submitted with permission by Marj Brooks
with thanks to Kevin & Donna Frizzell of DeSaix St. Bernards for generously allowing us to use many of their superb array of articles
Although the reproductive health of the male is not as involved as the female and infertility problems are more likely to be related to the bitch, the male is worthy of some discussion.
A male may be fertile as early as 8 months of age. Breeding is not recommended until the dog is least over a year old and has been screened for heritable diseases.
Males may exhibit sexual behaviour at a young age and if breeding is planned it is better to provide another source of interest rather than to chastise the male as he may develop a negative behaviour response to such activities in the future. Males usually only become interested in a bitch if she is in heat unless there are medical problems with the male such as tumours or hormone imbalances.
Clinical or Sub-clinical Infertility Has a Variety of Causes:
- Inability to mate: although mating is imprinted pain or negative re-enforcement may inhibit mating
- low testosterone levels: this will reduce the sex drive but not sperm levels
- anatomical abnormalities such as persistent frenulum or paraphimosis
- semen quality: may be poor due to low numbers, large numbers of abnormal sperm or poor sperm motility
- injury or infection: will affect sperm numbers and quality
- old age: the testes become spongy / atrophied – sperm numbers drop and abnormalities increase
This is a polygenic inherited disorder where one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum. It must not be confused with Monorchidism where there is total absence of a testicle. True Monorchidism is quite a rare condition. Chryptorchids are predisposed to cancer of the retained testicle, therefore it needs to be removed and due to the heritability of the condition Chryptorchids should be totally removed from a breeding program. The condition is carried and passed on by either parent.
Semen collection is a straight forward procedure but best results are obtained when a teaser bitch is used as the male can withhold his semen, releasing only prostatic fluid. It is usually collected in three fractions with the second and third fractions being combined for total volume. Semen is checked for the typical swirling motion for gross indication of motility and concentration. It is further examined for numbers, their individual motility and the number of abnormal sperm present. Volume is also measured. The ejaculate is also checked for other cells and debris which indicates presence of infection.
When planning a mating, semen evaluation prior to the event is always worthwhile to eliminate the question of male infertility should the bitch fail to conceive.