Wouldn’t it be great if you could know that your female dog is bred right from the moment of conception? Well, yes, that would be spectacular. Unfortunately, science isn’t there yet. But, we do have methods of confirming pregnancy, which can help you prepare for puppies, and keep your dog healthy.
The earliest method of detecting pregnancy in the female dog is via ultrasound. Ultrasound is easy, quick, and painless. The dog simply needs to lie down, and a probe is placed on her abdomen. The ultrasound probe emits sound waves that bounce through her body, and tells the veterinarian what the structures inside look like. The doctor is looking for characteristic amniotic sacs and fetuses within the uterus. We have seen pregnancy as early as 17 days after breeding! But, the recommended time to look is 23-25 days after breeding. If the initial screening test is negative, we then recommend a follow up ultrasound in 7 days to confirm a negative result.
There is a second advantage to early pregnancy screening via ultrasound — it allows us to give a very approximate count of puppies, and to assess their health at the time of the scan. This can be very important in case there is a problem with the puppies in the end of gestation. If the bitch doesn’t have any live puppies, it will be hard to know if she was never pregnant, or if she lost the entire litter. But, if you have confirmed pregnancy with ultrasound, and she doesn’t have any puppies, then you know that there was a major medical problem with the pregnancy that resulted in the loss of the litter. Such causes might be infections, or low progesterone hormone. Knowing what caused the problem can help to better manage future pregnancies. It is possible to monitor progesterone levels, and supplement via injection if necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
The second commonly used method of pregnancy diagnosis is usually reserved toward the end of the gestation period, and is helpful in determining the number and size of the puppies – taking an x-ray. The earliest that puppies will show up on an x-ray is about 45 days after breeding. We recommend waiting until about day 55-57, in order to ensure that the puppies are fully calcified. This will also give a more accurate estimation of size at the end of gestation.
As always, our goal is to support you in your breeding endeavors. We are here to help you in any way that we can. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an ultrasound or radiograph for your dog, please call our office. (616) 575-6520