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cytology in dogs

Cytology In Dogs: A dog breeder’s guide

by | Dec 15, 2021

If you want to identify where your dog is in her heat cycle and the best time to breed from her, then cytology can give you perhaps the most accurate measure. 

There are various ways to evaluate a dog’s heat cycle, from progesterone tests to ovulation test pads to the Draminski Ovulation Detector. Cytology is not only more accurate but often cheaper, less invasive and quick to give you results. 

Let’s explore how cytology compares, so you can see if it’s the right choice for you. 

What Is Cytology In Dogs?

Cytology is the examination of tissue samples under a microscope. Typically there are two variations of cytology used for dogs; skin cytology and vaginal cytology. In this blog, we will be discussing vaginal cytology for dogs, and how it measures up against other canine ovulation testing methods.  

Vaginal Cytology For Dogs

Vaginal cytology is a simple procedure that takes a swab to gather samples for examination. It can be used to establish at what stage of a heat cycle a dog is in. 

But it has the added benefit of evaluating the dog’s health too since it can detect inflammatory and neoplastic conditions in the female reproductive tract.

Using a cotton swab, cells are collected for examination under a microscope. 

There are four cells that can be present:

  • Parabasal
  • Intermediate
  • Superficial
  • Anuclear

Different cells are present at the various four stages of your dog’s heat cycle, which allows for detection of the ideal time for mating. 

A Dog’s Heat Cycle  

There are four stages to a dog’s heat cycle. 

Stage 1: Proestrus

This is the first stage of your dog’s heat cycle. It will usually last around nine days, but there can be a lot of variation between dogs. Typical signs are vulva swelling, bloody discharge, behaviour changes, and potential changes in eating habits.  

Stage 2: Estrus

This is the second stage of your dog’s heat cycle, which typically will happen from day 10 up to 28 days within her cycle. 

Usually, the girl’s blood will start to thin down at this stage, it becomes more of a pinky straw discharge type. Her vulva may start to swell down a little bit. 

This is her optimum fertility window and the ideal time to mate. 

Stage 3: Diestrus

The third stage in your dog’s heat cycle is when she is beginning to decline in her fertility.

Stage 4: Anestrus

Your dog is now in a rest phase before gearing up for her next season. This stage lasts approx four months, depending on your individual dog.

When is the best time to breed a dog in her heat cycle?

A dog is most fertile during the third phase of her heat cycle – the Estrus phase. 

The period of receptivity for girls can vary hugely from dog to dog, which is why we use ovulation testing such as cytology and progesterone testing to try to narrow that window down for successful mating. 

It’s vital to monitor your individual dog’s heat cycle to identify the best time to breed from her. 

Benefits of Cytology for Breeding Dogs

Cytology acts as more than just a canine ovulation test, it also screens the health of your dog and gives you a very clear indication of what’s going on for her gynaecologically. 

  • Cytology allows us to pinpoint the exact time of ovulation.
  • On average, Cytology is usually approx £15-£20 cheaper than progesterone testing. 
  • It’s quick to perform, which reduces the stress on your dog and gives you results within 5-10 minutes.
  • It’s a screening of vaginal health and will detect any bacterial infections present.
  • It allows us to detect a split season.

What is a split season?

A split heat or split season is when a girl starts her heat but she doesn’t quite reach the Estrus part of her cycle. Their progesterone level doesn’t quite reach the peak, it then drops down. 

Often a dog who experiences a split-cycle will go into season again 3-4 weeks later, but you can also try herbal remedies to assist which can boost her progesterone levels and help her into the next stage of her cycle.

What Day Of A Bitches Cycle Should You First Test?

We recommend first testing on day 6 or 7 of a dog’s cycle. This allows for the variation in heat cycles, making sure you are likely to identify when your bitch enters the all-important estrus phase. 

Learn More 

If you’re interested in learning more about cytology and the mating process, then we have the perfect bundle of webinars for you!

Rebecca McPartland is a Canine Reproduction Specialist from Shropshire K9. She joined us to explore the ins and outs of canine reproduction in a 3-part series of webinars.

We cover:

  • The Importance of Semen Analysis
  • AI versus Natural Matings
  • Progesterone versus Cytology

Each session is around 1.5hrs long and bursting with insider tips to help you understand when and how to mate successfully. 

At just £99 for all three live seminars, they’re not to be missed!

Rebecca Walters

I’m Rebecca Walters, founder of Pupstarts Breeders. I’m a 5-star licensed dog breeder, an ex-licensing officer, and a woman committed to changing the industry for good.

I want to deliver all the dog breeding information, advice and education you need to be an ethical and reputable dog breeder who makes a difference in the world.

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