Each year, millions of cats and dogs are euthanized worldwide. There are insufficient resources to control shelter animals in developed countries, as well as feral cat and wild dog population levels, with current surgical sterilization techniques. Thus, population control of these animals will likely depend on the development of new non-surgical methods for cat and dog sterilization. One promising area of research is the development of contraceptive vaccines, or immunocontraceptives. In this article, previous approaches aimed at developing contraceptive vaccines will be reviewed, with a focus on those most related to sterilization of cats and dogs. There are a number of steps in reproduction that have been, or could be, targeted by the immune system, and the advantages and obstacles for inducing immunity to each of these will be discussed. Our current understanding of how these vaccines cause sterility, and our current ability to dissect these mechanisms in cats and dogs, also will be discussed.
© 2012 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.