A.I stands for artificial insemination, this is the method of collecting semen from a dog and artificially inseminating it into a female. There are three different types of A.I. The first is intra vaginal which can be conducted by somebody that has experience and is competent, but is not necessarily a vet. Surgical A.I is another technique which requires a procedure and should only be conducted by a vet. This is typically used when frozen semen is being used so it’s deposited directly into the ovaries for the best success rate. Finally, there is trans cervical insemination, again this should only be conducted by a vet who would use an endoscope (a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it so deep into the body) generally is used for frozen semen to be deposited through the cervix and females having a history of difficult conception.
The practice itself of collecting the semen from the male is not comparable to humans! It requires a competent person to re-enact the male dog being locked onto a bitch, which typically happens through mating and causes the tie. This will cause natural response within the dog to be able to collection of semen.
The ejaculation actually comes in three parts. The first fraction, which I always say is the way of cleaning out the pipes and in most instances normally ends up on the floor. The second fraction is the actual semen rich fraction and is the section that needs to be collected. It's typically between 0.5 - 2ml, then finally the third fraction is “the wash” this is prostatic fluids that pushes the semen up the pipes, so to speak. If the dog was to naturally mate, generally it's the third fraction that you would see when they separate from each other.
When it comes to A.I the whole purpose is to collect the second fraction and a small amount of the third fraction to create a good environment for the semen and a suitable amount of fluid for it to be flushed through the A.I tube (and/or catheter) into the female. All the following information is specific to intravaginal A.I.
So why do people A.I intra-vaginally?
There's lots of reasons as a breeder (female owner) or as the stud dog owner, that A.I might be the most suitable option, which you may also see advertised as “assisted matings”. Reasons include if the mating pair are young, the stud has never been used before, lacking in confidence or naive. A.I can be a good way to introduce matings for a less confident male for them to understand the principle of what's happening and then for them later to be able to mate naturally with confidence.
You may also have an injured stud dog having damaged their back or shoulder which means they're finding mounting difficult. Dominant bitches who are just unwilling for a male to be on their back or mismatched sizes because one of the pair is too tall or short so alignment isn't correct for a natural mating. A.I can also be the perfect solution for inexperienced owners who aren’t confident with assisting a natural mating correctly, no dogs should ever be left unattended during a mating.
One of many benefits of A.I is that you can assess the semen before inseminating the female, at a macro level assessing the amount and colour, but also at a micro level, under a microscope. A trained eye can look at the concentration, movement (motility) and development/shape (morphology) of the semen advising on the overall quality and impact on the success rate. If the sample is substandard additional enhancers can be added to aid the quality, but it should only be used if the semen requires it generally for older or a younger males.
How successful is intravaginal A.I?
This really does depend not on the mating itself or the A.I, but on the timing of the female. She has to be at the most fertile time, which means she should have ovulated and the eggs be mature for fertilisation. Conducting the A.I technically will not make any difference on the success of the mating, it's actually down to whether the female eggs are ready and the semen is a good quality that's going in.
Do I need less matings with intravaginal A.I?
If you've ovulation tested the female and the optimal time for mating has been identified then you only need one mating to occur, whether that be naturally or by A.I. If you have made no attempts to identify her fertile period, then it's always recommended regardless of the method to mate, miss a day and then a second mating. This method gives the larges window of conception up to 3 days after the last mating and 5 days after the first.
Will I have a bigger litter with intra-vaginal A.I?
Technically, no. It really doesn't matter how the semen gets to the vagina, it comes down to if the timing of the mating is right. From my experience, I do find A.I litters to be slightly larger and I feel that this is probably because less fluid is lost during the mating itself and the fact that it's actually put deeper into the reproduction tract then a natural mating enabling it to work its magic more effectively.
A.I matings are quicker than a natural mating because there is no tie that happens during the method. However, the person with A.I experience should stimulate the female (if possible) after depositing the semen to imitate a natural mating for her body to react the same way. This is good for the body but also mentally, so she's aware that a mating has taken place.
Is more better with A.I?
No, the second fraction is the important part, plus a little bit of third. A.I amounts are typically between 2 and 6ml depending on the breed, the stud and how often he's used. The more deposited, the more diluted the sample will become and more risk of ‘overfill’ resulting in more chance of excess fluid being expelled.
There are some basic housekeeping when it comes to A.I and handling fragile semen. All the equipment should be single use, clean and sterile. Gloves should have no latex, nor should the syringes. The A.I tube length will depend on the breed and length of the dog. There are a variety of tubes that can be used, some are flexible others rigid. This will all depend on the person who's doing the A.I.
“Tipping” the female by raising her rear legs after A.I is not essential, but people like to follow this urban myth to improve conception rates. It’s advisable once the female has been A.I that is she he kept calm and quiet, possibly caged, for an hour. It’s advisable that she does not urine during this time, but again this is more urban myth then factual!
Is A.I (intra-vaginal) allowed for Kennel Club registered dogs?
Yes, The Kennel Club will accept any litters produced by intravaginal A.I from overseas dogs or in the UK, but they require an additional form completed. Litters produced from the mating pair will be accepted, but their offspring should be able to produce a litter naturally themselves before they are involved in A.I. If the parents produce subsequent litters naturally, then this restriction if lifted. The Kennel Club will only know any of this information should you complete their forms and notify them of such.
Many breeders nowadays offer a puppy for sale with four to five weeks free insurance. It feels a good thing to offer as a breeder as you're offering a beneficial service along with the puppy. This helps raise new owner’s awareness to the importance of ongoing pet insurance but also offers you short term coverage after initial purchase for any unforeseen illnesses or accidents at no cost to you.
If you have a Kennel Club registered dog, you'll automatically be provided the paperwork for Agria Pet Insurance Ltd. If the litter is not Kennel Club registered or are mix bred or you are seeking alternative suppliers there are companies such as Petplan and a newcomer to the market is also Buddies.
I personally would highly recommend when possible to use one of these companies to offer some peace of mind and assurance to the new owners. From my experience of the last 20 years breeding I recall having to use this interim insurance for two puppies providing peace of mind for the owner and you the breeder.
The insurance company are generous in offering this coverage in the hope the puppy owner will become a long term customer and continue the cover after the free period has ended. For this reason the insurance companies provide this coverage for free and also offer incentives to the breeder, typically in the form of shopping vouchers when Puppy Policies are activated and also if extended.
Buddies Insurance are currently offering a very, very, very good promotion. In fact, it’s no doubt the best that's on the market at this time! They are the only insurance company that will offer the breeder a cash reward, rather than the voucher system. This means you can spend the money on what you want!
Buddies are currently offering HomeScan customers a promotion of £50 Breeder registration for joining the scheme, then an additional £50 when you register your first litter for the ‘one month free (OMF)’ insurance. An additional £25 will be paid should the owners continue the insurance after the initial 4 weeks. This is super value compared to Petplan that will offer a £10 voucher for 10, yes ten puppy polices being activated and only £18 for 3 owners taking out the extended annual policies, whereas with Buddies you could easily have £100 in your pocket!
So how do you get in on this great promo?
If you are planning a litter this year you should call Buddies on the free number 0800 035 4775 and register with reference IB592, this reference is specific to HomeScan customers ensuring you get the full entitlement to this great offer!
All the documents regarding the legalisation and guidance can be found at www.cfsg.org.uk specifically “d. Dog Breeding Guidance Revised 30.11”.
The notes are collated with my interpretation and understanding from a webinar Trevor Cooper hosted with PetPlan Insurance in January 2019. If you are in any doubt to whether you should not apply for license related to your dog activity then please contact your local council.
The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into force 1st October 2018, this is the same act that previously enforced compulsory microchipping and the regulation of tail docking.
Each local authority is responsible for enforcing within its council. The main two points that may have most relevance to you is:
The information in this document specifically refers to a ‘Dog Breeding’ licence as you are most likely to be a Home or Hobby breeder. You would be considered ‘in scope’ if you:
“Either or both of the following:-
(a) Breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period;
(b) Breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs”
Point (a) is pretty easy to identify, if you have bred 3 litters you would need evidence that you kept all the puppies or that you gifted them all. This is pretty unlikely! Point (b) there is no simple ‘business test’ but factors to be considered as ‘advertising a business’, indicating commercial activity are:
You would be considered out of scope for a Dog Breeding Licence if:
For hobby breeders to be considered 'out of scope' for the licence should be able to clearly evidence a lack of profit (not income) resulting in less than £1,000 supporting your claim that you had no ‘intent’ to make a profit.
If you breed 3 or more litters a year, make over £1,000 profit or suggest an online presence as a business by advertising frequently and possibly having a professional website, you may need a Dog Breeding License.
Contact your local council if you are in any doubt.
To date (December 2018) I’ve confirmed a positive pregnancy in over 1,100 animals (mainly dogs), that’s nearly 72% of all my scans are confirmed pregnant. Owners are always surprised when I confirm pregnancy for just one puppy and I’m equally surprised when they comment that it’s rare. I’ve looked over my figures and there’s a 6.4% chance of a pregnancy being a solo puppy, unlike the chances of having a large litter of 10 or more puppies is only 2.3%.
Singleton puppies are not typically a reflection on the sire or dams reproductive capacity and more likely due not mating at the most fertile time, either too early or too late meaning the semen has only just managed to fertilise an egg by surviving and waiting for the egg to mature, or by racing to it super quick before the egg died. Urban myth is that a female puppy results from a mating too early and a male puppy from a mating too late.
I would highly recommend that should the female be bred from again, that a form of ovulation testing is used such a vaginal cytology swabbing or the more accurate Progesterone blood testing. I sent a quick email to all my clients who I had previously scanned with solo babies (pure and crossbred) to find out their experiences after I broke the singleton news, they provided me with 32 sets of data which I’ve attempted to constructively summarise!
Singleton puppy was birthed by...
The puppies that naturally whelped and survived were on average born around 62 days gestation, the survival rate decreased from 63 days. Owners shared that the whelping process was ‘typical’, confirming the puppy tended to be bigger rather than average in size. For some the labour stages were prolonged and difficult, 15% of the owners that whelped naturally said they would recommend other owners going through the same experience to elective section on due date.
The majority of owners mentioned no issues with milk production or the need to hand feed or supplement. 25% did visit their vet for additional physical checks and advice, 1 owner felt they were given poor advice and changed practices during this critical period.
The puppies surviving born by c-section were on average born around 61 days, the survival rate decreased from 65 days. 2 owners felt their vet had delayed the option of a c-section (66 days) which compromised the puppy’s viability. The majority of owners who decided to c-section was because their female had shown partial signs of labour then stopped. Suggesting a more complex labour, possibly due to a stuck puppy or wrong positioning.
Some puppies were born naturally when the female had been sedated and prepared for a c-section, the relaxation of the muscles means the puppy was easier to pull free (these puppies were deceased). Distressed puppies did not survive the operation or longer than 2 days after birth, some seemed weak and some dams were not attentive to their young. Of the owners that had veterinary agreement to elective section on their due date 100% of these puppies where born alive.
Singleton puppies can be whelped naturally, the statics are in their favour. If the labour is not typical (mainly due to puppy size, positioning or lack of contractions) the chances of c-section increase significantly, but the survival rate reduces significantly too. Only a pre-planned elective c-section increased the survival rate above being whelped naturally. Risk can be managed by allowing the female to whelp naturally up to her due date and should she go more than 1 day over, have an ultrasound scan to check for foetal heart beat and if confirmed, opt for an elective section.
Puppies born 2 or more days after their due date have significantly less chances of surviving in both whelping methods. There is a high chance that financially you’ll need to cover the costs of c-section, given that a “unscheduled” emergency c-sections result in a higher mortality rate, realistically booking an elective c-section ‘in hours’ increasing the puppies rate of survival and keeping operating cost to a minimum, along with your anxiety and any stress on the female.
It’s generally advised not to change the dam’s diet during pregnancy, neither in quality or amount. Because the puppy has ‘wombspace’ to grow and develop, changing the dam’s diet may entice the puppy to overgrow due to having no competition with littermates for nutrition or space. Being restrictive on food will hopefully prevent any excessive and unnecessary growth.
Even if the puppy is a typical size and the dam is maiden you are still unaware of her ability to deliver naturally due to her pelvis size or strength of contractions. Females that have already successfully birthed puppies will provide the owner with additional information to gauge her ability to whelp or not. Raspberry leaf supplement is said to aid birthing and should be considered along with any veterinary agreement to calcium supplements or oxytocin should contractions weaken.
The lack of contractions or weakening contractions is called inertia, with solo babies it can happen in the first stage of labour due to the puppy not stimulating or applying enough pressure on the uterine wall and cervix to trigger a natural birth. The second stage is when contractions were existing but stopped, mainly due to an oversized puppy and the muscles have become tired trying to push the puppy out.
It could be easy to miss primary inertia so I strongly recommend tracking the dam’s temperature before and up to her due date. You also have the option of ‘Reverse’ Progesterone testing, if the numbers are low this confirm the puppy is ready for birth, so you can confidently c-section. If you Progesterone tested on mating, then you would have confirmed ovulation before breeding so your due dates will be reliable to work with for possible c-section. Not all puppies will can be seen moving or even felt, especially on deep set breeds, I strongly recommend checking the puppy for a viable heart beat with ultrasound before deciding on a c-section.
Long Term Observations
Surviving singleton puppies develop like a typical puppy into adult dogs. Many commented the puppy ended up larger than the breed standard or then their Dams. Solo pups tend to be more demanding when it comes to play and stimulation due to the lack of siblings/playmates. This can mean they are more dependent on human interaction and if not handled correctly can become over demanding and dominate. One owner decided to neuter their male at 9 months old due to behavioural issues.
Credit to contributing owners
Thank you to the follow owners for replying to my plea with such detailed information on your experiences Dawn Gloster, Yvonne Kneller, Sue Jones, Ryan Hall, Katie Eyres, Lynn Clark. Catherine Fuller, Maggie Flack, Lynn Page, Michelle Ransom, Tracy Rolfe, Tracey-Ann Ryan, Alan Fisher, Karen Edwards, Sarah Roberts, Linda Gregory
Lisa Hayes, Casey Stipp, Ailsa Pocock, Kerry Maynard. Sandie Cullen, Rebecca Burr, Tracy Robinson, Lynne Underhill, Emma Beck and Lauren Mccarthy.
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I'm Sara otherwise known as 'Canine Family Planner' who founded HomeScan Breeder Services a premium pet-care business in 2014. I am an experienced and educated breeder, who specialises in domestic animal reproduction. I bred my first litter 20 years ago whilst in my teens and tend to breed annually. Breeding is pretty much in my DNA – a way of my life if you will! I've started this blog to share some of my knowledge and if possible help out a few like minded animal owners!