix. No sedation is required for this procedure and you may be with your bitch the entire time! This process takes anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes. In some cases, due to individual anatomy or positioning of the cervix, we are unable to catheterize the cervix and the semen must be deposited directly at the opening, or paracervically. This technique can utilize all types of semen.

Intrauterine (surgical) insemination

The semen is injected into the horns of the uterus, where the ova (eggs) are waiting to be fertilized via an abdominal surgical incision. This maximizes the possibility of sperm encountering fertile eggs. This technique can be used with all forms of semen. Our safe anesthetic protocol allows for rapid recovery, so your bitch will be able to go home within 1-2 hours after the procedure.

 

Pregnancy Monitoring and Imaging

Ultrasonography

gail-schmieder-ultrasound-1687.jpgUltrasonography is the best tool to confirm pregnancy, at approximately 30 days after breeding. With ultrasound, we can provide a rough estimate of the size of the litter and examine gestational size and heart beats. Gestational aging can also help you pinpoint the whelping dates. When your breeding is done with us, we will provide you with a timing sheet that indicates your optimal ultrasonography dates.

Radiography (x-ray)

Using radiography in the week prior to birthing is the most accurate way to obtain a puppy/kitten count. Our state-of-the-art digital x-ray gives us immediate and accurate images, which we will look over together. This process is not harmful to developing babies or the mom. This appointment also gives us an opportunity to refine your whelping or queening plan. When your breeding is done with us, we will provide you with a timing sheet that indicates your optimal x-ray dates.

Whelpwise

We routinely work with Veterinary Perinatal Specialties, Inc. (WhelpWise) to obtain an advanced method of monitoring the late stages of pregnancy and birthing in bitches and queens. WhelpWise, based in Colorado, uses special instrumentation and the phone line to monitor uterine contractions and fetal viability. This 24/7 service informs you and our veterinarians if contractions are proceeding normally or if surgical intervention is necessary. They also carry a variety of whelping/queening supplies.

 

Whelping and Caesarian Section

mary-whelping.jpg

It is important that we know in advance where and how you will have your upcoming litter. Together, we can decide if birthing at home is the most reasonable route, based on the prior history of your bitch/queen and her lineage, her age, puppy/kitten numbers and positioning, and any medical issues that she had during her pregnancy. Any time that the hospital is open, we are available to you for telephone and medical assistance. We are NOT available for emergency c-sections in the evening so you need to have a backup plan. Please speak to a member of our reproductive team for further details and instruction.

For those who want to bypass any potential difficulties and anxiety associated with the birthing process, a scheduled C-section is a perfect alternative. Precise ovulation timing enables us to know when the puppies are term and it is safe for them to be born. After gathering all available information from diagnostic tools (gestational aging via ultrasound, progesterone testing, WhelpWise monitoring) and your bitch (temperature drop, vaginal discharge, behavior), we work with you to determine the best day for the surgery. We are open 7 days a week and there is almost always a member of our reproductive medical team available.

After admission to the hospital, you should plan on spending about three to five hours in our nursery room. During this time, the C-section is performed, with every precaution taken to ensure the health of the mother and puppies. We use only the safest drugs during and after surgery. As the puppies are examined and kept warm in our infant incubator, you can relax and make all the phone calls you wish! After mom has her post-surgical clean-up, blow-dry, and pedicure, she is brought in to gently wake up with you. The babies nurse immediately to receive her colostrum, while soft classical music enhances their neurological stimulation. In the event that your bitch does not have adequate colostrum, we provide puppies with fresh frozen plasma to support their immune system.

Things to bring with you on the C-section day include:

  • Camera
  • Notebook
  • Car blankets/bed/crate that your bitch can use on the way home
  • Small carrier (a laundry basket works great!) for puppies/kittens
  • Small towels and warming device (Snuggle-disc or hot water bottles)
  • A friend to help you with all of the above!

Pictured: Senior reproductive technician, Mary uses a DeLee mucus trap to suction newborn puppies.

 

Complications

Infertility

If your bitch has missed a breeding, resorbed a pregnancy, or lost a litter prematurely, we need to talk. We start by evaluating your breeding management practices. Then after thorough discussion of your bitch's reproductive history, we can address the past problems and formulate a new approach to maximize your bitch's future fertility. By scheduling a reproductive medicine consult well before your bitch comes in heat, we can perform any appropriate tests and treat for any problems discovered before you find yourself in a time crunch.

Pyometra management

We offer both medical and surgical management of pyometra (uterine infection). While surgical management (spay) is the gold standard, medical management may be an option for your bitch. Please contact us and schedule an appointment for further information.

Mismating consultation

Was there an unexpected interaction between your male and female? We can help! Please schedule a mismating consultation as soon as possible after the occurrence to discuss available options. 

 

Brucella Testing

Canine brucellosis is a highly contagious infection caused by a bacteria, Brucella canis. Infected dogs develop problems including infertility, spontaneous abortions, stillborn puppies, and systemic illness. Treatment is incredibly difficult and often results in euthanasia. This disease is also zoonotic, which means it can also be spread to people. Due to these concerns, we require negative brucellosis testing on all dogs and bitches every 3 months. This test can be run by most veterinary laboratories, although we do offer in-house testing, if necessary.

Dr. Migday prepares for a trans-cervical insemination

Dr. Migday prepares for a trans-cervical insemination.