Artificial insemination has been a mainstay of the breeding industry since the routine use of chilled and frozen semen. Depending on the type of semen used and therefore its viability, it is deposited in different locations in the female reproductive tract. Frozen semen (lasting 12 hours when thawed) should be inseminated at or near the oviducts where fertilization occurs, while fresh semen (lasting 7 days) can be inseminated into the vagina.
If for some reason a natural mating cannot be achieved or shipped/fresh-chilled semen is used, a vaginal artificial insemination is performed. The bitch has her rear-end elevated and a Mavick insemination catheter is inserted. After the catheter's balloon is inflated, the semen is infused into the cranial vagina and the inseminator should digitally stroke the vaginal roof (feathering). The bitch's hindquarters should stay elevated for 15 minutes to allow gravity to aid in maintaining the semen in the reproductive tract.
Transcervical artificial insemination has evolved as a means of non-invasively depositing semen into the uterus without the need for sedation and/or anaesthesia. This technique is not recommended for bitches older than 5 years or for frozen semen since there is still quite a distance to travel to the oviducts. A special fiberoptic endoscope is introduced into the vaginal tract and it is driven cranially until the cervix is visualized. A flexible catheter is passed down the scope, maneuvered through the cervix, and into the uterus. The semen is then infused and the vaginal roof is feathered. The conception rate with transcervical AI is quite decreased in comparison to surgical AI.
Although surgical artificial insemination requires a general anesthesia and an abdominal incision, it remains the most reliable way to deposit semen near the oviducts. This procedure also allows the uterus and ovaries to be thoroughly examined and any disease managed at the time of insemination (e.g. uterine cysts, uterine adhesions). After the anesthetic induction, a 5 to 8 cm incision is made under sterile conditions on the ventral abdomen through the skin and underlying abdominal muscle. The uterus is isolated and the semen is infused into the uterine horns with a small hypodermic needle. The surgeon can feel the uterus fill as the semen is being injected and therefore does not require an incision. The abdominal incision is sutured closed in 3 layers and the bitch is usually sent home within an hour post-operatively. This does NOT make the bitch prone to whelping problems or a decrease in the number of times she can be bred.