Are the Bloods Compatible. And Failure to Conceive

I make no bones in copying this article straight in to this health section. I read it years ago and although bloods cannot be identified as far as mating is concerned I watch what happens and note which dog can get which bitch pregnant. And as my friend in Ireland will say of me, It Matters. Here we imported a bitch in 2012 and it took us 5 seasons to get her pregnant, her mother was the same and both terrible at mothering.

The piece was written by Patsy Wallace-Jones

Health & Genetics

The Case of a “Bloody” Mystery

In an old issue of Corgi Quarterly (autumn 1993) there was an interesting article by Patsy Wallace-Jones, California.

One of her bitches was mated five times.
– The first breeding to Stud A produced nine live pups.
– The second breeding to Stud B produced no pups.
– The third breeding to Stud B produced three stillborns.
– The fourth breeding to Stud C produced two live and two stillborns.
– The fifth breeding to Stud D produced three live and two stillborns. A sonogram three days before whelping showed five live pups. The two pups that survived the whelping faded and died at eight days of age. Result – no survivors.

During the course of these pregnancies, many vets were consulted to determine the probable cause of puppy mortality. Was it dog food additives? Was it poisonous yard sprays? Was it contaminated water? Was it thyroid problems? Was it another autoimmune problem? Was it a low-grade bacterial infection that wasn’t showing in the blood workup? With four different studs involved, it had to be the bitch – but why?

Through pure chance the unfortunate breeder made contact with Dr. Jean Dodds of Hemopet in California. Actually the intent was to thoroughly check the autoimmune system. After a discussion of the bitch’s whelping history, Dr. Dodds said that the cause could be an incompatibility of blood groups, akin to the Rhesus system in humans.

There are 8 major blood groups in the dog, labeled as DEA (dog erythrocyte antigen) 1 to 8. Clinically the most antigenic blood type is DEA 1.1. It is important to note that while cats always have natural antigens against another blood group (a cat with blood type A has always antigens against blood type B and vice versa) this is not the case in dogs.

Dr Jean Doods’ personal clinical experience, which was shared by her long time friend and late colleague, Dr. Robert Bull, indicated that incompatible matings between DEA 1 negative dams and DEA 1 positive sires led to hemolytic disease of the newborn pups after a second or subsequent blood type incompatible mating of the sensitized DEA 1 negative dam by mating with a DEA 1 positive sire. They wrote about these clinical cases in the 1970s.

And indeed, the bitch’s blood tested DEA 1.1 negative, which confirmed Dr. Dodd’s suspicions that the bitch’s problems with dead and fading puppies in litters 2 through 5 were caused by blood group incompatibility. Three weeks after whelping, the bitch still displayed anti-red blood cell antibody activity presumably from the recent pregnancy from a positive male. The high titer probably indicates that she had been previously sensitized by earlier matings and that with each subsequent litter, this sensitization has resulted in hemolytic disease of the fetuses and newborns. Her health profile indicated no metabolic or other abnormality that would account for the puppy deaths.

There is, however, some controversy on this subject. According to an article from 2009 written by veterinary hematology colleagues of Dr Dodds naturally occurring hemolytic disease of newborn puppies only occurs when their dam has previously been sensitized by a DEA -1 incompatible blood transfusion rather than from sensitization by a prior DEA 1 blood group incompatible mating. Blais M-C, Rozanski EA, Hale AS, Shaw SP, Cotter SM. Lack of evidence of pregnancy-induced alloantibodies in dogs. J Vet Int Med 23:462-465, 2009.

Blood transfusions
As mentioned above, dogs, contrary to cats, have no naturally occuring antibody against other blood types and therefore first-time transfusion reactions do not occur. However, once sensitized by a previous transfusion from an incompatible donor subsequent incompatible transfusion can result in severe hemolytic reactions.

Experiments have also shown that neonatal isoerythrolysis in DEA 1.1 pups can be caused when a DEA 1.1 negative bitch is sensitized by transfusion with DEA 1.1 positive blood followed by a mating to a DEA 1.1 positive sire.

Possible combinations:

DEA 1.1 negativeDEA 1.1 negativecompatible
DEA 1.1 negativeDEA 1.1 positivecompatible
DEA 1.1 positiveDEA 1.1 positivecompatible
DEA 1.1 positiveDEA 1.1 negativeincompatible

In case of an emergency it is therefore important to know that the donor is DEA 1.1-negative, as only the blood of a negative donor can be universally used without any complications.

With a simple test vets can determine whether a dog is DEA 1.1 positive or negative.

An ideal blood donor is a friendly, healthy, clinically normal animal that is not pregnant or has not produced a litter if an unspayed bitch. Donors should be vaccinated (although not within 10-14 days before donation) and free of infections and parasites, especially blood borne disease.

Failure To Conceive

If a bitch fails to conceive the two most common causes are:
– The bitch was mated at the wrong time of her season
– The male has a poor semen quality.
Both are easy to check. In the first case by means of a blood sample and a vaginal smear. In the second case by a semen sample.
Many breeders think that the cause may be an infection in the bitch but this is not likely.
There are, of course, preferences for particular partners among dogs but the most common reason for a bitch to reject the male, or why a male does not want to mate the bitch, is that the bitch is presented to the dog on the wrong day/days. Most often it is too early.

When should the bitch be mated?
Oestrus can vary from 4-20 days.
Many people believe that bitches should be mated between days 10-14 in the heat, but there are big differences. Some bitches allow mating when it seems too early and some when it is too late.
The bitch is ready for mating when she accepts the dog by turning her rear end towards him and moving her tail to the side.
A blood sample to check the bitch’s progesterone levels can be helpful in determining the optimal day(s) for mating. (The progesterone level should be measured by a laboratory. The commercially available quick tests are not always reliable.)

Split Season
Another reason for a bitch not getting pregnant may be that she has a split season, or split oestrus, which is a fairly common problem particularly in young females.
Basically, what happens with these bitches is that instead of having a single season, they have 2 seasons which are 3-6 weeks apart. The 3-6 week gap between the season is the key to recognising this problem. The first season is unlikely to produce a pregnancy so the bitch must be mated on the second season.
This problem is often diagnosed when breeders bring their bitch to a vet for pre-mate testing – where the vet uses swabs from the vagina or blood test to determine when the bitch is ready to mate. What happens then is that the tests show that the bitch is never quite ready for mating, and if you try to mate her she will not stand, or if she does stand, she does not get pregnant. The season then seems to stop, but 3-6 weeks later the season starts again and this time the bitch will be ready to mate.
Sadly, most people only notice the first season and try to mate at this time. When this does not work, they are let to believe that their bitch is infertile and the second season goes unnoticed.
With bitches that go through split heats, she can be fertile when you are not prepared, and an unplanned litter could occur. Keep her secured and away from any intact males while she displays any signs of heat.

What you should watch out for:
You don’t need to have any expensive tests to diagnose split seasons, good record keeping will suffice. If you have a bitch which has given some difficulties mating, keep a little diary of every day regarding her season (write down the colour of the discharge and if you tried to mate her). When she goes out of season, keep on checking her to see if she comes into season again a few weeks later – if she does, then she is likely to have had a split season – mate her again on the second season!!!
Having pre-mate swabs of the vagina and blood tests can help with this diagnosis, but, as mentioned earlier, if you keep a daily diary of the seasons of all your bitches, you may be able to detect this problem yourself and get puppies out of a bitch that you previously thought was infertile.

(Source of Split Season: Paolo Lencioni, BVSc MRCVS)

Over 13 canine blood groups have been described. Eight DEA (Dog Erythrocyte Antigen) types are recognized as international standards.[3][4][5] Of the DEA, DEA 4 and DEA 6 appear on the red blood cell of ~98% of dogs. Dogs with only DEA 4 or DEA 6 can thus serve as blood donors for the majority of the canine population. Any of the DEA may stimulate an immune response in a recipient of a blood transfusion, but reactions to DEA 1.1+ are the most severe.

The most important canine blood type is DEA 1.1. Dogs that are DEA 1.1 positive (33 to 45% of the population) can be considered to be universal recipients – that is, they can receive blood of any type without expectation of a life-threatening Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction (“HTR”). Dogs that are DEA 1.1 negative can be considered to be universal donors. Blood from DEA 1.1 positive dogs should never be transfused into DEA 1.1 negative dogs. If it is the dog’s first transfusion the red cells transfused will have a shortened life due to the formation of alloantibodies to the cells themselves and the animal will forever be sensitized to DEA 1.1 blood. If it is a second such transfusion, life-threatening conditions will follow within hours. In addition, these alloantibodies will be present in a female dog’s milk (colostrum) and adversely affect the health of DEA 1.1 negative puppies.[6]

The remainder of the article covers Bobtails by and can be found elsewhere in Health.

Bobtails in the Pembroke Welsh Corgi
By Anne Indergaard, Annwn Welsh Corgis, Norway

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