Dog birth control

Question:

I’ve heard about birth control pills and implants for dogs. Are these safe alternatives to spaying and neutering?

Answer:

For most pet owners, spaying or neutering–the 100% effective method of preventing unwanted puppies–still by far makes the most sense if you don’t plan to breed your dog.

That said, there are alternatives out there. A removable implant called Suprelorin stops testosterone and sperm production for months at a time in male dogs, and it doesn’t require the removal of the testicles. Though the implant is not yet available in the U.S., measures for approval are underway. Neutering, however, is still the less expensive option if you’re looking for long-term protection.

For females, oral contraceptives are available. Depending on the type (liquid vs. tablet) the dose is either given 30 days in a row prior to your female dog’s heat cycle or at the beginning of the heat cycle to delay the onset.

One issue with this option is that since heat cycles vary, it’s not always possible to predict the correct starting date. Another issue is the long list of possible unwanted side effects:

  • Infertility
  • Liver damage
  • Vaginal infections
  • Urinary accidents in the house
  • Body odor
  • Skin problems
  • Mounting other dogs
  • Behavioral changes
  • Uterus infection
  • Mammary gland cancer and/or enlargement
  • Weight gain
  • Skin and coat changes

As with any major health decisions you make for your pet, be sure to discuss all options–and all the risks–with your veterinarian.