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Diethylstilbestrol for Dogs

By Barbara Forney, VMD

Last reviewed: 7/12/2022

Commonly prescribed for: Urinary incontinence in spayed female dogs

Species: Dogs

Therapeutic Class: Synthetic Female Hormone

General Drug Information and Indications

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic female hormone that is used to treat urinary incontinence in spayed female dogs. It mimics the effects of the natural female hormone, estrogen. DES is also used in the treatment of some cancers in both male and female dogs. Like many other drugs in veterinary medicine, this drug is not FDA approved for use in animals and is not available from a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer. Instead, it is compounded by a specialty pharmacy.

How to Give this Medication

Give this medication to your pet exactly as your veterinarian prescribes. If you miss giving your dog a dose of diethylstilbestrol, give the next dose as soon as you remember or, if it is close to the next scheduled dose, return to the regular schedule. Do not double dose to catch up.

DES is given by mouth and may be given with or without food.

When used to treat urinary incontinence, other drugs that complement the DES may be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Wash your hands after giving your dog this medication.

Side Effects

Be sure to discuss any side effects with your veterinarian immediately.

The most-serious side effect of diethylstilbestrol is bone marrow suppression, which can be fatal. The first signs of bone marrow suppression would include anemia, low platelet counts, and low white blood cell counts. If you notice that your dog is tired, or bruises easily, or bleeds easily, alert your veterinarian immediately as these may be early warning signs of serious blood disorder side effects.

Other side effects include signs of being in heat, including vaginal discharge or spotting, infection of the uterus in intact female dogs (pyometra), diarrhea, vomiting, lack of energy, increased water consumption, increased urination and feminization of male dogs.

Side effects are more common in older animals.


Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children. Diethylstilbestrol is a prescription drug and should be used according to your veterinarian’s directions. It should only be given to the animal for which it was prescribed. Do not give this medication to a person.

Pregnant women should not come in contact with DES.

DES should not be used in pregnant animals.

DES is not usually used in cats because they are more likely to develop liver, heart and pancreas problems.

Drug Interactions

Be sure to review with your veterinarian any medications or supplements your pet may be receiving.

The following may have drug interactions with DES: rifampin, phenobarbital, phenylbutazone, corticosteroids and blood thinners, such as warfarin.


If you suspect your dog or another animal was overdosed accidentally or has eaten this medication inadvertently, contact your veterinarian or the A.S.P.C.A.’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435. Always bring the prescription container with you when you take your pet for treatment.

If you or someone else has accidentally ingested this medication call the National Capital Poison Center at 800.222.1222.


Different strengths or dosage forms of DES may have different storage requirements. Read the labeling or ask your pharmacist for the storage requirements of the prescription you receive.
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