What is the Difference Between Male Infertility and Sterility in Male Dogs
In general, reproductive failure is complex and there can be many factors at play. Infertility is defined as a reduced ability to produce, while sterility is defined as a permanent inability to reproduce. Your veterinarian can perform testing to let you know what you are dealing with.
The good news is infertility in a stud dog can be managed. Semen collection is where you’ll start. When you collect the semen you’ll want to look at four different aspects to determine the semen quality.
Those are sperm count, sperm morphology or structure, sperm motility, and sperm longevity. A sperm count in a male dog should be 10 million times the dog’s weight in pounds. Frequent breeding – more than once a day – can lower sperm count. Research also tells us that the season of the year has an effect on the concentration of sperm. Increased concentration tends to occur in spring and early summer and lower concentration in late summer and fall. Sperm concentration is thought to be influenced by the day length and the environmental temperature.
Dog semen is sensitive to environmental temperature. When the outside temp approaches 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the normal body temperature of a dog, male fertility can suffer. When the temperature reaches over 105 degrees, males can become infertile if overheating happens. If it gets too hot, the stored sperm in the dog’s testicle dies and the replacement can take 60 days.
Water misters over the kennel with shade can lower the environmental temp by 10 degrees. If you have an air-conditioned kennel, keep males inside and limit outside access during the heat of the day.
Another common cause of sperm death is latex toxicity from the syringe or soap and disinfectant used in AI equipment that has been reused. The use of a Disposable Artificial Insemination Kit or using our semen safe syringes solves that issue. If no sperm are seen when you perform a sperm count, it’s a good idea to send the prostatic fluid to a reference lab for an Alkaline Phosphatase level.
A sperm morphology or structure test assesses the shape and appearance of each sperm cell. To do this the semen should be stained and assessed. A veterinarian can do this.
When it comes to sperm motility, that doesn’t necessarily mean mobility. The semen needs to be progressively motile, meaning it swims forward with vigor. To support improved sperm production and motility, I recommend Breeder’s Edge Oxy Stud. It’s a dietary supplement that supports vigor and endurance and provides essential nutrients for breeding male dogs and cats.
When measuring sperm longevity hold a small sample of semen in an extender in the refrigerator and reassess it 24 and 48 hours later by warming it up. Semen that is normal and has normal motility should still be swimming for up to three days.
Common Stud Dog Problems
Looking at the dog’s urine immediately after ejaculation is important to see if sperm is present. If sperm is present in the urine, this would indicate retrograde ejaculation. This refers to the entry of semen into the bladder instead of going out through the urethra. You’ll have to use a microscope to see the sperm in the urine, so if you don’t have a microscope, your vet can help with this. And time is of the essence in these cases.
If you are wanting to know if the sperm is alive, you should use a centrifuge to concentrate them and look in the urine the same day you take the sample. However, if you are just looking to see if sperm is present, then looking the next day is fine. If you do notice sperm in the urine you’ll want to take your dog to his vet for further evaluation.
Diseases can also impact males fertility. Canine brucellosis is a bacterial disease that can be spread through mating and can cause sterility in the male along with testicular swelling and soreness. This is why testing your males for infectious diseases prior to breeding is important. Especially since an adult dog infected with the Brucella organism is rarely ill.
Sickness and fever are major issues with stud dogs. If male dogs run a fever, stored sperm will die so sick males should be addressed immediately. We need to bring the fever down and use an appropriate antibiotic to correct the infection. If the fever reaches 103 or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, males may be infertile for 45 to 60 days. They will have sperm, but it will all be dead.
Another thing to keep in mind, urinary tract issues in dogs can cause infertility in males over five years of age.
Since stud dog fertility peaks at five years of age, if the stud is over five years old and has fertility issues, the prostate must be ruled out. Benign prostatic hypertrophy or hyperplasia, also known as BPH is the most common prostate problem we see in un-neutered male dogs. It is frequently seen after age five. Symptoms are blood dripping from the penis not associated with urination, pain on breeding, flat ribbon-like stools and blood in the ejaculate.
Prostatitis is also fairly common in un-neutered male dogs. However, these dogs are SICK. They run a fever, are lethargic, won’t eat and may die if the infection spreads into the abdomen.
Prostate cancer is most often seen in neutered males. The only way to confirm prostate cancer is on a biopsy of the prostate.
Another prostate problem is para-prostatic cysts. And these are fairly rare. Para-prostatic cysts form outside the dog’s prostate, and look on ultrasound and x-ray like the dog has a second bladder.
If your stud dog has a prostate disease, seek the services of a veterinarian who understands the diagnosis and treatment options for breeding dogs.
Can You Freeze a Male Dog’s Sperm?
If you have a breeding program, the best way to protect the male dog’s semen is freezing semen when the boys are young between two and four years of age is ideal. Freeze them while they are healthy and producing great quality semen. It will cost you much less money to freeze their semen while they are young. If you have more questions on stud dog care, call us at 800.786.4751.
Written by: Shelley Hexom
Shelley Hexom is Revival's Content Manager and helps develop educational pet health resources. A three-time Emmy® Award-winning news anchor, Shelley works with Revival's Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, to help create useful and easy-to-understand articles, videos, and webinars. Shelley received her bachelor's degree in Mass Communications from Winona State University in 2002. As a pet owner, Shelley enjoys time with her Boxer mix, Sally. Shelley has been part of the Revival Paw Squad since 2016.