Artificial insemination, more commonly known as AI, is no longer only used for large animals such as horses, cattle and other forms of livestock. AI is now commonly used in most purebred dog breeds ranging from the tiniest Yorkies up to the huge Mastiffs. The changes in the process, including some newer forms of keeping semen viable has really added to the attraction of artificial insemination in all breeds of dogs.
While most people think of artificial insemination as a process of collecting semen, long term storage, shipment and then insemination, it is not always this long of a process. Undoubtedly there are still a great number of purebred dog breeders that do use AI as a means of obtaining semen from dogs located internationally that would be unavailable to them using traditional breeding process. Many times however AI is also used with males and females that cannot breed naturally. This can occur when the male is older and is no longer producing large number of viable sperm per mating. Artificial insemination allows the technician or the breeder to collect the semen, test it for motility and viability, calculate the necessary number of sperm to combine with extender to make an appropriate insemination that will ensure pregnancy. It also allows the breeders to space out the male's semen collection, which adds to the total number of sperm per semen collection.
Females that have health concerns or risks with natural breeding can also benefit from AI, with chilled semen, frozen semen or even direct male to female collection and insemination. Sometimes females may become aggressive or highly stressed during natural breeding, so AI is a safe and effective way to impregnate these females at no risk to either dog. Some females also seem to have trouble conceiving, but direct trans-cervical insemination deposits the semen at the correct location for fertilization.
One of the newest development in trans-cervical insemination uses an endoscope, which allows the vet, technician or breeder to actually see the cervix and location of the semen deposit, and allow them to also watch the implantation on a television screen or computer monitor. This process does not require any surgery, nor is the bitch under any type of anesthesia; it is a pain free process. Occasionally females that are extremely timid or anxious may be sedated to ensure that fertilization is completed.
Surgical insemination is also effective, but it does require the added risk of sedating the bitch for the process. Usually surgical procedures are only done if there is some abnormality of the reproductive system. Newer treatments with hormone therapies and surgical procedures before the female comes into heat have largely made surgical insemination a last resort for breeders.
Semen that is collected, tested and inseminated has the highest rate of fertilization, with chilled extended semen following closely behind and frozen semen having the lowest percentage of viable sperm. Breeders and vets need to carefully consider all the options for artificial insemination and then make an informed decision for the process.