Apparently, this is the week for animals and scientific advancements: petri meat yesterday, and now the potential for chemically-induced menopause in dogs -- something that could have a huge impact in veterinary medicine generally, and animal shelter medicine specifically.
Attempts at chemical sterilization are nothing new; Neutersol was approved all the way back in 2003, and there are numerous animal advocacy groups actively seeking -- or at least passively supporting -- safe and effective methods of non-surgical sterilization.
In this case, however, the discovery wasn't deliberate; the scientists were actually studying human diseases:
Mayer worked with Dr. Patricia Hoyer, an ovarian toxicologist, studying diseases common in aging women but faced an obstacle in the lab when experimenting on mice.
Mice, unlike women, never lose their reproductive capabilities. Hoyer and Mayer developed a drug they dubbed "mouseopause" that induced menopause in female lab mice by eliminating eggs in the ovaries without surgery.
Considering how invasive, costly and painful spaying a dog can be, this really could be revolutionary. Emphasis on could, of course: we don't know if it will be fully effective, we don't know the side effects to the individual dog or future generations, and we don't know if this will be affordable for owners and shelters. And even if it does work and is affordable, will it be preferable to traditional surgical techniques? Stay tuned -- for the next decade or so -- to find out!
But regardless of how it all pans out, it remains a fascinating discovery, and may prove a cutting edge tool in non-lethal methods of curbing feral dog populations... or should that be non cutting edge?
We'll know the answer to that pretty soon: this December, Dr. Mayer will be heading to India, combining rabies vaccinations with chemical birth control methods, in an effort to control disease and feral dog overpopulation. Given the stray dog population crisis in India and many parts of the world, her work could not be coming at a more critical time. We look forward to hearing the results.
* oh, and by the way: yes, we know Lassie was actually a boy.