The world has its first IVF puppies, and here’s why that’s a huge deal

Seven puppies in Ithaca, New York, are celebrating their five-month birthday, and while puppy birthdays are always an awesome thing, this one is super special. These seven cuties are the very first dogs ever to be born via in-vitro fertilization. Whoa, right?

Their birth is a very big deal for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s a been a long time coming. According to the medical journal PLoS One, researchers have been attempting this feat for decades. Decades, you guys! But not for the reasons you might think. Researchers aren’t interested in breeding designer dogs or anything.

The project’s lead researcher, Alex Travis, calls the IVF puppies a “major step forward” in veterinary science. Their hope is that the ability to birth puppies this way will eventually help save animals in danger of extinction. According to Travis, “There’s currently five species of dog that are threatened with extinction. They include the red wolf, the African painted dog, and the Ethiopian wolf.”

Successful IVF breeding can also make major strides in curing both human and animal diseases. Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says by genetically manipulating puppies, they can eventually remove disease-causing genes, which is of course a really great thing.

But if humans (and cattle and monkeys and even cats) have been able to reproduce via IVF for years and years, why has it taken so long to make the same medical strides with canines? Alex Travis says, “Dog reproduction is very, very different from that of other mammals.” In other words, if dog reproduction were a Facebook status, it would be COMPLICATED. Dogs only go into heat twice a year, so the opportunity to fertilize an egg doesn’t come around that often. Plus when dogs release ovulated eggs, those eggs are in a much more immature phase than most other animals. AND they’re dark and hard to see. So yeah, complicated.

The litter celebrating its super special five-month birthday is made up of all beagles and beagle-cocker spaniel mixes. Nineteen embryos were implanted into a surrogate mom dog, resulting in seven healthy (and ridiculously adorable) puppies. They might be medical miracles, but to dog lovers, they’re just crazy cute.

You can see more of the puppies in the video below. Happy birthday, little guys!

[Image via Cornell University.]

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