The bad, but not surprising, news is that Owl has a fertility problem. Dr Hutch said that normal canine sperm counts run about 10 million per pound of dog's body weight. Owl weighs 20 lbs so we would expect something like 200 million sperm. Owl's count was 42 million.
One would think that 42 million of anything would surely be enough!
But it gets worse. Of the 42 million sperm, 58% were immature. Dr Hutch explained that, like other glands in the body, the testes are 'used to' a certain level of production and that Owl was likely much more fertile when he was younger. So, in an effort to 'keep up the numbers' in the ejaculate, the testes are throwing out sperm that have not yet matured.
This is the reason, I was told, that Owl was not able to settle either Taya or Tasha this spring.
Now for some good news:
1. Owl has sperm. I was half-afraid there wouldn't be anything in there.
2. The motility of the sperm was good.
3. The morphology of the sperm was largely normal.
4. Ultrasound showed no masses or significant lesions in the testicles.
5. Ultrasound showed an enlarged prostate but the amount of enlargement is moderate and well within normal for a dog Owl's age.
6. It was also clear that Owl does not have an infectious process going on; there was no blood or pus. Prostatitis is a leading cause of acquired infertility so this was very good to hear.
I had shown Dr Hutch the semen evaluation from a different repro specialist done February, 2013. Unfortunately, the report was rather vague. I repeated what I'd been told and what I saw, which I had also relayed to Diane Webb in an email at that time.
"He said it looked pretty good. About 70% were what he called normal sperm 'which would be fine for live cover or fresh chilled. But for freezing and storing and the expense that goes with it, I think we can do better. I would like to get the numbers up to around 90% for freezing and I think we can do it.' He also showed me the little bit of blood in the bottom of the spun-down tube; the blood that had made it into the sample before bleeding became obvious. He said that the freezing process hemolyzes red blood cells and hemolyzing RBCs will destroy some sperm so another reason to clear up the prostate. He gave me a script for 30 days worth of Cipro. Interestingly, under magnification it appeared that some sperm were attempting to impregnate the small clumps of red cells. Good luck with that! He did comment on how good Owl's physical condition is." ~ Patt Nance in an email to Diane Webb, February 12, 2013
Again, though, no prostatitis today, (if there ever was). Instead, Dr Hutch said it looks like we have a hormonal problem related to aging. I asked if these hormonal changes in Owl are normal. He slid me a look sideways for effect and said. "Oh yes. Very normal. Owl is something like a 60 year old man." I am pretty sure the good doctor Hutch is in his 60s!
The rest of the good news:
7. Owl's libido is fine.
8. He received an injection of testosterone with pre- and post- level blood tests and the results were good.
9. He is not obese and he doesn't smoke. ; )
I had had to make a decision, before the ultrasound, blood tests, and medications, how far I am willing to go to try to obtain a litter from Owl. Considering everything: his health, vitality, and energy level which are all truly extraordinary, his sound conformation, size, intelligence, eagerness to work at anything, his voice, coat quality, pedigree, I could go on and on...
I decided to do what seems reasonable. Not less. Not more. Dr Hutchison agreed with this. He said, "I am a logical, reasonable person, too. So let's do what is logical and reasonable and see what happens." I was able to connect with that statement.
Owl has been started on Megace 5 mg daily for 21 days, then 5 mg weekly. I was surprised by this. Megace is a progestin, a synthetic progesterone. Really? Megace? Yes. See Progesterone: a male hormone for more information. I learn something new every day!
He was also started on a male fertility supplement in capsule form called, um, Male Fertility Supplement, manufactured by Coast Science. Doc said he began prescribing MFS after a conversation with a human urologist. Sub-title on the container is "The Male Prenatal." Well, I can hope so. Owl is to get one capsule of the powder on his food each day.
Dr Hutch wants to re-evaluate in eight weeks. So we will. Please hope with me for a positive outcome!