Artificial insemination (AI) is a technique used to help dogs become pregnant without a natural mating. Semen is collected from a stud dog and, depending on the technique used, is either inserted into a bitch’s vagina or her uterus.
Why use artificial insemination?
Breeders may choose to use artificial insemination because:
- It allows two dogs that live long distances apart to produce puppies, eliminating the stress of travel and reducing the cost of transportation
- It opens up new possibilities for introducing previously unused genes into a population of dogs from another country. This could be to improve genetic diversity in a breed or to introduce/enhance certain traits or characteristics
- It enables dogs that have died, but had specific desirable traits, to contribute to a gene pool
- It prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
Cautions to using AI
AI can have its disadvantages and can, in certain situations, create welfare and ethical concerns, including:
- Risks of complications and infections, especially if AI is performed by someone with little or no experience
- Enabling a stud dog to father considerably more puppies than from natural mating alone. Overusing a stud dog may spread unseen genetic faults throughout the breed and will have an impact on genetic diversity and inbreeding
- Introducing hereditary diseases or undesirable traits, especially if using semen from a stud dog in a different population. It’s important that all dogs be tested for breed specific health conditions before they’re used for breeding, even when using artificial insemination
- Continuing a reliance on artificial methods of conception, especially if repeatedly used for dogs that can’t mate naturally, either for health or conformational reasons. These dogs will then pass on their genes to their puppies, reinforcing the problem and possibly affecting the health and welfare of future dogs. As such, dogs that cannot breed naturally due to conformation should not be bred from using this procedure
For these reasons AI should only be used in exceptional circumstances and where natural matings are not possible.
Types of semen that can be used for AI
There are three types of semen that can be used for artificial insemination:
- Fresh semen – this is usually used when the bitch and the stud dog are geographically close to one another
- Fresh chilled semen – chilling semen allows you to prolong how long it can be stored for, which means it can be transported further or kept for longer than fresh semen
- Frozen semen – freezing the semen, usually in liquid nitrogen, allows it to be stored for a very long time. During the freezing and defrosting stages some sperm may be damaged. This can affect how long the sperm is viable for once it’s been defrosted
Types of AI
There are three methods of artificial insemination:
- Trans-vaginal (also known as intra-vaginal) insemination - Fresh or chilled semen is inserted into the bitch’s vagina using an insemination pipette. This is the most commonly used AI technique and is the least invasive. From July 2023 the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons changed its guidance and confirmed that this will need to be carried out by a veterinary professional in order to reflect the law, as an exemption for ‘suitably qualified lay people’ to carry out the procedure has not been forthcoming from Defra
- Transcervical Insemination - Any type of semen can be used for this technique. During the procedure, semen is inserted directly into the uterus using a catheter and/or an endoscope. This technique is more invasive than trans-vaginal insemination and so must only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.
- Surgical insemination - This type of insemination has been banned in the UK since 2019 by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. We do not accept litter applications for puppies that were conceived using this method.
Can I artificially inseminate my dog?
Artificial insemination should always be carried out by a veterinary professional.
You should never let someone with little experience or knowledge try to artificially inseminate a dog as this could hurt or injure them and may lead to difficulties or anxieties around future matings, or in some cases lead to a prosecution for a welfare offence.
How much does artificial insemination for dogs cost?
The price of artificial insemination varies depending on the type of technique used and who is carrying it out.
Kennel Club registration
All AI litters must meet our current existing registration regulations. We accept applications to register a litter produced by AI from both overseas dogs and those living in the United Kingdom, but the AI must be declared by downloading and completing the Artificial insemination form PDF (form 2) and send it to us together with the litter registration form.
You do not need prior approval from us to register a litter produced by AI.
Frequently asked questions
I have a maiden bitch who has not yet produced puppies - can I still mate her using artificial insemination?
Yes, we have no restrictions on mating maiden bitches by AI.
The stud dog I want to use has not produced puppies naturally – can I still apply to register the puppies?
Yes, we will register a litter by AI from a dog that has not previously produced a natural litter.
Does the insemination need to be carried out by a vet?
Can I register a litter if I plan to use surgical insemination?
Surgical insemination has been banned since 2019 and we do not accept applications for litters that were conceived using this technique.
If the donor dog is dead, does there still need to be a gap before the semen can be used?
There is no longer any waiting period required to use semen from a deceased dog.
The stud dog I want to use is alive, and in the UK - will the application be accepted?
Although natural matings are always preferred, we will register a litter produced by AI, even if the sire is alive and in the UK.
I have bought the semen and therefore it is legally mine. Who signs the AI and litter registration forms?
Our regulations require the registered owner of the donor dog to sign the litter registration form. However, if you’re able to obtain written confirmation from the owner of the donor dog that you are the legal owner of the semen, you will be allowed to sign the AI and litter application forms.
Do I need permission to register the litter in advance from The Kennel Club?
You no longer need advanced permission to register a litter by AI, provided that your application follows our rules and guidelines.