Artificial Insemination Overview
Pretty much all reputable Pomsky breeders breed their dogs through artificial insemination. It typically involves a female Husky and a male Pomeranian. Due to the substantial size difference of the Pomeranian and the Siberian Husky this is a much safer alternative than the traditional way.
There are two key ways in which a female dog can become pregnant and eventually birth a litter. The first is via standard sexual intercourse (either planned or accidental), the second through a carefully conducted process of artificial insemination. If conception is successful after either of these approaches, there is a very good chance that breeding will result in healthy pups.
There are lots of different variables involved in the decision to artificially inseminate a female dog, rather than allow her to mate naturally. For one, this is a much more controlled and safe way for a domestic dog to breed, as male canines can behave quite aggressively towards females during sex. The most common reason, however, is simply that attempts to breed naturally have been unsuccessful.
The process of artificial insemination involves the collection of semen from a male dog which is later deposited into a female. The two animals have no contact during this process – the semen collection and the eventual deposition are both a product of human intervention. For the most part (because it can be quite costly), artificial insemination is only used for valuable purebreds.
Motivations for Artificial Insemination
If a purebred female dog is not able to conceive via natural breeding, for any number of reasons, artificial insemination is usually posed as a viable solution, so that high quality pups can still be produced. As far as physical issues go, dysfunctional vulvar or vaginal conformation (extreme narrowing of the vagina) is common in female dogs and this can make natural breeding difficult.
It is also not uncommon for female dogs to behave aggressively towards the male during attempts to breed. If the aggression is prolonged and persistent, breeding does have to be stopped. For male dogs, a lack of libido, pain when mounting, physical weakness, prostatic illness, arthritis, and aggression can all lead to unsuccessful breeding attempts. In some cases, artificial insemination is used to produce pups in situations where the dam and the sire are geographically separated.
The Semen Collection Process
To perform a successful artificial insemination, the semen from the male dog has to be collected and transported to the female dog in a very precise manner. It then has to be carefully inserted into the vagina of the female animal. If stored correctly, it can be chilled and used within a day, or it can be frozen and will last for longer. However, the longer the semen is stored, the lower the likelihood of successful insemination.
If the semen is to be chilled or frozen, it may be necessary to wait until the female dog is approaching the time of ovulation and will be accepting of the load. Once the necessary criteria has been met, the semen is collected via manual stimulation. It is common for semen collection to be encouraged by the presence of a ‘teaser bitch.’ This phrase refers to a female dog in heat which arouses the male animal.
The teaser bitch is almost never the subject of a breeding attempt. She is there only to arouse and stimulate the male dog, so that semen collection is quick and easy. The presence of a teaser bitch is not essential, but it is helpful when it comes to making the process of collection more efficient. If a teaser female is present, the male dog is encouraged to sniff and eventually mount the animal.
Whilst this is occurring, the female dog is kept tightly restrained and control over the process is maintained at all times. The key here is to allow the male to mount the female, but to prevent him from penetrating her vagina – instead, the collector directs the thrusting penis into a deposit receptacle and performs rapid massage movements until enough semen has been collected.
The Three Stages of Ejaculation
The male ejaculation occurs in three stages. The first stage produces a minor amount of transparent liquid which is devoid of semen. The second stage produces the valuable substance, the canine semen, which is cloudy and viscous. The typical collection ranges anywhere between 0.5-3 millilitres of semen. The third and final stage of ejaculation produces (one again, transparent) prostatic fluid.
For semen which is to be deposited into the female animal right away, the prostatic fluid and the valuable ejaculate are permitted to integrate. If the semen is going to be chilled or frozen, however, the collection receptacle is simply removed before the prostatic fluid is produced. If prostatic fluid is left to settle in stored semen, it can lead to decreased fertility and low motility.
The quantity of semen required for successful breeding will depend entirely on the size of the female dog it will be used for. For females weighing under ten pounds, 1.5-3 millilitres of semen are needed. For females weighing ten to fifty pounds, 3-5 millilitres of semen are needed. For females weighing more than fifty pounds, 5-8 millilitres of semen are required.
The Semen Storage and Deposit Process
Once the semen has been collected, an extender fluid is sometimes added to provide extra strength and to make up a required quantity of ejaculate. This is usually only carried out if the semen is to be used for deposit very soon after collection. If the semen is to be frozen, a special substance is added which will protect it from becoming damaged by the harsh temperature.
The semen must be assessed for quality and viability before it can be deposited into the female. For breeding to be reasonably likely, more than 70% of the sperm in the collected ejaculate should have normal forward movement. This is equivalent to 150,000-200,000 normal healthy sperm for every collected sample.
It can be tricky working out the best time to make a deposit in the female animal. Yet, this is absolutely vital, because if the right time is not chosen, breeding will not be successful. The general rule of thumb states that the female dog should be bred or inseminated on at least three occasions (the 9th, 11th, and 13th day after the vulva begins to expand and the dog starts ovulating). The typical dog will start ovulating on the 12th day after vulvar expansion.
The key to successful artificial breeding is to deposit collected semen into the female dog four days before she starts to ovulate and then every forty eight hours until the point of the last deposit, which should occur forty eight hours after ovulation has finished. If the female dog is inseminated for a final time at this point, the chance of a large litter is significantly increased.
Determining the Date of Ovulation
There are various ways in which a handler can tell if the female dog has started or finished ovulating. It is common for a tissue sample from the vagina to be analysed under a microscope to determine when ovulation has begun – the visual look of the cells is usually enough to make the call. However, this is not always a very precise or accurate approach to determining the start and end of ovulation.
In fact, a much more accurate technique involves recording and assessing progesterone readings. This can be very fussy and complex, however, because it takes a lot of time and effort. It requires daily readings of the progesterone levels during the ovulation period, which is simply not viable or cost effective for most breeders. Plus, this kind of assessment usually has to be conducted in a laboratory.
The majority of breeders use a dual approach, where possible, which incorporates elements of both techniques. At around four days following the onset of vulvar expansion and ovulation, the cells of the vagina are assessed once a day. This continues to occur until 80% of the vaginal cells indicate that ovulation is imminent. Then, blood samples are taken every two days to check progesterone levels.
If the number of individual deposits has not been capped, the first deposit is carried out at this juncture. In the event that just one deposit can be made, it has the best possible chance of success if inserted forty eight hours following the beginning of ovulation. Once this has occurred, the vaginal cells are left alone – no more assessments need to be done. However, blood samples continue to be taken and analysed for progesterone levels every two days.
The Insemination Process
The presence of a pregnancy can be identified at around 25 days following the final insemination, via the use of a highly sensitive ultrasound device. The insemination process is almost identical when using fresh and stored semen, but frozen ejaculate has such a brief lifespan (2-3 hours) that breeding will only be successful if an egg has already been prepared for fertilization.
In regards to the deposit process itself, if the semen is ready and viable for insemination, it is placed either inside the vagina, directly in front of the cervix, or at the entrance to the womb. However, studies have shown that semen deposits inseminated in front of the cervix are the most likely to result in pups. To achieve this precise positioning, a variety of specially designed tools are required.
In most cases, an extended pipette is needed. If the female is of a very large or heavy breed, a specially designed cattle pipette may have to be used. For the most part though, the standard canine insemination pipettes are good enough. If necessary, a balloon catheter can be used in place of an insemination pipette.The male and the female should not be together during insemination.
The process begins with the female dog being restrained and secured in an upright stance. The required amount of ejaculate is placed into a syringe which is affixed to a pipette. The pipette is then directed inside the vagina by introducing a single lubricated digit into the vaginal canal and then allowing it to follow into the space which has been opened up. The pipette is moved into position and squeezed until all of the contained ejaculate has been emptied.
At this point, the pipette is withdrawn and the finger is used to massage the vaginal wall for 2-3 minutes. These movements are designed to encourage the vaginal walls to start expanding and contracting, because this type of motion provides support to the semen as it travels towards the womb. Once the massage has been finished, the rear of the animal is elevated for around ten to fifteen minutes. This is to help the ejaculate work with gravity to reach the womb.
Keeping the Dog Comfortable
It is very important that the dog is made as comfortable as possible during this process, because it can be quite a confusing and stressful time for the animal. You should take care not to put any pressure on the abdomen of the dog. The rear legs should be lifted delicately for approximately ten minutes and then the dog is permitted to move around as normal.
It is absolutely imperative, during this time, that the dog is not permitted to urinate or engage in any extremely physical activity. The dog should be discouraged from squatting and monitored very closely for at least forty minutes, ideally sixty. After this time has passed, the dog is free to resume activities as normal and will need no further monitoring.
In some very care cases, insemination may be carried out via surgical procedure. This is highly uncommon, but may be the preferred option for highly prized animals with the ability to produce very valuable offspring. During surgery, the womb is cut open and exposed and the collected semen is introduced using to needle and a syringe. This is a costly and time consuming approach which is not popular among most breeders.
As long as all of the necessary steps are followed, the success rate for this kind of artificial insemination (in canines) can be anywhere from 60-90%, depending on the variables involved in the process. The condition and quality of the semen, the method used to store it, and the technique with which it was deposited will all play a part in the likelihood of a female dog having a large and healthy litter.