If you read some of my previous posts, you probably already know that I spent the first 7 years of my career in academia, teaching small animal reproduction to vet students, veterinarians and breeders. One of the things I really miss from these years is the atmosphere there was in the department when we were preparing ourselves for a congress. Gosh, that was great… Months in advance we were browsing the web, waiting for the “call for abstract” to come. And then our boss and mentor Alain Fontbonne had to deal with a bunch of super-excited residents that were looking for interesting scientific stuff to submit, hoping that it will be accepted by the congress’ scientific committee for a poster or – my favorite – an oral presentation. Believe me, these were great moments I still cherish…
That’s why this year I was super-excited: I was going to attend to my first SFT meeting. What is SFT? This is the acronym for Society for Theriogenology, the american society of veterinarian specialised in animal reproduction. Just by looking at the program I knew there would be lots of stuff to learn. I can’t tell you all – we all have our secrets right? – but here is a summary of my first day at the 2014 SFT meeting !
Enzymes and canine spermatogenesis
Abstract sessions are always interesting because this is where the last innovations are often presented. What caught my attention was a short presentation on a class of enzymes, cytochrome P450 (aka CYP) that are found in the dog’s testis. What did I find so interesting about something that sounds so “fundamental”? Let me explain. This research team studied the mechanisms by which these hormones participate to spermatogenesis in dogs, and discovered that one of them, called CYP26B1 (can’t wait to be able to mention that in a dinner!) could be an interesting pharmacological target in the future. When it is activated, it indeed stimulates spermatogenesis: could therefore open the door to molecules that would improve the capacity and quality of spermatogenesis (which could be great in infertile dogs). When its activity is depressed however, sperm production is then inhibited: it could then also be a great way to induce chemical castration. For sure we are years away from these clinical applications, but let’s be optimistic: it opens interesting doors for the future in canine andrology.
About the male dog’s semen
There were a couple of interesting talks in the afternoon, focusing on the breeding soundness evaluation (BSE) of the male dog. Key elements here:
– In North-America, a Brucella canis test is a MUST-DO whenever breeding soundness evaluation is performed in a stud dog.
– This breeding soundness evaluation should be performed anytime there is a doubt on the male’s ability to conceive. For instance, if its whelping rate is below 50%, it is time to consult with a repro vet.
– We often recommend performing hormonal tests in infertile male dogs, including testosterone and estrogens. I learnt that when estrogens are elevated and testosterone is low, this is the sign of a testicular degeneration. Not much to do in such a case unfortunately, but at least it gives a clear prognosis that this is the end of the male’s reproductive career (at least for the moment since we have no therapeutic alternatives yet).
– They confirmed what I already thought and wrote about: there is no point performing thyroid hormone assays in infertile male dogs.
An interesting study about canine breeders’ practices
The last talk of the day was also really interesting. Nothing really scientific or cutting-edge, but it was about canine breeders’ practices. This team surveyed 461 breeders to better understand what they were doing (and why they were doing it) when it comes to canine reproduction. The results are interesting and I really like the take-away messages delivered during this presentation (but we will come back to them shortly!). What they learnt from this survey:
– When introducing a new animal inside their kennel, the majority of breeders who responded were more concerned about the risk of fights and bites rather than the risk of introducing infectious diseases inside their kennel. Only 17/461 required a specific health check of any kind for these new individuals entering their facility.
– There were huge variations in the vaccination protocols used (which is somehow not suprising, since each facility has to face its own challenges especially when it comes to infectious diseases). The speaker reminded us that breeding bitches should be vaccinated well ahead of their heats to ensure high titers during pregnancy and formation of high-quality colostrum and that vaccination during pregnancy is not recommended in breeding animals.
– When it comes to Brucella canis testing, here as well there were lots of variability: some breeders responded they do not test at all, while others test twice a year every individual used for breeding. Members of the SFT recommended that bitches be tested at the time of breeding and males be tested at the time of breeding or semen collection, or twice yearly.
– Most respondents bred bitches once a year and their bitches had in average 2.8 litters during their life. FYI, SFT recommendations are no more than 3-4 litter during the bitch’s reproductive career.