Pet Reproductive Medicine

Our veterinary team in Charles City and Waverly, IA, offers guidance in pet reproductive medicine, addressing various aspects of reproductive health. Whether you are planning breeding or encountering reproductive concerns, our experienced team is here to assist.

two puppies sleeping on blanket

Comprehensive Reproductive and Breeding Services

We provide various types of assistance with reproduction and breeding, from semen collection to vaginal cytology, so you know when it’s the best time for breeding. We also offer artificial insemination (AI) and assistance with natural breeding.

We can check for pregnancy with ultrasound and determine the number of puppies fairly accurately on late-term radiographs (safe for mom and the pups!), so you know exactly what to expect. We are, of course, ready to help if you have questions about any part of whelping, and we will be close by in case of emergency. We are here to help you succeed.

At Avenue of the Saints Animal Hospital, we strive to have a close veterinarian-client-patient relationship, which is required for all reproductive services. We can not provide adequate last-minute reproductive services unless we have established a relationship with you and your pet.

Canine Reproduction Frequently Asked Questions

How old should my bitch be in order to safely breed?

In general, we do not recommend breeding a female until their second heat cycle and after 18-24 months of age. The average bitch cycles about twice yearly, about every 6 months.

What health tests are recommended for my breed?

You can visit the following link and find your breed for OFA-recommended testing – note some testing cannot be done until the age of 2 years:

We can perform a majority of the health testing at our clinic. We can not OFA certify eyes.

What tests help me know when my bitch has ovulated?

Measurement of progesterone in the blood is the preferred technique for timing ovulation for optimal breeding timing. We like to see the bitch between 5-7 days after they have started to bleed and recommend contacting us to make the appointment when you first notice blood. We perform progesterone testing in-house. It requires a blood draw; generally, the results are back in 1-2 hours. Typically, progesterones are performed every 2-3 days. Most females require anywhere from 2-5 progesterone to accurately understand when to breed.

How should I breed my bitch?

There are four different types of breeding: Natural breeding, Vaginal insemination (AI), transcervical insemination (TCI), and surgical insemination.

  • Natural Breeding: Natural breeding occurs when a male and female tie. Inexperienced male dogs may simply require someone to hold the bitch still so she doesn’t move around to startle or distract the male. An inexperienced male may benefit from initial breeding to an experienced bitch. If no physical or psychological solution can be found to permit natural breeding to occur, artificial insemination (AI) can be performed.
  • Vaginal insemination: In vaginal insemination, the semen is deposited in the mid-vagina with a pipette, and the bitch’s hindquarters are elevated to allow pooling of the semen around the external cervical os, or intrauterine. Vaginal insemination is appropriate for fresh or chilled semen.
  • Transcervical insemination (TCI): A camera attached to a scope is used to visualize the cervix. A small catheter is then fed through the opening of the cervix, and the semen is deposited directly into the uterus. This is starting to replace surgical AIs because it does not typically require the bitch to be sedated or require an abdominal incision.
  • Surgical Insemination requires general anesthesia and an abdominal incision.

Please note: We do not currently perform TCIs at our clinic. A TCI or surgical insemination is required with the use of frozen semen, which has a short lifespan and altered motility after thawing and is less likely to get through the cervix and to the uterine tube to fertilize eggs if deposited in the vagina.

Do you provide the semen if I want to breed my bitch?

We do not provide semen for your bitch. You will need to find a reputable breeder, contact them, and have everything arranged prior to breeding.

Should I use frozen, fresh, or chilled semen?

Fresh, chilled, or frozen semen can be used for artificial insemination.

  • Fresh semen is used exactly as it is collected. The highest success rates for breeding are typically seen with fresh semen.
  • Chilled semen is centrifuged, and the pellet is resuspended in an extender, a medium containing nutrients, buffers, and antibiotics. The semen is chilled to refrigerator temperature and shipped for insemination within 24-48 hours of collection.
  • Frozen semen is prepared by centrifuging the semen, resuspending the pellet in an extender and a cryoprotectant, and freezing it in liquid nitrogen in either pellets or straws. The semen is good indefinitely as long as it remains in liquid nitrogen; once thawed, it is only viable for a matter of hours.

Please note: We do not have the ability to collect or store frozen semen at this time. But we can inseminate the semen if shipped to our clinic.

When is my bitch’s due date?

The due date is calculated as 63 days from ovulation. If ovulation is not known, the due date is 63 days from the last breeding.

A pregnancy ultrasound is generally recommended 28 days after ovulation or the last breeding. This procedure confirms pregnancy but will not give you an exact or accurate count of the number of puppies.

Pregnancy x-ray is recommended 56+ days after ovulation or last breeding. This procedure is performed to get you an accurate puppy count. Although over 6-8 puppies, the number may not be 100% accurate.