Reproductive Services

imageCliftwood Animal Hospital offers cutting edge canine reproductive services including canine semen freezing, fresh chilled semen, infertility work ups in dogs and bitches, semen analysis, surgical inseminations, trans-cervical inseminations, artificial inseminations, whelping consultations, C-sections, and breeding soundness evaluations.

Dr. Kestle has been freezing semen with Zoetis since 1992. Her expertise in dog breeding includes her own experience, raising champion Akitas since 1980. Her biggest litters of Akitas have been from frozen semen surgical inseminations, 10 and 11 puppies from maiden bitches. Her most recent frozen semen litter (2008) was a dual sire breeding in which the semen was frozen in England. Dr. Kestle enjoys working closely with breeders, helping with pre-breeding exams, OFA, Penn-HIP, and is happy to refer to other specialists for other genetic screening. She was a speaker at the 2008 Theriogenology Conference for Breeders and wrote the article “Breeding Options In The Bitch”. Visit our Puppies page to see pictures of some of our clients’ dogs and their puppies.

Canine Reproductive Services

These contracts need to be filled out for each dog that is having semen frozen and stored at Cliftwood Animal Hospital for the first time OR if a client is transferring frozen semen to Cliftwood Animal Hospital from another location. PDF reader is required to view our forms.

* A seven day's notice is required to ship/transfer any frozen semen or a $100 fee will be added to any and all bills.


Canine Surgical Insemination FAQs

  1. What is canine surgical insemination?
    Following anesthesia and aseptic preparation, an abdominal incision is made and the uterus located. Semen is directly injected into an anterior horn of the uterus with a small needle.
  2. Why is canine surgical insemination a useful procedure?
    Highest fertility rate and breeding success occurs when adequate semen can be placed, at exactly the proper time, into the anterior uterus. The technique is especially useful when semen quality is low, when using low-dose frozen semen or when the female has fertility problems related to the cervix.
  3. What are the benefits of canine surgical insemination?
    With a natural breeding, the semen must traverse the cervix to enter the uterus for fertilization to take place. Surgical insemination allows direct exposure of the semen to the developing egg. The success rates for pregnancy are excellent using this method of breeding, especially if the female is sub-fertile or if the semen is questionable.
  4. Does my bitch need any testing before the insemination?
    Because of the expense and time involved in surgical insemination often only a single breeding is performed. To maximize conception rates and litter sizes with a single insemination, ovulation timing is critical. A comprehensive pre-surgical examination and pre-anesthetic laboratory screening are advised prior to surgery.
  5. Is there any other way to use frozen semen if I don’t want my bitch to go under anesthesia?
    Intrauterine deposition of semen can be accomplished using transcervical insemination, although in circumstances with very poor semen, a female with known problems with the cervix, or if using Frozen Semen, surgical insemination is the preferred and recommended technique.

Canine Ovulation Timing

The estrus cycle of the bitch consists of four stages:

Proestrus - Stage 1

Proestrus begins with the observable signs of heat, such as vulvar swelling, bloody vaginal discharge and attraction of males. Hormonally, proestrus is characterized by rising estrogen levels.

Estrus - Stage 2

Behavioral estrus is the period of female receptability, this behavior can be characterized by “flagging” and “winking”. The vulva will soften and decrease in size, and often the discharge will change from bloody to clear or straw-colored. Hormonally, estrus levels begin with the luteinizing hormone (LH) and are characterized by declining estrogen and rising progesterone levels. Ovulation and the fertile period occur during this stage.

Diestrus - Stage 3

Diestrus begins approximately 8 days (range 6-10 days) after the LH surge, and signifies the end of the fertile period. Progesterone levels continue to rise and remain elevated during diestrus in all normal bitches whether pregnant or not: this elevation in progesterone is necessary to maintain a pregnancy.

Anestrus - Stage 4

Anestrus is the transition period between one cycle and the next. Progesterone levels return to baseline, either abruptly just prior to whelping, or gradually in the non-pregnant bitch. The reproductive tract “rests” for several months while some hormonal changes occur to prepare the bitch for her next heat cycle.

Important Hormones


During proestrus, serum estrogen levels rise slowly over a period of 10-14 days, peak 2 to 3 days before estrus then decline rapidly. Estrogen’s major role is to prepare the reproductive system for breeding; therefore peak levels are reached prior to ovulation. These levels in estrogen result in:

  1. Behavioral changes
  2. An increased turnover rate of vaginal epithelial cells (the cells lining the wall of the vagina). This process results in the changes seen in vaginal cytology.
  3. Progressive swelling of the female reproductive tract and bloody discharge.

Blood estrogen levels are not reliable for timing breeding. Estrogen levels vary significantly from bitch to bitch, and there is no meaningful way to standardize the results. In addition, changes in estrogen are not directly correlated to the fertile period.

Luteinizing Hormone

Normally LH is present in very small quantities. In early estrus, a significant increase in serum LH, followed by a return to baseline values occurs rapidly, usually over a 24-hour period. It is this LH surge that triggers ovulation and thus determines the fertile period of the bitch. All events subsequent to the LH surge are consistent between bitches.

The detection of a surge in release of luteinising hormone indicates impending ovulation. LH can be detected by urinary ovulation predictor kits that are performed, typically daily, around the time ovulation may be expected.


Blood progesterone levels stay at a low baseline level during late anestrus and proestrus, they begin to rise at the time of the LH surge. Progesterone then remains elevated for two to three months. These increasing levels of progesterone together with decreasing estrogen levels cause the reduction in swelling of the reproductive tract that occurs during estrus. Increased progesterone is also necessary to maintain pregnancy. Measurement of blood levels of this hormone is consistent between bitches and is simple to perform. Therefore, serial blood samples can be performed to identify the initial rise in progesterone that coincides with the LH surge, and breeding may be based on this parameter.

Ovulation and the Fertile Period

Ovulation is triggered by the LH surge, which causes the ovaries to release the developing ova, or eggs. Ovulation occurs 48 hours after the LH surge. The ova cannot be fertilized upon their immediate release from the ovaries. The ova require 2 to 3 days to mature before sperm penetration and fertilization can take place. Once the eggs are mature, they remain viable for approximately 2 to 3 more days before they begin to degenerate. Thus, the actual fertile period of the bitch is only 2 to 3 days long and begins 4 to 5 days after the LH surge (2-3 days after ovulation), and occurs just prior to the onset of diestrus.

Breeding Dates

In routine natural breeding or fresh AI with a normal healthy stud, sperm may be expected to live within the bitches reproductive tract 5 or more days. Thus, breeding performed a day or two before the fertile period should be still are viable at the time of peak fertility. Subsequent breedings during the fertile period will maximize sperm numbers on the bitch’s most fertile days. It is recommended to breed on days 2, 4 and 6 post LH surge if three breedings are possible. If not, perform two breedings between days 3 and 7 post LH surge.

If using chilled or frozen semen, or performing a natural breeding or fresh AI using a stud with compromised semen, it may be assumed that the longevity of the sperm cells is decreased in early breedings and will likely be wasted. Therefore, these breedings should take place during the true fertile period, days 4-7 post LH surge (2-3 days post ovulation).


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