For puppy check on pregnant bitch ? Which is safest and most reliable for health check and how many ?
Ultrasound can be done at 28 days. It will confirm pregnancy, but you can't get an accurate count. If you do an ultrasound later in the pregnancy, you can see hearts beating and see the pups moving around.
X-ray has to be done after the skeletons have started to calcify--people usually do them around 57 days. You can get a fairly accurate count, but the larger the litter, the more jumbled the skeletons and the harder it is to count them all.
If you wait until five weeks, you will be able to tell whether she is pregnant just from the obvious physical changes.
Last edited by mwk56; 03-28-2014 at 07:25 PM.
It could be argued that the ultrasound is safer. X-rays are composed of ionizing radiation. But, the dose from a single exposure is very small.
I don't think either exam will give you a definative total number of puppies. With a good sonographer I think they can say they saw a certain number of pups but cannot say they were able to count them all.
Smaller litters are easier to count on x-rays than larger litters. However, the pups always seem to be on top of each other so exact counts are often difficult.
What will you gain from it? On one hand, if you have plans for tests and need to verify pregnancy early, do a US. If you want a count to determine how many deposits to take, good luck because they have to arrive alive first. My rule of thumb is not to US (because it probably is not going to change my schedule), and not to xray unless I fear a very small litter (3 or less). I just went thru this ~2 wks ago, and at the last week, the puppies started to drop more to the point I could see mult puppies kicking.
Every time you take your pregnant bitch to the vet clinic, you risk exposure to various bugs. I'd rather save the radiation for the ER vet if I have a whelping problem, and chances are very good they'll do both the US and xray there regardless if you've had either earlier.
We have clients request pregnancy diagnosis for a variety of reasons. I understand that for some of my clients it makes no difference to them, but many of ours want to know related to taking deposits or maintaining their waiting list. Also, some people like to schedule time off around the time their bitch is due to whelp so having advanced notice can be helpful. Some people do it for scheduling their dog show/trial/event calendar. There are lots and lots of reasons!
Ultrasound- tells you if the bitch is pregnant, confirms if the pregnancy is viable (heartbeats); sometimes we can tell if the bitch was pregnant and appears to be loosing/has recently lost the pregnancy, which can be helpful for future breedings. Some clients don't want to take deposits until they have confirmed pregnancy. Np matter how good the exam is, its impossible to count puppies accurately as there is no way to "mark" them to know that you're not counting the same ones over and over again.
Radiograph- can reliably tell you how many puppies to expect, and can be very helpful if expecting a very small or very large litter. In high risk breeds, can give you an idea of the risk of fetal-maternal disproportion (ie, are they coming out the way god intended or through an alternate route ). Some people prefer to do this post whelping to make sure they are done, but I prefer to do it preemptively.
As far as the risk of the bitch being exposed to something, this depends on the situation and the owner's biosecurity protocol. It never ceases to amaze me when some clients are concerned about taking the bitch in for prenatal care yet don't see the risk of exposing her to their dogs that were at the field trial/dog show/obedience trial/whatever. Many veterinarians that do repro work have established areas for pregnant bitches that are isolated from the rest of the hospital (we have an entire ward for this in our SA therio area, with a separate entrance from the rest of the referral hospital). Maiden bitches are at the greatest risk for herpes exposure, but dogs that were shown or trialed were probably exposed. We still recommend a 3 week pre/3 week post whelp isolation plan from unknown dogs.
As far as the safety of the tests, I personally don't feel that one is safer over the other and consider the radiation from a 2 view abdominal radiograph to be negligible on the health of the pups and dam at that stage of gestation.
Natalie Fraser, DVM
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