Breeding, Reproductive Health Advice, Vet Minute

Progesterone Testing in Dogs

When a new dog has entered her heat cycle, when is the best time to breed her? When should progesterone levels be checked in dogs? Dr. Marty Greer, Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services and a leading veterinary expert in canine reproduction talks about progesterone testing in dogs and answers the question of when should a dog get progesterone tested.

Vet Minute: Progesterone Testing in Dogs

Why Not Breed on First Heat?

A dog’s first heat cycle is generally considered to be too young to breed for a couple of reasons. First, we often need to do health screenings that can’t take place before the dogs are two or older. Second, the first heat cycle is often not a fertile cycle. It’s sort of a pretend cycle. She’s just going to kind of test drive her ovaries and see how it goes. But a lot of times, if you try to breed on that cycle, she may stand, you may get a mating, but you may not end up with a pregnancy. So you may want to skip that first heat.

How Do I Know When My Dog is Ready to Mate?

First, we want to brucellosis test to make sure that she doesn’t have any infectious disease that would be either influential to her pregnancy or the male dog’s fertility. And second, we want to make sure she’s been through all of our health screenings. Each breed has its own set of health screenings. If you go to the website of the breed or to the Canine Health Information Center, that information is on their website for what each breed should have screened. It may be hips, elbows, hearts, eyes, or it may be DNA tests. There are a lot of screenings that we’re doing now to make sure that the dogs in our breeding programs are healthy dogs.

When Should I Get My Dog a Progesterone Test

Once a dog comes into heat, we typically recommend progesterone testing on day six or seven of our heat cycle from the time that you see the first bloody vaginal discharge. At that point, you can start the blood testing for progesterone. We recommend repeating the blood tests every several days, maybe every three days, until she gets close to ovulation.

Ovulation on most test equipment is considered to be five nanograms per milliliter. It depends a little bit on the dog ovulation equipment you’re using and if there’s a chart to interpret your results. Some of the machines have interpretation charts that go with them.

Once the standard progesterone result is at five nanograms per deciliter, we breed two days later with natural breeding or fresh semen and three days later with frozen semen. It’s very important when you’re using those resources, not to overuse your male dog, or if using frozen semen or fresh chilled semen, that we have our timing right. Without great timing, we don’t have great fertility.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

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