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Frequently Asked Questions

PROGESTERONE

What is progesterone?

Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries and placenta that helps to maintain pregnancy. It's main effects on tissues inside the body include: induction of an elaborate network of glands (endometrial glands) in the uterus to help provide nutrition to the early conceptus(baby) and become the maternal side of the placenta (connection between baby and mom). During pregnancy, it helps keep the uterine muscle layers relatively quiet so as not to disrupt a pregnancy. It also helps suppress the mother's immune response to its "foreign" baby as the baby grows and develop its own immune system. Progesterone also provides the stimulus to development of the glandular portions of the mammary glands (breast tissue)- it along with oestrogen and other hormones, produce the changes to breast tissue after puberty, throughout pregnancy and during nursing to allow these tissues to produce milk for babies. Progesterone enhances the effects of oestrogen on the female's brain to provide outward signs of oestrus ("heat"). This is one of the reasons why a bitch's first heat can be silent or go unobserved when there was not sufficient progesterone to prime the brain prior to the secretion of oestrogen. Progesterone, also like other steroids, can reduce the body's sensitivity to hormones like insulin that are helpful to glucose control- this is helpful to a pregnant mother with young, growing babies that require large amounts of energy as they develop into late pregnancy, but can lead to poor glucose control (gestational diabetes) in some bitches.

When is progesterone secreted?

Progesterone is not just elevated after ovulation and throughout pregnancy. In fact, in dogs, foxes and wolves, levels of progesterone start to climb around the time of the LH peak (the brain's signal to initiate ovulation). The sites where eggs will be released (antral follicles) from the ovaries actually start to change prior to ovulation and develop small amounts of luteal (Latin word for yellow) tissue. This luteinisation of the follicles assist in follicular rupture and increases after ovulation as the cells in the ovary around the follicle, divide and continue to secrete large amounts of progesterone that will be needed to provide a uterine environment ready for embryos.

This means that progesterone will be produced in substantial amounts around the time of ovulation in the bitch and continue to rise into the first half of pregnancy.

How does this information benefit the breeder and the veterinarian?

Well, levels of progesterone can be measured during the early oestrus cycle of the bitch to assess the timing of the LH peak and the timing of ovulation. Progesterone levels can have a tendency to hover at lower levels for several days then jump up which may be consistent with simultaneous ovulation of a number of follicles. Thus, it is actually much more valuable to follow the trend of progesterone levels than put stock into any one single value.

Progesterone can also be used to confirm that ovulation did take place, but does not help in future planning of a breeding of that cycle.

Progesterone can also be used to estimate the date of whelping. Fortunately for veterinarians, dogs seem to be very consistent in the timing of whelping. On average, whelping occurs about 63 days from the point of ovulation and 65 days from the point of the LH peak (both of which are estimated by progesterone levels as mentioned above). The luteal bodies seem to have a finite lifespan and although it is not completely understood what triggers their demise, as the progesterone levels fall, whelping occurs within 48 hours. A very useful piece of information in predicting a bitch's whelping, whether an abortion is about to occur, and in confirming termination of a pregnancy.

So if my bitch starts to show signs of heat today, when do I start testing?

If we are starting from the initial signs of vulvar swelling, bloody vaginal discharge and /or attractiveness to male dogs: I would generally start at day 5-6 for bull breeds and 8-9 for the rest unless there is a history of a short cycle or ‘missing the bitch’ before.

Can you use any form of progesterone testing?

There are many forms of progesterone tests commercially available nowadays. Some tests are quantitative, meaning they give you a specific numerical value to the level of progesterone detected, and some and semi-quantitative, in that they don't give you a specific value but give you a range of values in which the sample fits best.

Of the quantitative tests, there are different methodologies used: radio-immune assay (RIA)- considered the "gold standard" of reliable testing of progesterone levels, enzyme linked absorbent assay (ELISA) and chemiluminescence(Immulite). These tests use varying technology to measure levels of progesterone in blood samples. There are a few limitations to their use. The blood samples should be assayed at the same time each day, as steroid hormone levels can fluctuate throughout the day. The blood samples must be allowed to clot and the serum separated from the clot within 2 hours, without the use of a serum separator gel. The gel in serum separator tubes can contain an ingredient that artificially lowers the level of progesterone detected. Plain red top tubes can be used for this purpose. The tests are normally run by a laboratory so, in most cases they yield information within 24 hours, but they are not immediate. They can be more expensive in some cases. There is also some variability in levels of progesterone detected between different assays- meaning one should never try to compare progesterone levels assayed by RIA with another method like Immulite, expecting them to be comparable. It is always best to stick to one method and follow the trend.

Of the semi-quantitative tests: most employ a colour change to indicate whether the progesterone level falls into a low, intermediate or high test range. They can be convenient for immediate assay, although they are time-consuming in clinic, they do not provide a single numerical result, they can be somewhat difficult to interpret when the value of progesterone is intermediate to 2 of the ranges listed, and the lower and upper limits may be too high or too low to be of value in all cases.

Any progesterone test used should be validated for the species used. Sometimes the cheaper test isn't so cost effective- especially if it's inaccurate!

CANINE FROZEN SEMEN

Do I need an appointment for bringing my dog for a semen collection for analysis or freezing?

Yes, you need to phone or email Trade Genetics at least a day before you would like to bring your dog to us. We will do our best trying to accommodate your time and day but please remember to cancel if you have changed your mind or check in with us within 24 hours prior to coming if you made an appointment long time in advance.

How long will I spend in your clinic with my dog for semen collection and freezing?

It will take anything between 30 minutes to one hour to get the semen collected, analysed and the forms to be filled and signed. You will have an estimated number of the breeding units prior to leaving our clinic and the final report will be emailed to you within 48 hours after the semen collection.

Do you check semen after the collection?

The semen is checked twice during the freezing procedure. It is checked, analysed and evaluated as soon as the sample is obtained from the sire. The potential number of breeding units is advised to the customer. The customer is also advised if the collection is not worth freezing!!! We don’t want you to store the semen that already at this stage show that the successful insemination is not likely to happen. Then the collection of semen is analysed after the freezing and put into storage only if it is proven to be viable and meets the quality requirements so it will produce a litter. At times, mainly with older sires or dogs with underlining health issues, the semen does not require well after the freezing process. You will be advised if it happens and given options regarding the storage of the collected semen and its viability. We can also provide advice on sire management to increase his sperm count.

What is the difference between straws and pellets (vials)?

Semen can be frozen using different technology and there is a ongoing debate which is better. Trade Genetics use pelleted system and act as strong advocate of this method of freezing. Pelleted semen is stored in a small screw cap bottle called a vial (cryovial) with ID information about each donor and the date it has been frozen. Each vial contains enough semen for one insemination. Occasionally, there might be a necessity to use two vials, if the collection was performed at later stages in life of a sire and the post thaw motility is under the optimal range. The vials are clipped onto aluminum canes, identified by numbers. Another way of freezing the semen is straws, which look like thin drinking straws, usually closed by a plug from one side only. The straws are also identified at the time of the freezing. Any number of straws could be recommended for one insemination by a collecting vet. Usually this information is stated on the semen collection certificate which accompanies the semen at any stage.

Is it expensive to store the frozen semen?

Obviously, it depends on the facility you use but at Trade Genetics, the costs are not high. We have an annual semen maintenance fee, attached to each collection. The cost varies from €25 to €75 per collection per year depending on the number of breeding units in the collection. We also provide the storage for the imported semen. The cost will depend on the quantity of vials/straws and thaw media that have been imported. The cost of the imported semen starts from €50.

How long does the frozen semen last?

Frozen semen lasts forever as long as it is maintained in the proper environment. The frozen semen must be stored in the special storage cryotanks that are filled with liquid nitrogen at the temperature of -196C Usually a trained, designated technician is responsible for this task. Health and Safety instructions need to be adhered to as liquid nitrogen is a dangerous substance that can cause severe burns and injuries. It must be stored and handled with utmost care but it will keep frozen semen frozen indefinitely.

How is semen collection performed?

Semen collection is performed by an experienced technician by a manual stimulation with the bitch in heat present most of the times. At times if the dogs are not compatible, manual stimulation is sufficient but it comes with experience only. If you are not sure how to do it or the dog is not comfortable with you doing it, STOP or you might hurt the sire and make him very difficult to manage for the future.

Can you harvest semen from a dead dog?

At Trade Genetics we have heard of the instances of harvesting the semen from a dead or partially paralysed sire but we don’t provide this service.

Do I need to bring a teaser bitch with me for the semen collection?

As a rule, you don’t need to bring a female in heat with you, as we have a bitch or biches on site but for some small breeds, it is recommended to bring a bitch, similar to sire’s type. Some sires have shown preferences to a particular colour. Others only prefer their own type or size. if your sire is one of those, please mention it to us when booking the collection and we will discuss the options.

Do you check the semen of the dog without freezing it and how much does it cost?

Yes, we do. You will need to bring the sire to us for it. We don’t provide this service during mobile collections unless there is another sire to be collected for cryopreservation at the same time. We can check the semen, analyse it and give you the semen report. You might decide to freeze the collection after the sperm has been analysed and that is possible with us as well. The cost starts at €50. Please contact us for more details.

How old should be a dog in order to get his semen checked?

As a rule, the male dog should be at least 12 months old. Certain breeds are possible to evaluate at earlier stages but please remember that your dog is not mature yet and his sperm count can go up or down when he reaches his full maturity.

What is the best age to freeze dog’s semen?

As dogs get older, their sperm count goes down. The optimal age for a sire to be collected and frozen is between 2 years old and 7/8 years old. Ideally, a sire should have mated within the last few months and sired a successful litter within last 12 months. Every sire is different. We have preserved semen of many older sires successfully and it is often a case of keeping an open mind, booking an appointment for the semen extraction and analysis and taking it from there. You might be pleasantly surprised and a sire is fertile at the age of 10 or it might not be worth the time and money to continue with the cryopreservation. We will give you all pros and cons, based on the sample analysis on the day of the collection.

CHILLED/FRESH CANINE SEMEN

Someone overseas wants me to send fresh/chilled semen of my dog to them. How do I go about it?

Contact us and with address of breeder or veterinary to ship semen. We will work out logistics and advise. If address is remote it can take two day for shipping but there can be options to collect package at depot or airport. Every country has different agriculture and customs regulations for shipping semen. It is important to meet these conditions. We are familiar with these regulations and have contacts within departments of agriculture to quick permits. It is important NOT to ship semen illegally and its a very serious offence. Agriculture likes co operation with professionals.

We advice doing progesterone test on the bitch around day 7-9 (5-7 for bull breeds). We can advice when to get stud dog collected for export but in most cases you will awaiting the instructions from the owner of the bitch or their vet. Don’t worry, as long as we know that it is in the works, we work on a very short notice so you can phone us at any time to let us know that you are coming in the morning with your dog.

The stud dog needs to be presented to us before 10am for semen collection. Please bring the address where it is going with you if we don’t have it yet. We do a sperm count, morphology and motility assessment. Once this is OK we will dilute correctly with extender. We use patented US extender. This extender will keep semen in good quality for up to 14 days. We will ship semen to owner of bitch or their veterinarian for insemination. We will supply instructions for handling and insemination. Tracking number for the semen package will be given to you before you leave and forwarded to the recipient on request. Trade Genetics closely monitor all our consignments and we will always follow up to make sure everything is done to get package delivered in time.

How much does it cost to send fresh/chilled semen?

The costs of sending chilled semen are much lower than that of frozen semen. First of all, it is due to the smaller package which is only 2 kg as opposed to 15 kg for the frozen semen. The costs of sending the frozen semen start at €430. The cost include semen collection, sperm count, morphology, extender dilution, specialised box for chilled semen transport and courier costs. Please contact us for a free quote, as prices vary with destination.

How do I pay for chilled semen?

It is advisable to separate the costs of sending chilled semen and your stud fee. We accept card payments, bank transfers and PayPal payments. Please ask the breeder contact us directly for the options. Or you can pay after the semen is collected and analysed.

Can you freeze chilled semen when it arrives?

No, you can’t freeze the sample that arrives. It will kill the sperm. You remove the prepared sample/s from the box and place it into the household fridge at the temperatures between +4 - +8 C Make sure the product does not start freezing or get warm. Improper handling will compromise the sperm and won’t produce positive results.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION

What is the best way to inseminate my bitch?

There is no one answer to that. The method of insemination will depend on a number of factors. We will take into consideration the age of your female, the breed, her health conditions if any and the type of sperm we will have to work with. E.g. for a good quality fresh or chilled collection, a normal artificial insemination will be the cheapest and the least invasive way to go.

On the other side, if you have an imported frozen semen which is on top of all the imported costs, is also irreplaceable, a surgical implant will be your best bet.

How does endoscope work?

The transcervical insemination (TCI) is performed with the bitch in a standing position. Neither sedation nor anaesthesia is required. A fiber optic cystourethoscope is used vaginally to visualize the opening to the cervix. A flexible catheter is maneuvered through the cervix into the uterus. It is important that the breeder realize that the veterinarian is not visualizing the inside of the uterus and this technique does not allow for evaluation of the uterus. The TCI procedure is visualized on a television monitor and does allow for examination of the vaginal tract, however. The semen is gently pushed through the catheter from a syringe. The veterinarian can visualize that the semen flows easily into the uterus and does not flow back into the vaginal tract. We use Karl Storz endoscope for our endoscopic procedures.

EXPORTS/IMPORTS

What is used to ship semen?

For fresh/chilled semen the special box is used which is designed and proven to keep the required temperature for up to 48 hours.

For frozen semen vapour dry shipper containers are used. There are various types of vapour shippers available for shipping. At Trade Genetics we only use 14 or 21 day containers to ensure the safe delivery of the semen to its final destination. They are sent as non-dangerous goods with global couriers like DHL or FedEx or a special freight can be organised if requested.

How will I go about importing semen?

Please contact us for step-by-step instructions and advice.

What are the requirements to import semen?

Please contact us for requirements and advice as specific countries have various requirements and procedures to follow in order to make your import possible.

Can I import semen from a deceased sire?

Please contact us for more information on that and advice, as specific countries have various requirements and procedures to follow in order to make your import possible.

Anything I need to know before an import?

If the semen has been already frozen, prior to doing anything else, ask the owner of the stud dog for a copy of a semen evaluation report/semen collection report and forward it to Trade Genetics for advice and analysis. Due to the costs involved in the importing process, it is extremely important to make sure that you are importing good quality product with high chances of the successful pregnancy and we will be happy to assist. Confidentiality and professionalism guaranteed.

Trade Genetics

Canine Reproduction Services
Cabra,
Thurles,
Co Tipperary.
Eircode: E41 DE88

Telephone: +353 504 58900
Mobile: +353 86 819 0076
E-mail: info@tradegenetics.ie

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