One aspect of veterinary medicine that I enjoy and find very fascinating is reproduction…specifically canine reproduction. Our bird dogs have become very important family members and not just hunting partners 3 or 4 months out of the year. Peoples’ lives are also very busy these days, and the price of gas makes travelling or flying across the country near impossible!
The advancement of modern veterinary medicine has made it possible for breeders to select a stud dog to breed to any where in the country. Chilled or frozen semen can be shipped to you when your bird dog is ready to be bred.
Timing of her ovulation is the very most important aspect of an artificial insemination breeding. The chart above is enough to make a person crazy…but it really is easy to understand!
Measuring your dog’s blood progesterone levels will aid in the timing of ovulation to within 12 to 24 hours. Here’s how it works. When your dog starts into the first stage of the heat cycle (aka=proestrus) her progesterone levels are very low (usually less than 1 ng/ml). The magic number we are looking for is between 4 and 10 ng/ml which indicates to us that the bitch has ovulated. This usually occurs about 12 to 14 days into the heat cycle on the average bitch. A progesterone of 5 is usually the number that I am looking for. Some veterinarians will monitor LH levels as well. LH is a pituitary hormone that causes the follicles (with the eggs) to mature so that they can grow and ovulate. The LH surge that you hear people discussing occurs about 2 days before the eggs are ovulated and this is typically when your bitch is in standing heat and their progesterone levels go from less than one to about 2 ng/ml.
Why does all this matter? Good question! When you have semen shipped, you only get one chance for perfection! The very optimal time for breeding a dog is two days after they have ovulated…this is two days after their progesterone levels have hit the magic number of 5! Once she has ovulated, it takes 48 hours for her eggs (ova) to go through the final division and become receptive to the sperm. The other nice thing about timing ovulation is so that you can predict the whelping date…it’s 63 days post ovulation. If I’m planning a C-section, I’ll do it 63 (62 to 64 days) days after the progesterone levels hit greater than 5 ng/ml.
There are several ways to artificially inseminate your bitch…they all have their +/-‘s! Surgical AI has been very popular among the sight hound breeders…this procedure requires general anesthesia and has the risks associated with it. A newer technique that I think is wonderful is called transcervical insemination (TCI).
TCI uses a rigid endoscope with fiber optics and requires no sedation. Most bitches seem to tolerate it! The semen is introduced into the uterus (via the vagina) through the cervix with the aid of fiber optics and a sterile plastic catheter. Conception rates are pretty decent too!