It is not straightforward to quantify how many dogs are roaming the streets of Mexico, as no census tracks such information. Moreover, dog pounds and shelters do not disclose the number of rescued pets they have.
We estimate the number of dogs living in the streets in Mexican urban cities is around 6 to 7 million. This figure tends to grow quite rapidly as there is no birth control method for abandoned or homeless canines and felines.
With the problem of dogs and cats in the streets increasing regardless of the relatively stable economic situation in the country, a veterinary Ph.D. student in Mexico, Sheila Irais Peña, is currently developing a contraceptive dry pet food additive. The contraceptive drug is meant to be included as an ingredient in pet food products. The remedy is still in an experimental stage and not ready to be launched commercially on the market.
Such innovation is carried out at one facility of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), a public university located in Mexico City. According to a press release, Peña decided to develop a contraceptive method because the current alternatives for dog sterilization are invasive and hurt animals. In addition, the use of hormone-based contraceptive methods such as progestin and others can cause mastitis and other ailments in dogs.
The currently available information on this new drug Peña is developing does not clarify whether it works on both male and female animals, or just on one gender.
Pet sterilization is not a common method that Mexican pet owners employ to prevent the uncontrolled birth of pets. According to press sources, as of 2017, there were just 650 thousand sterilized pets in the country, plus an additional undetermined, yet small, number of spayed pets.
Another way to attack the pet abandonment problem is encouraging pet adoption, but some people still prefer to purchase dogs and cats from dog breeders and pet shops.
As street dogs and cats are a public health problem, with this innovation, authorities may have an invaluable and pro-animal tool to reduce it. At the same time, pet food manufacturers may be interested in including contraceptive alternatives in their product portfolio, either for purchase by governments or for private pet owners, perhaps with a veterinary prescription.
In any case, a contraceptive pet food product signifies disruption in the pet food market and a possible much-awaited solution not only for Mexico but for the entire Latin American region.
Iván Franco is the founder of Triplethree International and has collaborated on hundreds of research projects for several consumer goods industries. He was granted the Global Consultant of the Year award by Euromonitor International and authored the book 17 Market Strategies for Growth (in Spanish).
By Lindsay Beaton
This country is straddling the line between developing and developed as more of its citizens see the value in pet ownership.
By Lindsay Beaton