There are many causes of infertility in male dogs. Plus ways that breeders mess up stud fertility.
The stud is often the reason for litters not happening, or us not getting the number of puppies that we were hoping for in a litter.
There’s lots of different reasons that can happen, but stud fertility is one of the major ones. So let’s talk a little bit about all the things that can go wrong, and how we might even be messing it up ourself. How Infections Cause Infertility in Male Dogs
So the first thing we should think about is infections.
We’re lucky here in Australia that we don’t have brucellosis in Australia in our dogs. We do have it in our cattle, but not our dogs. So we don’t have to worry about that. But in North America and other countries, yes you do. And that can be a cause of lower stud fertility. And even if he does get those litters to happen, it’s a very common cause of abortion late in pregnancy. Of course the bitch the infected stud is used over (even with AI) will also become infected, and it can just go right through your whole kennel. It’s very, very infectious. So watch out for that. Always test for that.
In fact, any general infections that raise the body temperature, can cause lower fertility – in a temporary way normally. There’s a reason why the testicles are hanging outside the body. It’s to keep the sperm cool. So if your dog’s testicles get overheated because it has an infection, and its body temperature is at fever level, then that can kill the sperm.
Trauma and Infertility in Male Dogs
Another thing that can cause a temperature to go up, is trauma.
I used to have a dog called Shadow, and he loved jumping over the fence. Very athletic boy, but sometimes his testicles got knocked on the top bar as he went over.
I was at first scratching my head because we didn’t get the next three bitches pregnant.
Eventually I realized that could be the reason why. Once we put an extra rail on that fence, then it all was good. Within a few months his fertility came back.
How Mating Mismanagement Causes Infertility in Male Dogs
How we manage mating can also mess up fertility of our dogs. One common example is when breeders put the dog and the bitch together in a “honeymoon suite”, and just leave them together for a couple of weeks. They just cross their fingers hope that a successful mating at the right time manages to produce a pregnancy.
Unsupervised matings are a recipe for disaster really, because there’s a couple of things that can go wrong in that situation.
Unmitigated Intimidation by the Bitch
One of them is that he will try, and try, and try, when she’s not quite ready yet. And she might be quite aggressive about that until she’s actually ready. Maybe she doesn’t even like him and never will! One out three times, the male doesn’t like the bitch, or the bitch doesn’t like the male. One out of three. That’s a really high rate. So you don’t know, they might not like each other.
Or she might be mean to him, and put him off. And when she is ready, then he might be going, “Oh no, you might bite me. I think I’ll just pass on that.”
Another thing that can sabotage a mating is if the penis gets damaged. The breeder might not even realize until it’s too late.
Particularly with hairy dogs, [I know this happens with my miniature schnauzers] sometimes the hair around the prepuce catches on the penis, preventing it from fully retracting back into the sheath. It gets caught there by the hair outside the opening of the prepuce, and it’s stuck.
If you’re not there to check, then that penis is sitting out there exposed to dirt and trauma. It can get knocked on things. It gets dirty, it gets swollen. Then it makes it harder for it to get back in by itself. It can dry out, and it can cause serious damage to the end of the penis. So we need to supervise so we can watch out for that.
Even if the penis successfully retracts on it’s own, it can drag dirt or foreign objects with it, and hurt the penis that way. So to avoid infertility in male dogs we really should be supervising the matings.
Worn Out Stud
We should also ensure our dog is fresh when we put them together. So instead of “honeymoon suites”, keep them separated until you need the mating to happen, and supervise it.
Let them do the deed and then separate them again. That way he’s always fresh. Plus we’re looking after the health of his penis as well. And also his mental health, so he’s not getting overwhelmed.
Overuse As a Cause of Infertility in Male Dogs
Using him too frequently is another thing that can go wrong, and it can easily happen, can’t it? Even if you only have a few bitches, they can all come on heat at the same time. That is so, so common!
If we’re using our stud dog once or more a day, we will deplete him very, very quickly. As a general rule, using a male dog more than once every two days is not sustainable. Sperm production won’t be able to keep up with that.
Daily use of our stud can only go on for three to five days before fertility dramatically drops. The bigger the testicles, the longer the sperm can keep up. So for little dogs with small testicles, you’re only looking at a maximum of three days daily use, and for bigger dogs with bigger testicles, they might be able to go for five days, being used every single day.
Go beyond that and you will see a serious impact on the outcomes of the pregnancies.
Also, if you’re using a dog twice a day, the morning stud might be okay. He might have good semen quality in the morning, but bitches he serves the same afternoon will often receive a much weaker dose of sperm for that mating. The end result is she might miss getting pregnant.
So if you’re in the situation of having lots of bitches all demanding the male at the same time, the best solution is to progesterone test, and make sure that you’re only using him over her when it’s actually going to count.
Diet and Infertility in Male Dogs
Another thing that messes up the fertility of our dogs, is not feeding the right food. There’s certain nutrients that are particularly needed by dogs to produce good quality sperm. And these are things like zinc and L-carnitine, selenium, and antioxidants.
One option is to buy supplements formulated especially for stud dogs. Another is to feed a natural diet, and supplement it in a calculated way with things like sunflower oil, and nutritional yeast [nutritional yeast, not just any old brewers yeast or whatever, nutritional yeast, that’s where the B12 is]. And things like whole fish. Sardines are ideal and readily available in Australia. But they are not so easy find in landlocked parts of the world.
Most kinds of other small whole fish should do instead, and failing that, regular fish oil supplements have been proven to boost sperm quality.
Liver given in small doses – one meal a fortnight – provides many vitamins and minerals you don’t get in other foods. Just don’t overdo it. How Plastics Cause Infertility in Male Dogs
And environmental chemicals – particularly those derived from plastics (petrochemicals) – are considered the main culprit.
Studies indicate that the presence of plastics around dog food [in packaging such as the lining of cans, the lining of bags] or in the food itself, seriously impact male dog fertility.
The reason is that many plastics mimic estrogen, and this messes with the hormone system of the breeding dogs.
And interestingly enough, male dogs who are getting that in their food, father a higher proportion of female offspring. And you might think that’s a really good thing, but the males that come out of it are often cryptorchid [having a retained testicle or two].
So how do we avoid the plastics? Well unfortunately plastics are common in commercial dog foods.
Pet food companies may buy out of date plastic wrapped meats from butchers and supermarkets. And they don’t sit there and unwrap them all. They just throw them straight in to the mix.
Phytoestrogens and Infertility in Male Dogs
Pulses- such as beans peas lentils soy and the like- are cheap ways of upping the protein content. This makes them appealing ingredients for commercial dog food. This is especially so with the grain free formulations.
The problem is many pulses mimic estrogen. Like some of the plastics we find in dog food or dog food packaging, pulses can mess up stud dog fertility, and it’s best to avoid them.
Inbreeding and Infertility in Male Dogs
Another way that we mess up fertility in our male dogs, is using inbred dogs. Being careful with linebreeding by measuring individual COIs and mating to always reduce inbreeding can work. But in general, inbreeding has a significant impact on stud dog fertility. Inbred male dogs have less motile sperm (it doesn’t swim well), and less of it. This reduces conceptions and results in fewer and smaller litters. And if both parent dogs are related – the inbred dog and the bitch you’re mating him to – then the puppies will be inbred as well: they’ll have lower vigor, and their general mortality will be higher.
So if you want to have big, strong, healthy litters, you’re much better off having breeding dogs that are not inbred, or at least not related to each other.
Infertility in Male Dogs is Usually Temporary
The good news is that just by simply taking away those issues, we can see a return to fertility of our stud dogs. How quickly? Well it takes about nine weeks for new sperm to be created, then another two weeks for it to be mature enough to be capable of fertilization. So if the sperm has been nuked by something, you’re looking at about 11 weeks before it is potentially fully restored.
Testing for Infertility in Male Dogs is Wise!
The fact that there’s so many things that can go wrong means that we really should be testing our males regularly. There are sperm analysis test kits you can get online these days. A good microscope is required, some stains, and some little grid slides so you can count the actual sperm and work out where you’re at, but it is worth doing that.