Semen evaluation and fertility assessment in a purebred dog breeding facility

Andrea Hesser, Christa Darr, Kris Gonzales, Heather Power, Tawny Scanlan, James Thompson, Charles Love, Bruce W Christensen, Stuart A Meyers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Semen quality in dogs has not been assessed in a longitudinal study that includes endpoints of female fertility and pregnancy. Although use of artificial insemination with chilled semen is increasingly used in canine reproduction, the resultant level of predictability and odds of fertile matings for dogs is still not fully understood. This research provides, for the first time, comprehensive semen evaluation in a large population of dogs in which fertility has been tracked. Duplicate ejaculates were obtained from 39 Labrador retriever males of the Guide Dogs for the Blind (San Rafael, CA, USA) breeding program. Sperm endpoints were determined in fresh semen and extended chilled semen at 48 hour after collection. Evaluation included total and progressive motility, average path velocity, morphology, membrane lipid peroxidation, presence of sperm reactive oxygen species, sperm chromatin structure, and mitochondrial DNA copy number. Male age ranged from 1 to 10 years and were grouped as young (Y; 1–3 years, n = 21), middle aged (M; 4–6 years, n = 13), and senior (S; 7 years or greater, n = 5) for analysis. The effects of age and sperm state (fresh vs. chilled) on the above sperm endpoints were determined using a linear mixed effects model. Semen endpoint values for all parameters were established for this group of fertile males. Progressive motility was only lower in the senior male chilled samples compared to all other groups, fresh and chilled (P < 0.05). Velocity decreased with increasing age and was lower overall in chilled samples (P < 0.05). Percent morphologically normal sperm was lower in senior dogs compared with the other age groups (P < 0.05). The presence of reactive oxygen species was lower in chilled samples compared with fresh (P < 0.05). For sperm chromatin structure, the senior-aged group had a higher %COMPαt than the middle-aged group (P < 0.05). Bayesian analysis determined that no differences were seen in total motility, membrane lipid peroxidation, and mitochondrial DNA copy number, with regard to conception rate or average litter size between age groups or between fresh and chilled samples. We observed no effects from semen quality on fertility or fecundity regardless of age, despite the differences found in semen quality. The use of advanced laboratory tests to evaluate sperm parameters beyond the standard motility, morphology, and concentration will open investigation to more specific and sensitive fertility tests in canine reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-123
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Canine sperm
  • Male fertility
  • Reproductive senescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals
  • Food Animals
  • Equine
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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