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Injection provides additional hope for reducing stray dog population

Photo provided by staff
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 8:00am

Veterinarians have access to a new tool in their effort to control the pet population.

It is a drug called Zeuterin, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed it to hit the market last week. It is not only faster than a traditional neutering surgery, but it could be cheaper and safer, too. And for places like Livingston Parish which have lots of stray dogs, it could be part of the solution to reducing their numbers.

Zeuterin is an injection for male dogs marketed by a company called Ark Sciences.

"The procedure itself is a very simple, straightforward procedure," said Dr. Jeff Schumacher, a veterinarian who works for the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter.

Zeuterin is injected into the dog's testicles. It sterilizes them permanently without castrating them.

"The testicle will no longer be able to produce sperm; however, there is about 40-50 percent of testosterone that remains with the animal," Dr. Schumacher noted. Testosterone is important to a dog's growth. It makes sure their muscles and bones are strong, allowing dog to live a healthier life. But he said having just the small amount reduces some of the hormone's negative aspects.

"The reduction in the testosterone actually is enough to limit the desire to roam, the desire for procreation," he stated, "the desire to go after those girls that are in heat."

Dr. Schumacher aided Dog People of Livingston for a free neutering event Sunday. Ark Sciences donated the product, plus tools for the two veterinarians involved. They fixed about 70 dogs, meaning they needed roughly 10 minutes between dogs with the assistance of a prep team. In a clinical setting, he said, the procedure may take 20 minutes, which is still relatively fast. The dog also receives an anti-inflammatory, and, in most cases, a sedative, but not general anesthesia.

"There are sedatives out there that you can administer, the animal will be down and sedate, and then there's an opportunity to give them a reversal," Dr. Schumacher said. "And so you can reverse the animal, and boom, they're up in 10 minutes and walking out the door."

After the procedure, a small Z is tattooed on the inside of the dog's thigh, to indicate that he has been neutered with Zeuterin. 

The price for Zeuterin will fluctuate depending on the location, but based on the wholesale cost, Dr. Schumacher expects the procedure to cost less than castration. Dog owners who cannot afford traditional neutering might be able to fix their dogs, thereby reducing the number of strays, with the injection.

Zeuterin was originally brought to market more than a decade ago by a different company under the brand name Neutersol, but it quickly disappeared.

"And the reason why it wasn't successful is, it was sold to the veterinarians without adequate or proper training," Dr. Schumacher explained. "And so, without the correct training, there was a lot of adverse side effects. People don't like the side effects, veterinarians don't like it when they have poor side effects or adverse side effects, so it really fell out of favor."

Ark Sciences provides training sessions for any veterinarian who wants to administer Zeuterin. Dr. Schumacher said the training, which he took last summer, lasted less than a full day and consisted of both classroom and clinical sessions.

According to Dr. Schumacher, the compound in Zeuterin was originally designed for use in humans, as
an alternative to a vasectomy. But since there is no way of reversing it, the procedure never received government approval.

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