Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Does TCI Carry an Infection Risk?

I previously mentioned this article…

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The authors’ study is an impressive one with large numbers and sophisticated statistical analysis.

And because I have written quite a few things myself, I know that authors of professional articles are just human beings like the rest of us — and so I wrote to the Corresponding Author with some questions; she was gracious and thorough in her responses.

In a Facebook discussion the issue of infection/pyometra was raised as a possible adverse event following Transcervical Insemination (TCI). As you might imagine, this chilled me to the bone.

I found one study that reported no post-TCI infections in dogs but the sample size was eight. While I am glad their study did not show any infections post-TCI, n=8 is not enough to inspire confidence.

The Hollinshead & Halon study was far more robust. Further, as a working practitioner as well as a researcher, Dr. Hollinshead reports having done approximately 2500 TCIs over many years.

Her response about post-TCI infections was not just small-n no but a very hard NO. Infections, including pyometra, are just not an issue with well-done TCIs.

She offered expected caveats — the equipment needs to be clean and the skill level of the practitioner needs to be solid, but she said, “The post insemination incidence of pyometra was so low in our study that it was not analysable.”

She went on to explain that the cervix is open when a bitch is in season, and that “…the uterus expels the bacteria and foreign material (dead sperm, extender etc) before the cervix closes and it becomes under the influence of progesterone.”

In other words, there is a clean-out system when mammals are bred because breeding is not a sanitary or sterile kind of thing. Mother Nature apparently knows what she is doing.

This does not mean Sparkle is safe from an adverse event but what it does mean is that if such a thing happens, it is so very much, much more likely that it is a coincidence rather than a consequence of the TCIs.

Remember — correlation is not causation. When two things happen together, it does not mean one caused the other.

Unless Lucky Socks are involved, of course.

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And so there you go — evidence from a solid source with a robust data set. TCI does not/should not create an elevated risk of infection.

The Science and Art of Breeding Dogs Well

A friend of mine shared that she thought surgical inseminations were the only option with frozen — I suspect she is not alone in this thinking.

Frozen semen is compromised semen. That whole experience of being flash frozen and kept at almost 300 degrees below zero would put anyone off their game. Sad but true — frozen semen are resurrected to live only 12 - 24 hours.

This means there is no time to waste on long distance travel — semen need to arrive at the party pronto! In other words, they need a lift to the uterus — a sort of Uber for sperm.

One method to transport the semen is to surgically implant it in the uterus. This is a relatively simple procedure but yes, one should not ignore potential anesthesia and surgery risks. Further, you get one shot so the timing better be good — one would not do repeated surgical implants.

Transcervical insemination (TCI) involves using a scope to go through the cervix, depositing the semen in the uterus via a catheter. This is an easy procedure when done by an experienced veterinarian, requiring no sedation and very little risk. Unlike a surgical insemination, multiple TCIs in a cycle are possible.

I have been exploring the professional literature to compare methods and guess what? There is ZERO advantage to doing surgical implants when comparing pregnancy rate. None. In fact, the advantage goes to TCI.

Mason and Rous (2014) compared TCI and surgical implant for frozen semen; pregnancy rates were significantly higher in the TCI group.

Hollinshead and Hanlon (2017) completed an impressive study of various aspects of canine reproduction, including a comparison of pregnancy rates between TCI and surgical implant; they found no difference in pregnancy rates between the two methods.

Send me an email if you want a PDF of this article — it is a good one.

Send me an email if you want a PDF of this article — it is a good one.

TCI and surgical implant deliver semen to the same place, prompting Hollinshead and Hanlon (2017) to observe, “theoretically there should be no difference in whelping rate between the two techniques, as the site of deposition is the same i.e. intrauterine” (p. 69). Their findings confirmed this.

Therefore, one might ask: If the same results can be achieved using a non-invasive procedure with much less risk (TCI), why are surgical implants being done at all?

Interesting.

What does impact pregnancy rates in both methods of intrauterine deposit is semen quality. That is not really a surprise, is it?

What the professional literature does not address is the potential increase of pregnancy rates when variables such as Lucky Socks and donuts are components of the protocol. Isn’t that shocking?!

I was set for yesterday’s TCI — I had the Lucky Socks…

Thanks, Suzanne! Extra Lucky because they were a gift.

Thanks, Suzanne! Extra Lucky because they were a gift.

Lincoln had his Lucky Shirt…

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To increase the Good Luck, I added more Donuts.

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I took this dozen to the vet — she has gone above and beyond for us (more on that tomorrow).

Aren’t they pretty?!

Aren’t they pretty?!

The timing is perfect, the semen quality is excellent, we are using the preferred method of Uber for frozen sperm, our veterinarian is a Super Star, and we have both donuts and Lucky Socks involved — oh, and Unicorns…

Berkeley has a bandage from her blood draw — the genetic tests were approved by insurance and are underway.

Berkeley has a bandage from her blood draw — the genetic tests were approved by insurance and are underway.

I think we are giving Sparklers 2.0 every advantage — but we need all the good thoughts and wishes and luck today as well. Thank you for being part of our team. #sparklers2.0

The Reveal (Sort of)

It is time for the reveal — the mystery of the father we selected for the very wanted and hoped for Sparklers 2.0.

Berkeley, dressed appropriately for the occasion, agreed to help with this.

Note the sparkle shoes!

Note the sparkle shoes!

That moment when the presenter reads the winner to herself — unless the presenter cannot yet read, and then she looks at the pictures.

And the answer is....jpg

And the Winner in the Category of Best Dog for Siring Sparklers 2.0 is…

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True Story. Frozen.

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Very, very Frozen.

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LONG Frozen…

See the collection date?

See the collection date?

I have planned for some time to use this male — I knew and loved this dog; he is one of Dear Husband’s all-time favorite Berners. The only reason he was not originally Plan A is because I was nervous about using frozen given Sparkle’s age (almost six). I changed my mind because I learned a few things.

Isn’t that usually the reason we change our minds — because we learn to see things in a different way? I am reminded of the importance of an open, curious mind and the need to be a lifelong learner.

Anyway, it went like this…

About three weeks ago Cindy H. said that Kira (her daughter) said that their acupuncture vet said that a hotshot repro vet had recently relocated to Boise and was working at one of their clinics.

Then Plan A for Sparkle fell through and I decided to consider Frozen (the term we shall use for the currently unnamed male whose semen is frozen).

I did a telephone consult with the Boise repro vet — LOVED her. More important — I learned a few things that made me feel comfortable using Frozen.

We set the wheels in motion.

The semen was in another state. A form was needed to release it — and that had to happen within 24 hours in order to get the semen to Boise in time.

YIKES.

The Head of the Costume Department and her spouse win the BFF Award for printing the form I emailed to them (not quite as easy as it sounds), driving over to have said form signed by the owner of the semen, and then more driving to deliver that form to the clinic where the semen was stored!

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Much gratitude to them!

The cost of shipping the semen left Elizabethanne wondering if it had been sent on a Lear jet! But regardless of mode of transportation, it arrived safely the next morning in Boise.

Whew.

And then we watched the progesterone rise — slowly — until the timing was such that Sparkle had entered her fertile period.

Because the humans involved with Frozen are generous and want this to work — and because transcervical inseminations (TCI) are effective and not overly invasive — we have enough semen to do repeated TCI breedings to maximize the chances of success.

So much gratitude to Frozen’s people for so many things. As I said yesterday, this has been a community endeavor.

And so because of all that, TCI #1 happened yesterday and #2 is this morning; we will do a total of four!

More on the methodology of all this tomorrow but for today — don’t forget your Lucky Socks!