We do not keep males in our kennel. Therefore we must take the female to the male, perform an AI, usually at the vet’s office, or do a chilled or frozen semen shipment with an AI at a vet’s office. For each of these options, timing is the crucial variable if the male is fertile.
Our personal experience is that once you’re confident of the timing, an AI is more effective than a long drive and a hope for a natural tie. If the male is at your kennel, or at a Vet’s office, a tie may be attempted there, with an AI as an alternative.
Quantitative progesterone testing (to one decimal place) is the best method for calculating
Optimal breeding dates. If you can arrange a leutonizing hormone (LH) test, this would be
at least equivalent, but less available and more difficult to perform. Home color-change test kits are useful but not accurate enough to anticipate the timing of the LH surge, the
key factor in this whole process. You should know where you were, where you’re going, and the rate you’re going there. Vaginal smear sampling and interpretation is not reliable
enough for our purposes.
Most quantitative progesterone testing is sent out to labs with the results available the next day. If a suitable lab is available locally, results could be obtained sooner. A few repro vets are equipped to do the test in-house. The bottom line is that the sooner you have the results, the better.
To get started, you need to learn a few facts and look at a Progesterone/LH graph like this one:
I’ve used the term “facts” loosely, but I’m trying to provide some common rules of
thumb that will be useful. I suggest “Googling” anything you might question.
•The LH peak occurs when the progesterone level is 2.0. •Ovulation occurs two days after the LH peak. •The egg takes 1-2 days to ripen. •The bitch is fertile for 3 days. •We breed on the fourth and sixth day after the LH surge. •If you keep testing after you know when the LH surge occurs, you should breed when the progesterone level passes 5.0 and then two days later. This removes the uncertainty in the 1-2 day ripening time. •The egg can be viable for 5 days. •The sperm is viable for 5-7 days, 2-4 days if chilled. •Expect the testing cost to be $60-$100 a test.
The long viability of the egg provides a cushion against being late, while the longevity of the sperm provides a cushion against being early with breeding times.
Always remember that there are many uncertainties that may not be predictable (like individual differences) so you must aim for the bull's-eye in your calculations using all
the facts you DO know.
Let’s do a hypothetical but realistic walk through:
You discover, by her spotting, that your bitch is in season. Since you don’t know exactly
when she started, you take her to your vet the following day for a blood sample to be taken and sent to a lab. The vet calls the lab the next morning and the results are that her
progesterone level was 1.1 the previous day, when the sample was taken. You consult your handy chart and see that 1.1 is usually a day or a day and a half from the LH
surge, which will probably occur today or tomorrow. You still have time to make arrangements with the stud owner for whatever type of breeding you have decided on, since the most likely optimum first breeding date would be four days from now.
Even if you decide on chilled semen, you have more than enough time to
arrange with any stud dog owner on the continent to ship chilled semen overnight express from her vet to your vet on the third day to arrive the fourth day at your vet’s office, for an AI on the correct day. You may want to have a progesterone test done
while you’re there for the AI so that you will have a greater degree of confidence in the timing. You will then know what the progesterone level was on the first day of breeding! Hopefully, it was about 5.0. The stud owner should ship again on day five so you can do another AI on the sixth day.
In review, the bitch ovulates two days after the LH surge (which occurs when the progesterone level is 2.0). Then it takes a day or two (I use two) for the egg to ripen.
So, four days from the LH surge she should be ready. Remember, if you’re a day late
for some reason, you’re still breeding during her period of peak fertility
It is more common to have the first test results be fairly low like 0.7 or something. Recently, I had a first test level of 7.5! In this case, I had to act fast and did a surgical implantation three days later that resulted in pregnancy!
As you can see, knowing exactly what is going on and when is very important and
we have been successful with chilled semen AI’s at least 90% of the time
We are becoming more convinced that for Swissies, the chilled semen is the way to go.
Two vets get to check sperm viability and the timing can be managed well. The
ability to use almost any stud dog is priceless in improving the breed.
So if you don’t already have a good Progesterone/LH chart, download the one
above and start planning your next breeding.