What are Sperm Abnormalities?
Dogs between the ages of 18 months to two and a half years of age are thought to be sexually mature. (Dogs younger than this can indeed produce offspring, but when younger are not considered at their most fertile.) A dog who is perhaps going to be bred should undergo a complete health profile prior to being selected for parenthood. This is called a breeding soundness exam. A physical examination, including blood tests, urinalysis, examination of prostate, evaluation of hormones, and more, can be done by your veterinarian. Semen quality and sperm abnormality are part of this examination process and are important deciding factors when considering a dog for breeding purposes.
When canine semen is viewed under a microscope for abnormalities in shape it is medically described as sperm morphology. When verifying sperm morphology, the result is reported as percent normal. Though numbers vary, the average consideration for normal morphology is about 75%. For breeding purposes, sperm is also examined for motility (movement) and volume count.
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Symptoms of Sperm Abnormalities in Dogs
Sperm abnormalities do not show obvious signs. When a sperm sample is being examined microscopically the following will be rated.
- Morphology is the shape and form of each individual sperm
- How much sperm is contained in each ejaculate is called the concentration
- The color of the sperm rich fluid should be white and not contain traces of blood or urine
- How well the sperm moves forward in a straight line is called motility
- The sperm should contain very few cells and minimal bacteria
Sperm is broken down into three parts: the clear pre-ejaculate fluid, the white sperm rich portion, and the clear prostatic fluid which comes at the end.
Causes of Sperm Abnormalities in Dogs
Sperm abnormalities can occur for a number of reasons. Samples must be carefully obtained and manipulated so as to not influence the study results.
- Trauma to the scrotum
- Hormonal irregularities
- Drugs such as steroids
- Testicular neoplasia
- High scrotal temperature
- Exposure to toxins
- Brucella canis (bacterium can spread through semen)
- Exposure to toxins
- Temperature changes
- Prolonged period between sexual activity or ejaculation
- Presence of blood and urine
- Kartagener’s syndrome (inherited disorder that affects sperm motility)
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Testicular degeneration
Diagnosis of Sperm Abnormalities in Dogs
Your veterinarian, or a specialist recommended by her who has the knowledge of the best method for collecting sperm from your pet, will gather the specimen for careful observation under the microscope. Abnormalities in head, midpiece, and tail, ease and correct direction of movement, color, volume, and presence of cells and bacteria will be observed.
There are variables that need to be considered. The discomfort of your dog during the collection process can be detrimental to the sample quality, as can length of time between collection (some researchers suggest a one hour period between collection and then combine the two samples). Contaminated equipment and an uncooperative canine can affect the collection process as well.
Testicular aspiration or biopsy are further tools that may be used once the diagnosis of abnormal sperm has been reached. In addition, tests to analyse the membrane surrounding the sperm cell can be done. Assessing the DNA of the sperm head and the ability to penetrate the egg are two more studies that a specialist may suggest once an abnormal sperm is recognized. The testes, prostate, penis, and scrotum will be examined too.
Treatment of Sperm Abnormalities in Dogs
The veterinarian will be looking for a few specific signs of sperm abnormality.
- Azoospermia is when the ejaculatory fluid contains no sperm
- Oligozoospermia means the number of spermatozoa is low
- Aspermia is the lack of ejaculation
- Teratozoospermia results when there is a low percentage of normal sized and shaped sperm
- Asthenozoospermia is a low percentage of mobile spermatozoa
In many cases, an abnormal sperm diagnosis can be resolved by addressing the underlying cause. For instance, if there is an infection, a bacterial invasion (Brucella canis), or other illness, antibiotic therapy may cure the problem. Hormonal issues will need to be addressed, as will exposure to toxins, and thyroid dysfunction. Other factors may require simply a rest (trauma to scrotum) or removal of the causative factor (drugs that affect sperm).
Your veterinarian will advise you on the situation and give her input as to whether your pet is suitable for breeding. There are conditions that cannot be changed, like Kartagener’s syndrome and testicular degeneration, both contributing to the reality that your dog will not become a parent.
Recovery of Sperm Abnormalities in Dogs
If your canine companion receives a diagnosis of sperm abnormalities, keep in mind that this is not always a permanent situation. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend a re-test of the sperm in about 60 days. There are many simple factors that can contribute to the reading of a low sperm count, like temperature of the microscope slide or use of medication. Once the factors have changed, the sperm evaluation could improve. Of course, there are cases whereby a dog could have a congenital abnormality or a disease such as cancer which may render the sperm unsuitable for mating purposes.
Sperm Abnormalities Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Semen collected today, showed great motility (described as aggressive) but morphology down. Can not get full results until next week so hoping for some feedback. Dog is 7yrs old and hasn’t been mated for 5yrs, is it likely his next collection will be ok or is there anything I can give him to improve this?
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The Vet looked at my male dogs sperm through a microscope. It had plenty but tails were crooked and they swam in circles. (bent tails). He has bred 3 dogs in the last 6 mths with no luck. Should we begin with antibiotics? There has been no trauma.
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