Where it all begins: ovulation and insemination
Depending on the individual animal, an in heat dog will typically ovulate around 7-10 after their first day of being in heat. When planning on breeding your female, checking blood progesterone levels to determine the time of ovulation will allow for best timing of breeding and appropriate estimation of due date. We advise checking the first progesterone 3-4 days after the start of heat to ensure that we don’t miss ovulation. Ovulation occurs when blood progesterone levels are 5 ng/dL. Insemination is recommended 2-3 days following a progesterone of 5 mg/dL, as this is when the eggs are primed and most receptive to fertilization by the male dog’s sperm.

Pregnancy Confirmation
Pregnancy confirmation is completed by abdominal ultrasound 30 days after ovulation. It is important this ultrasound is performed to make sure that we have time to properly schedule the c section.

Fetal Counts
A fetal skeleton count is done by abdominal radiograph around 55 days after ovulation. This is when fetal skeletons are mineralized, so they can be counted most accurately. It is important not to feed your female and also to make sure she is given the opportunity to fully defecate prior to the radiograph appointment. Having an empty stomach and colon allows for more accurate fetal skeleton count. Once fetal skeleton count is over 6-8, it is possible that a puppy may be missed when doing the count. However, the counts are typically very close to accurate. It is important to schedule an appointment to get a fetal count for best planning. A very small litter (1-2 puppies) may require medical or surgical intervention for delivery. A very large litter (>9 puppies) will require more preparation for the owners as well as increased monitoring for rare complications such as pregnancy toxemia that can occur to the dam late in gestation.

Nearing Parturition / Delivery – what to do and watch for
When your female is nearing day 58 of pregnancy, start taking her rectal temperature twice a day (every 12 hours) to monitor for first signs of impending labor. A transient/brief drop in rectal temperature from 100-102.5 F to 98-99 F typically occurs 12-24 hours prior to labor. Twice daily rectal temperature checks can help monitor for timing of labor/delivery of puppies. Be sure to have an appropriate whelping area for your female to deliver her puppies (or care for them once she is home from a c-section if needed).

Monitor the female for signs of complications such as active abdominal contractions for 30 minutes without the production of a puppy, greater than 2 hours between puppies being born, green vaginal discharge without delivery of a puppy, or overt lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea of the dog in labor. If any of these signs occur, emergent veterinary care is recommended.

If you are planning on breeding your pet or have additional questions, please contact Heartwood Animal Hospital to schedule a breeding consult!

– Dr. Chelsea Landa