|Figure 1: Regulation of gonadal secretion via the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.|
|Figure 2: GnRH agonists initially stimulate pituitary LH and FSH secretion, followed by desensitization and down-relation of gonadotrophin secretion.|
Unfortunately, GnRH agonist availability is limited in the United States. Although there are GnRH agonists available that are approved for the treatment of human diseases, such as prostate cancer, they are costly and not financially feasible for a pet owner to consider. To date, deslorelin acetate (Suprelorin, Virbac Animal Health, Fort Worth, TX, USA) is the only GnRH agonist that is currently available in the United States but only for the treatment of adrenal disease in ferrets (6). However, it is not legal to use Suporelin in non-ferret species in the United States and extra-label use is explicitly prohibited.
The aim of this blog is to review the applications and treatments of the deslorelin (GnRH agonist) currently used in companion animal medicine.
Deslorelin Use in Intact Male Dogs
In male dogs treated with deslorelin, this GnRH agonist leads to decreased gonadotropins secretion and resultant lowered plasma testosterone concentrations, decreased testicular volume, and azoospermia (1-3,7-9). However, the response to this GnRH agonist can be very variable from one dog to another, and the duration of inhibition of testosterone secretion depends both on the concentration of the deslorelin implant and the size of the dog.
Many studies have confirmed that use of GnRH agonists for reversible chemical sterilization in male dogs is both safe and well-tolerated (7-9). Furthermore, repeated implantation can be used to maintain circulating testosterone at low concentrations. If the deslorelin implants are stopped, the treated dogs will regain normal serum testosterone levels within a few weeks, with full recovery of seminal quality once the GnRH implant has lost its efficacy (10,11).
In addition to contraception, GnRH agonists have also been used to reduce the size of the prostate gland, an effect that may be useful in dogs with benign prostatic hyperplasia (12-14).
Deslorelin in Intact Male Cats
As in dogs, GnRH agonists are gaining increased importance in feline reproductive medicine (2,3,15). In intact male cats, deslorelin implants induce chemical sterilization, as in dogs. In these cats, testosterone concentrations decline rapidly to undetectable values by 3 weeks after implantation and remain low for weeks in the majority of the tomcats treated. As the circulating testosterone falls, the testicular volume decreases and penile spines disappear.
However, high individual variability has been reported, with the duration of efficacy varying between 6 and 24 months (15-17). Similar to dogs, it is possible to use repeated implantation of deslorelin to sustain the drug’s effect.
Deslorelin in Intact Bitches
Although deslorelin implants are only approved for male dogs in Europe (and again, not at all in the USA), studies have been performed in the bitch to investigate its use either as a contraceptive or a method of estrus induction (1-3,18-20).
The first step in the mechanism of action of all GnRH agonists is the stimulation in FSH and LH secretion (so-called "flare-up effect") (4). This followed within a few days by a profound hypogonadal effect (i.e., decrease in FSH and LH levels), which is achieved through receptor down-regulation by internalization of receptors. Generally this induced and reversible hypogonadism is the therapeutic goal, as noted above for the male dogs and cats (1-3).
The initial stimulating effect on gonadotrophin secretion is more pronounced in females than in males (18,19). Thus, estrus induction will be observed in the majority of bitches implanted in anestrus. If pregnancy is achieved, most recommend removal of the deslorelin implant either at the beginning of proestrus, at the time of the LH surge, or at the time of ovulation (2,3,18,19). However, some have reported that some bitches carried their pregnancies to term without the implant being removed, suggesting that down-regulation of gonadotrophin secretion may not be strong enough to induce luteal failure in all bitches.
For use as a contraceptive method, the main problem with using deslorelin implants in female dogs is estrus induction, as discussed above (20). For this reason, deslorelin implants cannot be considered a viable alternative to other, current used contraception in bitches.
Deslorelin in Intact Queens
In contrast to female dogs, the main indication for the use of deslorelin in the female queen is estrus inhibition. Studies have confirmed that this GnRH agonist can be used to effectively suppress ovarian activity (15,20-22), but the duration of inhibition was highly variable among the individual queens depending on the dosage administered. However, deslorelin generally suppresses ovarian activity for many months.
Deslorelin in Spayed Bitches with Urinary Incontinence
Ovariectomy results in elevated circulating concentrations of pituitary LH because of the lack of gonadal negative-feedback on the pituitary gland. LH receptors are present throughout the canine urinary tract (23-25), and it has been postulated that elevated gonadotropins may contribute to the development of urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (26,27).
Treatment of bitches with long-acting GnRH agonists, such as delorelin, downregulates LH secretion for prolonged time periods and temporarily restores continence to incontinent bitches for varying durations, ranging from 50-738 days (26,27). Similar to alpha-adrenergic agonists (e.g., phenylpropanolamine; PPA), GnRH agonists are not completely effective for the treatment of this urinary incontinence. However, unlike PPA, no adverse effects to GnRH agonists have been reported.
Deslorelin in Ferrets with Adrenal Disease
As in dogs and cats, deslorelin is also a promising and suitable method for contraception in ferrets (28-31). However, GnRH agonists are useful in medical management of ferrets suffering from adrenal disease (hyperadrenocorticism) a common disease in castrated males and females (32-34). In one study of ferrets with adrenal disease, the clinical signs (e.g., vulvar swelling, pruritus, sexual behavior, and aggression) were reduced or markedly suppressed within 14 days of implantation of the deslorelin (34). The time for signs to recur in these ferrets ranged from 8.5–20.5 months (34).
- Trigg TE, Doyle AG, Walsh JD, et al. A review of advances in the use of the GnRH agonist deslorelin in control of reproduction. Theriogenology 2006;66:1507-1512.
- Fontaine E, Fontbonne A. Clinical use of GnRH agonists in canine and feline species. Reprod Domest Anim 2011;46:344-353.
- Lucas X. Clinical use of deslorelin (GnRH agonist) in companion animals: a review. Reprod Domest Anim 2014;49 Suppl 4:64-71.
- Ortmann O, Weiss JM, Diedrich K. Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and GnRH agonists: mechanisms of action. Reprod Biomed Online 2002;5 Suppl 1:1-7.
- Suprelorin (deslorelin acetate). Summary report from the European Medicines Agency.
- Suprelorin F. Package insert. Fort Worth, Texas: Virbac Animal Health
- Junaidi A, Williamson PE, Martin GB, et al. Pituitary and testicular endocrine responses to exogenous gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and luteinising hormone in male dogs treated with GnRH agonist implants. Reprod Fertil Dev 2007;19:891-898.
- Junaidi A, Williamson PE, Martin GB, et al. Dose-response studies for pituitary and testicular function in male dogs treated with the GnRH superagonist, deslorelin. Reprod Domest Anim 2009;44:725-734.
- Romagnoli S, Siminica A, Sontas BH, et al. Semen quality and onset of sterility following administration of a 4.7-mg deslorelin implant in adult male dogs. Reprod Domest Anim 2012;47 Suppl 6:389-392.
- Trigg TE, Wright PJ, Armour AF, et al. Use of a GnRH analogue implant to produce reversible long-term suppression of reproductive function in male and female domestic dogs. J Reprod Fertil Suppl 2001;57:255-261.
- Gentil M, Hoffmann B, Spang A, et al. Restart of steroidogenesis in dogs during recrudescence of testicular function following downregulation with a GnRH-agonist implant. Cell Tissue Res 2012;350:513-523.
- Vickery BH, McRae GI, Bonasch H. Effect of chronic administration of a highly potent LHRH agonist on prostate size and secretory function in geriatric dogs. Prostate 1982;3:123-130.
- Nizanski W, Levy X, Ochota M, et al. Pharmacological treatment for common prostatic conditions in dogs - benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis: an update. Reprod Domest Anim 2014;49 Suppl 2:8-15.
- Polisca A, Orlandi R, Troisi A, et al. Clinical efficacy of the GnRH agonist (deslorelin) in dogs affected by benign prostatic hyperplasia and evaluation of prostatic blood flow by Doppler ultrasound. Reprod Domest Anim 2013;48:673-680.
- Goericke-Pesch S, Wehrend A, Georgiev P. Suppression of fertility in adult cats. Reprod Domest Anim 2014;49 Suppl 2:33-40.
- Goericke-Pesch S, Georgiev P, Antonov A, et al. Clinical efficacy of a GnRH-agonist implant containing 4.7 mg deslorelin, Suprelorin, regarding suppression of reproductive function in tomcats. Theriogenology 2011;75:803-810.
- Goericke-Pesch S, Georgiev P, Fasulkov I, et al. Basal testosterone concentrations after the application of a slow-release GnRH agonist implant are associated with a loss of response to buserelin, a short-term GnRH agonist, in the tom cat. Theriogenology 2013;80:65-69.
- Volkmann DH, Kutzler MA, Wheeler R, et al. The use of deslorelin implants for the synchronization of estrous in diestrous bitches. Theriogenology 2006;66:1497-1501.
- Fontaine E, Mir F, Vannier F, et al. Induction of fertile oestrus in the bitch using Deslorelin, a GnRH agonist. Theriogenology 2011;76:1561-1566.
- Maenhoudt C, Santos NR, Fontaine E, et al. Results of GnRH agonist implants in oestrous induction and oestrous suppression in bitches and queens. Reprod Domest Anim 2012;47 Suppl 6:393-397.
- Goericke-Pesch S. Reproduction control in cats: new developments in non-surgical methods. J Feline Med Surg 2010;12:539-546.
- Goericke-Pesch S, Georgiev P, Atanasov A, et al. Treatment of queens in estrus and after estrus with a GnRH-agonist implant containing 4.7 mg deslorelin; hormonal response, duration of efficacy, and reversibility. Theriogenology 2013;79:640-646.
- Coit VA, Dowell FJ, Evans NP. Neutering affects mRNA expression levels for the LH- and GnRH-receptors in the canine urinary bladder. Theriogenology 2009;71:239–47.
- Ponglowhapan S, Church DB, Khalid M. Differences in the expression of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone receptors in the lower urinary tract between intact and gonadectomised male and female dogs. Domest Anim Endocrinol 2008;34:339-351.
- Reichler IM, Welle M, Sattler U, et al. Comparative quantitative assessment of GnRH- and LH-receptor mRNA expression in the urinary tract of sexually intact and spayed female dogs. Theriogenology 2007;67:1134–42.
- Reichler IM, Hubler M, Jöchle W, et al. The effect of GnRH analogs on urinary incontinence after ablation of the ovaries in dogs. Theriogenology 2003;60:1207–16.
- Reichler IM, Jöchle W, Piché CA, , et al. Effect of a long-acting GnRH analogue or placebo on plasma LH/FSH, urethral pressure profiles and clinical signs of urinary incontinence due to sphincter mechanism incompetence in bitches. Theriogenology 2006;66:1227–36.
- Schoemaker NJ, van Deijk R, Muijlaert B, et al. Use of a gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist implant as an alternative for surgical castration in male ferrets (Mustela putorius furo). Theriogenology 2008;70:161-167.
- Prohaczik A, Kulcsar M, Trigg T, et al. Comparison of four treatments to suppress ovarian activity in ferrets (Mustela putorius furo). Vet Rec 2010;166:74-78.
- Goericke-Pesch S, Wehrend A. The use of a slow release GnRH-agonist implant in female ferrets in season for oestrus suppression. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 2012;154:487-491.
- van Zeeland YR, Pabon M, Roest J, et al. Use of a GnRH agonist implant as alternative for surgical neutering in pet ferrets. Vet Rec 2014;175:66.
- Rosenthal KL, Peterson ME, Quesenberry KE, et al. Hyperadrenocorticism associated with adrenocortical tumor or nodular hyperplasia of the adrenal gland in ferrets: 50 cases (1987-1991). J Am Vet Med Assoc 1993;203:271-275.
- Schoemaker NJ, Teerds KJ, Mol JA, et al. The role of luteinizing hormone in the pathogenesis of hyperadrenocorticism in neutered ferrets. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2002;197:117-125.
- Wagner RA, Piche CA, Jochle W, et al. Clinical and endocrine responses to treatment with deslorelin acetate implants in ferrets with adrenocortical disease. Am J Vet Res 2005;66:910-914.