FIRSTLY PLEASE NOTE - It is very important that you use a vet to draw blood from your bitch for the purpose of progesterone testing. There are numerous fertility clinics around the Country, they offer a range of breeding services, they look professional and breeders believe it is all legal and they are suitably trained. Unfortunately they are not qualified to draw blood from your bitch for the purpose of progesterone testing, even if they get you to sign a disclaimer and tell you they are trained. A registered veterinary nurse is not insured to draw blood from any animal without a vet on the premises neither is a trained human Phlebotomist. So whatever they tell you, and whatever disclaimer they get you to sign, they are not allowed to put a needle into your dog and draw blood unless they have MRCVS after their name.

To reduce stress on your dog, blood should be drawn quickly and efficiently from the cephalic vein. I am also finding that the results given by the machines from these clinics are hit and miss with a very low success rate of dogs becoming pregnant. Idexx use sophisicated testing machines and are currently charging £46 for a progesterone test (April 2021).

Not a week goes by that I don't have clients in who have used one of these clinics who they believe are trained and qualified to draw blood and their dog has been, in their words 'stabbed numerous times'. It is illegal, and if anything should go wrong they will not be trained in how to stop the bleeding.

You can read more about it, or watch the BBC documentary - see HERE

Apart from the illegal aspect, breeders are spending considerable amounts of money for progesterone testing, stud fees and AI, and with unreliable testing, the pregnancy success rate based on my experience is very low.

The most successful time to mate a bitch is two days after she has ovulated, but how do you know when this is? I hear so many people who say they mated day 10 and 12 or 12 and 14, like the stud owner suggested, and the bitch has missed. 

The only easily tested, reliable method of predicting ovulation in the bitch is a progesterone test. Ovulation occurs two days after the LH surge when progesterone levels are between 15 and 20 nmol/l. Most vet practices will take a blood sample, send it to a lab and have the result the next day. A premate test (in house blood test) is a useful indicator of progesterone levels, but it only gives a guide to progesterone levels.

Even experienced breeders can have difficulty judging the best time to mate, some bitches may ovulate as early as day five of the season and some as late as day twenty five. Certain lines of bitches may ovulate early or late after the season starts and knowing this may be helpful to decide when to start testing. In general, we would recommend that you start testing progesterone levels between day five and seven after the start of pro-oestrus (vulval bleeding and swelling), and repeat the test every two or three days depending on the result.

After ovulation it takes approximately 48 hours for eggs to mature before they can be fertilised, and it takes around 12 hours after ejaculation for fresh sperm cells to be able to fertilise an egg. Luckily canine sperm cells can live for up to five days once deposited inside the reproductive tract of the bitch, so although the best time to mate is two days after ovulation, matings just before ovulation can still produce puppies. If possible, two matings (24 – 48 hours apart) are recommended.

Progesterone testing is especially important if your bitch has failed to produce a litter previously and is vital when using chilled or frozen semen.

If you prefer Vaginal Cytology as opposed to a blood test, this is a skill that you can't learn overnight on a days training course. A friend of mine in Kent has been doing cytology testing for years, and if you would like a test kit which you can return to her by post, please give her a ring. Val Brown ch. M. I. A. C. E. DBC. - Mertrisa Collies Telephone: 01444 453232



Blood Sampling Order 1983

Chilled semen will only survive for 24 hours after warming, and frozen semen even less time at approximately 12 hours. So timing is vital in these cases, and to improve chances of success the sperm are usually helped on their way by placing them directly into the uterus rather than the vagina.

There are a few reputable ultrasound scanners who are able to confirm ovulation using swabs, a method called cytology, but there are also a lot of so called 'do it all 'fertility clinics offering all aspects of fertility, including cytology, and due to the lack of training they are giving false results. Do your homework and get recommendations from breeders/friends.

It is worth noting that Progesterone levels continue to increase for two to three weeks after ovulation, reaching 10 to 80 ng/ml. This level remains for about 60 days regardless of whether the dog is bred or not. Progesterone levels drop to 2 ng/ml about 48 hours before whelping, dropping to 1 ng/ml about 24 hours before whelping.

If you have any queries about progesterone testing, I am happy to help you, I also have some Idexx blood test kits here if you need one.


Useful for vets before performing a C section to check hormone levels have dropped and puppies are ready to be born.







Cats are slightly different to dogs and the queen can be bred at any time when in heat. Cats are induced ovulators, which means that the act of breeding stimulates the release of eggs from the ovaries. Most females require three to four matings within a 24-hour period for ovulation to occur. It only takes a minute or two for cats to mate, and cats may mate multiple times in a short period of time. Queens may mate with several different tomcats during this time, so it is possible that a litter of kittens may have several different fathers. Once ovulation has occurred, the queen will go out of heat within a day or two.

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