Ovulation in Dogs, Estrus and the Fertile Period in the Bitch

Timing mating to coincide with ovulation in dogs is a challenge faced by all dog breeders.  The single biggest cause of failure for a bitch to fall pregnant after mating is wrong mating time.  Getting good at picking the estrus, ovulation and the fertile period in the bitch is essential if you want to achieve the litters you desire.  Here we look at what’s available to help pinpoint ovulation in dogs.

DIY Canine Vaginal Cytology
You can DIY Vaginal Cytology at Home

The old “rule of thumb” for breeders is to mate on days 10 and 12 (or 9 and 11, depending on who you talk to) after the bitch commences bleeding from her vulva.  Unfortunately around a third of all bitches apparently don’t know about this “rule” with about 10% ovulating before day 10 (even day 5 or 6) and the rest ovulating after day 12 (even day 21 or 22).

So what are your options?

Detecting Ovulation in Dogs, and the Fertile Period in the Bitch

Yes, you can take your girl several times to your veterinarian for blood tests (usually of progesterone) that will help you pinpoint the best day for mating – but this is expensive and time consuming.  Serum hormone assays are essential if you are relying on a single use of imported frozen semen – totally justified in fact, but otherwise…?

You can also buy so-called “Ovulation Pads” but be warned – these have no scientific basis whatsoever, being cheap glucose test strips designed for use with human urine and repackaged with a hefty price jump.  I have checked the scientific findings on these – and they do not make any difference.  If your bitch gets pregnant after you have used them, its nothing to do with the pads; she would have anyway.

There are also other gizmos out there.  A probe that senses electrical conductivity for example.  Have you used these?  If you have, please comment below.

Another option is using a good vaginal scope with imaging function to check the color and degree of wrinkling in the vagina – this is supposed to be a great indicator to time mating by.  I have tried to find a great vaginal scope for this method but so far haven’t found one that is easy to use.  That leaves vaginal cytology.

If you want to take charge of your breeding process, an easy skill to learn and get equipped for is canine vaginal cytology.

What is vaginal cytology in the dog involve?  You basically take a smear from inside the vagina, put it on a glass microscope slide, dunk it in some fixatives and stains, and let it dry for a little while.  Once dry you can have a look at the cells with a microscope.  During the fertile estrus period, the vaginal cells take on sharp angles like in the photo above.  Otherwise they are smooth and round with a bigger dark central spot.   It doesn’t pinpoint ovulation, but will tell you whether she is in estrus or not.  So you can use it to determine if its worth taking her for a mating, or whether she’s ready to leave the stud and go back to her owners.  This is not a small thing.  Most pregnancies are missed because the bitch was mated too early and sent home too soon.

Yes, you can get your vet to do it for you, but its not hard to do it yourself if you like learning new things.  If that’s you, due to popular demand the Dr Meg DIY Canine Fertility Kit is now available. It includes a full instruction manual, microscope, slides, staining media and example slides to show you what yours should look like at different stages.

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