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New developments in ultra-sonic pregnancy scanning have brought significant advantages to the pedigree dog breeder, especially where the breed concerned has a history of difficult whelping.

The technique was originally developed in farming as an aid to the sheep farmer so that the number of lambs a ewe was carrying could be predicted and the diet of the ewe regulated accordingly.

Rapidly the technique spread to cover other animals and for the past two years, Mrs Barbara Arnold has been offering this service to dog breeders.

‘Already new benefits are being discovered’, she says. ‘Both the equipment and the skills of the scanner have improved in this exciting area.  After all, practically no other animal has such a diversity of size and litter number as does the pedigree dog. We’ve gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in a relatively short time’.

Initially, the advantage of scanning to the dog breeder was early knowledge of pregnancy and advance information as to the likely size of the litter. Genuine or phantom pregnancy can be determined in most cases at 28 days after mating.

Where the bitch has had previous problems, or where exceptionally small litters have led to an uneven size of puppies with some larger individual puppies ( usually either as a consequence of some puppies being reabsorbed or mummified) repeat scans can monitor progress.

And in these litters, diet can be all-important. Curiously enough it is overfeeding rather than malnutrition that the breeder has to look out for. An overfed bitch is more prone to whelping problems such as uterine inertia than one which has been kept on a normal healthy diet.

But now, pregnancy determination is only part of the story:-

Regular scanning has shown that in the first five weeks, the puppies hardly grow at all in the womb. All the action is taking place in the bitch’s own body, adjusting to the new situation of pregnancy. Her own metabolism changes and this means she can make better use of the food she is given.

Between 5 ½ and 7 weeks, the skeletal formation is established and from thereon until their birth the pups are’ fleshing out’. If scanning shows a relatively large litter then the bitch’s diet can be supplemented and only gentle exercise recommended.
On the other hand, if it reveals an abnormally small litter- then a constant diet and plenty of exercises will be the order of the day to help keep the bitch in tone for whelping.

In some whelpings where both large and small pups are present, it is important to know in which order they are likely to be born and just where that large one is lying.
The great advantage to the dog breeder is the knowledge and therefore reassurance that scanning can provide: knowledge supplied early enough for something to be done if required’.

All the way through that valuable pregnancy the health of the bitch and her brood can be monitored and right up to the time of birth, scanning can make its contribution.

August 1986