Estimation of gestational age and assessment of canine fetal maturation using radiology and ultrasonography: a review

Theriogenology. 2008 Aug;70(3):397-402. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2008.05.034. Epub 2008 Jun 4.


Since the duration of pregnancy in the bitch is relatively short, it is critical that fetuses are fully mature prior to delivery for them to survive. For breeders to be able to prepare for normal whelpings and align medical care in case of emergency, an estimated due date is necessary. In cases where ovulation timing is lacking and there is a singleton fetus or oversize fetuses, it is necessary to ascertain gestational age prior to setting the date of Cesarean section. In high-risk pregnancies, where there is poor or no ovulation timing, determination of fetal maturation and gestational age will assist in determining if pregnancy has progressed long enough to allow delivery of viable puppies. In cases where bitches are receiving supplemental progesterone for pregnancy maintenance medications must be discontinued at an appropriate time to permit delivery of viable puppies. It also allows for estimation of the likelihood of fetal survival if the pregnancy is terminated due to failing bitch health, with subsequent surgical delivery of the fetuses. Use of breeding dates alone does not provide due dates with adequate accuracy. In cases where there has been inadequate or no breeding management or ovulation timing, estimation of due date can be performed at the time of pregnancy diagnosis, or closer to term. Radiography can be used to confirm pregnancy and facilitate determination of gestational age, beginning 45d after the LH surge. Ultrasonography can be used from 19 to 21d after the LH surge to term to confirm pregnancy and predict gestational age, and from 25 or 26d to term to assess fetal viability and fetal stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dogs / embryology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Gestational Age*
  • Pregnancy
  • Radiology*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / veterinary*