Factors associated with uterine endometrial hyperplasia and pyometra in wild canids: implications for fertility

Zoo Biol. 2014 Jan-Feb;33(1):8-19. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21069. Epub 2013 Apr 1.


The ability to safely and effectively manage reproduction is central to the success of AZA captive-breeding programs. Although the AZA Wildlife Contraception Center routinely monitors contraceptive safety, there have been no studies that compare the effects of contraceptive use to separation of males from females, the other option for preventing reproduction. We used retrospective medical records and pathology reports submitted by AZA and related facilities for the seven AZA-managed canid species to assess rates of uterine pathology relative to female reproductive life histories. Our results showed that the prevalence of both pyometra and endometrial hyperplasia (EH) was associated not only with treatment with the two most common contraceptives (Suprelorin® and MGA implants) but also with the number of years barren (i.e., not producing a litter and not contracepted). Rates of pyometra and EH were especially high in African painted dogs and red wolves, but lowest in swift and fennec foxes. The number of years producing a litter had a low association, suggesting it could be protective against uterine pathology. A more recently developed Suprelorin® protocol using Ovaban® to prevent the initial stimulation phase, followed by implant removal when reversal is desired, may be a safer contraceptive option. These results concerning the relationship between reproductive management and uterine health have important implications for AZA-managed programs, since the unsustainability of many captive populations may be due at least in part to infertility. Managing a female's reproductive lifespan to optimize or maintain fertility will require a reconsideration of how breeding recommendations are formulated.

Keywords: captive breeding; contraception; foxes; infertility; uterine pathology; wolves.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo / physiology*
  • Breeding
  • Canidae / physiology*
  • Contraception / veterinary
  • Contraceptive Agents / pharmacology
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / prevention & control
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pyometra / prevention & control
  • Pyometra / veterinary*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Contraceptive Agents