Zeutering, also referred to as zinc neutering, is the non-surgical alternative to the traditional neutering of male dogs. While the sterilizing drug, Zeuterin, has only recently become available to select, certified veterinarians, there are high hopes for its future as a tool in reducing animal overpopulation and euthanasia.
Here are 4 things you should know about this new breakthrough in veterinary science:
1. How it works. Zeuterin––a solution made up of zinc-gluconate, L-Arginine, and water––is injected into each of the dog’s testicles. No anesthesia is required for the quick injections, though dogs are lightly sedated. Recovery is quick, with no swelling, irritation, or stitches. Within one to three days all sperm production is shut down, and about a month after the procedure the dog is 99% sterile.
Want to get a little more technical? Here’s how Ark Sciences, the creators of Zeuterin, describe the process:
“After the injection, the Zeuterin solution diffuses in all directions from the center of the testis. The specific concentration of Zinc (a targeted spermicide) used in our formula destroys spermatozoa in all stages of maturation in the seminiferous tubules and in the epididymis. The seminiferous tubules, which were replete with spermatozoa, are now emptied and collapse.
The dog’s body increases blood flow and creates inflammation to heal. Within days, scar tissue (or fibrosis) from the healing process creates blockages in the seminiferous tubules, and more importantly, in the rete testis (the part of the testis that feeds the epididymis). All sperm must finally pass through these feeder tubules, which are now effectively closed as a result of the specific location of the injection. Zinc Gluconate and Arginine are absorbed and metabolized by the body. The male dog is now safely sterilized for life.”
2. Who it’s for. The FDA has approved the use of Zeuterin for male puppies aged three months to ten months.
3. The benefits. Ark Sciences estimates that “substituting one million neuterings via castration with non-invasive Zinc neutering among non-profits could save over $50 million of donated dollars every year.” Because zeutering is easily administered, requires no anesthesia, and has a very short recovery time there is potential to neuter significantly more animals, thereby cutting back on costs and helping to reduce overpopulation. According to Ark Sciences, zeutering will, on average, allow vets to sterilize up to five dogs for the price of one castration. They’ll also be able to do it faster and safer.
4. The drawbacks. Zeutering is a relatively new procedure, meaning long-term effects have yet to be fully recognized. Writes Dr. Patty Khuly, a Miami-based veterinarian, “Because Zeuterin doesn’t completely castrate dogs, some testosterone remains. Zeutered dogs retain about 50% of their testosterone, which means that, though rendered 100% sterile, they may still exhibit some of the frustrating behaviors that are often eliminated with castration. It also means they’re still at risk of suffering some conditions neutering eliminates.”
Of course, extra testosterone is not necessarily a horrible thing for dogs. Dr. Khuly goes on to note that “Zeutered dogs will likely experience some of the benefits of testosterone, including a reduced risk of obesity and improved muscle tone overall (a boon for many in their arthritic geriatric years). A reduction in cruciate ligament disease and a reduced risk of certain cancers relative to neutered males are additional benefits testosterone reportedly confers.”
To learn more about zeutering, visit Ark Sciences’ informative FAQ page.