"Infertility in dogs and bitches
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"Infertility in dogs and bitches

Dogs
Health & Safety

Infertility is something that we think of as being a very human condition, and many couples spend many years and often a lot of money trying to conceive a much wished-for child. However, something that we are much less aware of as a whole is the fact that infertility-being unable to father or conceive young and carry them to term-is something that can affect virtually any species of animal, including dogs.

Because spaying and neutering as standard is performed on more dogs today than are left entire, infertility is something that doesn’t tend to come up very much, because most dog owners understand that having a litter is rarely desirable, unless the dogs are good quality pedigrees.

This means that if a dog or a bitch appears to be infertile, this may be missed or negated by neutering, or otherwise becomes a non-issue. However, for the owners of good quality pedigree dogs and a waiting audience of buyers, making the informed decision to breed may be appropriate-and finding out that your own dog is infertile when you wished to breed from them can be very disappointing.

In this article, we will look at the subject of infertility in dogs and bitches in more detail, including how to identify it, the various potential causes, and if anything can be done to reverse it and lead to a successful mating. Read on to learn more.

What causes infertility in bitches, and can anything be done about it?

Infertility in female dogs (or the females of any species) can be hugely complex, with a wide range of potential causes-some of which may be reversible, and others that are not.

Infertility in bitches can also refer to different patterns of failed breeding too-such as an inability to conceive in the first place, or the ability to conceive but not carry a healthy litter to term.

Some of the main potential causes of infertility in bitches include:

  • Dysmenorrhea, or a lack of menstrual seasons.
  • Infections of the reproductive organs, which can cause temporary infertility or render the bitch permanently infertile.
  • Prior infection with the canine herpes virus.
  • Conformation issues such as a narrow vaginal canal or blockage before the ovaries.
  • Caners, tumours and cysts in any part of the reproductive organs, even if the growth is benign.
  • Hereditary health conditions or conformation faults.
  • Hormonal imbalances, immunodeficiency disorders and other chronic conditions.
  • A history of inbreeding within the bitch’s breed line, which can lead to not only congenital abnormalities in litters, but also smaller litter sizes and infertility too.
  • False infertility may occur if the owner attempts to mate the dog when they are not in season, or at the most appropriate time for conception.
  • Aggressive bitches or those that refuse to mate may be unable to conceive by normal means.

Whether or not infertility in your bitch can be corrected or reversed largely depends on the cause of the problem. If your bitch appears to be unable to conceive, ask your vet to investigate it, as identifying the cause is of course necessary to ascertain if a solution is possible or not.

How would you know if your bitch was infertile?

The indications of infertility in female dogs can be almost as numerous as the causes behind it, and it may take several failed matings before the owner realises that something is amiss. Some of the most common indications of infertility in bitches include:

  • Absent heat cycles.
  • Irregular heat cycles.
  • Canine STD’s such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia.
  • Very short heat cycles, and so, a short window of opportunity for successful mating.
  • Refusal to accept a male dog when mating.
  • Multiple matings without successful conception.
  • Early term miscarriages after conception.
  • Female dogs should reach their second birthday before mated; mating younger bitches may lead to difficulties conceiving, and/or smaller litter sizes.

What causes infertility in dogs, and can anything be done about it?

In male dogs, infertility can be caused by various different reasons, some of which are harder to identify than others. Male dogs can theoretically reproduce as soon as they reach sexual maturity and continue to be able to do so right into old age, but very young or old dogs may have problems fathering a litter, and their litters are more likely to be smaller.

Refusal to mate, or seemingly not knowing what to do can be a problem too! Certain breeds of dog have conformation flaws that prevent them being able to mount the bitch-such as the French bulldog, due to their very narrow hips.

Additionally, there are a huge range of physical variables that can cause issues such as a low sperm count, immotile sperm or deformed sperm, all of which severely affect the dog’s chances of being able to father a litter. As with female dogs too, STD’s such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea can lead to infertility as well. Physical issues such as injuries or illnesses can also cause infertility for various reasons too.

In the case of conformation issues, artificial insemination may be able to generate a successful mating, but in many cases, problems with sperm quality or motility will not be able to be resolved.

How would you know if your dog was infertile?

If your male dog seems uninterested in bitches in season, or unwilling or unable to mount them, tie and ejaculate, this is an obvious indication that something is amiss! However, if your dog has mated and tied with a fertile bitch more than two or three times without a successful pregnancy arising, this also often indicates a problem.

Ultimately, if something appears to be wrong or not working as it should with either your bitch or dog as part of the conception or mating process, talk to your vet to find out some of your options.

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