Watch our Good Breeder Webinar we recorded with Dr. Hutchison to learn all about the current science behind canine reproduction.
by Dr. Judi Stella, PhD - Head of Standards & Research at Good Dog
Good Dog and our Good Breeder community were so fortunate to have Dr. Hutchison, one of the most respected specialists in the world of canine reproduction and an expert advisor for Good Dog, join us for a Q&A about some common reproductive concerns most relevant for our breeders.
Several topics were touched upon during the discussion including optimal breeding ages for bitches and stud dogs, the latest updates on commonly used pharmaceuticals to manage the heat cycle of the bitch, when to use fresh and frozen semen, and recommendations around different insemination techniques - vaginal, transcervical, and surgical.
Dr. Hutchison led an informative and in-depth discussion of the uniqueness of the bitch’s cycle, the inflammatory effects of progesterone, and how her biology can and should be incorporated into decisions pertaining to the interval of breedings. One highlight from the webinar you won’t want to miss - skipping heat cycles may not have the effect on female dogs that you think it does!
Scroll down to watch the full webinar or read the full transcription!
Dr. Hutchison's Brief Bio:
Dr. Hutchison is a Reproduction and Genetics consultant for the Veterinary Information Network, and is co-director of the Animal Clinic Northview, Inc., in North Ridgeville, Ohio.
He is also the president of the International Canine Semen Bank of Ohio, and advisor for College of Veterinary Medicine students interested in small animal theriogenology from OSU, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Tufts, and Michigan State.
Dr. Hutchison is the author of many articles on canine reproduction in leading breed journals and magazines.
Good Dog Team Panelists:
Good Dog is on a mission to build a better world for our dogs by educating the public and advocating for dog breeders. We are a young, tech-savvy company with an online community that educates the public, supports breeders, helps people connect directly with responsible breeders who have passed our screening and comply with our standards, and promotes responsible dog ownership.
Our goal is to use technology as a force for good and empower the good forces in the dog world with technology – to be a voice and platform for dog breeders, to counter the extremist propaganda, and change the conversation so the public realizes how critical it is to support and recognize breeders. We’re free for breeders (breeders also can’t pay to be listed) and provide support (legal, tech, breeding), and discounts on health testing.
Cat Matloub [00:00:00] All right. OK. Well, let's kick things off. So thank you.
First of all, thank you so, so much, everybody, for taking the time to join us. I know that at least for myself, I feel like I'm even busier than ever, even though I'm in quarantine. So thank you so much for taking the time. And obviously, just an enormous, enormous thank you to Dr. Hutchison for taking the time to speak with us today. I mean, talk about an absolute legend in the dog world. It's just you know, I know personally, as soon as I got involved in the dog world in twenty eighteen, the first person that everybody started talking to me about was you. And it's just extraordinary.
As we were talking about extraordinary, the impact that you have had on the dog world, I think, you know, it's honestly impossible to fully comprehend. And just thinking about in terms of all of the dogs that you've seen, all of the dogs that you helped to come into this world and then all of their progeny and all of the work that you do in terms of helping breeders be on the forefront in breeding practices and, you know, helping their bitches get pregnant. I mean, it's just, it's truly, truly astounding and I think absolutely unparalleled. You know, it's really an honor and a privilege and a pleasure to have you here today. And we're so excited to speak with you. And as is everyone else who, you know, is just so eager as well.
So before turning it over and doing an introduction with Judi and Dr. Hutch and then letting them take it away I want to say something for those folks of you who are our good breeders. Thank you so much for joining us. We love you. We love your support. For those of you who may not know about Good Dog or might not be a part of our community yet, basically we're a new, young, tech savvy company. And we're on a mission to build a better world for our dogs and the people who love them through educating the public and advocating for dog breeders. We are an online community where we help educate the public and help them connect directly with breeders for faster screening and where we promote and support dog owners in a number of different ways. We focus on science and evidence-based research. Our goal from the outset has been to work with the best experts out there and really work towards best practices. And obviously there's no better example of a best expert than Dr. Hutchison. We've been working, actually working with, one of his veterinarians from his practice since we founded as well. A big part, obviously, of our focus is canine health. And, you know, I think there's just there's so much opportunity, you know, to use technology in today's world as well as science and advances in research to really use those tools and improve canine health in a profound way, in a way such as, you know, Dr. Hutchison has been doing. And so we're committed to that. And we're committed to being advocates of dog breeders. I think for us, you know, we looked at the data and we saw that - we looked at the data and the facts and we saw that dog overpopulation is a myth, in the future looking ahead. You know, if we don't have dog breeders and if we don't have more dog breeders, then we're going to run out of dogs.
We also saw how much you all invest in your programs, how much money and time and effort. And being here today to learn how to do what you do to the best of your ability, it's just absolutely extraordinary. And you are the folks that we need to support if we want to have a good future for our dogs. So, we're committed to supporting you with all sorts of things. Free legal support, access to experts, breed specific webinars, tools, breeding practice tools, discounts on health testing. One actually exciting thing that we're announcing today is for the month of May, because we know a lot of you may be stuck at home and also maybe even be feeling some economic impact of what's going on and not necessarily able to get, you know, OFA testing done - we will be offering an additional $10 off discount for all genetic testing for breeders in our community. And that's in addition to the discounts that our breeders get through our partnerships with Embark, Paw Print and all that good stuff. So that's a bit about who we are. And, you know, really our goal is to kind of be bringing together a united community that is strong enough to fight for dog breeders and fight for healthy dogs.
And so if you haven't checked us out before, we encourage you to do so. Thank you again for taking the time. And now I will turn it over to our head of screening and standards, Dr. Judi Stella. She comes from a background with a PhD in comparative veterinary sciences as an animal welfare expert and has written many publications as well, spent some time as a science fellow at the USDA and she leads our screening and standards team. And Dr. Hutchison, obviously, Dr. Hutch needs absolutely no introduction whatsoever. The world-renowned expert himself in canine reproduction and frozen semen and so many other things. He is the founder and the co-director of the Animal Clinic Northview, and he is also the president of the International Canine Semen Bank of Ohio, advisor for the College of Veterinary Medicine students from OSU, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Tufts, Michigan. I absolutely cannot list all of his publications. There are far too many around the world. So thank you so much. And I'll turn it away to Judi and Dr. Hutch.
Dr Hutchison [00:06:01] Thank you.
Dr Judi Stella [00:06:03] OK. So welcome, Dr. Hutchison. Thank you so much for doing this webinar. I think the thing that we want to start out with is if you could just talk a little bit about the bitch’s heat cycle and what makes it so unique among animals. And what are the current recommendations for spacing of breedings - is back to back best or skipping heat cycles? And if you could just talk a bit about that.
Dr Hutchison [00:06:30] Great. I appreciate you having me, and I can't think of a better thing on a Thursday than to be talking about canine reproduction. And I think one of the things over the years it has become so intriguing and probably of all my seminars, this thing that people have been most controversial over is about how often should a bitch be bred? Should you breed back to back? And the answer to that is, it's not my opinion or anything, it is the way the bitches heat cycle is made. And let's compare her and all the other domestic species out there. A cow, for example, a cow comes in season is not bred. So if the uterus doesn't [receive] communication from a fertilized egg by day 16, everything drops and the heat cycle starts all over again. Now let's go to the bitch. What's your greatest fear when you have a bitch to breed? Your greatest fear is you're going to miss it because she's not going to be in for another six months. And what makes that difference is the cow, the horse all have what is called a metestrus if they're not pregnant. Things start over for the bull, the farmer or whatever gets another chance. The bitch’s biology is such that her body is geared up to have two litters a year. It doesn't biologically occur to the bitch that she might not be pregnant. And when a bitch ovulates, she doesn't have the metestrus we talked about. It doesn't matter if she's pregnant. The bitch has a diestrus and the diestrus means that when she ovulates the progesterone lasts as long if she's not pregnant, as if she is pregnant. So it's not so much: are we skipping a cycle? The bitch’s body doesn't skip the cycle.
And if we look at the inflammatory effects of progesterone from it lasting as long in a non-pregnant bitch, as it does a pregnant bitch. And if we looked at that uterus after every heat cycle, you'd find a uterus is not as healthy because progesterone causes extreme inflammation of the uterine lining. So if you biopsy the uterus after every heat cycle, you would find that the uterus was not as healthy, as I said, as it was before the heat cycle. You go from a normal uterus to an endometritis. Eventually you get to the point where it's called cystic endometrial hyperplasia. The uterus is filled with bubbles. As I have a uterus in my hand with cystic endometrial hyperplasia and you run your fingers over it, it feels like a bubble wrap popping and then cystic endometrial hyperplasia is the fore runner to such things as mucometra and eventually pyometritis. Pyometritis is not caused by bacteria, it's caused by progesterone. So as we look at it, the uterus is being damaged by the bitch’s own heat cycle. It's not how many litters she has.
So one of the questions that many of you asked, was my opinion on using frozen semen on maiden bitches. Can we use TCIs on maiden bitches? The term maiden bitch in the bitch really means nothing other than she hasn't had a litter. So a maiden bitch that is six years of age has had 10 heat cycles. And a bitch who is 6, who has had 10 litters, the uterus is the same at that point. It really is not damaged by pregnancy, its damaged by progesterone. So ideally, especially now for those of us in the United States that we don't have access to a mibolerone anymore. But mibolerone was the drug that was marketed initially in the 70s as Cheque Drops and it gave me the option of saying to you OK, if we want to campaign our bitch, if we want to field trial our bitch, we don't want to breed her right now, we had a safe method of keeping her from coming in season. We were preserving the uterus. Unfortunately, mibolerone has been removed from the United States as it has been in most of the world. It's a male hormone and it was abused by athletes and weightlifters, et cetera. So, we suffered for it. But it was at the time the only thing we had of protecting that uterine lining. So, it seems almost now we're going to have to suggest such things as breeding a bitch young, maybe breeding her a couple times in a row because as we said, the uterus wears out based on progesterone exposure. And I know one of you mentioned that your country has legislated that the bitch can't be bred back to back. And I know a number of breed clubs have their code of ethics, but you cannot legislate biology.
So my point has always been if you have a two year old bitch you bred, OK, we are going to wait, skip the next one until she's three realizing there's some damage but is minimal. If we have a bitch who's five that's been one of the outstanding members of your breed and you suddenly bred her at five and now you have to skip the next cycle. Well, I'm going to tell you a statistic, and this has been proven in years and years and years repeatedly, is that six years of age in a bitch is magic - at six years of age, her conception rate starts to drop a third, her litter sizes tend to drop. So, youth is the friend of reproduction. So, if we're starting to skip cycles on a bitch five and six years of age the chances are, we may not even be getting another litter out of that bitch. So, when someone says to me, I have a maiden bitch, would you use frozen semen on her? The main thing I have to eliminate, I say to you. How old is your bitch? Because for success in frozen semen, let's face it, in all species, youth is a friend of reproduction. So, if I'm going to use frozen semen and you have a bitch who's passed all her health clearances and is 2 years of age: this is where we're going to be successful. If you say I have a maiden bitch, she's never been bred, she's seven and a half years of age. Her uterus is not seven and a half years of age chronologically, doesn't matter how good a shape she is in. It's how much progesterone she'd been exposed to in her lifetime. So the answer to the question is absolutely I use frozen semen in a maiden bitch that's two years of age, three years of age, year and a half, depending on what breed it is, depending on the health clearances. Using frozen semen on a maiden bitch at seven, it's not going to be where we're going to have high percentage of success.
The same thing comes along as trans cervical inseminations. What is the trans cervical? A lot of my clients originally thought it was just a glorified, more expensive vaginal AI. Well it's totally different. A trans cervical insemination puts the semen in the uterus the exact same place that a surgical AI did. So, when you say to me, would I do a trans cervical insemination with frozen semen on a maiden bitch that's 2 years of age, I wouldn't consider doing anything else. The other advantage on a trans cervical insemination, because it doesn't require an anesthetic, it doesn't require surgery, it doesn't require incision, the trans cervical allows us to use frozen semen, for example, two days in a row. And frozen semen lasts in the body six to 12 hours.
And one of the questions or multiple questions were, well, how do you know, based on progesterone when to breed a bitch? And the answer is how long is the semen going to live? The semen, fresh semen from a male dog, breeding a female, fresh semen from a dog for a vaginal AI is going to last 6, 7, 8 days. There was actually a study where they found live semen eleven days after it had been put in a bitch. Well, in those days, when we're using only natural breeding with fresh semen, it was hard to miss a bitch. Well, then we started using chilled semen, which last probably two to three days in the bitch. And then you start using frozen semen, which lasts six to twelve hours.
Well, another uniqueness in the bitch’s heat cycle is that she ovulates an immature egg. Her egg, when she ovulates, is not ready to be fertilized. It has to go through a whole other myopic division, shed a little moon called the polar body, which then the egg can be fertilized and that takes about 48 hours after ovulation. So everything we're doing with progesterone testing, everything we're doing with luteinizing hormone is, especially with frozen semen, is trying to narrow the odds, that the best that we can, that when the semen is put in, the egg is ready to be fertilized. So by doing it two days in a row, it gives us a greater chance that the semen is going to last six to 12 hours, that it almost expands the amount of time the egg is exposed to the frozen semen almost six times of what just one breeding does. So, the trans cervical it's been a real boom to as far as things we can do. So, I tell people, my clients, how do you think of a trans cervical versus a surgical. Well, in the old days fifteen years ago, if your bitch swallowed a glove, we'd have to give her an anesthetic, we'd incise some skin, incise some muscle, get into the stomach, open the stomach, take the glove out, suture the stomach, suture the muscle, suture the skin. It was a major, major surgery. Well, now, if your bitch swallows a glove, we'll give her an anesthetic, we take a scope, reach into her stomach, pull out the glove, she goes home and eats dinner. This is the same difference between a surgical and the transfer of a trained cervical is the surgical AI. Its just done through an existing opening, which is the cervix. And fifteen years ago, it was thought that this was impossible. So now I tell my staff at the office we do the impossible eight hundred times a year.
So, do we still do surgical AIs? The answer is yes. We don't do anywhere near as many as we used to. We still, I think last year did a couple hundred. But where does the surgical AI still hold a place? It's because of the fact, on a trans cervical, I'm putting the semen in exactly the same place as I do with the surgical, but I'm not evaluating the uterus. And if we mentioned already the bitch damages her own uterus. So if I have a bitch, let's say your first breeding is going to be on a seven year old bitch with frozen semen or a bitch that missed last time, or maybe a bitch that had a history of having one puppy litters. These are areas where I'm curious. The uterus is the weak link in the bitch’s reproductive cycle. So, this is an area I'm curious of what's going on in that uterus. So, then I want the uterus in my hands, that's the advantage of a surgical AI. So, do I use trans cervical for frozen anymore? Probably 90 percent we do. And the success rate is phenomenal. It's exactly the same as a surgical AI except when you get into older bitches, uterine damage where there are things that we could do to maybe break down some of these cysts, so we still do some of these surgical AIs, but nowhere near as many as we used to. And everything's done on television. I mean, it's really, really pretty cool to do things that we didn't think were possible before. And, you know, so that that's what we're doing. As far as on the bitch’s side, then, as you say, her heat cycle is totally unique. As much as people don't want to say it is, as much as breed organizations want to restrict it, as much as governments want to legislate against it, every heat cycle I could cite excuse me, every heat cycle get excited talking about this stuff, every heat cycle you skip, means the uterus is not as healthy afterwards. And that's just facts of biology, not a made-up human fact.
Dr Judi Stella [00:19:44] So based on that. What? At what age do you think you should start breeding and when. You said six years of age is that when fertility starts to decrease, you're going to have less and less litters or less success at that point. But there's this whole idea that we can't breed until they're two years of age. Is that I mean, do you recommend that, again, based on the biology vs. when we can do, you know, certifications? And is there breed differences play any role in that?
Dr Hutchison [00:20:15] Well, I'm I'm old enough that I go back when the OFA, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in the United States, would certify a bitch's hips at 18 months of age 18 months was a great time to breed a bitch. Yeah, as I said earlier, youth, to a point, is a friend of reproduction. It's only the OFA found out, hey, we're passing bitches who ended up dysplastic. They moved their time to 2 years of age. They didn't move bitch biology. So, to answer the question, in my mind, it really comes down to what breed you have. Not so much physiologically. Well, what breed? What breed do you have as far as passing their health clearances? So, if you have a small dog where we check things that are all passed that a year of age, the bitch comes in at 15,16 months. No reason not to breed. If you have a breed that has to have OFA for a hip certification before they can breed now, of course, we have to wait till after 2 years of age. But none of that's really based on biology. And as I tell my clients and I do this somewhat facetiously, is it a bitch in the wild - mother Nature doesn't care about health tests. A bitch comes in in the wild, she's going to be pregnant. So, do I think bitches should be bred at 7 months of age? I probably do not, because there is just maturity factors that need to come to play. But on the other hand, for us to say there's some magic about waiting till 2 years of age to breed a bitch, that this is somehow best, this has to do with OFA, it has really nothing to do with the bitch or physiology. So, to me, if I get my choice, I mean 18 months was a great age to be breeding bitches. They were mature, as they say most of we could tell by their health clearances, tell them if they change your time. We had success. The uterus was healthy, whelping times were shorter. It's a lot of it were things that we chose as humans, we chose it suddenly.
When I first started an issue, either if you were showing dogs, you showed for in show ring or you showed obedience. Well, that was very easy: the bitch got finished, we bred her. Now we have so many titles around the world that we can get- tracking, agility, water rescue and that. But it still doesn't make a difference. When a bitch gets all of her titles and she's 6 years of age, her chances conceiving are no different than if she'd been bred earlier. So to me, especially with mibolerone in the United States not being available is going to have to change some of our breeding practices because at this point in time, there is not a great, safe, non-damaging method of keeping a bitch out of season. So, most of the products are progesterone based and progesterone is what we all want to avoid. That goes back to the product like Ovaban, Megace, Megestrol. These are all products that will keep a bitch out of season bitch because we're putting progesterone in their bodies. You can induce a cycle using some of the Deslorelin products, but the trouble is that to keep the bitch out, it brings her in to season first. So, you've actually thrown another heat cycle in her body before you can preserve it. So that's not an advantage either. So at this point that is really, really for us working in canine reproduction around the world, is a real dilemma as far as, you know, what what we can do to preserve these uteruses, while you're getting the enjoyment and the fun things, the titles that you can accumulate.
And one of the questions you ask is what's the earliest a bitch? When do you worry? Let me throw a question to you guys. When do you worry, if your bitch hasn't had a first heat cycle and what do you do? And in my mind, up until 2 or so years of age, chronologically, I don't worry at all if a bitch hasn't had her heat cycle. If we get past 2 years of age, there are still some immature bitches that will have the first cycles at two and a half, three years of age. But once you get past two, then I start thinking, well, are we gonna wait, be looking at this bitch in when she's 12 years of age me and you say: I don't think she's going to have her heat cycle. So, in the old days, in so much of what we do today, we did back in the 1980s. And I tell people, I don't know if we like the music, if we'd like the clothes in the 80s, but we sure didn't want to give up the things we did back then, back in the 1980s we were having things like thyroid clinics- we used to think the thyroid was important to reproduction. Now, with evidence-based studies, we find out that thyroid really isn't important in canine reproduction much at all. And we used to do vaginal cultures. And vaginal cultures, you loved them because of the fact you always grew something. The vaginal track, though, is not sterile. Air goes in, air goes out, so you expect to find something. But there was a great study done in Europe where they tested antibiotics, pre-breeding, seeing if it made a difference on litter size, see if it made a difference on conception. And they found in this big study it didn't make a diddly-bops difference- you didn't get one more puppy, didn't get one more litter by pre-breeding antibiotics. So that's those are things we no longer look at. So if we look at a bitch who hasn't come into the season, what do I do if we know it's not thyroid and we used to run those we run a thyroid test, we ran cortisone tests, we ran a progesterone test. But in my own mind, I was thinking, you're an intelligent person, you haven't missed the heat cycle. That's why you're here. And all they came back normal and we just kind of said, well, take her on rides, put her in a run next to a bitch in season and all these things were just delaying the inevitable. Where now my approach is, is I bring a bitch into season and we have this ability and we bring bitches into ovulatory heat cycle safely and they're breedable heat cycles and things.
So again,15 years ago was thought to be impossible. And breeding bitches who bring them in to heat cycle, there's two different methods that I use. One is if you're just short cycling a bitch and many of you were one of the reasons you're tuned in here, you're saying, OK, I understand the progesterone last two months. How come the bitch doesn't come in season every two months? And there's the answer is there's another hormone in the brain called prolactin. And that is actually what keeps the bitch from coming in season until the prolactin drops six months, seven months, eight months later. So, in a bitch just a short cycle of it, there's an anti-prolactin drug we use called cabergoline. It is very safe, you give it once a day and it doesn't really bring a bitch into season, it cuts the inhibitor, cuts the prolactin. And this then allows the bitch to think it's time to come into season. An interesting fact, again, going back to progesterone and I keep pounding on this, but progesterone does such damage to a uterus lining, it takes a full two months after the progesterone drops the baseline for the uterus to heal. So, we have to wait a minimum of probably four and a half months from a previous heat cycle until we bring a bitch into another ovulatory cycle and expect to her be bred.
In bitches that have not been in season, there's a implant we use called deslorelin. But at this point, just like mibolerone, I'm going to be bald when this is all over, in the fact that they're talking about they're not going to be making the deslorelin implants anymore. So, taking away a safe method of prohibiting a season the mibolerone, taking away a safe method of bringing inducing a heat cycle. And what the deslorelin does, it’s a little implant and it basically mimics the hormone in the brain that tells the pituitary to tell the ovary to come into season. So, by putting this implant in the bitches in five to seven days, she ovulates in five to seven days and we get a chance to get her bred.
Some of you question a product that’s used in hogs it’s called PDG, which stands for prostaglandin 600. Your prostaglandin 600 brings hogs in season. There's another prostaglandin that you probably are more aware of called Lutalyse and Lutalyse is prostaglandin F2 alpha, which is used in some countries as far as treating pyometritis in some countries as far as treating mis-mating when the bitch gets bred by a male that we weren't happy with or maybe wasn't healthy. So, when we look at the products like Lutalyse that can be given to a cow, it will bring her into season. You gave it to a bitch, it won’t bring her into season. The prostaglandin 600, which will bring a hog into season. You give it to a bitch, what she may do and you give an injection, you repeat it in seven days is what the standard recommendation is in many bitches will cause them to bleed, but they don't, ovulate. So, having a bitch bleeding on your carpet, that isn't going to ovulate really is doing you no good, be no good at all. So really the PG 600 is not a valuable, reliable tool to cause an ovulatory cycle in the bitch. And that's why I mentioned to you cabergoline to short cycle a bitch. I love those bitches when they come in the fact that it's their own heat cycle, we've just removed the inhibitor. The odds of that working in a bitch are about 70 percent if you look at literature. The odds of the deslorelin implant we use, probably 94 percent. And as far as bringing a bitch into an ovulatory heat cycle.
We've talked about the bitch. What about your male dogs? What about a male dog? And a male dog typically will have live viable sperm by the time he's a year of age. Most dogs 9-10 months. They start putting out testosterone, 6-7 months, it stimulates the testicles. The testicles reach your maximum size by 10 months of age and then we start producing sperm. How how long does a dog produce sperm? It usually is not age, it just stops the testicles from working. Usually what we find is there starts to get other problems in the body, cortisol issues, some dogs get little, micro tumors in their testicles. And I've had other dogs 14 years of age, I was able to successfully freeze their semen and have a litter from it. But peak reproduction probably in a male you would say, is between 2 and 7 years of age. But my recommendation with frozen semen and it is changed dramatically. When I started freezing semen we’re one of the first small animal practices in the world that offered canine frozen semen as a client service. In the first dogs that were brought to me to have their semen frozen where dogs carried in on stretchers because they couldn't walk, they couldn't breathe, dogs who were 12-13 years of age. And we found out pretty quickly that the body views reproduction as a luxury. And if it has to choose between breathing and reproducing, breathing wins every time. So, my recommendation is freeze the dog's semen when he's younger. And I have dogs who are fertile at two, that things happen to them that by the time five, there’s no sperm, whatever. The thing that frozen semen also does is it locks in that semen quality at a 2 or 3 years of age that’s a human in their 20s. Whereas if we're freezing a dog's semen when he's 10, we're locking in the semen of a 10 year old dog, which is probably the equivalent of a human in their 60s. And usually it's not as good. I've had a few people freeze semen early and say, well, you know, the dog didn't turn out as well we hoped for, didn't keep the semen. On the flip side, I've got 10 times as many people that says I wish we'd frozen the dog's semen when he was younger, he had any injury, he went sterile, all the different things that can happen. So freezing semen, young, healthy dogs.
And how frequently can you use a male dog? It's interesting that most clients, when I collect the dog mentally in their mind, think that he's gonna run home, he's going to lay on the sofa for the night and make sperm to replace what we took. That's not the way it works. A dog takes about 58 days to make a sperm cell. And the way to think about it is kind of like your checkbook. He has a bank that he draws from. So, an Irish Setter male probably has probably about a 4 billion sperm reserve that he draws from. And an Irish Setter male, if he's healthy, probably is ejaculating seven hundred million sperm per ejaculation. So, it's basic mathematics. You can probably collect an Irish Setter, male, who’s healthy and fertile six, seven days in a row without running out of sperm. But he's not going home and making new sperm to replace what's there. He's drawing from this account. And that's also why it's difficult when we're dealing with male dog infertility is the fact that when I collect a dog today, I know it's two months until this sperm, no matter what I do, what I find, is the minimum of two to three months before he's going to show any improvement. So, a dog that has crummy semen today is going to be crummy semen tomorrow, there's no doubt about it.
And a great question that comes up continually is what can I put my stud dogs on to make him more of a stud? Well, the answer is it's kind of like your mother telling you when you were a kid. Eat your carrots so you can see better. You can't make things better than normal. Yes, you can do tons of things to damage the sperm. You want to be sure if you live in a hot climate your male is not laying on your hot concrete baking the testicles. The testicles are hung outside the body because they need to be kept cool. If you live in a frigid climate you need to make sure he's not getting his testicles frost bit, you make sure he's not getting traumatized around the testicles. Things like that. Those are the things you make sure the dog's not overweight. It's been shown that obese dogs are terrible as far as reproduction, both males and females. The lean, mean breeding machine is probably a good adage to follow. So there's not a lot of supplements and I think it's always great. And I tell people if I could invent a supplement called makes more bitch puppies I'd probably be doing this from some exotic island, not from Ohio. But they all have these cutesy names they are all basically vitamin supplements and if you get your dog good quality food, you take care of it properly you make sure that he is not overweight you make sure he isn't damaging these testicles, that's probably the best you can do. I mean, there's dogs living out of garbage cans that are siring a lot of puppies that don't get a lot of supplements.
And the same with the bitch. There's not a whole lot to do about a bitch pre-breed. You want to run your brucellosis on both males and females. Brucellosis is a real disease. And it's one of the things that is a major problem in in Ohio where I'm at is now a reportable disease to the Ohio Department of Agriculture and a brucella test should be done on a bitch each time she's going to be bred. It should be run on a male at least every six months if he's only bred to negative bitches because brucella is passed in all body discharges. Its passed in semen its passed in vaginal discharge, its passed urine, its passed in milk. So again, a dog doesn't have to be bred or just because they've never been bred doesn't mean they don't need a brucella test. Other than that, the things we used to do really aren’t important. We don't do cultures on the bitch anymore. People I say, well the stud dog required it. Well, the stud dog, you know, let's face it, the stud dog and the penis and prepuce are the same as the bitch vaginal track and clitoris. And yet these stud dog owners, and some of you are they, think these dogs had these sterile, pristine penises. Well, they sit and lick it all day. It's no cleaner than anything else. So the thought that this bitch needs to be cultured so my dog’s sterile, pristine penis doesn't get contaminated is a bunch of hooey. So really vaginal cultures, if you culture the sheath, culture the vaginal tract you gonna get the same bacteria staph, strep, E. coli, pasteurella, mycoplasma. These are all normal organisms and if you start throwing in the antibiotics.
Think think about a woman. If a lady is put on an antibiotic, what's your greatest fear is you're going to kill the normal bacteria and get a yeast infection? Well, if you start throwing bitches and males just on arbitrary antibiotics pre-breeding, there's a better chance you're going to allow us pseudomonas infection, Klebsiella infection, something more serious than if you just have a healthy individual. So we said on bitches and stud dogs, make sure that brucellosis, bitches you want to especially make sure they're not obese, you want to make sure they're otherwise healthy, probably up on their vaccinations because not so much for the bitch, but the puppies, when they're born, they get very minimal protection from the bitch through the placentas. They get 95 [percent] of their protection from the colostrum, that first milk the bitch puts out and the pup can absorb it for 16 hours. And in many cases, this is the protection its gonna last them in some cases for their lifetime. They say accumulation of the bitch’s immune exposure but the puppies then get some of the immunity from the colostrum and it starts cutting in half as the puppy starts to age. So if the bitch, she may be protected, but if she has a minimum protection against parvo, distemper or something like that and the puppies run out of protection before vaccine time, we're now seeing things again like parvo virus, we're seeing things again like distemper. I hadn’t seen distemper in 20 years. So there is a purpose for being sure the bitch is protected, maybe more so than your stud dogs, you'd vaccinate them every three years, but maybe a bitch might be someone you might want to give an extra vaccine in that area just so the puppies are protected. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot to do.
During pregnancy you want the bitch and let's talk about pregnancy in the bitch. How unique is this? The fertilized eggs don't even implant in the uterus till day 17 or 18 after ovulation. First third of the pregnancy the eggs aren't even attached to anything. And then the eggs space themselves out evenly. And then they communicate with the uterus where the uterus swells and that's where implantation takes place. And you should have the same number of puppies plus or minus one in each horn in a normal healthy bitch because that's the way the puppies distribute themselves. The next three weeks is development. This is when their palates close, their eyes come into position. And it's only the last 12 days the puppies double in size. So there's not a lot of calorie demands on the bitch during pregnancy except the last two weeks, and especially when the bitch is nursing the puppies. This is when the calories become so critically important. So put her on a premium, performance food during last half a pregnancy during nursing is probably all that you really need to do. Anymore, as they say in veterinary practice, we see more of the damage of overfeeding, over high calorie foods, over fat, over supplementation, much, much more than we ever did in the old days when one it was otherwise.
Dr Judi Stella [00:41:40] That's great. You're making my job easy today, Dr. Hutch. I haven't had that even do anything. Hey, we do have a couple questions and I just thought just because it's sort of timely being that we are in the middle of this pandemic, that were a couple of people that had asked if you had any thoughts on waiting and skipping a breeding or do you have any advice at all for people considering a litter at this time.
Dr Hutchison [00:42:07] You know, my my honest feeling is this, and this is just talking to people. And it seems like this stressful time so many of us under stress for so many different areas that this may be a great time to get a puppy, to have a litter, to plan a breeding, different things like that. And once again, if you say I can't get to the stud dog I want to, I'm just going to wait till the next time we can do that. We've already had the discussion of why biology and if the bitch is 2 great, the bitch is six then I think of a different male. One of the questions that came up and this is of a study yesterday that came out saying it looks like now maybe dogs and cats can catch a form of the corona virus. I don't know. The statements that I read basically said no one really knows whether this is true. We know about the Lions and Tigers at Bronx Zoo. But I think at this point, as far as my recommendations until something more concrete comes out, I think it's still a great time to get a puppy, rescue a dog, do something to kind of give you a goal in life, someone that needs you to get up every morning and take them out. And my son and daughter in law are getting a puppy this weekend. And for them, this is kind of like their dream date, you know, and the fact that she is home schooling my grandson. So therefore, they have time to take the puppy out, to play with the puppy, to train the puppy, he’s, not being stuck in a crate every morning as everybody rushes out the door. So, I mean, the one that looks at what's going to be the most peace of mind, you can have in a stressful, tenuous situation, as this is sometimes getting a pet planning or breeding, having a litter, might be best for your mental health if nothing else.
Cat Matloub [00:44:02] I think that's that's so, so true Dr. Hutch. I think we've seen you know, there's there's obviously the covid pandemic and there's also a loneliness epidemic. And I think we see how much comfort and joy and love and companionship dogs can bring now. And also to your point, I think so many people who will be dog owners ultimately and will be responsible ones, it just requires kind of a trigger or a timing or a life change or an event or a move or something. But this certain circumstances have given everyone kind of a uniform trigger where they can be home and spend time with the family and training them. So it's difficult times. But I think it's been more than more than anytime ever, even before we see the hugely positive benefits of dogs. And you guys.
Dr Hutchison [00:44:51] Yeah, I've always been intrigued on the work done in nursing homes where they talk about the blood pressure changes, the comfort levels of having pets come in. Even people that are bed ridden, being able to pet their head just how comforting that has been shown to be. And now I look at it all in that same boat. We're all where we're not getting out, we're not doing the things we're used to, and to have someone to rub a little head on, to snuggle up to you and chew on your arm probably isn't totally bad.
Cat Matloub [00:45:22] As someone is stuck alone in a Brooklyn apartment in the center of it all, just with my dog for company, I've certainly never been happier with a head to pat. So. All right. I'll let you take it away.
Dr Hutchison [00:45:34] You know, one thing that popped into my mind when we're talking about pregnancy, one of the questions that was brought up about a bitch who has been bred and all the puppies in the one horn are resorbed. And resorption in a bitch can be the puppies can be totally resorbed up until about day thirty eight of pregnancy. And when I talk about pregnancy I’m talking about from the day of ovulation. As you all know, the due date is not based on breeding date, it's based on ovulation dates. When I'm talking about time of the season and time of the gestation, we're talking about days from ovulation. So you should typically have the same number of puppies in each horn, as we say. So when you have a bitch who has puppies that implant in both horns and then the ones in that other horn totally resorb, basically how you would approach that, you'd almost need a biopsy of the horn that's losing the puppies, find out if there are fibrosis. In the bitch the placentas are the most aggressive of any species as far as the depths they grow into the uterus. And then they have to grow to give nutrition to the puppy. So anything that would stop the placenta from growing, which could be fibrosis, could be cystic changes, could be whatever damage or was at one time, maybe it's shutting off the blood supply to that horn. So you'd almost need a biopsy as to find out why they're resorbing. Bitches and another great study showed a property 30 percent of all bitches resorb some of the puppies. So we ultra sound in our practice about day 23-24 from ovulation because it's a great time to give you an idea of number of puppies in the litter, but it also lets us know, you know, is this bitch down the road, we saw eight and she ended up with three, tells us that resorption took place. Resorption is usually caused by a few different things. One you would think of uterine lining damage. Second of all, bitch's that drop their progesterone prematurely before day 38 would resorb the puppies. Progesterone dropping prematurely tells the body its time to get rid of the puppies. whether its day 30, 40, 50 or day 63, of course, which is natural whelping time.
So as we're looking at what we're doing on the uteruses, different things like that resorption, genetics, I mean, all of us carry what are called lethal genes, recessive traits that can go ahead and cause the body to resorb the puppies because the puppies don't survive. And. So these are the things you think about resorption.
Now abort, you notice there's not a lot of infectious things that cause resorption. Aborting, this is how brucella works, it causes an infection of the placenta, it causes a placentitis, the puppies are aborted. You need a good functioning placenta. Other things can cause a bitch to abort- of course there's chemicals that can do it. We all know from large animals there's fescues that cows and horses eat to turn to estrogen, and that causes the calf or foal to be lost. There is the Cat 10 Caterpillar disaster in Kentucky and the mares a number of years ago causing the mares to abort. And the other thing you would look at though, for aborting besides infectious, chemicals can do it is if the bitch does drop the progesterone prematurely. And a bitch only needs about two and a half nanograms, which is probably about 11-12 nanomole's for those in countries that measure in nanomoles. And if it drops below that then the body thinks it's time to get rid of the puppies. So in certain individuals that maybe have had a history of losing a litter, certain breeds, we see maybe a premature change to the progesterone producing body, the Corpus Ludeum this is called on the ovary. If the progesterone drops around day 52 and gets down around 2, the body is going to abort the puppies, its telling her to go into labor. So what we'll do on bitches where we suspect that and you do not need to be running progesterone every week and every pregnant bitch, its not necessary. But if you have one that did lose a litter before and you're suspicious that it may have been progesterone, usually what I'll do is run a progesterone level about the time we confirm pregnancy and then depending on that number will determine when I think we need to run another one. But if we get down around 5 nanograms, which is about 17 nano moles with longer than five days gestation that's when we'd would supplement progesterone to maintain the pregnancy. In some work we did between myself and a pathologist at Cornell, we think it's more of an immune reaction against the ovary rather than ovarian failure. So that's why it's not just give progesterone, because if you give progesterone and don't need it, there's a birth defect in the female puppies that can be caused. So when you're looking at a resorption you look at a whole different list of problems versus if you have abortion is a little different list of problems.
Dr. Judi Stella This has been great. I think we got a few minutes left and I know there were several questions about timing and progesterone. I know this is probably a longer topic, but if you could just touch on that and people were asking about the magic number.
Dr. Hutchison [00:51:23] Well, yes. Great. Glad you mentioned that because I did want to touch on that. And the question a lot of you ask her about, different machines, different home progesterone testing and it depends upon what type of semen you’re using that there are progesterone machines that if you are running as many progesterones in a practice, we run around 4000 progesterone tests a year. We have a machine that costs a lot of money and we can pay for it with that. But to say what can I use in my kitchen on my table, that's as good as your machine that costs a hundred thousand dollars, there probably isn't anything. But it really comes down to what type of semen you're using. If you're using just fresh semen and want to know roughly when the bitch is ready to be bred, then probably anything that gives you kind of a screening test, because if you're a day or two off, it's not going to make a difference. If you're using frozen semen where I'm talking about frozen semen lasting six to twelve hours, two hours off many times as the difference between success and failure. So you have to look at what semen you're using, how frequently you're running the test, and probably I'm not an expert on different progesterone machines, my interest is canine reproduction, and the answer is if the machines making you puppies is doing the job. If you're running progesterone, you say, jeez, I'm having one puppy Litters, no pup litters, then you maybe are saying maybe my machine isn't as good as what I thought.
And everybody wants to know, is there a magic answer, a magic number to progesterone? And unfortunately, there is no magic number. And we did a study back now, this is with bitches only being bred with frozen semen. This is bitches where we're doing all surgical AIs, the bitches had her blood drawn when she's still under the anesthetic from the surgical. And we had this run by the Case Western Medical School in Cleveland their Statistics Department. And we wanted to know progesterone numbers and based on conception, on conception, litter size, body weight of the bitch, and age of the bitch and basically came back, there is no statistical significance to a progesterone number once it goes up above that 5-6 range. And in that study we did, the highest progesterone level of the bitch that was pregnant, had four puppies, was a Westie bitch, three days after ovulation at the time of insemination her progesterone was 50.4 nanograms. The lowest in the study was the St. Bernard who had three puppies and her progesterone was eleven. But the study showed that even though there was no statistical significance in the progesterone numbers themselves, that if it was below fifteen, the chances of conception with frozen semen were reduced. So what we do in our practice is we run progesterone to plot them out and which you want to have if you want to have it, like taking off of a ramp from that 2-5 nanogram range 2-6 nanogram range. Then the progesterone should shoot up just like a rocket taking off. And if it does, that pretty much tells you you've had good ovulation. You can figure that the launch time was probably ovulation, which is around 5-6 nanograms, you breed three days later to allow the egg to time to mature and you have success.
The ones that are frustrating are the bitches, especially bitches that are shipped, bitches that are hauled around cause stress cortisol release really has an effect on the pituitary suppressing all the hormonal functions. Stress takes precedence over reproduction. This is also why it's cortisol that puts a bitch into labor put up by the puppy so during the last week of pregnancy, probably keeping stresses to a minimum is a good thing so you don't put the bitch into premature labor. So on the ones that follow the rocket taking off pattern, we usually don't run anything else other than progesterone. If we had a bitch that we missed last time, if we have a bitch and I don't see it, remember when a bitch misses, there's only six reasons. Was the semen good? Did she ovulate? Was it put in at the right time? Could it get to the ovary? Could the fertilized egg implant? Could the placenta be maintained? Those are the only reasons bitches don't have puppies. So you just start peeling away the layers. And occasionally you'll say Jeez, she's a young bitch, the semen looked good, her uterus looked good, she maintained a progesterone. So what we’ll do next time is we'll freeze the serum samples we take for the progesterone and then we'll go back and look at luteinizing hormone. Luteinizing hormone back in the 80s, 90s, we thought it was going to be the magic as far as timing bitches, we now know that that's not true. But the luteinizing hormone testing we’ll, then look back and confirm what we thought was ovulation.
I know a couple of you mentioned about breeding bitches waiting for them to stand, waiting for them to flag. I know one of you mentioned you thought it was time, day 11-12, she was still having dark discharge. Well, the bell curve, which you all know is what we live by. 90 percent fall under the canopy of saying this makes sense, this is what I'm expecting. There are a few that make it so easy, you don't even have to get out of bed, they have puppies. But there's that few percentage and I've had the latest I've ever had a bitch ovulate, it was day 32 of her heat cycle, we bred around day 35 with frozen semen it was a Dalmatian she had seven puppies. So, day of the cycle, color of a discharge really are more confusing agents, they are helpful.
Also, vaginal cytology, vaginal smears before we had progesterone, that's all we had. And what basically you do is you take a Q tip about 6 inches long and you go in her vaginal tract, turn it twice, you pull it out, roll it on a slide. Well, what typically happens in a bitch, when she is under the effects of estrogen is the vaginal wall goes from 1 -2 cells thick to 30 cells thick. And as the cells get farther away from the blood supply they dehydrate. That's the old cornified cells we talked about where the nucleus shrinks and all that. But vaginal cytology is only a rough measure of estrogen. And it's progesterone that we need to correlate ovulation timing both out when to breed and remember, it's sixty three days from ovulation that is your due date. So, if you have a breed, that may need a C section you also need to know what is the true due date there. So vaginal cytology tells you is the bitch in season or not? That's all it tells you, its all it tell you. There is no magic peak on cytology. If you do a vaginal smear every day, you will find that about three days before the LH spike, which is two days before ovulation she'll be fully cornified and she stays that way till six days after ovulation. So, the average bitch is fully cornified for eleven days. So back when I was a young, wet behind the ears veterinarian, I thought I am good. I can find out on this vaginal smear where the peak is. Well, it wasn't a peak, it was a plateau that lasted two weeks. I wasn't as good as that thought. So vaginal cytology, breeding guns are not replacements for progesterone if you're using frozen semen, if you're shipping chilled semen. If you're looking for just a rough gauge, then you can probably do it that way. But really for true, ovulation is progesterone and the bitch is again unique.
We talk about how unique she is. She's one of the few species that actually starts to raise the progesterone before she ovulates. Most other species ovulate have a dip and then start to rise progesterone. So one of the things the bitch actually did for us was, we see this rise of 2 to 3-4 nanograms, and that kind of tells us, get ready. It may tell us to tell the people they're going to be shipping the chilled semen, get your appointment with your veterinarian in case we need it, different things like that. But you have to confirm ovulation. And back in the 90s, there was a company that's no longer in business. And they told us all you needed to know was the 2 to 3 nanograms. And they called this the initial rise. And this was everything opened up ahead of that. And it just causes the waste, just a ton of valuable frozen semen because many bitches don't ovulate many bitches have a delayed ovulation. And if you had a bitch that you said, jeez, I bred her, she missed. I ran a progesterone that was five or six, some bitches you need to run and prove their progesterone is up 10-12 because bitches will have ovarian cysts that produce progesterone. And this will, they will come in season their follicle develops, but the progesterone from the cyst is feeding back to the brain and the body says we're not going to ovulate. And this is usually a surgical drainage is the cyst, but when we aspirate the fluid and run of progesterone on it, oftentimes the progesterone is two, three, four hundred nanograms. So, it suppresses ovulation.
There are a couple of breeds I see this may more frequently probably bull mastiffs are one of the ones that are overrepresented. If we have a bitch that comes in season gets up but her progesterone doesn't go above 5 6, things just kind of sits there, she probably is having a ovarian cyst. Other things bitches do go through silent seasons where they show no, outward signs, but still ovulate. But these are unusual when we talk about some of the far out points of the bell curve. So sure, I see some crazy things. I saw a bitch was a short hair that was pregnant she'd bled through the whole pregnancy. And I'll tell you what, I was a nervous wreck, I was ultrasound and running, progesterone scoping. She went I had like nine puppies normally. Next time she was bred, she did the same thing. She started bleeding through the pregnancy and I said, the heck with you. And things turned out normal. So sometimes you get weird stuff that there are no explanations for. But all in all, most bitches come under that canopy worth a little fine tuning was a couple of progesterone tests, breeding with good quality semen, being sure and again, with frozen semen, it has to be put in the uterus for maximum success so you need a trans cervical or a surgical just putting it in vaginally probably your conception rate I think that a study that was done around 11 percent. You could put semen in a bitch’s ear and she will have puppies 11 percent of the time. So, it has to be put in the uterus as opposed to being put into vaginal tract. Trans cervical semen can be done vaginally even though we do all of ours trans cervically and fresh semen, especially young healthy dog fresh semen, billion-plus count, you can probably do a traditional vaginal AI. Even though once now that we've been doing trans cervical, we're looking at areas nobody ever looked at before. The cervix and the cranial vaginal track there's some weird stuff that occurs up there, some strictures, some bands, some alterations to the appearance of the cervix. So it may explain on some of these bitches where everything looks good on a natural or a vaginal AI didn't conceive. There probably are things now we're looking at. In mares, for example, they look at cervicitis, inflammation of the cervix, as being a problem. Is that something we maybe should look at in a bitch still, you know, new horizons to accomplish?
Dr. Judi Stella [01:04:05] Well, this has been great. I think over time and we don't want to keep everybody too much longer, but based on the comments that we're seeing, this has been an overwhelming success. I know I learned some things today, so thank you very much.
Dr. Hutchison [01:04:20] Well, I appreciate by taking the time out. I realize it's a stressful thing, but canine reproduction is such a unique thing. It's so important to all of us, all the thousands of people that tuned into myself. You know, I think the more we understand it, then we're able to stand up to some breed code of ethics put out by someone who doesn't understand, that says well you have to skip cycles and different things like that in a really, you know, it is something I think the more you understand. And I look at this, just to sum it up, I used to belong to a golf club. And I would go in and I'd talk to the pro about my clubs and the balls I play. And he's like, with your swing, you outta be hitting a rock. But I look the same way, though, that this is what we all do, all of us on here. We wake up in the morning thinking about our dogs, where we're breeding, who we're breeding to. We go to sleep. A lot of us go to the office. So you can afford to do all this. So this is what makes it fun to get together and understand what we're talking about. And I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you.
Cat Matloub [01:05:27] Well, Dr. Hutch, I think I speak for absolutely everyone when I just say, wow, this has been extraordinary. You've answered so many people's questions and taught us so, so much and we keep it. I keep getting asked what's my highlight of quarantine? And honestly, I think now I have a new one. We might have to safely twist your arm and see if we can do monthly webinars with you, because I think everyone is so desperate for all of that extraordinary knowledge that you have in our heads. And to your point, you know, the folks who are kind of clinging onto to old practices, they're doing so from the perspective of love for their dogs and wanting to have their dogs be healthy and happy. So if we can help them, then help them understand why practices have changed and how that can help them have dogs. Their lot, their companions lived longer lives and spend more time with their dogs and have bigger litter sizes and healthier puppies and healthier lives. You know, it's I think it's it's so powerful.
Dr. Hutchison [01:06:24] Well, so much of the dog world is we have our mentors we have the people who taught us. We have things that we thought were right. We have people telling us things that they think is right. And honestly, I mean, there's a lot of great stuff on the Internet, but it's amazing to me how every seven years things that are wrong cycle again. And so that's why I think it's interesting for all of us to get together and talk about what is here on 2020 April. You are is up to date on the things that we talked about. Now, everybody here is is up to date on the topics we discussed. Is anybody in the world more than maybe your veterinarian, your friends like that so that you think is the goal to get us all to a common starting point to get now to go on from here?
Cat Matloub [01:07:12] One hundred percent. So well said. And I think it's so cool. You know what? We we hope good dog can be kind of that centralizing place. And obviously, there's what's so cool about all the different research and things that are happening. There's so much insight, but there's also so much expertise. So, you know, there is there's the aspect of reproductive veterinary science behind it, as well as canine genetics, as well as color canine genetics. I mean, it's complicated as well as behavior in all different, different aspects. So, you know, kind of working together through all these complex things with the best experts in their field, like like you are in. I mean, I get so excited for more to come. Thank you, everyone, so very much.
I love the one who's fun for me. Thank you, everybody.
Thank you guys so much. And I'd like to thank you guys. Dog breeders. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.
Bye. Thanks, so much.