Artificial insemination (AI) is a technique used to help dogs become pregnant without a natural mating. Semen is collected from a stud dog and, depending on the technique used, is either inserted into a bitch’s vagina or her uterus.
Why use artificial insemination?
Breeders may choose to use artificial insemination because:
- It allows two dogs that live long distances apart to produce puppies, eliminating the stress of travel and reducing the cost of transportation
- It opens up new possibilities for introducing previously unused genes into a population of dogs from another country. This could be to improve genetic diversity in a breed or to introduce/enhance certain traits or characteristics
- It enables dogs that have died, but had specific desirable traits, to contribute to a gene pool
- It prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
Cautions to using AI
AI can have its disadvantages and can, in certain situations, create welfare and ethical concerns, including:
- Risks of complications and infections, especially if AI is performed by someone with little or no experience
- Enabling a stud dog to father considerably more puppies than from natural mating alone. Overusing a stud dog may spread unseen genetic faults throughout the breed and will have an impact on genetic diversity and inbreeding
- Introducing hereditary diseases or undesirable traits, especially if using semen from a stud dog in a different population. It’s important that all dogs be tested for breed specific health conditions before they’re used for breeding, even when using artificial insemination
- Continuing a reliance on artificial methods of conception, especially if repeatedly used for dogs that can’t mate naturally, either for health or conformational reasons. These dogs will then pass on their genes to their puppies, reinforcing the problem and possibly affecting the health and welfare of future dogs. As such, dogs that cannot breed naturally due to conformation should not be bred from using this procedure
For these reasons AI should only be used in exceptional circumstances and where natural matings are not possible.
Types of semen that can be used for AI
There are three types of semen that can be used for artificial insemination:
- Fresh semen – this is usually used when the bitch and the stud dog are geographically close to one another
- Fresh chilled semen – chilling semen allows you to prolong how long it can be stored for, which means it can be transported further or kept for longer than fresh semen
- Frozen semen – freezing the semen, usually in liquid nitrogen, allows it to be stored for a very long time. During the freezing and defrosting stages some sperm may be damaged. This can affect how long the sperm is viable for once it’s been defrosted
Types of AI
There are three methods of artificial insemination:
- Trans-vaginal (also known as intra-vaginal) insemination - Fresh or chilled semen is inserted into the bitch’s vagina using an insemination pipette. This is the most commonly used AI technique and is the least invasive. This technique should only be carried out by trained professionals.
- Transcervical Insemination - Any type of semen can be used for this technique. During the procedure, semen is inserted directly into the uterus using a catheter and/or an endoscope. This technique is more invasive than trans-vaginal insemination and so must only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.
- Surgical insemination - This type of insemination has been banned in the UK since 2019 by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. We do not accept litter applications for puppies that were conceived using this method.
Can I artificially inseminate my dog?
Artificial insemination should always be carried out by someone appropriately trained for the procedure. In the case of transcervical insemination, this must be by a vet.
You should never let someone with little experience or knowledge try to artificially inseminate a dog as this could hurt or injure them and may lead to difficulties or anxieties around future matings, or in some cases lead to a prosecution for a welfare offence.
How much does artificial insemination for dogs cost?
The price of artificial insemination varies depending on the type of technique used and who is carrying it out. Transcervical insemination is likely to be more expensive because the procedure is more complex and requires a vet to perform it.