Although there is no acute luteolytic mechanism in the absence of pregnancy in the bitch, a precise and well-timed embryo-maternal interaction seems to be required for the initiation and maintenance of gestation. As only limited information is available about these processes in dogs, in this study, the uterine expression of possible decidualization markers was investigated during the pre-implantation stage (days 10-12) of pregnancy and in the corresponding nonpregnant controls. In addition, the expression of selected genes associated with blastocyst development and/or implantation was investigated in embryos flushed from the uteri of bitches used for this study (unhatched and hatched blastocysts). There was an upregulated expression of prolactin receptor (PRLR) and IGF2 observed pre-implantation. The expression of PRL and of IGF1 was unaffected, and neither was the expression of progesterone-or estrogen receptor beta (ESR2). In contrast, (ESR1) levels were elevated during early pregnancy. Prostaglandin (PG)-system revealed upregulated expression of PGE2-synthase and its receptors, PTGER2 and PTGER4, and of the PG-transporter. Elevated levels of AKR1C3 mRNA, but not the protein itself, were noted. Expression of prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2) remained unaffected. Most of the transcripts were predominantly localized to the uterine epithelial cells, myometrium and, to a lesser extent, to the uterine stroma. PGES (PTGES) mRNA was abundantly expressed in both groups of embryos and appeared higher in the hatched ones. The expression level of IGF2 mRNA appeared higher than that of IGF1 mRNA in hatched embryos. In unhatched embryos IGF1, IGF2, and PTGS2 mRNA levels were below the detection limit.