New approaches to non-surgical sterilization for dogs and cats: opportunities and challenges.
Over the last 40 years, researchers have explored methods to non-surgically suppress fertility in animals. Immunocontraception has been used to control wildlife populations but does not confer long-term immunity. The gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist deslorelin, formulated as an implant to provide 6-month to 1-year suppression of fertility in male dogs, is available commercially in some countries. Neither of these approaches provide permanent sterility. A single-dose, permanent treatment would be a valuable tool in dog and cat population control. The Michelson Prize and Grants (MPG) programme was initiated "to eliminate shelter euthanasia of healthy, adoptable companion animals and reduce populations of feral and free-roaming cats and dogs" offering a $25 million US prize for a non-surgical sterilant that is effective as a single treatment in both male and female dogs and cats. Michelson Prize and Grants programme has offered US $50 million in grant money for research and has attracted scientists worldwide. Approaches under study include gene therapy, small interfering RNA to inhibit reproductive targets and delivery of cytotoxins to pituitary gonadotrophs or GnRH producing neurons in the hypothalamus. Research in implant technology that could deliver compounds over an animal's lifetime is also underway. Details of funded grants and results to date can be found at: http://www.michelsonprizeandgrants.org/michelson-grants/research-findings. The next steps are translating the most promising research into products. The Alliance for Contraception of Cats and Dogs (ACC&D) is helping to research practical methods of marking sterilized animals to avoid costly retreatment and population modelling that will help guide field workers in use of resources for sterilization programmes.