One of the things I’ve been watching relatively closely, as a breeder, is the availability of nonsurgical neuter methods.
A few years ago a company got FDA approval for, and marketed, a product called Neutersol, which was a simple injection of zinc gluconate into each testicle. Zinc gluconate is caustic to tissue and kills the sperm-producing cells.
It was incredibly safe and effective, but died quickly and was withdrawn from the market. Why? Because somebody decided that it was a goose that would lay a golden egg, and they priced it so high that it was comparable to surgical neuter. No vets would buy it, and very few owners wanted it. It seemed ridiculous (and I agree) to pay that much for an injection.
Also killing the sales was the fact that the injection left the dog with a lot of testosterone production, though he couldn’t produce sperm. So it didn’t produce quite the same effect as early physical neuter – the dog would still have some interest in female dogs. And – and apologies to those who are now going to close their eyes and grimace – it didn’t produce the same cosmetic effect. Most pet owners think that the neutered penis – which is very, very small – is a “normal” one, and that an unneutered one is big, gross, and ugly. Neutersol allowed the dog to grow a normal-sized one.
A very small number of dogs got what looked like infections or injuries from the neuter, which nobody could figure out.
The final nail in the coffin was that the injection was approved only for puppies, from three to ten months old. That was too small a window for most vets to feel it was worth it.
(As a very interesting aside, my sister’s dog Wilson was – I don’t even know what to use as a verb… unmanly-manned? – with neutersol, which means his age, which was a mystery when she got him, was able to be rather precisely dated because Neutersol was on the market for such a short time and was only used in puppies.)
Over the last few years, however, with the explosion of dog sport, there’s a much larger demand for a neuter-that’s-not-a-neuter. People who work their dogs want the protection that testosterone provides. And breeders often prefer to keep the testosterone flowing as well; testosterone closes the growth plates and intact dogs are typically shorter, wider, and sturdier than neutered ones, and their muscle tone and tendon strength are better.
Vets and NGOs in developing countries were also dismayed to see Neutersol go, because they had this “It was almost great!” feeling about it. An injectable neuter is pretty much the holy grail.
And so, with support from a whole set of places, a few organizations continued to work with the compound-that-had-been-Neutersol (it’s not exactly hard to put your hands on). They wanted to solve the big issues with it and push it into wider production again. They’ve now (sort of) done that, and their version of the same injection – tradenamed Esterilsol – is now available everywhere BUT the US.
Surprisingly, the way they solved the problems with Neutersol was not by changing anything about it. They just changed the way it was used. They figured they had nothing to lose by giving it to a bunch of older dogs, so they did, and lo and behold it works beautifully on dogs of any age. As an added benefit in developing countries, there are much smaller changes in cosmetics, so the dog doesn’t look neutered. They’ll even breed with females, though their libido is reduced. They just can’t produce puppies.
They eliminated the cost issue by actually charging what it was worth, which ends up being about $4.
And they realized that the infections were caused by the zinc getting on the skin and badly irritating it, which made the dog lick and bite it, which caused all kinds of problems. They were able to pretty much eliminate the problem by simply changing needles before the injection; it’s drawn from the bottle with one needle and then the needle is changed, so it’s clean and doesn’t leave any zinc on the skin.
With those changes, it becomes a solution that’s actually viable, and I am hoping like crazy it will come back to the US as well. It’s something I’d be MUCH happer with owners taking advantage of than a surgical neuter, because the continued production of testosterone is so protective and because it avoids the need for anesthesia, which has always been the biggest risk of any conventional neuter.
Now if only they’d invent an injectable debarker…
On the home front: Still waiting on Clue. She’s doing the same annoying slow-to-get-going thing she did in her last heat, so (unlike the last time) I am relaxing and letting her tell me when things are starting to chug along. She may decide to ovulate on day 17 again, so we could be into September before anything exciting happens.