Rites of passage – every species has them. For pups it can be learning to roll over, becoming housebroken, and understanding the art of walking on a leash, just to name a few. However, there are some observances that don’t quite receive the same fanfare: Sterilization is one of them! Responsible pet parents typically acknowledge the importance of getting pets spayed or neutered, even if looking into those big brown eyes inspires a second thought (or two). Not only does sterilization reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in females, but it also completely eliminates the risk of testicular cancer in dogs (and even decreases chances of your dog developing prostate cancer).
Male dogs further benefit from neutering as studies show that they are less likely to run away from home, they exhibit fewer instances of aggression and they are not as territorial post-neuter (read: less marking around your house). Additionally, you are doing your part to help control the overpopulation of animals. Millions of animals are euthanized each year, simply because they do not have a home. For those pet owners still on the fence about traditional sterilization procedures, Wisconsin Pet Care intends to bring you and your pet some good news: break-through sterilization procedures are on the horizon!
First things first. What is involved in a traditional neuter surgery? Without getting too technical (or too graphic), it basically boils down to the veterinarian removing your dog’s testicles. It is an invasive, yet relatively routine, surgery that will require sedation. Some surgeons do require that your dog stay overnight for monitoring, however, the introduction of the laser instruments has reduced the instances of swelling and bleeding that can sometimes be associated with conventional castration (and therefore, the recovery times tend to be a little shorter than with scalpel surgery).
The procedure you may not be as familiar with is the new FDA-approved drug for the sterilization of male dogs. It is called Zeuterin (“Zinc Neutering”) and it contains zinc gluconate, which is neutralized by arginine. Instead of removing the testicles, your veterinarian (who will need to be trained to administer the Zeuterin) will inject the drug into each testicle. The Zeuterin injection will cause testicular fibrosis – and while the testicles will atrophy, and likely shrink, they will still be visible. Like traditional neuter surgery, zinc neutering is a highly-effective and irreversible procedure. In clinical trials, most of the side effects were injection site related.
While Zeuterin has been approved by the FDA, and it is being used in other countries (under another drug name), it is not yet available in the United States. The makers of Zeuterin will require that veterinarians are trained in the injection of the drug, and that they become specialized in the procedure, before they are able to make it available to their patients. Industry experts speculate that the company will target the spay/neuter clinics first. This lower-cost alternative will benefit these establishments by making available another option to those patients whose owners wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the neuter surgery.
Long term side effects of Zeuterin have not been fully determined in the initial trials, but like all procedures, there is always a risk of complications. When Zeuterin becomes available to your dog, you will want to talk with your veterinarian to weigh the pros and cons of both drug sterilization and conventional castration. While this isn’t a fun topic for any pet owner to face, it is an important one. It requires careful consideration from dog moms and dads – as well as a helpful veterinarian who is willing to explain the pros and cons of all the options available in sterilization.
Visit us next week as Wisconsin Pet Care tackles the topic of probiotics!