Use of Ultrasound in Canine Reproductive Services

Ultrasound is an extremely useful tool with numerous applications in veterinary medicine. We often perform ultrasound examinations to further refine what is seen on radiographs. Cases of vomiting or decreased appetite due to foreign objects or tumors, for example, can be assessed. We can examine the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen and adrenal glands for lesions. Cases of trauma or clotting problems can be scanned for abdominal fluid or internal bleeding. The heart can be examined for valve lesions, cardiomyopathy and tumors.

In our Reproductive Services Department, ultrasound is utilized daily. We recommend an ultrasound 25-30 days after breeding for pregnancy diagnosis. At this time, the uterus and ovaries are examined to determine if any problems are present, such as abortion or ovarian cysts. This period is also the bitch’s highest risk of pyometra, a potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus. Ultrasound can detect fluid and inflammation in the uterus before it can be palpated or seen on an X-Ray. Medical or surgical management can therefore be started earlier before the bitch is seriously ill.

Infertility investigations also benefit from an ultrasound examination. The testicles can be ultrasounded if there is a problem detected on physical examination or if semen analysis has decreased in quality. The prostate can be evaluated for cysts, abscesses, tumors, inflammation (prostatitis) and enlargement (benign prostatic hypertrophy). An infertile bitch’s reproductive tract can be evaluated. If her anatomy appears normal, we can search for other causes.

Ultrasound is extremely helpful in dystocia cases and prior to planned Caesarian sections, especially if a specific due date is not known. In cases of dystocia, ultrasound is an efficient way to know if viable pups are still present. Fetal heart rates should be around 200 beats per minute (bpm). A fetal heart rate of less than 180 bpm indicates fetal stress and an emergency C-Section is warranted. Fetal kidney development and intestinal motility are late gestation markers, present after day 61 or 62 on ultrasound examination. Fetal lung maturation, however, happens in the last 48 hours before whelping and can not be evaluated.

Our Reproductive Services Team will work together with breeders to develop the best plan for them and their dogs. Ultrasound provides a useful piece of the puzzle, added to the dog’s history, physical exam findings and blood test results, that can help us develop a successful breeding program.