Oviduct and Uterine Pathology

If a bitch is bred with quality semen at the appropriate time based on progesterone testing, and is not pregnant based on ultrasound at 4 weeks post-ovulation, AND nothing in her history or on physical examination suggests a cause for her infertility, a surgical breeding at her next cycle or surgically obtained uterine cultures and biopsies should be considered. This is recommended only IF the breeder is committed to achieving a pregnancy. The procedures are invasive, require general anesthesia and cannot be combined. Surgical breeding may lead to a pregnancy. Surgical biopsy,may provide a prognosis and diagnosis. If surgical breeding with good semen and good timing is unsuccessful, surgical biopsy at the end of diestrus should be done to determine the cause. The decision is made by the client in consultation with the veterinarian and is influenced by the age of the bitch, availability of high quality but replenishable semen, previous attempts to breed, and the way that the client makes decisions.

There are no practical procedures for detecting or treating oviduct patency in dogs. Scar tissue or inflammation may obstruct the oviduct, preventing fertilization and passage of the fertilized ova into the uterus. Endometritis, inflammation of the uterus, does not allow for implantation and fetal development. Cystic endometrial hyperplasia, if advanced enough, does not allow adequate surface area for implantation and fetal development to occur. Although these conditions can be diagnosed by uterine biopsy, the changes cannot be reversed with treatments available at this time. Sometimes the biopsy results are only helpful for prognosis. The endometrial changes may be so severe that pregnancy is impossible and the best option is to stop trying. Sometimes the changes are reversible, and sometimes the prognosis is good because there is no pathology.

Uterine biopsy for histopathology and culture (aerobic, anaerobic, and mycoplasma/ureaplasma) can provide invaluable information. Infectious endometritis is a treatable cause of infertility. Some bitches have become pregnant on the subsequent estrous cycle using appropriately selected antibiotics. Uterine biopsy should NOT be attempted at the same time as a surgical breeding because of the associated inflammation. If a metropathy is suspected or confirmed at c-section, uterine biopsy, molecular pathology, and culture with histopathology and placental histopathology can be a useful service to offer the client.

The ideal time for uterine biopsies is near the time the bitch would whelp, 60 days after ovulation, if she is pregnant. This is the time of maximal progesterone influence, which should produce the greatest pathological changes in the uterus.

Courtesy of Dr Marty Greer of Veterinary Village, Lomira WI

Controlling When Your Bitch Comes into Season

Technology advances again and has now allowed us to either delay or induce estrous (heat) cycles in bitches with more ease and accuracy than ever before.   OvuplantR (Deslorelin) is a hormone contained in a pellet. It is labeled for use only in horses. This pellet is inserted under the mucosa of the vulva. For this product to be effective in inducing estrous, the bitch MUST have a progesterone level of less than 1.0 ng/dl immediately prior to insertion of the drug pellet or it may block, not induce estrous.

Typically with the OvuplantR , the patient will come into heat within 3 to 7 days, and be ready to breed 8 to 10 days after she comes into season (11 to 17 days after insertion). The implanted drug pellet MUST be removed to maintain pregnancy. This is a prescription drug and must be inserted and removed by a veterinarian. Approximately 90% of the time, the use of this product allows you to have control over the time you breed. This can be valuable for bringing bitches into heat for travel, specialties, to avoid scheduling conflicts in your personal life, or to produce puppies when you need them, such as for futurities.   Please return for removal of the Ovuplant after breeding is completed.

Cabergoline (DostinexR) is a similar product, given orally. Approximately 70% of bitches taking the product will start estrous within 10 to 30 days of starting the drug. This is dosed at 5 mcg/kg once daily for 10 days. In small bitches, compounding may be necessary to scale the dose down.

Contact us for more information on how this new therapy permits you to time your bitch’s breedings and whelping to fit your needs!

Canine Mycoplasma and its Role in Reproductive Disease

Mycoplasma infections have been implicated as a cause of infertility in both bitches and stud dogs. As a result, mycoplasma continues to receive attention as a potential concern for purebred dog breeders. This article discusses what is currently known about canine mycoplasma infections and outlines a management approach for breeding animals.

What is mycoplasma?

Mycoplasmas are bacterial organisms that, because of their extremely small size, have been placed in a separate class. Also, unlike any other bacteria, mycoplasmas lack a rigid cell wall which makes them unaffected by antibiotics that act by invoking cell wall damage (for example, penicillin). Mycoplasmas are extremely fastidious organisms that are difficult to culture without special media, and even then may be difficult to recover. Ureaplasmas are a distinct type of mycoplasmas that have been sub classed and are identified by their own name.

Mycoplasma as part of the normal flora:

Several mycoplasma species have been found to be normal inhabitants of the upper respiratory and genital tracts of dogs and cats, and as a result they can be routinely isolated from oral, nasal, conjunctival and genital mucous membranes. Several studies have specifically looked at the frequency of mycoplasma recovery from the genital tracts of fertile versus infertile bitches and stud dogs, and no significant difference has been found. Therefore, recovery of mycoplasma from a vaginal or semen culture does not always correlate to reproductive disease, and likewise does not always need to be treated. Since these organisms exist in the respiratory tract as well as the reproductive tract, aerosol transmission from dog to dog (airborne, licking, sniffing, etc.) is probably more frequent than venereal transmission.

When to worry about mycoplasma?

While mycoplasmas may be normal inhabitants of the reproductive tract, they have been associated with infertility, lesions of the reproductive tract and sperm abnormalities. As with many opportunistic pathogens (organisms that may cause disease but frequently don’t), clinical disease often results when an animal is under stress and/or exposed to high numbers of organisms. Close, intensive breeding conditions (as in a large kennel or at indoor dog shows) provide the opportunity for high numbers of organisms to develop. A healthy dog or bitch especially if housed individually, however, may not become diseased even after known exposure to the organism.

It has been found that the administration of broad spectrum antibiotics may suppress many other bacteria that make up normal flora and allow mycoplasmas to overgrow. Therefore, the prophylactic use of antibiotics pre breeding is not recommended as it may actually create a pathogenic state, and may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant populations of organisms.

A mycoplasma culture should be performed if:

  1. A dog has missed several bitches (no conception)
  2. A semen evaluation shows morphologically abnormal sperm cells.
  3. A bitch has not conceived having been bred to a fertile stud dog on appropriate days.
  4. A dog of bitch produces conception but has a documented high rate of fetal resorption.

It is important to remember that there are many other causes of the above problems, and so a mycoplasma culture should be only one part of a thorough diagnostic investigation performed by a veterinarian experienced in canine reproduction.

Proper Mycoplasma Culture Technique:

Due to their fastidious nature, mycoplasmas require special techniques for successful growth in cultures. As a result, mycoplasma cultures should only be sent to laboratories competent in the recovery of the organism. It is recommended that ureaplasma is cultured for at the same time, since it is a similar organism and has also been implicated in infections of the reproductive tract.

Proper technique in obtaining the sample to be cultured is also extremely important. In bitches, it is recommended that the vaginal area close to the cervix be sampled using a guarded swab. In stud dogs, it is important that a semen specimen be collected using sterile technique, avoiding urethral contaminants.

What to do about normal fertile dogs and bitches?

Since mycoplasma is frequently cultured from the vagina of normal fertile bitches, routine pre breeding cultures of bitches are not warranted. Since mycoplasma is frequently recovered from culture of the prepuce and/or semen of normal fertile males, routine pre-breeding cultures may show some growth of mycoplasma as part of the normal flora. However, some owners may choose to periodically have a dog’s semen culture for mycoplasma. While a negative result is definitive, the significance of a positive result must always be determined by correlation to semen evaluation and clinical condition. Unfortunately, a dog’s fertility status cannot be determined on the basis of mycoplasma recovery.


            Mycoplasma infection is only one of many factors that may impact canine fertility. Working with an experienced veterinarian with a thorough, systematic approach to investigating fertility problems will pay dividends to your breeding program.

Approach to Infertility in the Bitch and in the Dog


  1. Fontbonne, DVM, MSc, DECAR

Ass. Pr., Animal Reproduction–Alfort National Veterinary College (Paris)

Cedex, France

In comparison to the last 10 or 20 years, veterinarians are now frequently requested to solve fertility problems in the dog, mainly due to the increased popularity of purebred dogs as well as for sentimental or financial reasons. In fact, breeders may be concerned about different kinds of problems which include but are not limited to true infertility (their bitches produce no pups after mating or Artificial Insemination), anoestrus or a low prolificacy rate.

Many different problems can lead to infertility including hormonal problems, infectious diseases, congenital or acquired defects of the genital tract. We recommend that veterinarians follow a very strict progression, commencing with the most frequent cause to the most uncommon cause. In the bitch, things become even more difficult when we realize that apparent infertility can be due to very different situations which prove difficult to distinguish, such as lack of fertilization (no union between eggs and sperm) and early embryonic death.

  1. 1. In the Bitch

1.1 Mistimed Breeding or Artificial Insemination

According to the vast majority of scientific publications, mistimed breeding represents by far the most common cause of infertility in the bitch. This is why a veterinarian willing to solve fertility problems in the bitch has first to be skilled in timing ovulation in the bitch.

Apart from progesterone assays, ovarian ultrasonography is especially indicated in infertile bitches, as it represents the most accurate way to determine the precise date of ovulation.

1.2 Infertility with Prolonged Interoestrous Intervals

The apparent prolongation of interestrous intervals occurs in dogs with a silent heat, defined as ovarian activity in the absence of overt physical and behavioral changes characteristic of canine estrus.

Among the hormonal causes of anoestrus we find hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, hyperprolactinemia, or bitches treated with hormonal compounds such as progestagens, androgens (racing dogs) or anabolic steroid compounds. Ovarian cysts that secrete progesterone may cause prolonged interestrous intervals.

Bitches housed in very bad environmental conditions (including a high concentration of animals, low luminosity, low quality food) may undergo prolonged interestrous intervals.

1.3 Infertility with Shortened Interoestrous Intervals

This type of infertility may be divided into two major causes: bitches suffering from ovarian hyperstimulation (mainly follicular cysts or Granulosa cells tumor), and/or bitches showing a premature decline in progesterone during diestrus.

1.3.1 Ovarian Cysts or Tumors

It is important to diagnose and remove these hormonally active cysts or tumors as quickly as possible for at least two reasons. First, it is necessary to cure them and try to restore fertility. Second , the secretion of high quantity of estrogens may act on the uterus as a potential factor towards the cystic endometrial hyperplasia–pyometra complex, but also on the bone marrow in creating progressive non regenerative anemia.

Follicular cysts may be single or multiple; if multiple cysts are present in one ovary, the cysts do not communicate. The ovarian cysts in the bitch may be present in only one or both ovaries. When possible, it is much more valuable to perform ovarian ultrasonography.

Some authors recommend induction of luteinization of the cystic follicles, using GnRH or hCG. We personally do not recommend such protocols, as they increase the progesterone plasma level after a prolonged period of estrogen secretion. Based upon our clinical experience, this treatment very often leads to the occurrence of pyometra in the following weeks. Surgical removal of a cyst, or aspiration of a cyst with a fine sterile needle under laparotomy or ultrasonography may be new alternatives in therapy.

Granulosa cells produce estrogens; and therefore, it is not surprising that GCTumours often lead to infertility with prolonged heat periods.

1.3.2 Premature Decline in Progesterone

Split heats are defined as successive short proestrus signs, at intervals of 2 weeks to 2 months, associated with short interestrous intervals. This pattern is more often observed in young bitches and leads to no real infertility in the rest of the genital life of the bitch.

Anovulatory cycles are not frequent in bitches. In such anovulatory cycles, serum progesterone level never increases above 3.5 to 6 ng/ml. This explains why the following heat period will often occur earlier than usual.

Bitches may also suffer from hypoluteoidism, which is the lack of progesterone secretion during pregnancy which makes the pregnancy impossible to maintain. Some breeds are well known to express hypoluteoidism, like Rottweilers and German Shepherds. Progesterone supply can be given parentally (progesterone in oil: 2 mg/kg every 3 days; ally-trenbolone … ).

In France, veterinarians often use oral micronised progesterone which is currently given to women.

1.4 Infertility with Normal or Sub-normal Interoestrous Intervals

1.4.1 Hormonal Problems

Hormonal defects may be suspected also in bitches with regular interestrous intervals, and veterinarians should control the hormonal status of the bitch during the heat period and also during pregnancy.

1.4.2 Infectious Diseases

Several viruses have been shown to playa potential role in canine infertility.

Several elements suggest that Canine Herpes Virus (CHV) may well act on infertility in the bitch. Recently, some papers have pointed out the potential incidence of a parvovirus Minute Virus of Canines (CPV1) on resorption during the first half of pregnancy.

The incidence of bacterial infections on canine infertility is better documented. Canine Brucellosis could generate early embryonic or fetal death through endometritis.

Other specific bacterial diseases have been suspected to act on canine infertility.  However, usual genital bacteria may playa real role on infertility. Canine Mycoplasmas and Ureaplasmas are commonly isolated in the genital tract of fertile and infertile bitches. But it has been shown that there is a higher incidence of these agents in the vagina of infertile bitches.

Many bacteria are commonly isolated from the uterus and the vagina of normal fertile bitches. Several studies barely demonstrate any difference in the composition of the vaginal flora between fertile and infertile bitches. But it has been shown that in case of vaginitis, there are significant qualitative and quantitative variations. Strong evidence exists that bacteria causing vaginitis may lead to infertility. It may well have been underestimated due to lack of specific clinical signs and due to the difficulty of the clinical examination of the vagina of the bitch.

1.4.3 Drug-Induced Infertility

In practice, many breeding bitches may be treated with drugs that may contribute to the decline of fertility. Steroid hormones and anti-fungal compounds may create hormonal defects in pre-puberal or adult bitches. Abortive drugs such as prostaglandins, antiprogestins and antiprolactinic substances have to be avoided during pregnancy.

1.4.4 Anatomical Abnormalities of the Genital Tract

Some bitches do not manage to mate because of congenital or acquired abnormalities of the posterior genital tract (vulva, vestibule or vagina).

Acquired diseases or abnormalities of the posterior genital tact (scars after a bad

parturition, episiotomy, violent mating … ) may also lead to the lack of copulation.

1.4.5 Uterine Pathology

Endometritis is a common cause of infertility in mares. In bitches, however, it is hard to diagnose. Endometrial cytology, eventually performed after endoscopic cannulation of the cervix, may be valuable.

Bitches with cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH) are often infertile due to implantation failure after conception. Somehow, ultrasonography usually permits the visualization of the glandular endometrium.

1.4.6 Abnormal Sexual Behaviour

Many psychological factors may influence sexual receptivity in bitches. Some authors think that psychology may influence factors like ovulation or early embryonic death in the bitch.

1.4.7 Miscellaneous Causes

Bitches with systemic diseases like diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism or renal insufficiency may likely be infertile.

Finally, breeders stress nutrition when their breeding kennel suffers from decreased reproductive results. Little is known in this regard.

  1. 2. Male Infertility

After mistimed breeding, male infertility may well be the most common cause of conception failure in bitches presented with infertility.

Very little is known about male infertility in the dog. Regarding human male infertility, the cause remains unknown in 70% to 74 % of cases. In the area of human medicine, when the semen is of poor quality, most of the time assisted reproduction techniques are utilized such as in vitro Fertilization (IVF) or Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). These techniques are not routinely available to the dog; therefore, the prognosis of infertility often remains very poor. However, some infertility causes can be partially or totally cured if the veterinarian is consulted early enough. But in only 10% of dogs presented with infertility may fertility be restored after diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Veterinarians willing to diagnose and attempt to cure male infertility must be completely knowledgeable about the investigation of the male reproductive function and especially the method of performing the sperm collection and analysis (spermiogram).

2.1 Prostatic Problems

A prostatic problem often plays a direct role in decreasing fertility. The prostate is the only accessory gland present in the dog , as no seminal vesicles exist. Chronic prostatitis has been shown to be a rather common cause of infertility in dog. It is often suspected when a dog brought for semen collection for Artificial Insemination or freezing of the semen suffers from hematospermia, especially in the 3rd fraction of the ejaculate.

In case of hematospermia, when suspecting an infectious prostatitis, Levy et al.(2006) showed that bacterial examination after an ultrasound-guided biopsy seems the only reliable diagnosis technique, much more than semen culture.

When treating prostatic problems in the dog, the use of common anti-androgenic compounds may definitively alter the quality of semen and subsequent fertility. That is why many reports have been made about the use of 5 a reductase inhibitors (finasteride). Finasteride is a 4-azasteroid synthetic drug that inhibits 5a-dihydroreductase, an enzyme that is responsible for the metabolism of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone in the prostate, liver and skin.

Recently, some new anti-androgenic drugs (osaterone acetate) seemed to decrease the size of the canine prostate without altering spermatogenesis and may be potentially used in breeding dogs (Mimouni et al. 2006).

2.2 Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases probably represent a major cause of infertility in male dogs living in breeding kennels. Germs can cause prostatitis, which may alter the biochemical composition of prostatic fluids and may induce a permanent or temporary blockage of the ducts as they enter the prostate. But infections often lead to an orchitis/epididymitis, with a subsequent alteration of the quality of the semen. Canine Brucellosis infection in males have been well described and any male dog suffering from infertility with a bad spermiogram should be serologically tested for this disease. Recently also, the interest of leukocytes quantification in the ejaculate has been further studied (Martin 2005).

2.3 Hormonal Dysfunctions

Central hormonal causes are not well documented. Testicular tumors which are responsible for excessive hormonal secretion (Sertoli cells tumors, Leydig cells tumors) may cause a decrease of spermatogenesis, even when these tumors are located only in one testicle and still quite small in size. Hypothyroidism is often stated as a potential cause of infertility. The link between hypothyroidism and low quality semen is still unclear and probably very much overestimated .

2.4 Retrograde Ejaculation

Retrograde ejaculation consists of a retrograde backflow of semen into the bladder when ejaculation occurs. This leads to either aspermia or oligospermia. In dogs, retrograde ejaculation is not well documented. This problem does not seem to be permanent. Treatment of retrograde ejaculation has been better documented recently (Romagnoli 2004, Beaufayset a/2004). Treatment may be attempted by collecting semen when the bladder is full (which makes the sphincter close more firmly). Sympathomimetic drugs like phenylpropanolamine (3 to 4 mg/kg per os twice daily) or pseudoephedrine (4 to 5 mg/kg per os three times daily or 1 to 3 hours before semen collection or attempted breeding) may be tried.


Alain Fontbonne, DVM, MSc,


URL: http://www.vin.com/doci?id-3860829 (http://www.vin .com/doci?id-3860829l

http://www.vin.com/members/cms/proj ectidefaul tad v l .aspx?id=3 860829&pid= 11242 2/21/2017

Recommendations for Whelping Bitches

Gestation Time:

  • 63 Days ( + / – one day) from the day of ovulation (or at 56 days from the end of their cycle)


  • We recommend that bitches in whelp be fed their normal food for the first half of the pregnancy. For the last trimester, we recommend switching to a puppy food or high performance diet which has higher protein levels. No vitamins or calcium supplements need to be given unless your bitch is a toy breed or has had problems in the past.

There are some homeopathic remedies that we recommend & we can discuss them with you. If expecting a very large litter, we recommend “Structure Formula” as a supplement during the last half of pregnancy.

Supplies for Whelping:

  • Whelping Box- Some are commercially made, some are home made designs. You can find designs online or in books. This can be as simple as a child’s plastic pool but we recommend using the ones that have “pig rail” all around. Avoid soft beds or beds that are unable to be washed and disinfected easily. Do not put excessive amounts of blankets in the whelping box to prevent puppies from being entangled and suffocated. It is a good idea to allow the bitch to get used to sleeping in the whelping box during the last week before she is due.
  • Heating Lamp- Pups need to be kept at a room temperature of 80-85 degrees for the first 10 day, then at 75 degrees. The number one reason or pups dying is getting cold. Do not use heating pads. They can become too hot and the pups may be unable to get off the heating pad and become burned. We recommend a ceramic type of bulb as a radiant heat source (you can find them at a reptile store) and protective cover.
  • Thermometer – we recommend a pool thermometer that has a temperature and a humidity reading). Put it on the level with the pups, so you know their  exact environment.
  • Lots of small hand towels used to dry and rub pups.
  • A pediatric nasal aspirator will be necessary to “suck out” any extra fluid or mucous discharge that may be present after birth.
  • Dental floss to tie umbilical cords. Use hemostats Betadine to disinfect umbilical cords
  • Digital kitchen scale
  • Gauze, cotton balls
  • Birth chart
  • Yarn or wrick wrack for puppy identification

Signs of Whelping:

  • Usually, dogs will stop eating about 1 day before or the day of whelping.
  • It is a good idea to learn how to take your dogs temperature rectally. Normal temp for a dog is 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit. In 90% of all dogs, their body temperature will drop to 98 degrees Fahrenheit 24 hours before whelping (this does not apply to a singleton litter). This is an excellent way to monitor when the bitch will initiate whelp. Sometimes a dog’s temperature will vary during the day, it will be lowest in the early morning and creep up during the day. Therefore it is a good idea to take the temp two to three times a day to establish a baseline temperature. When the temp drops and stays low, the dog will whelp in 24 hours. Rarely, the temperature might not decrease to 98 degrees, but a full 1 degree temp drop might be significant.
  • Most dogs will start nesting about 24 hours before whelping. Nesting may include such behavior as tearing up beds, shredding towels or blankets, and sleeping in small areas such as closets or going outside to dig up holes.
  • At the beginning of the actual “birth stage”, most dogs will pant and act uncomfortable or unsettled.
  • If no whelping has started for 24-36 hours past the temperature drop, your vet needs to see you and ultrasound the bitch to ensure pup’s heart rates are okay and they are not in distress.


  • After 30-60 minutes of productive contractions, pups should begin to arrive.
  • Pups are inside of a double-layered membranous sack. This sack should be removed by dam or through your assistance as soon as possible to prevent suffocation. Pups should be dried off and have their mouth and nose suctioned out to help clear the air ways. Most of the time the umbilical cord will be still attached to the placenta. Clamp the cord with hemostats and cut the cord about ½  inch from the pup (where the hemostat is) and tie off with the dental floss if it is still bleeding. Dab the area with betadine. The mother dog will probably want to eat the placenta. It is ok if she eats 1 or 2 but if she eats all of them, it may cause her to vomit. More frequently, eating placentas may cause diarrhea or loose tarry black stools.
  • Pups are usually born every 30-60 mins. If more than 2 hours elapse between pups then there may be a problem. It is a good idea to get the bitch up every 2-3 hours and walk her around. This will stimulate the contractions to become more effective. Make sure when you take the dog out to keep her on a leash or go with her to ensure that no pups are accidentally born outside and left. Car rides work well, as well as feeding her some melted ice cream. If that doesn’t get her going and you are approaching the 3 hour mark, you might need to call the vet’s office.
  • If a pup becomes “stuck” in the birth canal, you may have to gently pull on the pup and help it along. It is normal for some pups to be born hind end first, and do not worry if this happens.
  • When active contractions start and the bitch seems to be straining for longer than 30mins, there may be a problem. Call the office right away, and start packing for the trip.
  • Allowing the pups to nurse on the mom soon after birth during the whelping stages will stimulate further contractions and help the whelping process along.
  • If more than 2 pups are stillborn, call the office, we will need to see you right away.

Signs of Trouble

  • If longer than 3 hours in between pups, call the office.
  • If blackish-green discharge appears, call the office.
  • If hard pushing and no pup is produced in 30 minutes, call the office.


  • Monitor bitch’s temperature and consistency of mammary glands.
  • The pups should be monitored closely for the first 24-72 hours to ensure that the mother is being careful and not lying on the pups in the whelping box or showing any aggressive behavior (especially in first time mothers).
  • The mother will have a brownish to red discharge for 6-8 weeks after whelping. If the discharge seems heavy or has a foul odor, then there may be a problem.
  • While the mother is nursing pups, she should be fed a puppy food or high protein diet at least 150-200% more than usual. Small but more frequent meals are recommended. The amount should be at least 1 cup for every 20lbs of body weight.

Signs of Trouble

  • Fever of greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Strawberry and cream or green-yellow discharge
  • Lethargy, non-interest in puppies
  • Hot, red or firm mammary glands

Other Helpful Facts:

  • Pups usually open their eyes at 10-15 days.
  • Most pups should be started on solid food at 3-4 weeks of age.
  • Pups should be weaned at 5-6 weeks of age
  • Pups should remain with their litter mates until 8 weeks of age
  • Pups need to be de-wormed at 3, 6, and 8 weeks of age
  • Vaccinations need to be started at 6-8 weeks of age.



Source: Reproductive Resources + NOAH

Labor and Delivery


Several days before delivery, her vulva will enlarge, the tail head may become prominent, and watery milk may be present. Bitches with large amounts of hair on the abdomen should be shaved to assist the pups in nursing. Twenty-four hours prior to delivery, she may nest, stop eating and may vomit. Eight to 12 hours before delivery, the rectal temperature may drop by 2 to 3 degrees, to below 100 degrees, then rises back to 102 degrees as whelping approaches. At this time, she should be housed in a quiet warm room with suitable flooring or plastic sheeting and absorbent blankets. If not already done, her whelping box should be prepared. An inexpensive, easy to clean whelping box can be made from a child’s round swimming pool lined with towels, blankets, or a fitted carpet to improve footing for the pups to aid in their development.


As with all mammals, there are 3 stages to delivery. The first consists of mild uterine contractions, and may last 6 to 12 hours, during which milk is present and the bitch is restless. At this point, you may notice that she passes a plug of mucus, called the cervical plug. The second stage is true labor (abdominal and uterine contractions) and delivery. In hard labor, the bitch will visibly strain and groan – she may lay down or stand.


In the uterus, each pup is surrounded by fetal membranes known as allantoic and amniotic membranes, their associated fluids, and a placenta. Delivery is  preceded by passage of dark amber allantoic fluids. The amniotic sac passes into the cervix and anterior pelvis, resulting in abdominal straining and panting. Next, the perineum (skin around the vulva) distends as the amnion and pup is delivered. The first fetus should be delivered within 2 to 3 hours after the beginning of the start of hard labor. As long as the bitch’s vaginal discharge is clear and she is not in hard labor, she should not be disturbed. Puppies can live in the uterus for up to 24 hours after labor starts. Dogs in labor for 3 hours without delivery of the first pup should be examined for evidence of complications. If you are comfortable with this, you may don a glove and do a vaginal examination to assess position of the puppy. If there is a puppy in the pelvic

canal, you can help her by massaging the roof of the vagina (called feathering). You may be able to feel the pup’s head or legs and assist the bitch by pulling the puppy out and down (toward the bitch’s feet). Labor should be progressive and productive. If you are uninterested in intervening yourself, the bitch is weak and seems to you to be in danger, or you unable to assess the situation, this is the time to contact a veterinarian for assistance. Subsequent pups should be delivered within 45 to 60 minutes of hard labor.  Often the first 2 pups are born close together, and then a pause of up to several hours can occur. As long as the bitch is not in hard labor, or there is not excessive blood or green color to the discharge, there is no need to intervene.  (Green color is normal AFTER 1 or more pups have been delivered as this signifies placental separation). Frequently, the first and last pups are the largest, due to position in the uterus and optimum nutrition. It is not abnormal for pups to beborn tail first (up to 40%). As long as the delivery is short, the pup should survive. Regardless of presentation, if the delivery is slow or difficult, the bitch can be assisted by gently grasping the pup with a towel or gauze and pulling with gentle traction downward between her rear legs.

The third and final stage of labor is the delivery of the placentae, which frequently occurs with each delivery. The amniotic sac is may be intact and the umbilical cord is unbroken. The bitch will normally remove the amnion and chew through the cord after each birth, then lick the pup to stimulate breathing. Do not interfere unless she is not interested, too aggressive or too weak. Try to account for one placenta per pup and allow her to eat only a few. Too many may cause stomach upset.

If the bitch fails to clean up the pup within 30 to 60 seconds of birth, you may need to intervene. This is best accomplished by tearing the sac off the face with a terry towel and rubbing the pup vigorously. A bulb syringe or DeeLee mucus trap can be used to suction excess fluids from the back of the pup’s throat. (Never swing the pups as this causes brain damage.) The pup can be held at a 45 degree angle with the head down to allow drainage of fluids from the airways if necessary.

If the pup does not start to breathe promptly, an acupuncture point (25 gauge needle inserted in the center of the upper lip, below the nostrils, insert to bone and rotate) or a caffeine solution (1 caffeine tablet crushed in 1 cc of water) dropped on to the pups tongue can be used to stimulate the first breath. Mouthto-mouth and chest compressions can be attempted if the pup fails to respond to the above measures.  If the umbilical cord tears too short and bleeds, immediately clamp the cord and tie dental floss or thread around it to control blood loss.

Whelping is best accomplished at home and without intervention if possible.  Disrupting the bitch can stop or delay delivery of the pups. Occasional walking to allow the bitch to urinate may assist with delivery. Be sure to accompany her and take along a towel (and flashlight if in the dark), just in case she delivers a pup while outside. Allowing pups to nurse between deliveries will aid in uterine contractions. Ice cream (for calcium and energy) can be fed to her (and you) throughout labor to aid in keeping her contractions strong and effective. If indicated, oxytocin use MUST be done very conservatively to avoid endangering the health of the bitch and puppies. Only very small doses, if any, should be administered without veterinary or Whelpwise® oversight and should NEVER exceed 2 injections. The more oxytocin most experienced breeder-veterinarians use, the more respect they have for it’s misuse.


The WhelpwiseTM uterine contraction monitor (tocodynomometer) can be used to monitor pre-labor and labor and allow for early intervention if premature delivery or dystocia is diagnosed. As in human obstetrics, insightful monitoring of labor can significantly improve neonatal survival. The equipment for this service needs to be ordered in advance. They may be reached at 1-888-281-4867. The fetal Doppler included can be utilized to assess fetal heartbeats and detect fetal distress.


There are 2 basic causes for dystocia or difficulties with deliveries: those caused by the bitch and those caused by the pups. Maternal causes included obesity; voluntary inhibition if interrupted or overly sensitive; abnormally small litters (1-2 pups); exhaustion; or small pelvic or vaginal diameter. Fetal causes are large head, malposition or malpresentation, large size, other structural defects, and 2 pups being delivered simultaneously. To help alleviate exhaustion in the bitch you may wish to offer vanilla ice cream to provide energy, fluids and calcium without causing vomiting.

Under some circumstances, the bitch will need assistance and should be taken to the veterinarian. Corrections of dystocia (performed by your veterinarian) include manipulation and traction on the pup, episiotomy, drug therapy (oxytocin, calcium and glucose) and Caesarian section. Each case must be considered and  treated individually.


At times, a C-section may be scheduled prior to the onset of labor. These reasons  include small litters of 1-2 pups, larger litters of over 10 pups, or a breed at risk.  On occasion, surgical intervention may be necessary to save the bitch and/or  puppies. DO NOT DELAY HERE.

Any bitch that is too weak to stand, has an unexplained discharge from her eyes, unrelenting vomiting, has severe abdominal pain, is greater than 68 days postovulation, has a history of dystocia unrelated to fetal malposition, is having severe tremors, has green vaginal discharge without a pup delivered, has signs of fetal distress, has failed to respond to oxytocin, has weak contractions, has had her temp rise Without labor starting, or is in hard labor 2 hours without presenting a pup needs immediate veterinary attention.

Done prior to the bitch and puppies developing extreme distress and done well by an experienced team of veterinarians and veterinary staff, C-sections can be highly successful, often producing 100% puppy survival rates. This is done with general anesthesia using PropofolR for induction followed by isoflurane or sevoflurane. The bitch is monitored during anesthesia with a pulse oximeter and is given IV fluids. A spay should only be performed at the c-section under extraordinary circumstances due to the associated risks. The puppies are rapidly removed from the uterus and revived. As soon as the puppies and bitch are medically stable, they are sent home in your care.

Courtesy of Dr Marty Greer of Veterinary Village, Lomira WI

Pregnancy and Obstetrics


During the last 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy, the bitch should be housed in familiar surroundings with minimal exposure to infectious diseases or dogs from other households of kennels.

Normal pregnancy in the bitch is considered to be 63 days from ovulation, but can range from 58 to 65 days depending on the timing of the breedings. It is often a good idea to confirm the pregnancy prior to delivery. Several methods are available. Pregnancy can be diagnosed by abdominal palpation (feeling the uterus through the abdominal wall) 28 to 35 days post-breeding.

Ultrasound can be used as early as day 28 and confirms both presence and viability of fetuses. The number of pups can only be estimated with ultrasound. Puppy count x-rays can be taken from days 58 to 62 of pregnancy. These are strongly recommended. This aids in determining puppy size, position and number. Knowing the anticipated number of pups will assist in determining when it is safe to consider her delivery to be complete and when a scheduled c-section should be recommended. X-rays are not harmful to the fetuses after the first 3 weeks of pregnancy.

When is it Safe to Breed my Dog?

Factors determining whether it is safe to breed


Bitches should be completely developed in skeletal and internal organ development. Once a bitch becomes pregnant, she will devote and divert all necessary calories and energy to fetal growth and later lactation. If she is not fully developed at the time she becomes pregnant, this growth will cease at the point where fetal demands exceed personal demands and will not begin anew when lactation ceases. These bitches therefore may not achieve their maximal potential development.  This may result in dystocia due to fetal-pelvic disparity, in particular during pregnancies 2 through 4+, because as the uterus is stretched with each pregnancy, fetal size may increase in a subsequent pregnancy, but pelvic size will not, resulting in fetal-pelvic disparity.

In small and toy breeds, full skeletal development may be complete by 6-8 months of age, but internal organ development and pelvic development is not complete until 16-18 months of age. In large and giant breeds, full skeletal development may not be complete until 14-16 months of age, while internal organ development and pelvic development is not complete until 20-24 months of age.

Domestic dogs tend to reach puberty earlier than wild dogs because food is supplied to them year-round and so they attain 60-70% of their adult weight earlier than do their wild counterparts. In most domestic animals, it is believed that the first pubertal heat will occur around the time that the animal achieves 60-70% of its mature weight.  This means that most bitches will have their first heat cycle between 6 and 14 months of age, depending on breed, however, their development is not complete at this stage, so it is not recommended that they are bred on their first heat, unless it is delayed until they are fully mature (typically due to some other stressor preventing cyclicity earlier, such as heavy performance training).

Other concerns about breeding younger bitches would include inadequate mammary development and decreased fat stores to be utilized during lactation for energy reserves. This is particularly true in the toy breeds where hypoglycemia and hypocalcemia are more common.  The age at which appropriate health testing can be performed will vary with breed.

Bitches should be healthy and in good body condition prior to breeding. Any health concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian prior to breeding and any and all medications or dietary supplements given during pregnancy or lactation should be evaluated for safety to the embryo, fetus or neonate. Bitches in heavy body condition may not ovulate as many eggs, may not lactate as well and may develop problems with respiratory distress in late pregnancy due to

increased compression of the lungs by the diaphragm due to increasing uterine size compressing it. Brachycephalic bitches should be bred with caution in the warm summer months as they may be more predisposed to overheating as the chest cavity is compressed in later pregnancy by the enlarging uterus within the abdomen.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, it should be remembered that pregnancy is an extremely taxing physiologic process, and there are some considerations to be evaluated in terms of whether a bitch is too old to breed. The uterus and kidneys share the same blood supply, so when a bitch becomes pregnant, some blood flow is diverted away from the kidneys to supply the ever-enlarging pregnant uterus. Any early onset kidney disease, may be exacerbated by pregnancy. Older bitches are also more predisposed to pregnancy related diseases such as gestational diabetes and pregnancy toxemia, and so body condition prior to breeding should be carefully assessed. Bitches that are too heavy or too thin should not be bred as their risks for these energy-related disorders will be much higher. Physical issues such as arthritis or other orthopedic injuries should also be considered as they are difficult to treat during pregnancy and may result in the bitch being painful for a prolonged period of time.

Recommended bloodwork in older bitches includes a complete blood count, complete serum chemistry panel, screening thyroid hormones (total T4 +/- free T4 and thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH), urinalysis (paying particular attention to urine specific gravity, USG, and protein content), and a urine protein:creatinine ratio (or urine microalbuminurea).  The age for this testing is generally recommended is 7-8 years for toy, small or medium breeds; 6-7 years for large breeds; and 5 years for giant breeds.

Stud dogs:

Males should not be breed before they attain puberty and are at least 1 year of age in order for them to attain full physical stature and to be mentally capable of understanding their status in the kennel once breeding begins. Breeding males tend to be more aggressive and promoting aggressive behavior in a young, developing dog may result in behavior issues later in life (inter-dog aggression in particular). Sexual maturity and thus fertility will not peak until 3-5 years of age in most males, but sperm production begins once puberty is attained. A complete semen evaluation should be performed on the young stud dog to ensure that he is producing adequate numbers of motile, morphologically normal sperm prior to use.

Older males should be assessed for physical ability to breed. Individuals with cardiac disease, orthopedic disease, or other debilitating illnesses may not have the stamina for natural breeding.  In some cases of advanced respiratory or cardiac disease, even manual collection may be too strenuous for these dogs.


Screening for Genetic Disorders


Each breed and family of dogs within a breed has a different set of potential inherited disorders. Your veterinarian and breeder can help you identify which problems should be screened for in your dog. Proper genetic screening for selection of breeders minimizes inherited congenital defects. The CHIC website, http://www.caninehealthinfo.org/, lists specific tests recommended by many breed clubs.


New DNA tests become available frequently. They range from tests to predict coat color and length to tests associated with life-threatening defects. We recommend that each breeder research current tests and familiarize themselves with defects and tests specific to their breed. Even the best-informed veterinarian is unlikely to know about every available DNA test for each breed as the research is changing frequently.  You may search for labs worldwide offering canine and feline DNA tests by breed at the PennGen website, http://research.vet.upenn.edu/Default.aspx?TabId=7620 .


The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (ERD), part of OFA, in the USA registers dogs that are found to be clear of eye problems by a board certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist (AVCO). There are many inherited ocular disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal diseases. All breeds should have their eyes examined prior to breeding and on an annual basis thereafter, particularly if these dogs or their offspring are still in your breeding program.


Regardless of size, there are a variety of joint problems found in most breeds. Hip dysplasia is probably the best known problem. This is a malformation of the ball and socket of the hip joint, found primarily in large breed dogs, which leads to premature development of arthritis in the hips. In many breeds, 30% and up of individuals may be affected. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is an organization which provides certification based on pelvic x-rays that the dog being evaluated does not show radiographic evidence of hip dysplasia. To have your dog certified by OFA, he or she must be at least two years of age. Carefully positioned x-rays are taken, at times with sedation, by your veterinarian and are submitted for rating by OFA. OFA issues a rating (excellent, good or fair) and a certification number if the dog “passes”. OFA will issue a preliminary rating for dogs less than 2 years of age to aid breeders in their decisions regarding their dog’s future. The goal of using dogs in a breeding program with OFA certification is to reduce the incidence of dysplasia in your breed. Selecting dogs that are free of dysplasia and whose parents and relatives were also OFA certified will help reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in your lines over time. OFA will also certify elbows (for elbow dysplasia), shoulders (for OCD) and patellas (for patellar luxation) free for defects which can lead to debilitating orthopedic disease.

An additional method of evaluating hips is a procedure known as PennHipR. This requires general anesthesia and a series of 3 x-rays. The films are submitted to PennHipR at Antech to have measurements taken to compare distracted with compressed views. A number evaluating the amount of laxity or looseness in thehip is reported. This laxity is felt to have predictive value in the development of hip dysplasia.

There are other breed specific orthopedic problems which can affect other joints or the spine.


Some breeds may be candidates for other health screens. These include testing for thyroid disease, von Willdebrand’s disease (a bleeding disorder), heart disease, and deafness. In addition, dogs exhibiting or carrying genes for certain health problems felt to be inherited such as epilepsy, should potentially not be bred.

List of Items to Bring for Your Bitch’s C-Section

List of Items to Bring for Your Bitch’s C-Section

  • The pregnant dog in need of the C-section
  • Cell phone
  • Tarp, shower curtain, or vinyl tablecloth to cover the seats or floor of the car
  • Crate large enough for the pregnant bitch to travel in
  • Large Vari-Kennel crate with top ½ removed, which easily gives you access to the bitch or preferred a baby pool
  • 3 Blankets for inside crate or pool (One for the way down, then a clean one for the return home, and a smaller one that will go on top of the heating pad- So that heating pad is between the blankets.) Or you can use large towels. I cover the bitch and puppies with a large towel on the return home- everything covered except the bitch’s head so there are no drafts on the puppies.  Or you can clip a towel over most of the crate, allowing room for easy access if needed
  • Heating pad – take two, one for the crate/pool for the return ride home and one for in the basket. Don’t forget the adapter to plug into
  • Hot water bottle – take one just in case something happens and the heating pads don’t work
  • Plastic laundry basket – to use after puppies are cleaned up and getting ready to leave the clinic
  • Towels – plenty of them!! Hand towels and full size bath size towels
  • Small garbage bag
  • Paper towels
  • Kleenex – especially good for pooping puppies
  • Cotton balls, Q-Tips, and cotton gauze squares
  • Nolvasan (properly diluted and ready to use)
  • Puppy formula mixed – in a seal tight container and enough to feed litter if needed before leaving the clinic. If bringing a premixed can, remember a container to heat the formula in, and a lid for the remaining unused portion in the can.
  • French feeding tube and syringe (sterilized and ready to use)
  • Bulb syringe and Dee Lee mucus trap – for suctioning puppies if needed
  • Hemostat
  • Dental floss – in case you need to re-tie an umbilical
  • Water
  • Water dish for bitch, and or a squirt bottle of water
  • Cooler
  • Ice (I bring ice just in case you have a bleeding dew claw) or Quick-Stop or
  • Antiseptic powder, or all of the above
  • Normal first aid