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Dog pregnancy is an inflammatory condition

Last changed: 24 January 2019
Brown-white-black dog. photo

Pregnancy is considered a pro-inflammatory state that requires physiologic adaptation of the immune system of the mother. The aim of the present study was to study inflammatory and hormonal changes during canine pregnancy.

Studies included analyses of peripheral concentrations of the acute phase proteins fibrinogen and C-reactive protein (CRP), the hormones progesterone and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), hemoglobin, and analyses of the total leukocyte numbers and expression of cell surface antigens.

Twenty bitches were included in the present study; 12 pregnant bitches and eight non-pregnant control bitches that were followed during the corresponding phase of the oestrous cycle. Blood samples were collected at the day of optimal mating (day 0) and then on days 7, 14, 21, 28 and 42. Progesterone, IGF-I and CRP were analysed in serum and fibrinogen in EDTA plasma. Haematology and leukocyte expression of a panel of inflammation-associated adhesion molecules (CD 11a, CD 18 and CD 49d) were evaluated from EDTA blood. The data were analyzed as repeated-measures data, using a mixed model approach.

Progesterone varied with time in both pregnant and control bitches, and IGF-I varied with time in pregnant bitches. Both fibrinogen and CRP increased significantly with time for the pregnant bitches, but no significant change was detected for the control bitches. Increases were seen from day 21. The hemoglobin concentration decreased significantly with time in both pregnant and non-pregnant bitches. The neutrophil and monocyte numbers increased significantly in pregnant but not in control bitches. Pregnancy induced increased granulocyte expression of cell surface marker CD 18, increased monocyte expression of CD 18 and CD 49d, and increased lymphocyte expression of CD 49d.

In conclusion, we describe inflammatory changes during canine pregnancy that are manifested as increases in concentrations of CRP and fibrinogen, an increase in neutrophils and monocytes, and in activation of granulocytes, monocytes and lymphocytes. The changes should be taken into account when evaluating concentrations of APPs and WBC in bitches during pregnancy. A variation in IGF-I concentrations was detected during pregnancy.

Link to the publication


Bodil S. Holst, Malin H. Gustavsson, Anders Johannisson, Anna Hillström, Emma Strage, Ulf Olsson, Eva Axnér, Inger Lilliehöök. (2019) Inflammatory changes during canine pregnancy. Theriogenology, 125; 285-292.


Bodil Ström Holst
Senior Lecturer at the Department of Clinical Sciences; Division of Reproduction                                                        

Telephone: 018-671608