At La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, our reproductive team understands the commitment involved in helping facilitate a dog pregnancy for your beloved canine companion. We have very specific standards for assisted canine reproduction and only work with breeders exhibiting quality breeding practices. Our services include:
- Dog breeding soundness exams
- Semen collection and evaluation
- Shipping fresh chilled semen
- Vaginal artificial insemination of fresh or chilled semen
- Surgical artificial insemination of fresh, chilled, and frozen semen
- Progesterone testing for ovulation timing
- Cesarean Sections
- Semen freezing
- Infertility evaluation
- Ultrasonography for pregnancy diagnosis or evaluation of the reproductive organs (in cases of infertility)
- High-risk pregnancies
Our services also include management of:
- Prostate diseases
- Uterine, vaginal and mammary diseases
- Treatment for pyometra
- Testicular (epididymal) harvest of sperm
Initiating a Dog Pregnancy
In this modern era, technological and scientific advances in reproductive medicine have resulted in the ability for a dog pregnancy to occur through the use of artificial insemination, as well as other assisted methods. Typically, professional dog breeders utilize these methods of breeding. However, our services are available to any dog owner who wants to keep their dog's bloodline going and has been unable to do so naturally.
Dog fertility issues can arise for a number of reasons and can affect dogs of all ages, but tend to be more common among older dogs. For example, uterine cysts, which can cause infertility in female dogs, are more common among dogs 6 years of age and older. Preexisting medical conditions including uterine infections can also lead to dog fertility issues, specifically regarding implantation.
One of the most common causes of dog fertility issues is breeding or insemination at the improper time in the female's estrous cycle or, in layman's terms, when the female dog is not fully in heat. Unlike other dog fertility issues, monitoring a female dog's heat cycle and allowing for mating only during her most fertile period can overcome this situation.
Certain dog breeds are predisposed to thyroid insufficiency and therefore have a higher prevalence of dog fertility issues. Breeds that are at particular risk of hypothyroidism include:
- Doberman Pinschers
- Golden Retrievers
- Great Danes
- Irish Setters
- Miniature Schnauzers
Other conditions that may play a role in dog breeding include:
- Male infertility factors like low semen count
- Subclinical uterine infections
- Brucella Canis
- Canine Herpesvirus
- Toxoplasmosis infection
- Abnormal ovarian function
- Chromosomal abnormality
- A systemic viral or protozoal infection
- Lack of sufficient copulatory stimulus in order to induce ovulation
International Canine Semen Bank (ICSB)
The International Canine Semen Bank follows the method of canine semen preservation and freezing originally developed by Prof. Carrol Platz of the International Canine Semen Bank of Oregon. Through 30 years of research, Prof. Platz has successfully developed the most technologically sound techniques for the collection, evaluation, and freezing of canine semen. Over the past several decades, the ICSB has grown to include veterinary reproductive professionals in many states nationwide, and many nations beyond the borders of the United States.
Canine Semen Collection
Canine semen collection is performed for the purpose of canine breeding soundness exams, as well as for artificial insemination. Canine semen collected for insemination can be used fresh, or it can be cooled and shipped to another location. Canine semen that has been collected can also be frozen, allowing long-term storage. Another reason for canine semen collection is to obtain prostatic fluid for culture or cytology to diagnose suspected prostatic disease. If you have further questions about canine semen collection, our veterinarians can answer your questions at your next appointment.
Artificial Insemination for Dogs
Artificial insemination for dogs begins with analyzing the collected sperm cells to ensure that they are sufficiently concentrated, adequately motile and that they appear anatomically normal. This is done because many 'sterile' males still produce sperm cells, but their quality or quantity is very low. Infertile males may have abnormal sperm cells, which are unable to travel all the way to the oviducts of the female, or cannot penetrate the ovum for fertilization to occur. This is not an exact science, as DNA issues could lead to infertility, but it still helps stave off unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination for dogs.
If the sperm cells appear to be adequate and normal, the female dog may be immediately inseminated using a long plastic tube to facilitate dog breeding. Attempts are made to at least reach the level of her cervix, which in large dogs may be several inches inside the animal. If dog breeding is not taking place immediately, the semen may either be chilled or frozen. Chilled semen should be used within 24 hours, and frozen semen can be stored for years after it is initially frozen. It is not unusual for owners to freeze semen from a prized dog to facilitate artificial insemination for dog breeding years after a male dog has passed away.
Dog Pregnancy Care
A dog pregnancy is one of the most amazing yet vulnerable times for a female dog as well as her unborn puppies. Therefore, it is essential to provide proper care during the prenatal period. First and foremost, before allowing a dog pregnancy, make sure you have properly protected your female dog and her potential litter by following these steps:
- Most veterinarians advise against vaccinating pregnant dogs, so dogs should be vaccinated well before pregnancy occurs.
- Get your dog dewormed. Intestinal parasites (such as roundworms and hookworms) can pass from a mother to her puppies. Your dog's veterinarian will prescribe an appropriate medication that will protect both your dog and her puppies from these parasites.
- Have a heartworm test performed, and start an appropriate heartworm prevention protocol if recommended by your vet.
If you think your dog may be pregnant, then it's time to make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can help you verify the pregnancy, determine the due date, discuss any medication changes, and even estimate the number of expected puppies. Your veterinarian can also help you determine if your dog is having a false pregnancy, a condition in which she looks and acts pregnant when she's not.
- Ultrasound machines can visualize puppy fetuses approximately 4 weeks into the pregnancy. Your veterinarian may be able to feel the puppies inside your dog's belly 20-30 days into the pregnancy. Unborn puppies can be seen on x-rays 7-8 weeks into the pregnancy.
- Your veterinarian will count the fetal skeletons on an x-ray to determine the number of expected puppies. This way, you will know if all the puppies have been delivered successfully when your dog gives birth. If you are expecting six puppies but only four are born, you will know to take your dog in for emergency medical care.
Your veterinarian may also give you a list of recommendations to adhere to during your dog's pregnancy. Items on this list could include:
- Feeding schedule
- Best nutritional choices
- Recommended medications
- Prohibited medications
- Exercise recommendations
- Whelping box/puppy dens
- Checkup/examination schedule for the duration of the dog pregnancy
Delivering Newborn Puppies
When it is time for your dog to deliver, you may notice some signs that your dog is going into labor. These may include:
- She becomes restless
- She stops eating up to 24 hours before labor
- She may paw at her bedding as if preparing a nest
- She starts licking her vulva
- She may vomit or discharge mucus
For the most part, your dog will instinctively know what to do and thus do most of the work. It is recommended that you provide a warm, comfortable and quiet space and have the following supplies on hand:
- Whelping box
- A laundry basket lined with a heating pad and a blanket
- A stack of clean towels
- Emergency supplies, such as sterile scissors, rubber gloves, and supplies to tie off the umbilical cord if necessary
The health and wellness of the mother and her puppies are of paramount importance throughout the entire pregnancy. An expecting human mother would be ill-advised to go about her pregnancy without the insight, assistance, and expertise of a medical professional, and neither should your female dog.
Your dog deserves every chance to have a healthy, happy litter of puppies. At La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, we help in facilitating healthy dog pregnancies for mothers and puppies alike. We feel like pets are truly part of the family and would be honored to guide your family through this exciting time.