Integrating trans-abdominal ultrasonography with fecal steroid metabolite monitoring to accurately diagnose pregnancy and predict the timing of parturition in the red panda (Ailurus fulgens styani)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Erin Curry, Lissa J. Browning, Paul Reinhart, Terri L. Roth
Zoo Biology
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Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens styani) exhibit a variable gestation length and may experience a pseudopregnancy indistinguishable from true pregnancy; therefore, it is not possible to deduce an individual’s true pregnancy status and parturition date based on breeding dates or fecal progesterone excretion patterns alone. The goal of this study was to evaluate the use of transabdominal ultrasonography for pregnancy diagnosis in red pandas. Two to three females were monitored over 4 consecutive years, generating a total of seven profiles (four pregnancies, two pseudopregnancies, and one lost pregnancy). Fecal samples were collected and assayed for progesterone (P4) and estrogen conjugate (EC) to characterize patterns associated with breeding activity and parturition events. Animals were trained for voluntary transabdominal ultrasound and examinations were performed weekly. Breeding behaviors and fecal EC data suggest that the estrus cycle of this species is 11–12 days in length. Fecal steroid metabolite analyses also revealed that neither P4 nor EC concentrations were suitable indicators of pregnancy in this species; however, a secondary increase in P4 occurred 69–71 days prior to parturition in all pregnant females, presumably coinciding with embryo implantation. Using ultrasonography, embryos were detected as early as 62 days post-breeding/50 days pre-partum and serial measurements of uterine lumen diameter were documented throughout four pregnancies. Advances in reproductive diagnostics, such as the implementation of ultrasonography, may facilitate improved husbandry of pregnant females and allow for the accurate prediction of parturition.


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