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Ask A Vet: What's Up With Doggie Birth Control?

Photo via robin.elaine on Flickr.com

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: Aside from spaying and neutering, are there any other good contraception methods for pets? What's your take on doggie birth control?

A: What would make the biggest difference in companion animal welfare?  Better shelters? more adoptions? Hands down the most instrumental way to improve animal welfare is through decreasing the number of unwanted dogs and cats.  Currently, the only permanent way to sterilize a female dog or cat is via surgical sterilization—spaying. 

Here at the SF SPCA we anesthetize and spay and neuter over 9200 animals a year. We have a highly trained staff that provides excellent pain control and nursing and we have a team of surgeons who have honed their skill over years to be able to  spay and neuter safely and quickly.  But it takes a lot of skill and resources to get to the point where a cat spay can safely be performed this efficiently—and even then the prep and recovery time can’t be rushed.  To reach our goal of 9,000+ surgeries a year, our Spay Neuter Clinic operates seven days a week, 52 weeks a year with at least one surgeon and six support staff.
 
In the U.S. alone, millions of dogs and cats are killed in shelters each year simply because they have no place else to go. The amount of suffering, unwanted animals experience worldwide is immeasurable. Over the past 12 years I have traveled to many impoverished areas of the world to sterilize animals and/or teach veterinarians how to do it and I’ve come to this conclusion; there are neither enough trained professionals nor enough resources to reach a critical number of cats and dogs to prevent overpopulation via traditional surgical sterilization.  
 
Fortunately there is some hope.  A few years ago, the Alliance for Contraception for Cats and Dogs partnered with the Found Animals Foundation and challenged the scientific community with a $25 million grant to find a safe, permanent, non surgical, single dose sterilant for dogs and cats.    There are a couple of front runners to keep an eye out for which you can read more about here.  We are probably years away from seeing a researcher collect the Michelson Prize but when they do you can bet it will be a great day for animal welfare. Until then—spay and neuter!

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.