Posted on February 1, 2015
Is Zeuterin a Good Choice For Your Dog?
I recently filled you in on my experience learning to use Zeuterin, a zinc/arginine solution used to nonsurgically neuter male dogs. Now, I’d like to enhance your understanding of the differences between surgical neutering and Zeutering.
Comparison of techniques
Surgical neutering of male dogs involves removal of both testicles (castration). A skin incision is made that is closed with stitches or staples. Unless the stitches are “buried” a follow up visit to remove staples or stitches is needed.
Zeutering involves injection of a small volume of Zeuterin into each testicle. There is no need for a follow up visit.
Sterility (inability to reproduce)
Sperm cells are manufactured within the testicles, so it makes sense that removing them results in sterility. Zeuterin induces sterility by causing formation of scar tissue that impairs the ability of sperm to leave the testicle.
Dogs are not considered to be 100% sterile until 30 days following surgical neutering and 60 days following Zeutering.
Complications most commonly associated with surgical castration include:
- Licking at the incision site
- Surgery site discomfort/pain
- Hematoma formation (blood accumulation) within the scrotum
- Incision site inflammation/infection
- Dehiscence of the incision (the stitches or staples loosen and the incision reopens)
- Complications associated with general anesthesia
The more common complications associated with Zeutering include:
- Licking at the scrotum
- Swelling of the scrotum
- Scrotal discomfort/pain
No studies have been performed directly comparing rates and severity of complications associated with surgical neutering versus Zeutering. Based on how both procedures are performed, it is fair to say that complications arising from general anesthesia and creation of a surgical incision are non-issues for dogs sterilized with Zeuterin.
In theory, the overhead costs for Zeutering should be significantly less than those associated with surgical neutering. Zeuterin is relatively inexpensive to purchase. Additionally, Zeutering does not require fees typically associated with surgical castration such as: placement of an intravenous catheter, anesthetic drugs, sterilization of surgical instruments, surgical mask, sterile gloves and gown, operating room maintenance costs, hospitalization, and a follow up office visit.
Keep in mind that the cost of surgical castration is deeply discounted in many veterinary clinics so as to capture the attention of price-shopping clients. In such clinics, the costs of surgical neutering and Zeutering may be comparable.
Testicular tumors are extremely common in older dogs, and 85 to 90 percent of them are completely benign. The risk for developing a testicular tumor is eliminated in dogs who are surgically castrated. The incidence of testicular tumors in Zeutered dogs is not known.
Prostate gland disease
Elimination of testosterone production via surgical castration prevents future development of benign prostate gland diseases such as prostate gland hyperplasia (age-related prostate gland enlargement that resembles what men experience as they age) and bacterial infection within the prostate gland (bacterial prostatitis). However, surgical castration is associated with an increased incidence of prostate gland cancer in dogs compared to dogs who have not been neutered.
There are no studies documenting how Zeuterin influences the incidence of the various types of prostate gland disease. What is known is that the size of the prostate gland decreases shortly after Zeutering, likely a result of decreased testosterone production.
Impact on testosterone production
Surgical neutering reduces a dog’s ability to produce testosterone by essentially 100%. Zeuterin reduces testosterone production by approximately 50%.
Elimination of testosterone production altogether via surgical castration has been the ruling dogma for several decades with the notion that doing so eliminates undesirable male behaviors and ensures better health (less benign prostate gland disease, prevention of testicular tumors, decreased trauma incidents associated with dogs who are roaming, etc.). A 1976 study evaluating 42 dogs documented that elimination of testosterone via castration reduces urine marking, roaming, mounting behavior, and dog-on-dog aggression.
More recent research documenting the effects of surgical castration has opened our eyes to some significant downsides associated with elimination of a dog’s ability to manufacture testosterone. Studies performed on Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Vizslas demonstrated increased risk of significant orthopedic issues, various cancerous conditions, and challenging behavioral issues associated with removal of the testicles, particularly before one year of age. (Many of the same negative consequences apply to spaying female dogs.) Whether or not the results of these breed-specific studies can be translated to “dogs in general” is anyone’s guess.
Also unanswered to date is whether or not Zeuterin induced “half-strength” testosterone production is protective against the recently documented negative health and behavioral issues associated with surgical castration. Additionally, how Zeuterin influences negative male behaviors (urine marking, roaming, mounting, dog-on-dog aggression) is unknown.
Research is needed to answer these questions and more pertaining to the pros and cons of different neutering practices. We have a great deal to learn! And, the more we learn, the more we will question currently accepted standards pertaining to neutering dogs.
Is Zeuterin the right choice for your dog?
Whether to surgically neuter or Zeuter your dog should be based on discussion with your veterinarian and consideration of your dog’s age, breed, and behavior.
Would you consider Zeuterin for your dog? If you have questions about Zeuterin, please ask away.
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.