Tag Archives: missed breeding

NEWS FLASH – Gordon Setter Students & Mentors

I started a new discussion group that you may find totally useful if you’re seriously into breeding and/or competing with your Gordon Setter. Now, I realize that many of you are not on Facebook and may well have sworn never to go there BUT you don’t have to turn into a Facebook junkie, nor do you need to accumulate a slathering of friends, but you will need to set up a Facebook account in order to view and post to the group.  There are already fabulous discussions starting, questions being posed, and pictures being shared of dogs from way back, all things educational can be shared here.

Here is the link Gordon Setter Students & Mentors click here if you’d care to check it out or join the group.

Gordon Setter Students & Mentors


Welcome Gordon Setter students and mentors! This group is meant to serve as a resource and learning tool for Gordon Setter fanciers who are serious students or experienced breeder/exhibitors willing to join forces where everyone can learn about and mentor the art of breeding better Gordon Setters. A place also to fine tune our skill and expertise when competing in conformation, performance or field events. Topics might include such things as genetics, structure, pedigrees, ancestors, health, and proper care, grooming, as well as training tips pertaining to competition in conformation, performance and field events. To make the most of this forum you are encouraged to submit questions, content and photos to provide examples as well as actively participate in discussions with helpful answers and guiding principles.

Things to keep in mind:

No personal attacks, ridicule, or harassment on or about another member’s post. You will be removed from the group and blocked. We don’t always need to agree and various opinions on a topic are encouraged to promote a learning environment, however remember when you are expressing an opinion to please do so in a tactful and polite manner.

Since this group is meant to serve educational purposes only, please do not submit your win photos and brags, we do love to see those and are very happy for you, but let’s post them on other forums to maintain focus here. The same would be true of those happy Gordon photos we post just for fun.

Please focus on the positive traits of any dog pictured. If you have constructive criticism always be considerate and tactful in your comments to ensure you are providing encouragement as well as an educational experience for the student. Please do share educational articles and links to other sites that will educate and promote better breeding and competition practices.

No SPAM or ads to promote the sale of merchandise or dogs. Spammers will be removed.

No personal attacks on other members! We are here to help each other learn and we will respect everyone and treat each other with dignity because of our differences, a different view could be where a new learning begins.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photo by Bob Segal – 2015 GSCA National Specialty

…and the survey said? Or – what were the results of the breeder surveys?

You know what? There are Gordon Setter breeders everywhere and I’ve found that you love to find ways to share experience and information with each other! At least, that’s what our surveys told me about you, our readers.  A while back I put a couple of short questionnaires out on Gordon Setter Expert to see what readers were experiencing on the breeding front, you know, to get some idea of what you folks might want to hear about based on your experience.

Photo by Bob Segal
Photo by Bob Segal

The surveys gathered information from 146 matings, and geographically the majority, about 95% were from the United States, 3 were from Canada and 3 from Australia, while 2 other responders were from European countries. Other than that, our survey tool does not disclose any other information about the people who answered the survey. I am not drawing any conclusions from the information that was collected here, I am simply sharing that information with you so you can gain insight into how frequently, or maybe not so frequently, other breeders may be encountering a similar issue. This is by no means a scientific survey, it is information gathering and sharing only.

Several of the comments that readers posted on the survey concerned the use of Artificial Insemination (AI):

Seems there are fewer and fewer breeders who breed naturally, even when both dogs are present, or can be present. When faced with a breeder who wants to do a natural breeding, some breeders can’t read dogs or don’t have a clue how to accomplish a natural breeding. How do we gauge natural breeding ability if we don’t allow our dogs to breed naturally? What has happened to survival of the fittest? Seems to me there were issues when we were all doing natural breeding!

Photo by Bob Segal
Photo by Bob Segal

“I’m concerned with breeding “vigor” for lack of another term, and the loss of desire and ability for natural breeding by our dogs. I have witnessed a lack of desire in bitches who are testing out on progesterone. I have witnessed related bitches who would flirt and play, but at standing, would do anything to avoid being bred. No medical reasons were found. These bitches are successfully bred via AI, then carry and whelp healthy puppies. Some breeders say that is enough. But what about the survival of the fittest, should breeding vigor not be included? I am concerned that breeders use AI far to frequently and have lost an interest in knowing how to manage a natural breeding stud dog and brood bitch. I realize natural breeding requires a great deal of planning and expense and some consider flying their dogs to be putting them in danger.”

“When I am breeding a bitch here, I always do an “insurance” AI just prior to the bitch being “ready”. I get a litter on the ground that is nice sized and with a good split.”

Photo by Bob Segal
Photo by Bob Segal

So what did the Gordon Setter survey responders tell us about the frequency of Artificial Insemination (AI) and other similar topics?

76% said their preference is to do natural matings assuming both the dog and bitch were ready, willing and able while 24% said that their preference is to do the mating by AI. (So while for some the preference is to do an AI some of those same breeders will agree to do a natural breeding if the other owner insists.) There were 12% of the responders who said they would not do a natural mating, they will only perform an AI using their dog or bitch. On the whole 88% of the Gordon Setter breeders who responded are willing to do natural matings even if that is not their personal preference.

When we look at the results then, as to the number of matings that were actually completed by AI as compared to the number that were completed by a natural breeding we find that the poll seems to be split almost 50/50 with just over half of the actual matings that were reported having been done by natural means.  From the answers given, when all was said and done and the mating was complete, 58% of the matings were reported to have been accomplished by natural means which allows that the other 42% of the matings taking place were completed by AI. Now, assuming that more of us are taking advantage of the opportunity to use stud dogs from different geographic regions by use of fresh chilled and frozen semen I do not find that number surprising, do you?

We asked those who only perform matings by AI to share their reasons as to why this is their preference. To prevent the spread of infectious agents between dog and bitch was the reason 16% of those breeders gave. Another 37% told us that it is more convenient than a natural breeding and the other 47% did not specify their reason for using AI only.

On the question of Gordon Setter Health Clearances

Stud Dog Owners – the percentage of Gordon Setter stud dog owners who require proof or documentation from the bitch owner on each particular test or clearance before agreeing to or completing a breeding:

90% – require bitch is clear of Hip Dysplasia

78% – require bitch DNA tested rcd4 (clear or carrier)

78% – bitche tested clear of Brucellosis

53% – bitch x-rayed elbows normal

50% – progesterone tested for ovulation timing

48% – CERF – current exam

38% – physical exam including proof of vaccinations and      clear of parasites

30% – bitch tested CA clear

25% – bitch tested thyroid normal

18% – vaginal culture

13% – vaginal smear to determine timing of ovulation

Brood Bitch Owners – the percentage of Gordon Setter brood bitch owners who require proof or documentation from the stud dog owner on each particular test or clearance before the breeding occurs.

93% – dog must be clear of Hip Dysplasia

76% – dog DNA tested rcd4 (clear or carrier)

70% – dog tested clear of Brucellosis

54% – dog x-rayed elbows normal

52% – dog is CERF – current exam

33% – dog tested CA clear

33% – thyroid test

Comments that were posted by Gordon Setter breeders who participated regarding additional exams or clearances that are in use by them, along with some other miscellaneous items that you wrote to us about.

“I don’t believe in vaginal cultures but I do put my own bitches on Baytril as soon as they come in season and stop the day of the first breeding. I discuss this with any potential bitch owners as well. I do sperm analysis on my boys prior to any breeding.”

Vaginal culture for my bitch and of course Progesterone testing.”


“Superchem CBC Urinalysis”

You listed thyroid for the stud, but thyroid normal for the dam, there is a difference. I want to see that the testing is done but don’t rule out breeding to dogs with abnormal results. Same thing with CA carriers”  (Note:  that is right and a good catch thank you. I did list the questions this way and it was done in error as I meant to use thyroid normal for both.)

“My bitch gets an exam to make sure she can have a natural breeding. It was determined through this exam that she could not and we did the AI.”

“Using frozen semen and a surgical implant presents its own set of possible complications.”

“If the stud dog has passed away and have only frozen semen I will not breed to a maiden bitch. I will not be told by their vet how many straws are needed, will go by history of prior breeding of the stud dog and by what the company says who has the frozen semen storage (from now on).”

“Using chilled and frozen semen more (often) because there is a wider gene pool available for breeding.”

“I am assuming you are referring to AI as fresh/chilled only. Don’t have the same option when located in remote places or with tight quarantine rules – frozen may be the only option…”  (Note:  the intent of the survey was to try to determine how often matings are being done by AI no matter what the reason (fresh, chilled or frozen) and then to find out how many times breeders are making an actual choice to do an AI when it would have been possible to do a natural breeding with both the dog and bitch available. I expected to find that the number of AI matings would be higher than they were, say 20 years ago, because of the use of fresh chilled and frozen semen to accomplish long distance matings.)

Gordon Setter breeding complications, how often, what are they? How did breeders respond?

Breeders responded to the survey regarding 80 Gordon Setter matings where it was known that the breeding included only properly deposited and viable sperm and it was indicated that 61% of those matings resulted in conception. That means in 39% of the matings the Gordon Setter bitch failed to conceive. Breeders weren’t always able to identify why their bitch failed to conceive, when they did we were told that 25% failed for various hormonal reasons, 17% identified a bacterial or viral infection, 8% found thyroid abnormalities, 8% had structural problems and the remaining 42% fell under “other” or unknown causes.

Of the live litters that were born breeders told us that 79% of the time there were at least 3 or more live puppies in those litters. When asked the question regarding the frequency of stillbirths in litters breeders reported that about 14% of the time the number of stillbirths was higher than they would have expected. In another 10% of the litters that were born breeders reported that there were an abnormal number of puppy deaths in the first 3 weeks of life.

Some breeders did share information regarding the causes puppy deaths during those first 3 weeks. Their comments follow along with other questions and observations:

“Undiagnosed Mastitis”

“Herpes Virus”

“C-Section, dam’s incision dehised,  6 out of 9 puppies died after being removed from the dam and bottle feeding started. (note – “incision dehised” sounds like a wound dehiscence which is a surgical complication where the wound ruptures along the surgical suture).

“mother laid on pup 2 days after birth”

“one puppy #12 came out without a sack and could not revive him, #13 came out with no problems and this was the last puppy of the litter”

“one to respiratory infection (aspiration of fluid) passed at about 10 days, another from extremely low birth weight passed away at 12 days”

“Previously (before the last 5 years) I had a bitch that reabsorbed part and all of her litters. This was due to low progesterone after conceiving. I was able to maintain a litter with progesterone injections. I kept and bred a puppy from this litter and eventually bred her. She also had the same problem, when I kept one of her pups, it too carried the same problem. All were spayed and I started over with an unrelated female. The other problem with the injections is that the bitch will not go into labor, therefore a C-section is a must. A friend had the same problems with one of her Standard Poodle bitches, and the same results with breeding offspring. She had bred Standards for 40 years, her bitch was from her own line, she had never had this problem before, but once it appeared, it seems it is passed on to the female offspring. Neither of us tried breeding a male from one of these bitches, so don’t know if there was any effect on them.”

“No bitch or stud dog failed here, I give vaccinations or medications like Drontal or others to pregnant bitches. Only before mating she’s on the top of health…when the bitch starting her season she received worm cure, vaginal culture and is not allowed to swim in natural rivers…”

“I did have a bitch who conceived but then reabsorbed her litter. She was confirmed pregnant via ultrasound at 28 days”

“Hearing more Gordon bitches with cystic ovaries that fail to conceive”

So my friends, now it’s time for you to chime in, offering advice and further comments using the comment section. This can be a great place to start conversations, ask questions, provide advice and all those other great things we like to do for each other. Looking forward to your participation!

Many thanks to Bob Segal for the adorable puppy photos!

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ


Causes of Infertility and Puppy Deaths

Photo by Bob Segal

It seems like it should be so easy, creating a gorgeous litter of Gordon Setter puppies. But, as many experienced breeders will tell you, it’s not simple, and sometimes our dream of those future winners and fabulous family pets becomes nothing more than wishful thinking as the reality of a failed breeding hits home. When this reality becomes the norm rather than a one time event, breeders often seek the advice of canine reproductive experts to help unravel the mystery. Having some knowledge and a basic understanding of what can and does go wrong with our bitch during breeding is imperative for the serious breeder.

So let’s spend some time talking about what could be amiss with our bitch by starting with the assumption that our male was fertile and the sperm quality was near perfection. In the bitch we learn that finding a cause may be very difficult as there can be many different situations that are very hard to determine, for example being able to tell if the eggs were actually fertilized by the sperm or if instead there was early death of the embryos.  We’re going to explore the causes of infertility in the bitch in general terms to give you an idea of what your reproductive expert may find.

Mistimed Breeding

The majority of missed breedings are due to mistimed matings. We now have many fantastic tools at our disposal to tell us the optimal time to breed our bitch, which means that by working with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about canine reproduction we can confidently eliminate this as an issue early on in the game. To determine the proper timing of the breeding we can employ techniques like vaginal cytology, endoscopic appearance of vaginal folds and progesterone testing which are the most commonly used and accurate methods.

  • Photo by Bob Segal
    Photo by Bob Segal

    Ovarian Ultrasonography is the most accurate method to determine the precise ovulation date and can help to develop the number of growing follicules as well as the follicules that are undergoing ovulation thus assisting in the complete evaluation of the fertility of the bitch. You will find photos and an explanation of this procedure in the article Ovarian Ultrasonography and Follow up of Estrus in the Bitches.

Infertility and Prolonged Interestrous Intervals

The interestrous (simply put this is time in between the seasons) is normally between 4 and 13 months with 7 months being the average. There are many variations in the interestrus time period and this may not be abnormal, however, once the heat cycle is established, most bitches will maintain a fairly consistent cycle throughout their lives varying little from year to year, cycle to cycle. Prolonged interestrous in the bitch may cause infertility and can be caused by:

  • The silent heat occurs when ovarian activity takes place within the bitch without the outward appearance of the physical and behavioral changes that are characteristic of a bitch in season.
  • Hypothyroidism – the 2004 GSCA Health Survey reported an 8% incidence of Hypothyroid in our breed. Your vet will recommend a thyroid panel when addressing any fertility issue and you should ask for this even if the cycle of the bitch is normal and not prolonged. I found a reference chart sharing the ideal thyroid levels for breeding bitches and have included that information for your review along with a link to the article John Cargill on Thyroid. …”following the guidance of , Dr. Priscilla Stockner, MS, MBA DVM, Veterinary Management Services/Canine Cryobank and W. Jean Dodds, Director, Veterinary Hematology Laboratory, New York State Department of Health…The Normal ranges and Ideals for breeding  purposes are as follows:”
Test Normal Ideal
TT4 22-54 >38
TT3 1.2-3.1 >2.2
FT4 12-39 >25
FT3 2.2-4.8 >3.5
T4A <25 <10
T3A <10 <5
  • Other hormonal diseases such as Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushings Disease) or Hyperprolactinem
  • Bitches treated with hormonal compounds such as progestogens, androgens (racing dogs) or anabolic steroid
  • Ovarian cysts that secrete progesterone.
  • Environmental – A final cause of the prolonged cycle could be found in bitches who are housed in very bad conditions such as in high numbers or overcrowded. Those with limited or no access to sun or day light or housed in very low lighting, bitches fed a low quality food and similar restrictive conditions.

Infertility and Shortened Interestrous

  • Follicular cysts or Granulosa cells tumor causing over stimulation of the ovaries. There are various treatments for these issues that may return your Gordon Setter to fertility.
  • A premature decline in progesterone during diestrus causing an inability to carry the pregnancy to term. Early embryonic or fetal death is nearly impossible to detect and may be caused by endometritis, cystic endometrial hyperplasia and embryonic defects or possibly inbreeding. These deaths are often associated with a drop in the blood progesterone level.
Photo by Bob Segal

Infertility due to Infectious Diseases

  • Canine Herpes Virus (CHV) – causes fatal infections in newborn puppies and vaginitis in the bitch. It can cross the  placenta and infect puppies resulting in fetal death, mummification, abortion, premature birth or the delivery of weak, nonviable pups. Exposure to CHV is very common and generally results in few if any symptoms for the adult. As a virus however, it does go dormant in the dog and may flare during times of stress such as pregnancy. It is very important for all breeders to realize the complexity and the severity of this virus as it relates to pregnancy, fetal health and newborn puppies. There are several excellent sites hosting articles relating to CHV infection and I am providing you a link to click for Stress, Infertility and Herpes Infection by Mary C. Wakeman DVM, Ashford Animal Clinic and Canine Fertility Center.
  • Canine Distemper Virus – may cause spontaneous abortion from the stress of the disease with or without infection of the fetus.
  • Canine Brucellosis – The most common bacterial cause of abortion in bitches occurring between 45-55 days. Infertility generally follows the infection, vaginal discharges and aborted fetus tissues are highly infectious and extreme care should be taken to prevent transmission to other dogs and bitches.
  • Specified bacterial diseases such as E. Coli, S. aureus, and Strep are suspected in the case of infertility. B-hemolytic Streptococcus has been reported in fetal infection resulting in the abortion of the puppies or the birth of weak non-viable puppies. Several studies have given indication of some slight difference in the composition of the vaginal flora between fertile and infertile bitches, however it has been shown that with the presence of vaginitis there are significant variations in that flora and strong evidence that the bacteria causing the vaginitis may lead to infertility. It is considered possible that the role of vaginal bacterial as it concerns infertility may be underestimated as it lacks clinical signs and is difficult to determine under normal clinical examination of the vaginal tract. These bacteria are frequently cultured from vaginal discharges or fetal tissues after abortion and may be associated not only with infertility but also persistent vaginal discharge and repeat abortion especially in older bitches.
  • Parasitic infections can cause of infertility.
  • Mycoplasma and Ureaplasma – these are opportunistic organisms that are normally found in the vaginal canal, however heavy infections may cause infertility, early embryonic death, resorption, abortion, stillbirths or the birth of weak and nonviable puppies.
  • Neospora Caninum – may cause early fetal death. Neospora are protozoan parasites also infecting wolves, coyotes, dingos and other wild dogs. Dogs may become infected by eating infected cattle, deer, chickens (especially barnyard chickens), or any of a variety of wild animals. Infections may be transmitted through raw meat diets. Once infected the dam may pass the infection to the litter and should they survive birth, some puppies may develop progressive hind-limb weakness and muscle atrophy. Adult dogs may show symptoms of inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord, nodules or ulcers on skin or mouth, pneumonia, or myocarditis. A Neospora infection can also be present with no signs or symptoms in the host.
  • Toxoplasma gondii – Another protozoal parasite that may cause mild disease in adult dogs but most commonly persists as an unrecognized infection causing few if any symptoms. T. gondii when present may cause fetal infection and death or abortion and, if the puppies survive birth, it should be noted that T. gondii has been found in the milk of lactating bitches. T. gondii is most commonly passed through the fecal matter of cats who are the primary host.

Other causes of Infertility include:

  • Drugs and induced infertility –  steroid hormones or anti-fungal drugs may create hormonal defects in bitches. Obviously, one would want to avoid abortive drugs such as prostglandinsm, antiprogestins and antiprolactinic substances during pregnancy.
  • Anatomical abnormalities of the vulva, vagina, vestibule may prevent a natural breeding for a bitch. These could be congenital or acquired diseases of the genital tract like scar tissue.
  • Endometritis – difficult to diagnose in the bitch this is a common cause of infertility in horses. An Endoscopic canulation to obtain cervical smear may be the best option to identify this disease.
  • Cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH) prevents implantation after conception and often leads to pyometra. There is a successful therapy to treat CEH and it may be identified by skilled ultrasound.
 Links to additional reference material:

Now you all should know I’m not a medical expert, nor am I a veterinarian, so what appears here is my layman’s interpretation from research I conducted in order to write this article for you. I do hope that those who are experts will let us know if there are errors or additional information that should be included here by leaving comments or sending me an email at gordonsetterexpert@gmail.com. Additionally, we encourage everyone to share their thoughts, questions, experience or knowledge with our readers by adding comments.

The Estrous Cycle and Fertile Period