Neuter is the term used to describe the surgical removal of a dog's reproductive organs, and castration is the term used for removal of testicles. Typically, in the U.S., many people refer to castration as neutering. The typical age for neutering a dog is between six and nine months. Neutering has several benefits, including health and behavioral. But some concerns still exist amongst pet owners about whether neutering is the best option for their dog. There may also be a question of whether or not a dog was neutered, especially when the procedure was done prior to adoption. Here we will discuss the neuter process, what to expect after the procedure, benefits of neutering, and address some common pet owner concerns.
The Neuter Process
Although neutering is considered to be major surgery, it is one of the most common procedures performed. Before your dog is neutered, a veterinarian will perform a head-to-paw exam, and may also suggest bloodwork to make sure all of the vital organs are in order. Neuters are performed under general anesthesia, and may include a sedative and a pain medication. Once he is sleepy, he may receive an injection and/or gas anesthesia that will put him into a deeper sleep. During this time, he is not aware of what is happening and is feeling no pain. Your dog will be intubated during the procedure, meaning a tube, placed in his trachea, is connected to a machine that will help keep him asleep by administering anesthetic gas and provides oxygen to help him breathe. Some veterinarians may also place a catheter in the vein to allow for emergency treatments to be administered faster should they be needed, as well as to administer fluids and medications.
Your dog is also connected to machines that will monitor his heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen levels, and temperature and his vital parameters are also manually monitored closely by veterinary staff. The dog is placed on a warming pad on his back, to help maintain his body temperature, and the surgical area is clipped and cleaned. An incision is made just in front of or directly on the scrotum. Both testicles are removed through this incision and the stalks are tied off to stop blood flow. Once the vet confirms there is no bleeding, the incision will be closed. There are usually sutures placed underneath the skin, and sometimes in the skin, followed by skin glue, or tissue adhesive. Using skin glue adds additional reinforcement to help keep the incision together and may keep your dog from having to come back to have the sutures removed. Some veterinarians also place a small green tattoo on the abdomen after neutering, as a way to indicate that the pet has been neutered and to avoid unnecessary surgery. When the procedure is finished, he is woken up, the tube helping him to breathe will be removed and he will be closely monitored by the veterinary team until he is sent home.
What To Expect After Neutering
After the procedure, there may be some scrotal swelling, but eventually, the empty scrotum will either flatten out (in younger dogs) or will remain as a skin flap (in older dogs). Your veterinarian will most likely send him home with pain medication that will help keep him comfortable as well as help reduce the swelling, which should improve in a few days. It is very important to follow all of the post-care instructions, which will include how to minimize the swelling and how to keep your dog calm during the recovery period. An Elizabethan collar is very important, and your vet will recommend one for your dog, to keep him from licking at the incision site. Licking will cause irritation and possibly an infection so make sure he wears the collar at all times, even when he eats and sleeps. Keep in mind that if your dog was sexually mature at the time of neuter, it will take several weeks before before he is no longer fertile, and he should be kept away from intact female dogs during this time.
Please contact your veterinarian if you notice a discharge of any kind from the incision site if the scrotal swelling persists and your dog appears to be in discomfort, or if there is anything else that concerns you. Following your veterinarian's post-care instructions will eliminate the need for another office visit and additional treatments.
Benefits of Neutering
The most obvious benefit of having your dog neutered is that you remove the possibility of him contributing to the current overpopulation of dogs. There are also health as well as behavioral benefits.
- Neutering does not prevent prostate cancer, but it does cause the prostate to shrink, thus preventing both prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and benign hyperplasia (enlargement) that occurs with aging.
- Neutering helps to prevent certain types of hernias and tumors of the testicles and anus.
- Neutering helps reduce excessive preputial discharge.
- Neutering reduces inappropriate mounting
- Neutering reduces urine marking
- Neutering reduces fighting
Common Pet Owner Concerns
- Because the scrotum is often swollen after surgery, some owners may question whether the neuter was actually performed. It is highly unlikely that your veterinarian did not perform the procedure. It is more likely for a hematoma (a buildup of blood) to develop in the scrotal sac, which will give the appearance of testicles.
- Some male dogs are cryptorchid, a condition in which one or both testicles have not descended (dropped) into the scrotum. Smaller breeds run a higher risk of developing this condition, however, it has been reported in all dog breeds. The undescended testicle may either be in the inguinal region or in the abdomen. If the testicle is in the abdomen, the neuter will be slightly more complicated. Surgery is still recommended to prevent testicular torsion (turning or twisting) and cancer.
- Some owners feel their dog will become overweight after the neuter. It is true that metabolism will change, however, adjusting his diet and exercise schedule will help reduce the possibility of weight gain.
- Mounting behavior will decline, but it may not be completely eliminated. Mounting often has roots in the expression of dominance and may be expressed by a neutered male in a variety of circumstances that are not motivated by sexuality.
If you have any questions before or after your dog's neuter, please speak with your veterinarian. They will address all of your concerns and are always there to help you make the best decision for your pet's overall health.
Hart, Benjamin L. et al. Long-term health effects of neutering dogs. Plos ONE. 2014;9(7).doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102241
Tannouz, Vânia Gomes Schwartz, et al. Is the right testis more affected by cryptorchidism than the left testis? An ultrasonographic approach in dogs of different sizes and breeds. Folia Morphologica. 2019;78(4):847.doi: 10.5603/FM.a2019.0022