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Published: Sep 27, 2012

When it comes to birth control for dogs, there are not many options for pet owners who want to prevent dog pregnancy and control the pet population.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, some of the drugs that are used to control a female dog's heat cycle and prevent pregnancy may cause serious side effects.

Vets say surgical sterilization - or spaying female dogs and neutering male dogs - is the most reliable and most common birth control method. The ASPCA reports 78 percent of pet dogs are spayed or neutered, compared to just 10 percent of animals in shelters, according to research conducted by the American Pet Products Association.

The reasons some pet owners cite as to why they don't have their animals spayed or neutered vary. But the cost associated with a surgical procedure as well as potential side effects that result from putting an animal under general anesthesia are common deterrents for many dog lovers.

The good news is that research in the area of dog birth control is being pursued and pet owners will soon have a new option. A new drug called Zeuterin permanently sterilizes male dogs with just a simple injection to the testicles.

According to manufacturer, Ark Sciences, Zeuterin injections consist of a combination of zinc gluconate and arginine (an amino acid). The zinc injection destroys the sperm, decreases testosterone levels and causes the body to produce scar tissue that creates blockages in the seminiferous tubules, permanently sterilizing the dog. The procedure effectively shuts down sperm production within one to three days and is more than 99 percent effective.

The use of zinc gluconate is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in dogs 3 to 10 months old and is expected to be approved as safe for all dogs over 3-months before the final product is released later this year.

In addition, side effects accompanying the zinc injections are extremely rare. Ark Sciences reports that studies have shown no adverse reactions requiring medical treatment in 99 percent of clinical trials. Reactions included testicular swelling (a normal reaction to the injection), pain, biting and licking at the scrotum, swelling, infection and bruising of the scrotum. More than 93 percent of dogs who received the injections did not show any signs of pain, such as resisting sitting or sitting with both hind legs open.

While any new procedure takes a while to gain popularity, some pet owners feel "Zeutering" is a good option, as it requires less down time and is less expensive.

And, because the injections leave the testicles in place, some dog owners may prefer the fact that their pets will be sterilized without losing their virile appearance.

"The procedure was surprisingly quick, just like getting a shot," April Patrick, a dog owner who opted for the Zeuterin injection, recently told Dogster Magazine.

It's important to note that Zeuterin can also be used on male cats with similar results.

Pet health experts encourage pet owners to discuss options for sterilizing their pets with a veterinarian.