Endocrine disrupting (ED) chemicals found in some commercially available dog foods may be a factor in declining fertility.

The findings come from a report based on data taken from a 26-year study and published by the University of Nottingham in Scientific Reports1.

Sperm
“This is the first time such a decline in male fertility has been reported in the dog and we believe this is due to environmental contaminants.” Image © Tatiana Shepeleva / Fotolia.

The report also found male pups fathered by dogs with declining semen quality were more prone to cryptorchidism and the number of males born relative to females had declined.

The findings that “environmental influences” such as ED chemicals have an adverse effect on canine sperm function are seen as being a “useful sentinel” for the study of environmental influences on human male fertility. Specific ED chemicals identified include:

  • polychlorinated bisphenol 153 (PCB153)
  • diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)

ED chemicals were found in wet, dry and “puppy” food.

Motility decline

Richard Lea, reader in reproductive biology at the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, and his team examined a unique dataset based on semen collected from a controlled population of stud dogs – mainly Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and German shepherds – from 1988 to 2014.

The number of dogs in the programme each year varied between 42 and 97 throughout the study.

Sperm analysis methods

Importantly, all data was generated using sperm analysis methods that have remained consistent throughout the years of the study, with uniform input from three experienced technical staff and one of the senior authors. As such, the data is regarded as robust.

Results demonstrated sperm motility declined by 2.5% per year between 1988 and 1998 and, following a short period when stud dogs of compromised fertility were retired from the study, sperm motility continued to decline at a rate of 1.2% per year from 2002 to 2014.

Data suggesting a similar decline in human semen quality have been questioned on the basis of changes in laboratory methods, training of laboratory personnel and improved quality assurance over the last 53 years.

The University of Nottingham report states: “ED chemicals PCB153 and DEHP are detectable in canine testes collected from dogs from the same location as the temporal study.

“Furthermore, the same chemicals were detected in a range of commercially available dog foods. Since testicular concentrations of these chemicals directly perturbed sperm motility and viability, this may be a mechanism by which environmental chemicals directly affect male fertility.”

Further research needed

The report concluded: “This study demonstrates that, in a population of stud dogs, sperm motility has declined over a 26-year period. Although the mechanism remains to be determined, we have shown chemicals present in testis and ejaculate directly affect sperm function and viability.

“Since the increased incidence of cryptorchidism coupled with declining sperm quality in males is indicative of canine ‘testicular dysgenesis syndrome’, the domestic dog may be a useful sentinel for the study of environmental influences on human male fertility.”

Dr Lea said: “This is the first time such a decline in male fertility has been reported in the dog and we believe this is due to environmental contaminants, some of which we have detected in dog food and in the sperm and testes of the animals themselves.

“While further research is needed to conclusively demonstrate a link, the dog may indeed be a sentinel for humans – it shares the same environment, exhibits the same range of diseases, many with the same frequency, and responds in a similar way to therapies.”

  1. Lea RG et al (2016). Environmental chemicals impact dog semen quality in vitro and may be associated with a temporal decline in sperm motility and increased cryptorchidism, Sci Rep 6: 31,281.
  • This news story was edited in January 2017 to include the full, original text as published in Veterinary Times 46:33.
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28 Comments on "Report links commercial dog food to declining fertility"

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Cynthia
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Cynthia
2 months 4 days ago

I have been unable to find the full article. Help

Vet Times
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2 months 4 days ago

Hi Cynthia,

Please check your email. We’ve sent you a PDF of the published page.

Karen Brittan
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Karen Brittan
2 months 4 days ago

Can’t you put a link up to the article? I have been searching for it, too.

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Rebecca
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Rebecca
2 months 4 days ago

Could you email me a copy as well?

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Donna Forrester
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2 months 4 days ago

May I have a copy of the entire article? Thank you.

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Linda DeLarso
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Linda DeLarso
2 months 4 days ago

Can I please get a PDF as well of the full article?

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Scott anderson
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Scott anderson
2 months 4 days ago

Wis there specific brands of food that are better or worst for ED chemicals and could you also send me the full artic
Thank you

Vet Times
Admin
2 months 3 days ago

No specific brands were named. The report states only “a range of commercially available dog foods (dry dog biscuit: n = 13; canned wet meat: n = 12) were tested”. However, we have now added a link to the original report if you wish to read into this further.

Gale rivers
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2 months 4 days ago

Would like to know more about this subject.

Penny Anderson
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2 months 4 days ago

Would also appreciate receipt of Full Text article – Thank You!!!

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Laura Mestas
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Laura Mestas
2 months 4 days ago

I would love this article as well

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Sally scott
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Sally scott
2 months 4 days ago

Where can I see the full article?
Many thanks

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

gabe
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gabe
2 months 4 days ago

could send to me as well please

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Lynn
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Lynn
2 months 4 days ago

I would like a copy too please.

Vet Times
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2 months 3 days ago

Due to the popularity of this abstract, we have edited it to include the full article text.

Sandi Malcolm
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Sandi Malcolm
2 months 3 days ago

Is the article above now the full one or is there more?

Vet Times
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2 months 2 days ago

Hi Sandi. This is now the entire article.

Wendy Pinti
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Wendy Pinti
2 months 2 days ago

Would be interested in doing this study with a dog completely on a species appropriate diet, RAW feeding, my Airedale is 10 and littered a litter of 16, he was collected at 7& 9 years of age with a 98% motility. We have 3 breeders here in the USA with generations RAW fed…. just a thought.

Debra Howe
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1 month 25 days ago

May I have permission to reprint this article in the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America’s quarterly magazine, TRUE GRIT? I am the Chair of the Breeder’s committee and I think it would be useful.

Vet Times
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1 month 24 days ago

Hi Debra. We have emailed you regarding your request.

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