Unlike other domestic mammals, in which metaphase-II oocytes are ovulated, canine ovulation is characterized by the release of primary oocytes, which may take 12 to up to 36 hours. Further 60 hours are needed for maturation to secondary oocytes which then remain fertile for about 48 hours. Oestrus takes 7 to 10 days on average and may start as early as a week before ovulation. This together with the prolonged process of post-ovulatory oocyte maturation requires an according longevity of spermatozoa in the female genital tract in order to provide a population of fertile sperm when oocytes have matured to fertilizability. Therefore the distribution and viability of spermatozoa in the bitch genital tract was examined during post-ovulatory oocyte maturation.
Thirteen beagle bitches were inseminated on the day of sonographically verified ovulation with pooled semen of two beagle dogs containing one billion progressively motile spermatozoa. Ovariohysterectomy was performed two days later (group 1, n = 6) and four days later (group 2, n = 7). The oviduct and uterine horn of one side were flushed separately and the flushing’s were checked for the presence of gametes. The oviducts including the utero-tubal junction and the uterine horns, both the flushed and unflushed, were histologically examined for sperm distribution.
The total number of spermatozoa recovered by flushing was low and evaluation of viability was limited. Prophase-I oocytes were collected from oviduct flushing in group 1, whereas unfertilized metaphase-II oocytes were detected in group 2. From day 2 to day 4 after ovulation a significant decrease in the percentage of glands containing sperm (P<0.05) and a marked reduction of the mean sperm number in uterine horn glands were observed. A concomitant diminution of spermatozoa was indicated in the utero-tubal junction accompanied by a slight increase in sperm numbers in the mid oviduct.
Oocyte maturation to metaphase-II stage is accompanied by a continuous sperm detachment and elimination in the uterine horns. Entrance of spermatozoa into the caudal oviduct seems to be steadily controlled by the utero-tubal junction thus providing a selected sperm population to be shifted towards the site of fertilization when oocyte maturation is completed.