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.
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!