Serum Progesterone in Pregnant Bitches Supplemented with Progestin Because of Expected or Suspected Luteal Insufficiency


Author's address (for correspondence): A Günzel-Apel, Unit for Reproductive Medicine of Clinics University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Bünteweg 15, 30559 Hannover, Germany. E-mail:


Progesterone profiles of individual bitches may vary considerably both between and within individuals during pregnancy and non-pregnancy. Suspected luteal deficiency is commonly purported but is difficult to evaluate in clinical cases when progesterone is supplemented because this masks the underlying hormone changes. Therefore, in this study, suspected cases of luteal deficiency (six pregnancies from five bitches) were supplemented with oral medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), allowing measurement of endogenous progesterone using conventional assay. MPA (0.1 mg/kg) treatment commenced between days 30 and 36 after estimated ovulation and was continued for 18–28 days. Endogenous progesterone was measured throughout treatment, and blood was additionally analysed for prolactin (PRL) and relaxin (RLN) as well as MPA. The latter revealed delayed MPA clearance in two bitches, in which Caesarean operation had to be performed because of a low foetal heart rate. In two cases with confirmed basal concentrations of both P4 and MPA at term, spontaneous parturition occurred. Low endogenous progesterone during pregnancy was not apparent in three bitches that had previously had a short inter-oestrous interval of which two had previously had confirmed short luteal phase. However, in the remaining two cases, there had been previous pregnancy failure, but in only one of these, a premature decrease in endogenous progesterone to <2 ng/ml was detected. The latter had also low concentrations of PRL and RLN. The results of this preliminary clinical study suggest that abnormal progesterone profiles in pregnancy may be uncommon in bitches even when there has been previously documented short inter-oestrous interval. However, luteal deficiency may be suspected in bitches with a history of repeated pregnancy failure or abortion. MPA supplementation appears to be efficacious for management of suspected luteal deficiency and verification of the ovarian dysfunction, but care should be taken regarding the timing of MPA withdrawal and prolongation of pregnancy because of delayed elimination of MPA from blood circulation.