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Pet Owner Version

Infertility in Dogs


Autumn P. Davidson

, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2018 | Modified Oct 2022

Proper ovulation in females and ejaculation of fertile and normal sperm by males are regulated through a sequence of events in the brain, nervous system, and sexual organs. For best results, ovulation and deposition of semen into the female genital tract must be closely synchronized. Failure of any step in either sex leads to infertility or sterility. The ultimate result of infertility is the failure to produce offspring. In females, infertility may be due to improper timing of breeding (the most common cause), the absence of the estrous cycle, abnormal ovulation, failure to conceive, or prenatal death. Major infertility problems in males are caused by disturbances in the production, transport, or storage of sperm; loss of libido (sexual desire); and partial or complete inability to mate. Most major infertility problems are complex. Often, several factors, singly or in combination, can cause failure to produce offspring.

Veterinarians will first review breeding practices to rule out improper timing of breeding, whether reproduction is attempted through natural mating or by artificial insemination. If breeding practices and timing are appropriate, your veterinarian will then determine whether it is the female or male that is infertile. Infertility can be diagnosed through physical examinations, laboratory tests, semen evaluation, endoscopy, or ultrasonography. Infertility is seldom accompanied by obvious signs of illness or infection. Lower fertility may be hereditary and your veterinarian will consider this issue when treating fertility problems.

In dogs, the focus of treatment is the individual animal. Diagnostic techniques and treatments are becoming more advanced every year. Infertility can be treated by administration of hormones that act directly on the ovaries or regulate their functions, or act to help maintain pregnancy. Hormonal treatment can also work on male dogs with low sperm counts or poor libido. On the other hand, hormonal treatment can also be used for prevention of pregnancy after undesired mating.

Antibiotics are used for treatment of infection of the reproductive tracts. The selection of the antibiotic is based on tests that determine the nature of the bacteria or infectious agent. The only infection that has been confirmed to cause infertility in dogs is brucellosis, which is highly contagious. Tests for brucellosis are available and can be performed before breeding.

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