May 11, 2018

This has been another busy week at Veterinary Village.

As you all know, we have a large following of breeders, really good breeders who do a really great job of providing well-bred dogs with important and predictable health and behavior qualities. That being said, some lose track of their breeding timing. Why is that important? If you can get your dam pregnant without progesterone timing, why should you worry about timing her?

We had multiple dams due in the last 2 weeks without good timing. If you have trouble at the back end of the pregnancy, we can’t predict when she is due.

The following are real cases:

1. Three (no make it 4) dams due with singleton pups. These girls don’t go into labor at the 63 day post ovulation mark. Why? Because labor is initiated by the pups, not the dam. If there is not enough hormone secreted by the pup(s) because there is a small litter and they are not stressed, the dam may not initiate labor until the placentas and pup(s) are more than 65 days along, leading to placental deterioration and fetal death. This is a tragic way to end a pregnancy – with a c-section and a dead fetus. One dam was out of state for her breeding – test anyway (see below).

2. Two dams with exceptionally large litters. These girls were getting into trouble due to the volume of puppies and associated placentas and fluid. We can only safely deliver pups 2 days before their due date, based on ovulation. (Ovulation occurs at 4-8 ng/dl). Without knowing their due date, we could not have safely done a c-section to save not only the pups but the dam as well. No one wants to lose a puppy. But in most breeders’ eyes, saving their dam is even more important. We saved both dams and their pups by early intervention – a c-section at day 61.

3. One dam who should have delivered her pups but failed to progress into a successful labor. We took her to c-section and found the first pup trying to be delivered was heading north in the southbound lane. He blocked the way for other pups making a c-section the only hope in saving the dam and the other littermates. This was an unplanned breeding – well, unplanned by the owner, not the dogs. She had a history of failure to conceive so no one thought she would have a pregnancy. At least, draw and save the blood – see below.

4. One dam with a huge disparity in fetal size and position. She had 6 pups in one uterine horn and 1 in the opposite horn. The first pups that would have been born vaginally in either horn were HUGE. Without a planned and well-timed c-section (Of course, on Thanksgiving day), at least the first pup would have been born so slowly that the pup would have likely been stillborn. Dams weighing 24 pounds should not have 15 oz pups. Because we knew her due date, we scheduled a c-section and saved the entire litter.

5. One dam who lost her entire litter last year to premature progesterone drop. She is being monitored carefully to assure her litter can be saved with supplementation if needed.

Need I say more?

So even if you don’t need to know what day to do the breeding, you do need to know the day the pups are due. At the very least, have a progesterone test drawn, the blood spun in the centrifuge, and the serum frozen. In this way, IF she is pregnant and we need to run the blood from the time of the breeding, we can thaw the serum and run the test at the end of her pregnancy.

Why not just run “reverse progesterones” at the end of the pregnancy? Because they require daily trips to the vet. Because you may end up with your dam going into labor after hours and end up at the Emergency Clinic. Because they may drop early in the case of luteal insufficiency or a pregnancy gone wrong. Because, in the case of a small litter, they won’t drop till the placentas have deteriorated and the pup has succumbed to placental failure.

Progesterone tests don’t cost that much – not as much as the time it takes you to run back and forth to the vet every day. And not as much as the loss of a pup or dam will. And not as much as it will cost you in heartbreak for losing pups we could have saved with timing on the front end of the pregnancy.

Work with us or your local vet to arrange a way to have a tech at their clinic draw the blood and store it for use at the end of the pregnancy if we need it.

We are pretty good at canine reproduction at Veterinary Village and International Canine Semen Bank – WI/IL but so far, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict when your dam ovulated 2 months ago. Breeding dates are NOT the same as ovulation dates.

Please contact us for information on how we can help your vet or even help you collect and store serum for this important and life-saving testing.