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Normal progesterone profiles during estrus in the bitch: A prospective analysis of 1420 estrous cycles

Hollinshead, Fk, Hanlon, Dw
Theriogenology 2019 v.125 pp. 37-42
bitches, blood serum, body weight, breeds, estrus, freeze-thaw cycles, insemination, litter size, luteinizing hormone, monitoring, ovulation, progesterone, prospective studies, pups, reproductive performance, reproductive success, semen, whelping
Appropriate timing of insemination in the bitch, through monitoring of serial serum progesterone concentrations, has historically been based on the detection of important physiological reproductive events which include the LH surge and ovulation 2–3 days later. Previous hormone profile studies during the estrus period in the bitch, in which determination of these physiological reproductive events has been defined, have been based on low numbers of bitches of similar breeds and body weights. Therefore, the aim of this large-scale prospective study was to define the normal serum progesterone profile during the estrus period in a large number of bitches of various breeds and body weights. In addition, we investigated if the rate of change in progesterone concentrations during the fertile period affected the reproductive performance of bitches after insemination with either fresh or frozen-thawed semen. A total of 1300 individual bitches, representing 84 different breeds, contributed 1420 estrous cycles and 4213 serum progesterone values over the 11-year (2007–2017) study period. The mean (±SD) progesterone concentration at estimated LH0 was 2.7 ± 0.6 ng/ml and at the time of estimated ovulation it was 4.8 ± 0.9 ng/ml and 7.2 ± 1.3 ng/ml (LH+2 and LH+3 respectively). There was no difference in the shape of progesterone profiles for bitches of different body weights. Furthermore, mean progesterone concentrations on each day between LH-6 and LH+7 were not different amongst bitches of different breeds and body weights and there was no effect of mean progesterone concentrations on any day on whelping rate or litter size. However, there was a significant effect of the rate of change in progesterone concentrations on litter size when frozen semen was used. The litter sizes of bitches inseminated with frozen semen with slow progesterone curves were significantly smaller compared to bitches with fast progesterone curves (3.9 ± 1.8 vs 5.6 ± 3.1 pups per litter respectively; P < 0.001). There was no effect of bitch age on the normal progesterone curve, or its rate of change. This is the first report of the normal progesterone profile during estrus in the bitch derived from a large number of serial progesterone measurements obtained from bitches of various breeds and body weights. Importantly, the predictability and reliability of this progesterone profile regardless of breed or body weight gives clinicians the confidence to accurately determine the optimal time for insemination, which is critical to reproductive success, especially when frozen semen is used.