Q: We recently heard that there are a variety of new options for neutering male dogs.
Could you explain?
A: Well … you’ve always had options. You can either choose to sterilize … or not. If you sterilize, you help prevent pet overpopulation. If you don’t you run the risk of having him father unwanted litters.
Nowadays, however, we have more choices when it comes to how we sterilize. But not many.
Here are your current options:
Complete castration: This is the typical procedure for more than 99 percent of U.S. dogs. The testicles are surgically removed and the dogs never know the difference, save a few days of cone shaming.
Chemical neuter: Yes, it’s entirely possible to partially neuter a dog using drugs. Zeuterin® (zinc gluconate) is approved by the FDA for dogs aged 3 to 10 months as an intra-testicular injection that chemically disrupts at least 40 percent of the testosterone producing cells –– enough to render a dog sterile but not necessarily enough to mellow his male behaviors or affect any health-related issues in the future.
The advantage of this approach is that it’s non-surgical, however dogs still have to be heavily sedated.
Though this drug works well in the short term, long-term studies have not yet been undertaken to see how they do over the long term. Unfortunately, it seems like we may not be getting any more info on this approach anytime soon, seeing as it’s currently unavailable in the U.S. The only U.S. manufacturer pulled the product after lack of veterinary interest. (Some veterinarians may still have the drug left over in their inventories, however.)
Vasectomy: This procedure is not a traditional “neuter” at all. As with men who undergo this common human procedure, dogs keep all their testicular tissue intact and consequently retain all their sex hormones. The only difference is that the tube that shuttles sperm is disrupted so that all those little guys can’t get to where they need to go.
Though not commonly performed in dogs, a vasectomy is an easy procedure, easier than castration, actually.
So why select anything other than a traditional neuter? Given that Zeuterin® really isn’t an option anymore, the only reason you’d choose a vasectomy over complete castration is because you want to keep your dog’s testicles (sex hormones) and a) you’re worried he might get another dog pregnant or b) you need to prove to some legal or regulatory authority that he’s been sterilized.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.