Today, artificial insemination in dogs is considered to be a valuable tool, especially for breeders that are looking to improve their breed. While inseminating dogs is a relatively new practice, it’s been done in cattle and other animals for decades. Insemination in dogs isn’t yet as successful as it is in other animals, mainly due to the fact that unlike cattle, the semen of male dogs is not as stable once it’s been frozen. Also, dog owners are often much more emotionally attached to their animals than cattle owners and so, dog owners might repeatedly try to inseminate problem females, even though it’s best for the genetic family if that’s not done.
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Reasons for Insemination in Dogs
While it may seem like an extreme solution, there are many practical reasons for inseminating dogs.
Some of these are:
- A male dog might display exceptional attributes such as intelligence, strength, temperament, and longevity may still produce offspring long after their death.
- It provides a way for an exceptional male dog to breed with many different females, far more than he ever physically could in his lifetime.
- Exceptional males can also produce offspring with other exceptional females, even when they are thousands of miles apart.
- When exceptional males can no longer reproduce with females, due to something such as a hip injury, artificial insemination will allow them to breed without having to actually have intercourse that they may be unable to.
- When a female is not in heat, but there is a suitable male for her to mate with, insemination can allow the fertilization to wait until the female is ready for breeding.
Collecting semen for insemination
The process of collecting semen from a male dog is a very simple one. A female dog, usually in heat, will be brought to the male. Once he has mounted her, his penis will be placed into an artificial female dog’s vagina to mimic the act of intercourse and excite the male to the point of ejaculation. The presence of the female dog is important because it helps excite the male.With her presence, females in heat excrete pheromones from their vagina, and these pheromones are airborne, meaning that they can reach the male dog even without actual contact. Male dogs are especially attracted to the pheromones, which will help increase their excitement and make semen collection successful.
But what happens if a female dog in heat isn’t available at the time of semen collection? Sometimes in these cases, vets will have taken cotton swabs of a female in heat and frozen them. Then, when it’s time to collect semen, those swabs can be wiped around the tail of any dog – even one that’s not in heat or that has been spayed – and cause enough excitement in the male dog for ejaculation to occur.
Evaluation and insemination
Once the male dog has had their semen collected, that semen has to be fully evaluated before it’s inseminated. During this analysis the semen will be checked to ensure it is adequately concentrated, mobile, and that their anatomic structure is correct. It’s known that abnormal sperm cells from males can sometimes not reach the ovaries of the females, or will have problems penetrating the ovum for fertilization to occur.
Once the semen has been collected and evaluated, it is then either inseminated into the female dog right away, or it is frozen for later use. If the female dog is present and ready to be bred, the semen can be injected into her using a long plastic or glass tube. Breeders or veterinarians typically try to reach at least the level of her cervix, which can be a few inches inside of the animal, especially in larger dogs.
Of course, if the semen is to be injected into a female right away, she needs to be at the appropriate point in her heat cycle.
These cycles and the times of them, will vary from breed to breed, but usually, at the beginning of the cycle the female dog’s vagina will swell and she’ll also bleed for approximately seven days, up to nine. Once the bleeding has subsided, she only has three to seven days to mate with the male in order for pregnancy to occur. It’s because of this very short timeframe that semen from male dogs is often frozen to be injected into females later, when she is ready.
If semen needs to be frozen, whether it’s because the male dog is miles away from the female, or because the female’s simply not ready to accept the injection, it’s placed into canisters of liquid nitrogen. Doing so this way is actually much cheaper than sending chilled semen by mail using “Next Day Air”, in which it can be used within 24 hours. The other advantage freezing semen in liquid nitrogen has over shipping it is that it can remain frozen for several years.
Concerns with artificial insemination
While artificial insemination in dogs can be very successful, it does come with a few of its own concerns.
One of those concerns is that while breeding may be done to extract some of the most desirable qualities out of a certain dog, such as intelligence and strength, it can also breed and exasperate some other less desirable qualities, such as severe behavioral issues. A bigger concern is that many people assume that diseases cannot be passed to other dogs, because often there is no actual contact.
However, it’s important that breeders know that while a male dog will not have any diseases transmitted to him when there is no actual intercourse, female dogs will always be at risk for transmission of disease due to the fact that they do come into contact with the male dog’s semen.
The success rate and litter sizes are also much smaller when artificial insemination is used over natural intercourse. It’s thought that artificial insemination has a success rate of 65 to 85 per cent, and that litters will see fewer pups than a litter that’s the result of natural intercourse.
While artificial insemination in dogs may sound like a complicated process, it’s actually relatively simple. It’s important that if you’re a breeder that’s considering using this method to breed, that you use only a veterinarian or technician that is highly experienced and knowledgeable about the procedure so that you reap the best results possible.