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Dog fertility has dipped in the last 30 years. Humans could be next…

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Posted on September 9, 2016: Latest research indicates that fertility in dogs has dipped over the last 30 years. These findings may also have implications on human reproductive health. Scientific Reports published this research earlier last month, wherein it was discovered that sperm quality in a diaspora of stud dogs fell noticeably over 26 years. Researchers aver that environmental pollutants have caused this. They discovered chemicals related to birth defects and fertility issues in the testes and sperm of the dogs and even in their meals. Vets say that packaging, as well as, drinking water of canines may be laced with harmful chemicals.

Harmful chemicals

The chemicals noticed were a kind of PCB and phthalates. PCBs used to be components of electrical equipment, but a ban was imposed on them in 1980. Phthalates have stirred up much controversy of late for being chemicals that upset the normal functioning of the endocrine systems, among a host of other unwanted side effects. Both of these were however found in the semen and testicles during the castration of dogs during routine procedures.

Author Dr Richard Lea, of Nottingham University’s school of Veterinary Medicine and Science helmed this study. He informed that further research is needed to confirm whether a fertility concern in dogs indicates that human fertility is at threat. He added that a connection is, however, possible as both canines and humans live in the same environment, suffer from alike ailments and often responded in a similar manner to therapies. This is for the very first time that a decline in fertility has been reported in dogs, and environmental pollution has been speculated as the cause.


This research was conducted from 1988 to 2014. Sperm samples were collected from Border Collies, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. These dogs were being specially bred to help the disabled. 1,925 semen samples from 232 various dogs were tested. 42 to 97 dogs were tested on an average on a yearly basis. The dogs chosen were pure breeds. Pure breeds are inclined to genetic conditions. The researchers explored if this was hereditary or because of environmental factors.    

Steady decline

In dogs, sperm mobility had 90% motility in 1988. In 2014, the motility of sperms came down to 60%. The shape and size of the sperm remained consistent. The ability of the sperm to swim in a straight line had diminished. Between 1988 and 1998, sperm motility decreased at the rate of 2.5% annually. Between 2002 and 2014, the dip in fertility was around 1.2% each year.  

The person examining the nature of the sperms under the microscope, was also subjectively responsible for the inference of this research. Each observer will perceive the image below a microscope differently. Standardizing the perceptions is tough. The strong point of the study, however, was that all the samples were analyzed and processed at the same laboratory, abiding by the same procedures, during that phase. The data generated thereof is considered as reliable.

The canines with the least mobile sperms were selected to improve the quality of this study. This research is the stepping stone to further study to establish more reliable data to confirm this upsetting trend. So, let’s not pay heed to the environment just on World Environmental Day but endeavour to make intelligent consumer choices when choosing common household products such as detergents, cleaners and soaps so that we can pick the biodegradable variety and reduce the impact of harmful chemicals on our environment.


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