Artificial insemination (AI) is a procedure in which semen is collected from the male and introduced into the reproductive tract of the female. The American Kennel Club has regulations concerning the registration of dogs produced by artificial insemination. Before breeding, check with the AKC or your country’s kennel club for information on how to properly register the litter. DNA profiles are required by most registries when AI is used.
Procedures for collecting and processing the semen and inseminating the bitch are well standardized, and must be followed exactly or the breeding will not be successful. Accordingly, AI should be performed by veterinarians or those who have acquired expertise under veterinary supervision. When properly performed, conception rates using fresh semen are equal to those attained by natural breeding.
AI using fresh semen is best used when natural mating is impossible or has been unsuccessful. Usually this is for psychological reasons, anatomical reasons, or problems associated with heat detection. It should be taken into account that if a dog cannot breed naturally, then perhaps he or she is not a dog who should be bred.
Cooled transported semen can be used to inseminate a bitch in another state or country who could not otherwise breed to a particular stud. Frozen semen can be stored for weeks, months, or years, possibly increasing in value as the importance of a particular stud dog is recognized through his progeny.
The success rate for AI has improved dramatically with the ability to time the insemination with ovulation using progesterone assay kits and LH testing, as well as vaginal cytology (see The Estrous Heat Cycle). Predicting ovulation is particularly important when the bitch does not display the typical signs of estrus. Semen is obtained by stimulating the male and collecting the ejaculate in a rubber conical sheath connected to a receptacle such as a glass tube or the barrel of a syringe. When inseminating with fresh semen, the bitch must be present. The semen is introduced immediately into her vagina using a sterile flexible insemination pipette connected to a syringe. The semen is deposited at the entrance to the cervix.
The best results are obtained by collecting semen and inseminating the bitch every 48 to 72 hours, beginning at the first indication of standing heat and continuing until she refuses to breed. When insemination is timed with ovulation, insemination should be done two to three days after ovulation, as determined by progesterone assays. After AI, the bitch should be confined until she goes out of heat.
Cooled semen must be handled and shipped according to strict protocols to maintain the viability of the sperm. Properly prepared cooled semen from a fertile stud can be preserved for two to four days. Cooled semen should be inseminated twice, either on days three and five or days four and six – as measured from day zero, or the first day of estrus (standing heat). Day zero is determined by progesterone assay and the receptive behavior of the bitch.
Conception rates for frozen semen are not as high as they are for fresh or cooled semen. Frozen-thawed sperm are unable to traverse the cervix and must be inseminated directly into the uterine body. Semen can be implanted directly into the bitch’s uterus using a very small surgical opening in the abdominal wall. It can also be done by passing a long stainless steel catheter through the cervix into the uterine body, but this is not as effective.
Advanced reproductive techniques using embryo transfers currently have a low rate of success.