Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Infertility: male - overview

Synonym(s): Failure to cover, not proven

Contributor(s): Autumn P Davidson, Angelika von Heimendahl


  • Fertility in the male dog is dependent on normal behavior and libido, physical ability, and adequate semen quality.
  • Infertilty can result from poor breeding behavior, poor libido, musculoskeletal problems preventing breeding or poor semen quality.
  • Apparent infertility can stem from problems with kennel husbandry or problems with the female mate.
  • Evaluation and therapy for infertility in the male dog is therefore multifactorial.
  • True infertility due to poor semen quality has a poor prognosis for resolution, but usually does not impact the dogs general health.



  • Poor libido Deficient libido in male.
  • Physical inability to breed a female naturally (ie achieve a copulatory lock or tie).
  • Poor semen quality.
  • Normal semen evaluation with poor sperm function.

Predisposing factors

  • Passive or insecure male.
  • Environment at collection not conducive to normal libido (eg veterinary clinic).
  • Nonreceptive female due to behavioral problems (dominant) or not in estrus (not in the receptive/fertile period of the estrous cycle).
  • Mismatch of stud dog and brood bitch height or conformation (eg English Bulldog).
  • Vaginal anatomic problems in the bitch (stricture).
  • Phimosis.
  • Bilateral cryptorchidism Testicle: cryptorchidism.
  • Abnormal motility (asthenospermia), morphology (teratospermia) or sperm count (oligospermia or azoospermia).
  • Lack of semen (aspermia).
  • Pyospermia.
  • Iatrogenic causes.
  • Neoplasia (testes Testicle: neoplasia , prostate Prostate: neoplasia , urinary tract).
  • Significant systemic disease.


  • Normal male breeding behavior can be inhibited by prior negative experience (correction by owners, aggressive bitch) or simply inexperience.
  • Semen collection Semen collection for artificial insemination Artificial insemination: non-surgical Artificial insemination: surgical requires an environment in which the dog is relaxed and not concerned about previous negative experiences (vaccination, anesthesia, etc).
  • Nonreceptive female dogs can be markedly aggressive with male dogs and inhibit even later attempts at copulation when they are receptive Failure to accept male at breeding.
  • Dogs and bitches need to be similarly sized and anatomically compatible for natural breedings to take place.
  • Bitches with circumferential vaginal strictures usually cannot be bred naturally with a copulatory lock (tie).
  • Slow sperm motility, abnormal sperm morphology, and/or low sperm counts can render dogs subfertile or infertile.
  • Lack of semen may indicate a disorder of sexual differentiation Disorders of sexual development.
  • Inflammatory disease of the urogenital system (cystitis Cystitis , urethritis, prostatitis Acute prostatitis , orchitis) can affect semen quality adversely.
  • Brucella canis Brucella canis is the single significant venereal disease that should be screened for in every breeding dog, and ruled out in any acquired infertility case.
  • Administration of drugs (cimetidine Cimetidine , ketoconazole Ketoconazole , finasteride) that impact testosterone production or metabolism, or which impact rapidly dividing cells (chemotherapeutic or immunosuppressive drugs) can affect semen quality adversely.
  • Sertoli cell tumors Testicle: sertoli cell tumor , interstitial cell tumors Testicle: neoplasia , and seminomas of the testes Testicle: seminoma.
  • Transitional cell tumors of the bladder, urethra and/or prostate are most common neoplasia of the urogenital tract; adenocarcinomas of same are the second most common. Transmissible venereal neoplasia is uncommon in developed countries but should be considered because of travel.
  • Renal insufficiency, hepatic disease, endocrinopathies, and systemic inflammatory/infectious disease can impact fertility acutely or chronically.
  • Sperm functional disorders (capacitation, membrane integrity, acrosome reaction).
  • Rarely, microtubule defects render sperm cells nonmotile.


  • (Orchitis and epididymitis Orchitis / epididymitis result fromBrucella canisinfection.)
  • Infectious prostatitis Acute prostatitis , often accompanied by cystitis and urethritis and negatively impact semen quality.
  • Systemic fever can reduce spermatogenesis.
  • Hard training with prolonged periods of hyperthermia can reduce spermatogenesis.
  • Focal scrotal and/or epididymal inflammation can reduce spermatogenesis.


  • The spermatogenic cycle requires approximately 62 days. Recovery of the semen quality may require 90-365 days.
  • Daily ejaculation for approximately a week will deplete sperm reserves, but a normal dog should remain fertile from his daily sperm production.


  • Not applicable unlessBrucella canisin a kennel population or transmissible venereal tumor in free ranging dogs.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Memon M A (2007) Common causes of male dog infertility. Theriogenology 68 (3), 322-328 PubMed.
  • Kustritz M V, Johnston S D, Olson P N et al (2005) Relationship between inflammatory cytology of canine seminal fluid and significant aerobic bacterial, anaerobic bacterial and mycoplasma cultures of canine seminal fluid; 95 cases (1987-2000)Theriogenology 64 (6), 1333-1339 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Johnson C (2006)Current concepts on infertility in the dog.Waltham Focus16(3); 7-12.