The history is too important and too frequently ignored!
Historical assessment of the bitch's general health, cyclicity, previous conceptions, pregnancy termination, delivery of nonviable offspring, and failure of neonates to survive usually identify infertility. The fertility of the male will be presumed satisfactory for the remainder of the discussion on female infertility with the understanding that male fertility status must be known. Diagnostic evaluation is used in conjunction with the history to identify the cause and outline prognostic and therapeutic guidelines. It is important to evaluate breeding management practices historically and prospectively as a significant number of infertility cases are resolved "simply" by initiating good reproductive management practices. The recommendations made regarding the approach to the infertile bitch are confined to the brucella negative animal. Due to the poor success rates obtained with medical therapy and the risk of zoonosis, the author currently recommends that breeding animals confirmed positive for brucellosis be euthanized.
Infertility in bitches with abnormal cycles
Attempt to determine a possible hormonal reason for this failure. Could be ovarian, pituitary, thyroid, etc. but the problem is not going to be infectious or structural!
Failure to cycle
Obtain the history as to previous cycles, if any and when they occurred!
- Has bitch been on androgenic steroids?
- True failure to cycle bitches (by two years of age) are uncommon but seen.
o Physical examination – Pay particular attention to the external genitalia. Is it normal?
- Evaluations could include:
o Vaginal cytology
o Brucella canis screening test because it is part of all reproductive examinations. It will not prevent the bitch from cycling.
o Thyroid panel. Hypothyroidism will first be observed affecting the reproductive system.
o Endocrine testing – Maybe?
- Progesterone concentration – maybe bitch is cycling and owner is missing heat!
- Luteinizing hormone concentration – Maybe bitch has been spayed!!!!!!!!
- Estradiol concentration – maybe bitch is cycling and owner is missing the heats!
o Karyotyping – Maybe the bitch isn't!!! XXY?
o Complete blood count, profile and urinalysis may be performed if indicated. Rarely of any value unless the bitch is noticeably sick, underweight, etc.
o Ultrasonographic evaluation of the reproductive tract – rarely of value! Functional ovarian tumor producing progestogens or androgens thus preventing estrus.
o Radiographs – unnecessary.
o Laparoscopic examination or exploratory laparotomy may be considered – rarely of value in a bitch that is not cycling!
- Diagnostic Recommendations:
o Vaginal cytology – Normal anestrous cytology.
o Brucella screening test – Because it is a breeding animal.
o Progesterone - If the owner may have missed the heat(s).
o Estradiol - If the owner may have missed the heat(s).
o Thyroid panel - To determine if hypothyroid.
o Karyotyping - If external genitalia looks the least bit suspicious.
o Abnormal karyotype – neuter (now a pet animal).
o Hypothyroid – inherited (??).
o All appears normal – place with cycling bitch at least 30 to 45 days before she is due to come into estrus.
o Administer cabergoline to induce estrus (average cost $350 to 400 per bitch). Success of pregnancy over 80% in otherwise normal bitches.