IVF now available for dogs

  • 10/12/2015

Humans have been using in vitro fertlisation (IVF) for nearly 40 years, and now dogs can get the same treatment to help them conceive.

It's not just about creating show dogs, IVF might also eliminate defects common to certain breeds. 

In upstate New York Alex Travis walks his two colourfully named beagles  - Red and Green.

But they are no ordinary dogs, and he's no ordinary dog walker.  Mr Travis is a researcher at Cornell University's vet school, and Red and Green are two of the first test-tube puppies.

The litter came from three separate mums who gave the eggs, and two separate dads.

IVF - fertilising an egg with a sperm in a lab and then implanting the embryo in a surrogate - has been around for humans since the late 1970's. 

But researchers like Mr Travis only recently figured out how to make it work with canines, as dog reproduction is different than almost every other mammal.

"This will have a lot of applications in veterinary medicine, for animals that are valuable working dogs or show dogs or just animals that people love and want to breed," says Mr Travis.

It's not just the genetic lines of the best in show that might benefit.  Entire breeds like collies - known for eye problems, dalmations - prone to urinary stones, and golden retrievers - suceptible to certain cancers - could benefit. 

"We can then use some new technologies like gene editing and we can use that to try to fix those defects and prevent the disease before it even starts," says Mr Travis.

Red and green were among seven IVF puppies born last July. Travis loves what his research has brought into his life.

"I love them very much, but they need a little more housebreaking though," he says.

It seems there are some traits even science might find it a challenge to correct.