The role for ultrasound imaging in canine breeding and whelping is vital to allow the confirmation of pregnancy, and detect any potential problems throughout gestation. Dogs can be bred from between 12-24 months of age, and ultrasonography can be a useful tool throughout pregnancy. In particular, ultrasound between days 22-28 of gestation will enable the breeder to detect the foetus with developed eyes and spinal cords, and the initiation of organogenesis during normal pregnancy.

However, the role of ultrasonography in the detection of conditions of canine pregnancy and foetal abnormalities should also be considered. Although there a number of conditions that should be looked for, this article will discuss ‘water puppies’ and how ultrasound scanning can be beneficial during pregnancy. Water puppies are born with severe water retention and swelling, or edema. Although a specific cause for water puppies is currently unknown, it may be attributed to a viral infection or an aberrant immune response. It should be noted that the condition of edema should not be confused with hydometra, or ‘uterine dropsy’, whereby an accumulation of fluid occurs in the uterus. Certain dog breeds appear to be more greatly affected by the incidence of water puppies than others, including Bulldogs. In addition, crossbred and pedigree dogs have also demonstrated the presence of water puppies during pregnancy.

Ultrasound is crucial for the detection of these puppies that can be mildly to severely affected by this condition, ranging from breathing difficulties to drowning. Although they can be recognisable due to their larger size, x-rays are not always able to show this as the excess weight is mostly comprised of fluid. As a consequence, ultrasonography using an ultrasound with a clear, high-resolution image and large imaging area such as the SonoScape A5v would be greatly advantageous in detecting the presence of water puppies and putting procedures in place that could aid in the prevention of fetal or maternal death during whelping.

In conclusion, ultrasonography appears to be one of the most important tools for allowing the detection of water puppies prior to whelping. It is likely that early identification of this condition, although not guaranteeing the survival of the pup, can play roles in ensuring the correct treatment is given as soon as possible.