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All responsible dog owners should have their dogs spayed or castrated, unless you own a good quality pedigree dog that you intend to breed from. The procedure to castrate a male dog is a very simple surgery that takes just a few minutes from start to finish, and which rarely causes complications, with dogs returning to their old selves very quickly after the operation.
However, for male dogs that cannot undergo general anaesthesia, or for which surgical castration is not an option for another reason, there is another, but less common option: Chemical castration. While the chemical castration of dogs is not widely performed in the UK and not every veterinary clinic is able to offer the procedure, it is an option to bear in mind, and most areas will have a clinic or referral centre that can perform the procedure.
In this article, we will look at chemical castration as an alternative to surgical castration in more detail. Read on to learn more.
Chemical castration involves administering either oral or injectable medications to your dog without the need for a general anaesthetic.
The most common chemical used in chemical castration is called Neutersol, which is an injectable mixture of Arginine and Zinc gluconate. When a dog is chemically castrated with Neutersol, they are injected directly into the testes, which in turn leads to the atrophy of the prostate gland and the testicles themselves, causing sterility.
Chemical castration has been found to be effective in over 99.5% of dogs treated in this way.
The procedure can be performed in dogs ranging in age from three-ten months, although dogs should have begun to show sexual development and testosterone production before the procedure, as testosterone is important to support a wide range of growth and hormonal functions, and so castration too early should be avoided.
Chemically castrated dogs can still produce viable sperm for up to two months after the procedure, and so they should be treated as entire males during this time, and kept well away from bitches in heat.
Successful chemical castration with a product such as Neutersol is permanent and irreversible, and so is not suitable as an interim or temporary measure for people who may wish to breed from their dog in the future. Dogs that have been chemically castrated should have their hormone levels tested two-three months after the procedure, to ensure that the dog is not one of the small number for which the procedure proves ineffective, or only partially effective.
One potential temporary option for dogs is injection with a medication called Tardak, which can mute hypersexual behaviour in male dogs, including sexually-related aggression, and which lasts for up to one month. The use of another medication called Suprelorin, which is an implant placed under the skin as a contraceptive, has the same effect, but this lasts for six-twelve months, or until the implant is removed.
However, when using a temporary chemical solution to sexual activity in male dogs, there is no firm guide for how long the product will remain effective for; it may wear off sooner than desired, or stay in the system for longer than projected.
Chemical castration is a viable option for dogs that cannot undergo a general anaesthetic, as the procedure is quick, non-intrusive, and simply requires an injection. There are no sutures or stitches to be removed afterwards, no chances of post-surgical infections or complications, and no wound site for your dog to lick or bother.
One thing that often makes dog owners reluctant to have their dogs castrated is because they do not want to change the natural appearance of the male dog, complete with testicles, and chemical castration allows the testicles to be retained, although they will usually shrink in size.
Dogs that are large, strong, aggressive or difficult to handle may not be good candidates for chemical castration, as the procedure is performed with the dog fully conscious. Dogs that do not take well to injections may put up a fight during the procedure, and of course, injecting something into the sensitive testes can soon upset even the most mild-mannered of dogs!
Because chemical castration is not widely offered by most UK clinics, it can be hard to find a local practice that can offer the procedure, meaning that you may have to go some distance to get the procedure performed. This can also mean that it is more expensive than having a standard surgical castration performed too.
There is a limited window of age within which chemical castration is generally considered to be viable too, and usually, the procedure will not be performed in dogs over one year of age.
Surgical castration ends the body’s production of testosterone for life, removing all of the potentially undesirable behaviours of the intact male dog. However, chemical castration does not entirely stop testosterone production, only lowers it to levels at which is removes the urge and ability to mate successfully. This means that for some dogs that are prone to hormonal or sexual aggression, chemical castration will be less effective at resolving the issue than the surgical alternative.