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What are Genetic Reproductive Abnormalities?

Dogs can receive genetic traits from their parents just like humans can.  In some situations, the inherited trait can actually cause issues with reproduction.  Low fertility, difficult birth, or being sterile are all traits your dog can possibly have inherited genetically.  In certain situations, the condition can actually be life threatening.  For example, if your dog is one who will not be able to have a smooth birthing process, it can lead to a potentially dangerous situation for your dog and her puppies.  These genetic traits are not something that should continue to be passed from parent to puppy.  If your dog is diagnosed with a genetic reproductive abnormality, it is recommended you spay/neuter her/him.

Before you breed your dog, take into consideration certain traits he or she may pass on to the puppies.  These traits are undesirable and may actually prevent your dog from breeding successfully at all.

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Symptoms of Genetic Reproductive Abnormalities in Dogs

Depending on the abnormality your dog has, the symptoms will vary.  General symptoms may include:

  • Lack of interest in breeding
  • Repetitive breeding without success
  • In male dogs, penis unable to fully come out of the prepuce 
  • In female dogs, narrow hips that can cause birthing difficulties

Types

There are a variety of types of genetic disorders that can cause reproductive abnormalities in your dog.  In males, infertility or low fertility is an inherited disorder that can lead to a difficult breeding period.  While he may be producing sperm, the movement may be very little or not at all.  Another genetic disorder males can be diagnosed with is cryptorchidism.  In a healthy dog, both testicles drop into his scrotum as he grows.  In a cryptorchid dog, one or both of his testicles can be located in his abdomen instead of his scrotum.  If both testicles are affected your dog will actually be sterile and unable to reproduce.  If one is descended and one is retained, he can still breed normally however it is not suggested since this is a hereditary trait.  Phimosis is another genetic abnormality that can lead to reproductive issues.  This condition is the inability to expose the penis. In most cases, it is possibly caused by the preputial opening being too small.  This can lead to problems when trying to reproduce.

In female dogs, the most common reproductive abnormality is dystocia.  This means she has a difficult time birthing her puppies naturally. In some cases, the female is unable to birth her puppies at all and requires a cesarean section.  If the mother dog has a hard time giving birth, it is possible her puppies will also inherit certain traits and body build that will lead to them also having a hard time giving birth. Infertility or low fertility can also affect female dogs.  Their heat cycle may appear normal and occur ‘on time’, but that does not guarantee breeding her will be easy.  In other cases, the heat cycle may be abnormal and can have a weak or ‘silent’ estrus cycle so that she is very unreceptive to males.  Any abnormality of the heat cycle can lead to difficult reproduction.

Causes of Genetic Reproductive Abnormalities in Dogs

Depending on what abnormality is affecting your dog the exact cause will vary.  Of course, these conditions can all be caused by hereditary traits.  There are other medical issues that can contribute to these issues which can enhance the abnormality.  For example, thyroid disease can lead to low libido in your dog.  If your pet already has low fertility, the combination can almost guarantee an unsuccessful breeding.

Diagnosis of Genetic Reproductive Abnormalities in Dogs

When you take your dog in for his examination, your veterinarian will begin by performing a full physical exam.  Upon palpation of the testicles, she will be able to determine if your dog is a cryptorchid or not.  She will be able to tell you if it is unilateral or bilateral as it will indicate if he is sterile or not.  She can also check his penis and preputial opening for any obvious abnormalities.

If she cannot find any obvious symptoms to his reproductive abnormalities, she will suggest further diagnostic testing.  For this, she will want to do lab testing in order to evaluate the semen motility, shape, and overall health.  Some semen can be misshapen which can lead to the inability to impregnate a female.  She may also suggest ultrasonography to evaluate the entire reproductive system of your dog.  

If your dog is female and you are worried about her having a difficult time giving birth, your veterinarian will be able to evaluate her by physical exam and imaging.  The build of your dog can offer a lot of information on if she will be able to pass her puppies naturally or not.  If unsure, your veterinarian may recommend a radiograph to check your dog’s hips to see how narrow or wide they are.  There are certain dog breeds prone to this condition; English bulldogs are the most common breed needing to have a cesarean in order to birth puppies.  

Other diagnostic testing will also be recommended to check your dog’s overall health.  Blood work can indicate if there is a hormonal abnormality or endocrine issue that may be contributing to the condition.

Treatment of Genetic Reproductive Abnormalities in Dogs

If your dog has low fertility or libido, administration of hormones may be beneficial.  If your pet is experiencing an underlying issue causing the symptoms or making them worse, treating that properly should help.  You have to find the cause of your dog’s abnormality in order to see if it can be treated or not.

If your male dog is a cryptorchid, there is no way to make the retained testicle work properly.  It is actually suggested to neuter a cryptorchid dog to prevent health issues the retained testicle may cause.  If your dog is experiencing phimosis, your veterinarian may be able to surgically enlarge the preputial opening in order to allow the penis more room to move more naturally.  

If your female dog has experienced dystocia before or is diagnosed to likely be prone to it, there is no treatment.  The best thing you can do for your dog in this case is spay her in order to prevent her from becoming pregnant in the first place.  If your dog does become pregnant, when it is time for her to have her puppies, you will need a veterinarian at your side to offer her medical help.  In the worst case, your dog will have to go into emergency surgery in order to save her and her puppies.  Sometimes your veterinarian can do everything she can but your dog or her puppies may not survive.

Recovery of Genetic Reproductive Abnormalities in Dogs

All of the reproductive abnormalities that have genetic traits should not be passed on to another generation.  This means you should spay or neuter your dog as soon as she or he is old enough.  If you are hesitant to spay or neuter your dog, please listen to your veterinarian’s advice and do your own research as well.  

If your female does not get pregnant, her health conditions will not affect her quality of life at all.  If your male has certain conditions, he may need some surgical intervention but otherwise should live out a normal healthy life as well.