The effective use of Premate testing
(Subheading – When do I know when to bring my bitch for mating?!….)
Bringing a bitch for mating at the ‘right time’ obviously gives you the only chance you have of creating a pregnancy. However, *normal* bitches are helpful creatures, as their window is fairly large compared to popular belief. Healthy bitches following a normal cycle tend to ovulate at LEAST two or three bursts of eggs, with anything from 6 – 24 hours between ‘waves’… and eggs should survive for at least 36 – 48 hours before fading off. So you see that, genuinely, in a healthy *normal* cycling girl, you have quite a large window for a successful mating.
Premate testing/Progesterone test (or sometimes as a popular brand, being offered by a company, is called Idexx, this is ALSO sometimes known as Idexx testing…) is a very helpful and effective tool in helping ensure a pregnancy. Notice I say *helping*. It ALONE cannot ensure a pregnancy. The mating(s) need to be of an acceptable type to *allow* pregnancy to occur. The sperm need to be both present, and of the quality, to fertilise the present eggs. The eggs need to be robust enough to survive the ovulation process and the fertilisation process, and, the bitch herself, needs to be able to ‘hold’ a pregnancy and not either absorb or abort before gestation has completed for natural or artificial reasons.
So, its by no means a ‘done deal’… with OR without using what we shall call Pre-mate Testing as you can see. HOWEVER, that SAID, we probably have around 60-70 bitches a year to our stud dogs here, and I handle outside dogs around five to seven times a month. So its fairly easy to form a pretty tried and tested opinion on something 😉 And I believe that (and THIS is the KEY here)…. CORRECTLY USED, Pre-mate testing is a very useful tool. ESPECIALLY for maiden bitches who have not had a litter before, AND for bitches who have been mated before and are showing themselves tricky to get into pup.
Pre-mate testing, like most things, tends to have its cynics. And that’s fine. Because certainly, a large large amount of the owners of bitches we mate each year, simply watch for the various behavioural and physical signs displayed that their bitch is commencing ovulation, come for mating, she is very or reasonably willing or at least compliant, and they go away pregnant. I would never refute that or dismiss it whatsoever.
But the cynics that have USED Pre-mate testing, and declare it ‘useless’, are the ones in the VAST majority of cases, are simply using it incorrectly. There is no finer way to phrase it. They are using what is an accurate, scientific tool, badly, and so then blaming *it* for their lack of pregnancy, rather than their own various types of misuse of it.
‘I don’t need Pre-Mate testing to tell me when my girl is ready for mating…!!’
…and some won’t. Experience tells them when her discharge is coming to the right sort of colour and when she is starting to flirt with the owners other dogs (females and castrated males only of course! By this point she should be well separated from household entire males!) They maybe will know when she was mated last litter (and conceived). Maybe the owner goes on a certain (slightly fishy) smell issuing from their girl, which certainly some bitches do exude when ovulating. Or maybe they just *always mate their girls at day 11 and 13… they did her mother… and her grandmother… and HER mother before that!!’*
….And, do you know what, that’s ALL fine and dandy. And works, much of the time, just perfectly. However, (and over a year we tend to say of ten bitches that come for mating, SIX will be like falling off a log. TWO more we will get there but they throw a few curve balls on the way and are not easy in any way, and TWO are just plain refusing to read and act out ‘The Book of the Bitch’ point blank and are complete and utter head scratchers –and sometimes head CASES when it comes to the idea of mating them!)…. if everything goes perfectly to plan!
However for a maiden bitch where you have no idea what her ‘normal’ ovulation pattern is. For a bitch that is being brought a LONG way to the dog in terms of miles, (and few stud dog owners will go the ‘Oh bring her every day for a week and we will get there in the end’ route, I know WE certainly haven’t the time for it and its VERY hard on the stud dogs being bitten and punched by unwilling ladies day in, day out!!!) or bitches with a history of being difficult to get into pup, or that simply don’t display ‘obvious’ ‘mate me NOW!!’ signs…. Pre-Mate testing is EXTREMELY valuable………. If used correctly.
How to effectively ‘Pre-mate’ test in an IDEAL world.
OK. Bitches can ovulate at ANY POINT IN THEIR SEASON. Its a myth that they always ovulate around day this, or day that, or day the other. There *is* no *always*. And it can even vary from season to season with some, really awkward girlies!! However there is no denying that approximately HALF WAY THROUGH their season is the most common time for ovulation to occur. However it has to be remembered that a season is actually 28 days (approx) long, NOT the usually spoken of 21 days (which is usually when you are seeing blood and actual ‘season signs’). Therefore the old wives tale of ‘mate on day 10 or 11’ because its ‘halfway’, actually pales into a little more insignificance if you take into account half way is actually approx day 14. There will be a proportion of girls who ovulate as early as day 10, even earlier, day 8, day 6, we have even known a day 5 girlie ….. but they are rare as HENS teeth. Now the fact that many old school ‘mate on day 10/11’ breeders got their girl into pup at all was because the sperm survives for upwards of 48 hours and so they were *probably* ‘just about’ catching the eggs’ as they appeared, just before the sperm popped its clogs of old age. 😉 So they were basically…. pretty lucky.
Conversely, its equally as common as a day 8 girl to be a day 18, 19, 20 girl. We have had one day 21 girl who conceived and one day 22 girl! But again, they ARE rare.
So lets take it that if we are going to use Pre-mate testing *perfectly* we need to cover the whole ‘window’ of ‘possibility’. So we would probably start testing, being realistic, at about day 8/9, and continue on until we started to get the result we wanted. And this is HUGELY helpful and commendable behaviour by bitch owners and every stud dogs dream. However….. tests are not cheap (ranging from £40 to £100 a test depending which brand and where you live!) so very few will go this route and understandably so. HOWEVER at this point, IF you have mated previously, and the bitch been willing, and no pregnancy occurred, its as well to invest this money if you possibly can to see WHERE she is throwing you a curve ball. And it usually results in a happier ending.
So my advice, is, to the average maiden bitch owner, if she is dropping bright red blood, then she *probably* isn’t ovulating. There are exceptions to that but in the vast vast main of girls that’s an easy fact. It is my experience that far more bitches ovulate slightly later than folks think they will, rather than earlier…. so therefore, my *general* advice is to take the girl to Pre-Mate test her for the first time, on either day 11 or 12, UNLESS her discharge or behaviour gives you a reason to take her earlier.
So where does it sometimes go wrong?
Most of the Pre-mate test brands and methods involve blood or a vaginal swab. And depending on how the vet or vet nurse relays this information to you, as the owners, it will say that she is at a ‘certain level’…. and ovulation *tends* to occur in normal bitches at another *certain level* and therefore she is probably ‘nowhere near/48 hours/24 hours from that ovulation figure point.
OK, there are two major ways this can ‘go wrong’…..
1) Lets look at how they calculate how far off your girl *probably is from her *ovulation figure*. Lets be simplistic (and this is not quite how it works but its not hugely far off). Lets say we start on day 1 of a bitches season and she is on a result of ‘1’ *if* some crazy fool paid out to Pre-Mate test her. So over the next days her level sneeks up. But lets say, as per MY advice, she is tested on day 11 for the first time… and she gets a result of ’11’… and lets say *ovulation* occurs in most bitches at around level 13 or 14. So the only result your vet can give you is that *probably* she is rising about a ‘point a day’ and therefore needs to ideally go two or three more ‘points’ so therefore ‘she is likely to ovulate in 2 – 3 days’ (or more likely they will phrase it ‘commence mating in 2 – 3 days’).
There is nothing WRONG with that result, except for the fact they actually have NO IDEA how fast the bitches levels are rising, because they have nothing to compare it to. So lets say a test had actually occurred at day 10… and was a result of ‘8’… and then by day ’12’ it was a result of ’12’ they would know she is rising quicker than a point a day and the mating window would change.
But how many folks REALLY want to pay out for a test at a time they are fairly certain the bitch is NOT yet ovulating, just to give a ‘comparison result?’ Very few. And I appreciate that entirely. But this maybe explains WHY vets can give the best predication the results seem to show, BUT it can still mislead.
2) The second and equally common way Pre-Mate testing can be misused (or at least potentially made inaccurate), is this. You go on day 11/12 as ‘Diana told you to’ for your first test. You get your test result, and the result, in plain terms says ‘Ovulation should occur in 24-36 hours’. Or something similar to that. So off you go and mate a few hours after that as you know the eggs need sometime after ovulation to mature and accept sperm (because you read that – and its true!!!) and…. your bitch misses! You are fuming, sad, despondent, and certainly will ‘never use bloody Premate testing again’!
So what went wrong??!! Well now, it all comes back to the rate your bitches levels are climbing. All Pre-Mate test results are and can ONLY ever be PREDICTIONS until you get a result that says ‘ovulation has occurred, mate immediately/within 24 hours’.
Therefore, if you test on that sacred day 11/12, and it says ‘Ovulation should occur in 36-48 hours’ (or WHATEVER timespan it says…..) To be SURE of it, you HAVE to retest IN 36-48 hours to CHECK that what was predicted REALLY DID HAPPEN. And not because vets are into making stuff up (wink), but because they can only assume from the result in front of them what might happen according to ‘a Joe average normal bitch’… and, do you know what? Yours may WELL be those ‘2 in ten girls’ we have that are what we, politely term, ‘quirky!!’
So what’s the best thing to do? Truthfully? From my experience?
1) Bitch who has conceived merrily, previously mated on days X and X…… Mate again on those days and only adopt a different policy if she misses.
2) Maiden bitch who shows all the signs of ovulation so, around the days 11 – 15/16 sort of a mark her blood discharge reduces and thins or stops. She is flirty to the household dogs, taking her tail to one side when they pay her attention etc. Come for mating 24 hours after this solidly starts to occur. If she then fights the stud dog off and is hugely negative about being mated we can then have you Pre-mate test her to see what is going on and go from there.
3) ANY other girl who isn’t proven yet to be ‘quirky’ but you have no chance to test her with other bitches/castrated males to see if she will flirt…. and/or who’s discharge remains red day after day into the 12/13/14/15 sort of a period. Pre-mate test her on day 12/13 and see what is going on. IDEALLY retest when the ‘prediction’ result says she *should* have started to ovulation to check she really HAS….. Then come for mating.
4) A bitch who has any pattern of pregnancy misses after good matings to a proven fertile dog or being quirky/difficult to mate… Commence testing around day 9/10 and continue every TWO days until you get a positive ovulation response.
Diana – July 2023