So Sci was feeling rather...uninspired for this week's weird science. Life hasn't been easy lately and it's wearing on me. But then I saw a recent post from Isis' co-blogger (and, to Sci's mind, possible doppleganger) Set Oculus. Set Oculus, who's gender is apparently no longer in question (though I don't know if I believe that, I know plenty of chicks who can pee standing up, as well as a few who can ejaculate), is now on a drug which is going to cause retrograde ejaculation.
Sci was immediately intrigued.
Ejaculation, you say?
I bet I can pubmed that...
And then, when Sci did, she found a paper. When she had read through the phrases "ejaculation with a full bladder", "palpation of the testes indicated normal size", and "using an estrous teaser bitch", she was hooked (that's "bitch" as in female canine).
So let's start with the three stages of ejaculation, and the story of a Sheepdog.
First off, I want to let you all know that if you look up "ejaculation" on wikipedia, you will find a video that is extremely instructive. And rather NSFW.
Anyway, so this dude had a sheepdog and he wanted to breed it. He tried with three happy little ladies with no results. Nothing was wrong with the ladies, so the guy took the dog into the vet. And here's where we get to the good quotes:
I do not envy vets. All the dog testicle palpating and manual ejaculations and estrous teasers and measurements of anal contractions. Now THAT is glamor.
Anyway, the dog, no matter what, orgasmed and failed to produce any ejaculate. It turned out that all of the ejaculate was going back up in to the BLADDER, where the sperm were probably swimming around wondering what the heck happened and why this doesn't look ANYTHING like a uterus.
So before we go into what they tried with the dog, let's talk about ejaculation. There are two major stages. And for this we'll need some anatomy.
1) The orgasm begins. The sperm cells and fluid come in from the epididymis (in the scrotum) up the ductus deferens, and pool in the proximal urethra (at the base of the penis). During this time, the sympathetic nervous system plays a big role in closing off the bladder.
2) Arrival of the semen into the urethra signals the firing of the pudendal nerve. This causes massive contraction of the muscles in the area, which propels the semen through the urethra, sometimes at distance. Masters and Johnson reported once that they saw a guy with an 8 foot ejaculation. Strong muscles.
From the two stages above, it's pretty easy to see what problem the dog probably had. He probably didn't have enough sympathetic nervous innervation to close off the duct coming from the bladder to the urethra. Then, when he attempted to ejaculate, the semen just went backward and ended up in the urethra. Sure enough, when the vets checked the urine, there were the sperm.
But this is where it got rather odd. Apparently this Shetland must have been a real prizewinner, so much so that the owner was desperate to get some of that sperm. They ended up trying three things:
1) Ejaculation on a full bladder. If the bladder is full, the semen can't go backward, they can only go forward. Apparently this didn't work, but I really want to know who prevented the poor dog from lifting his leg on anything all morning.
2) Drugs which promote closure of the bladder sphincter. This also didn't work. The dog must have started to wonder why he was being brought in to the vet every morning and exposed to dog ladies in estrous to get him all hot and bothered.
3) The most extreme measure. When they couldn't get ejaculation at all, they got the dog to orgasm, and then they catheterized him and tried to extract the semen from the dog's urine. They attempted to artificially inseminate three dogs this way, and all of them were abject failures. You gotta figure, even if you're fast, swimming around in the urine is probably not good for sperm. The pH isn't optimal. OTOH, there HAVE been cases in humans where, if a guy can pee first, THEN have sex, and THEN pee in the woman's vagina (yes, I said that) the sperm can get out quickly enough and not be exposed to too much urine.
You can also do this without the woman in the equation, and attempt to protect the extracted sperm with a fluid or something pH balancing. It's apparently pretty successful in humans Apparently the sperm they got from this dog weren't in that bad of a shape, but still no pregnancies resulted. It's possible the numbers weren't high enough, or that the way of getting it into the female dogs wasn't effective.
However, what interested Sci most about this paper was the sheer amount of MONEY they must have spent trying to get this dog to breed. Unless it was the winner of something seriously important (who knows? Maybe it was), this is a lot of money, and a lot of missed orgasms. Sci says, give the dog a break and let him have some fun.
Post K, Barth AD, Kiefer UT, & Mapletoft RJ (1992). Retrograde ejaculation in a Shetland sheepdog. The Canadian veterinary journal. La revue veterinaire canadienne, 33 (1), 53-5 PMID: 17423931