First Dogs of Their Kind Born Via In-Vitro Fertilization
Most breeders know that dogs have complicated reproduction systems. So when people are looking to breed rare kinds of dogs, the process can be a little tricky. However, in-vitro fertilization may help change all that.
On December 9, 2015, researchers from Cornell University just completed a huge scientific breakthrough that successfully allowed a dog to breed using IVF. The mother recently delivered a healthy litter of puppies. The study authors believe that their findings could help revive endangered breeds of wolves and foxes, as they have similar reproduction systems to dogs. The findings could also help eliminate certain genetic diseases that dog breeds carry, ABC News noted.
Canines, wolves and foxes all have reproduction systems that lead study author Jennifer Nagashima described as "weird," according to ABC News.
"They have a lot of fun, reproductive quirks," Nagashima told the news publication. "They experience really long periods where they don't cycle. They go into heat once or twice a year."
Trying a new method
According to Nagishima, dogs' eggs need to sit in their reproductive systems for a few days in order for the breeding to be successful. After determining an accurate waiting period, the researchers removed the canine participants' eggs and combined them with male dog sperm. Then they froze the eggs before placing them back inside the dogs' reproductive systems.
Though the study authors originally implanted 19 frozen eggs, approximately seven were successful in becoming fertilized. The mother delivered a total of seven puppies via cesarean section - two of the puppies were Beagle and Cocker Spaniel mixes. The other five were pure Beagle. All of the dogs have been adopted except for one, who hopefully can continue the breeding process. One of the adopted dogs was named Ivy to commemorate the successful trial.
These are not the first researchers to test this out. NPR noted that other study authors have made attempts, but all were deemed losses after low fertilization rates and no live births.
While this innovative fertilization technique might be helpful for canine mothers who are having difficulty breeding, it may also be a great development in saving species of wolves, foxes and dogs, including the African wild dog and the red wolf. According to Nagishima, there are more than 20 different species related to dogs that are currently endangered. If IVF is successful for other dogs, it might be the right solution toward turning endangerment around.
The current rate of endangerment
The website Treehugger.com reported that the most endangered canine species in the world is the Ethiopian wolf. This species lives in the high mountains of Ethopia. There are an estimated 500 wolves left on Earth. Because of this low number, an organization known as the Ethiopian Wolf Project was started to simply attempt to raise awareness and money to save the species. Red wolves are also severely threatened, as hunters often mistake this wolf for a coyote. In 1973, there were only 14 pure red wolves left in the world. Luckily, conservation efforts and captivity breeding have worked to drastically raise that number to around 400. African wild dogs, who live exclusively in Africa as the name suggests, are also susceptible to hunters. These dogs have several names, including painted dog, spotted dog and ornate wolf. Currently, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 dogs in Africa, as hunters will poach these dogs. African wild dogs are also killed off by lions and hyenas, who hunt the same prey as them.
The study authors plan to continue their research to learn more about IVF and discover if there is a consistent treatment that can be used on domestic dogs as well as wolves, foxes and other endangered canid species.