Canine Fertility Study
Landmark research finds overall poor conception rates in show dogs, possibly due to increased use of AI and frozen semen.
FERTILITY REPORT: PUREBRED DOGS
by TheDogPlace.org Staff and Breeders, March 2013 update
The first canine fertility study reveals reasons for increased mating problems, flakey seasons, litter rejection or small litter size in purebred dogs.
Dog breeders report increasing breeding problems in show-bred purebreds. New breeders or those who are involved in a new breed may be told that fertility problems are common "in that line." Readers say asking others in the breed is futile because no one discusses conception rates or litter rejection unless it is someone else's bloodline.
Breeders also report frustration with veterinarians who aren't interested in canine reproduction or who just go through the motions of treating the dog before referring them to a reproductive specialist. Unfortunately, the complaint is often that the specialty practice was also “non-productive" but very expensive.
Sally F. in Des Moines took her Doberman bitch out of state before finding a vet who discovered a vaginal stricture and incised it, thus allowing normal copulation. Rita B. tried to get her new male to breed her proven German Shepherd bitch. She finally found a breeder in Tampa who on the next season, observed that the young male was subservient to her older, dominant bitch. Rita arranged a different mating for the young dog and hopes a successful experience will enable him to breed the dominant bitch next time.
If you are an experienced dog breeder or scientist, we welcome your feedback or data for this report.
What Causes Flakey Seasons or Infertility?
Breeders who maintain three or more breeding bitches have revealed low infertility, unusually small litter size, or reduced sexual aggression in their bloodlines. New breeders think it is just “the breed.” While it is true that some breeds are structurally relegated to C-sections, our research has shown that caesareans may be bloodline related rather than due to breed anomalies such as head size.
A tantalizing theory began to emerge, demanding more research. While statistics are scanty, indications are that show dogs have smaller litters than mixed breeds of similar size. This was emphasized as several breeders observed that “farm dogs get pregnant every heat cycle” and most mentioned puppy mill bitches. An email from Jeremy in Chicago complained about his top winning bitch having two “flakey seasons" in a row even though he said “every puppy mill in the country is having puppies” and “the mutt three doors down just had a litter of ten!"
Obviously campaign stress can affect a bitch's reproductive cycle and fertility as in Jeremy’s case. Some dogs adjust well to being on the road but changes in water, altitude, weather, and surroundings, plus the stress of being crated can bring on physical and psychological anomalies. One handler expressed concern over the constant “vibration” and hum when he tried to sleep while his partner drove. He described a top of the line rig but said even so, he was fatigued and “worn out” after a long drive. Ditto that for the dogs who can't tell us what effects they endure.
Another well known owner handler said that her current bitch had regular seasons when they were spot showing her as a youngster but stated she hasn’t had a normal heat cycle since they began campaigning her. She read something in TheDogPlace about bitches not ovulating when taken to the stud dog because they instinctively didn’t want to get pregnant in a strange place. A quick Google search found The Mechanics Of Canine Reproduction gave credence to her theory.
We heard from conscientious breeders who spare no expense in the care of their show and breeding stock. A few suggested puppy mill bitches are more productive because they are not inbred but an inside source revealed that the opposite is true in smaller operations. Is it because they DO NOT receive the same high level of care as our pampered purebreds? Is larger litter size the result of more frequent matings and higher conception rates in feral dogs? These observations, first compiled in 2010, prompted discovery of Canine Infertility Disease Now, a year later, TheDogPlace.org has greatly expanded that conclusion.
“Street Dog” Fertility and Reproductive Health
First, let's accept the premise that stray dogs and those in primitive societies around the world reproduce with alarming regularity and no veterinary intervention to encourage reproductive ability. Despite what we’ve been led to believe, underfed and medically disadvantaged dogs maintain high fertility rates, whelp and rear normal litters with comparatively few problems.
From the inner-city slums to Aboriginal villages around the world, rare is the intact female that manages to pass through a season without getting pregnant. That fact begs the question; “what is wrong with our carefully bred and meticulously cared-for ‘show dogs’"? That led us to “What is the common denominator between street dogs and puppy mill dogs?” With no public statistics and no comparative fertility studies, we had to base conclusions on four factors (F1 > F4) which we know to be true.
Canine Reproduction & Nutrition
Strays and village dogs eat whatever they can scavenge. Puppy mill dogs are fed whatever dry food can be purchased in discount lots. Factor #1 is simple. As recently as five dog-lives ago, there were no premium foods. Pet foods were simple, grain based products which owners supplemented with meat and table scraps. The average family pet ate a diet amazingly similar to that of scavenging strays and indigenous village dogs.
Large show kennels of the day used readily available meat and hormone-free dairy products. Dogs that are fed that way still produce huge litters of viable, healthy puppies as in this Berner litter.
In today's competitive pet food industry, even those companies which would prefer to use quality ingredients are forced to allocate a high % of the promotional budget to advertising, commissions, and out-marketing the grocery store brands. The additives, which often include unnecessary and potentially harmful herbs, chemicals, and latent hormones, were noted as a known contributor to low fertility, irregular heat cycles, and small litter size.
Veterinary Care For Breeding Stock
Strays and puppy mill dogs receive minimal medical attention. No immunizations, heartworm preventives, antibiotics, etc. Undeniably factor #2 in the reproductive equation is the level of veterinary care provided by serious hobbyists. At the first sign of a sniffle, dogs go on antibiotics because vets acquiesce to a show breeder's demands to "do something." For over two decades, "responsible" breeders have dutifully inundated our dogs with immunizations, antibiotics, supplements, herbal remedies, and questionable medications.
This study would be meaningless had we skirted the ever-increasing list of diseases for which we medicate and vaccinate. Has the risk of adversely impacting the dog’s reproductive ability and immune system been sensibly weighed against the value of preventing a rare disease? The answer is simple; only if there is financial incentive to do so. Rabies vaccine is vital to protect human health and puppy shots were gratefully welcomed but a scientific debate would have to weigh repeated boosters to protect against a remote possibility of adult infection against the certainty of impacting the canine health and reproductive system with extraneous vaccines. The same is true of the many herbal, coat, and nutritional supplements with which we bombard our dogs.
Artificial Breeding Pair Selection
Last but far from least is the degree of managed matings which many geneticists would classify as inbreeding. As dog breeders, we would disagree that inbreeding inherently reduces reproductive ability so long as breeders select for reproductive ability and mating vigor when choosing breeding partners. Natural selection in the stray or indigenous canine population weeds out unthrifty or sexually weak animals. Bitches that experience flakey seasons are unattractive to virile, sexually aggressive males. We regularly upset nature’s balance as evidenced by the German Shepherd breeder with the submissive male. The inescapable fact is that show breeders routinely compensate for dogs which, in the natural state, could never contribute to the gene pool.
Artificial (AI) Insemination and Whelping
We progressed from inserting fresh semen (from an inept stud dog or due to a fractious bitch) to the use of chilled or frozen semen. The practice was embraced by show breeders who welcomed the convenience, thus reducing expense and risk in shipping a beloved bitch and/or transmitting infection to either sire of dam. Clearly in using frozen semen we unknowingly perpetuate mating problems which will plague us in the next generation.
A timid stud can be collected. A reluctant bitch can be inseminated. But left to their own devices, the two would be unlikely to mate and by helping, we are doubling up on bad reproductive genes! Neither bitch nor stud owner know that they are complicit in compounding one of the worst genetic problems because neither of them know about the sexual dysfunction of the other dog.
Think about it. The semen of a sexually feeble dog in California can unknowingly be inseminated into an unbreedable bitch in New York.
We plan to C-section a bitch because we love her and value her exceptional qualities or breed type. In many breeds, the dam isn’t given a chance to deliver her litter. While the resulting litter may be a huge asset to the breeder, even to the breed itself, we must analyze the overall benefit to the future of the domestic canine. Could the litter have been created or would that breed survive without human intervention? Are there any dogs of that breed which can and do reproduce naturally? Outcross!
Reproductive Study Summary
Our researchers value the advances and life-saving veterinary sciences of canine reproduction but as breeders we could not conduct or conclude this study without being objective. We are the experts so we are commanded to take a deep breath and realize there is a profound lesson to be learned in Survival Of The Fittest. Whether in the Arctic tundra or the African savannah, nature allows only the strongest and most virile animals to reproduce.
If we denied the evidence of nutrition, medicine, and human interference as the primary reasons for diminished reproductive ability in today’s most elite canines, we would be short-sighted and therefore comprise the study.
Speaking of which, we were at first amazed to find no other study on comparative reproduction in show dogs vs. feral or stray dogs. Then we arrived at an inescapable conclusion. Stray/feral dogs scavenge garbage cans, dumps, roadside scraps, etc. instead of eating fake-food. Regardless of the society in which they live, non-owned dogs are also spared the veterinary care excesses of purebred breeding stock. Of course there's an unwillingness to explore the impact of diet and pet-meds on the canine reproductive system but we think it safe to say that loss of reproductive vigor in pampered purebred indicts the pharmaceutical and commercially prepared food industries. We then had to ask, would veterinary universities that count on research grants from those industries bite the hand that feeds them?
Probably not. And that explains why our independent researchers could find no published data on the cause of rising infertility in the well bred purebred. We trust however, that you will find value in this study and select your next sire or dam for genetic and physical fertility as well as the physical and behavioral qualities that typify your breed!
 Rx For Whelping
Click to see ii Legal Health Information Disclaimer