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There is an inexpensive instrument that you can use to predict both the correct time to breed a dog as well as the day she should whelp. We’ve been using it for several years and have found it to be useful with some exceptions.

The dog and bitch will let you know that it’s breeding time but they tend to begin much too early. If you have travel or boarding time concerned, it is valuable to know WHEN to breed, meaning WHEN did she ovulate?

But to us, almost as important is WHEN is she actually going to whelp? With “Fertile Focus,” we usually don't miss whelping date by more than one day.

“Fertile-Focus is a saliva-based fertility test that allows you to predict ovulation. The manufacturer claims 98% accuracy. It's made for human use, but works in dogs as well.

When a bitch is about to ovulate, a distinct crystal "ferning" pattern becomes present in her dried saliva due to hormonal changes causing the electrolytes (or salts) to increase in her body fluids. This ferning coincides with the rise in Estrogen that precedes the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Surge by about 2 days and precedes Ovulation by roughly 4 days.

Therefore, the ferning is first seen up to 4 days before ovulation in canines and can continue for two-three days after ovulation. Once ovulation occurs it takes the released ova from 2 to 2 1/2 days to "ripen". The ova are then fertile for the balance of five days from ovulation.

Conclusion: SIX DAYS after ferning is first observed is the correct time to breed a bitch.

Now, for exceptions. We have experienced what is known as a "split cycle" or "split estrus." When that happens, we have seen the normal ferning pattern but later found that the ovulation was delayed, or went on "standby." References have stated that this can delay for up to two weeks. Sometimes, the bitch seems to go out of heat. Sometimes, she will allow breeding if the ovulation is only delayed a short time.

DON'T Panic if she doesn't whelp when she is supposed to. Take temperatures to let you know when it's actually going to happen.

-------------------- Here is a picture of what our's looks like.

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You may want to ignore the technical jargon and just know how to do this and what it’s telling you. It’s very simple, but we’ve learned some pitfalls to avoid.

First, it’s very important to obtain an adequate amount of saliva and that's not contaminated with food, or diluted with water. That means that you can only do this when the bitch arises in the morning before she has access to food or water.

Many make the mistake of just trying to wipe the lens onto the dog’s tongue. That doesn’t give you enough saliva because a small pool is needed. We use a small eyedropper and draw a drop from under her tongue. That’s the hardest part of this whole exercise. Sometimes, the eye dropper doesn't work but it may be possible to wipe up enough from the bottom of her mouth near the teeth. Saliva can pool there and can try to wipe the lens through that pool.

Give the saliva plenty of time to dry. If you've got a really nice pool it might take even 30 minutes.

Then, put the lens back into place, push the light button on the bottom and turn the lens until it comes into focus. (Instructions come with it in the box.) You will probably need to remove your glasses. If your bitch hasn’t had the estrogen spike, you will see what is called a “desert” image. Just visualize a remote, dry desert.

When you see the ferning, it is easily recognized. Visualize the veins on a fern. It is actually the salt in her saliva dried and crystallized.


Here's a picture of ferning. (Actually more of the beginning. Full ferning will be more obvious than this, but this is the first day to count.)

You can see the first lines of crystallization.

Count that as day one. On the fourth day, she will ovulate but it’s not time yet because the eggs have to “ripen” or mature and that takes a couple of days.

Then, on the SIXTH day, it time to breed.

We generally let our Papillons breed a day or two ahead of this as a “clean-out” for the male. This way, when it's time for her to conceive, breed again and he will have produced some new, fresh sperm that may be more vigorous than what he had stored

Now, when do you start counting the days until whelping? You DO NOT count from the day of breeding. You count from the first day of OVULATION. When those eggs exit the ovaries, they have a life expectancy of 63 days before they emerge as a new baby puppy. If they are not fertilized, they die in a few days.

So you count from day four after you see ferning. DAY FOUR is when she should ovulate. Add 63 to that and you have your whelping date, assuming everything is normal.

We have no financial interest in Fertile Focus and you can search the Internet to buy it online. We paid about $25, including shipping, a few years ago but I think they are more expensive now. I’ve also been told that some drug stores carry this or their store brand version.

If you learn to use this correctly, you will be very happy with the results. In general, we are. Just take the temperatures.