In an effort to mitigate pet overpopulation, reduce unwanted behaviors, and prevent unintentional pregnancies, many owners choose to sterilize their canine companions. In male dogs, this sterilization procedure is called neutering.
A neuter, or castration, entails removing the dogs testes so he is unable to breed or sire puppies. This common procedure is minimally invasive and the only sure-fire way to prevent reproduction! A less common alternative procedure called a vasectomy also exists. A vasectomy involves severing the tubes that transport sperm from the testes.
Have you ever wondered if a dog can be unneutered? Can the procedure be reversed so your male dog can once again reproduce? Let’s take a closer look at the facts to see if dogs can be unneutered!
Signs a Dog May Benefit From a Vasecotmy
As it stands today, male dogs cannot be ‘un-neutered.’ Neutering involves removing the reproductive organs entirely and it is irreversible. However, a vasectomy leaves the testes intact, so the body still has normal hormone and sperm production. To inhibit reproduction, the tubes that conduct sperm from the testes to the semen are severed, clamped, or tied. Depending on the vasectomy method your veterinarian employs, reversal may be possible.
A case exists in which a vasectomy was reversed on a South American bush dog in a zoo, who successfully sired young after the procedure was complete. As vasectomies are still a relatively uncommon procedure in domestic dogs, there is little research on the reversal of the procedure. However, vasectomy reversal is often performed among humans, leading one to believe it could be just as easily performed in dogs.
There are pros and cons to both neuters and vasectomies. Many owners opt for neutering their male dogs to reduce testosterone-driven behaviors, like marking territory, mounting, dominance, or aggression. Additionally, neutering helps prevent prostate problems, reduces the chances of perianal fistula, and eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer.
However, there is growing evidence that neutering can have negative health implications due to the absence of reproductive hormones, especially in dogs under a year of age. These include an increased likelihood of obesity, hemangiosarcoma, hypothyroidism, geriatric cognitive impairment, and bone development issues. Some dogs that may be better suited for a vasectomy include those under 1 year old, those with orthopedic issues, giant breeds or agility dogs who benefit from maintaining their testosterone. Deciding between procedures should be carefully considered with the help of your veterinarian!
- Drowsiness from the Medication
- Changes in Activity
- Redness, Irritation, or Swelling at Incision Site
- Licking or Chewing at Incision
History of Vasectomy and Neuter Procedures
The first vasectomy ever recorded was actually performed on a dog in 1823. Soon after, it arose as a surgical procedure in humans for various medical purposes, like inducing prostate atrophy, increasing sexual potency (when only one testicle is vasectomized), and eventually, as a form of birth control.
Though the first ever vasectomy was indeed performed as a dog, this procedure remained highly uncommon in veterinary medicine for quite some time. Since sterilization procedures became common in companion animals, neutering has always been the norm for male dogs. Even so, spaying and neutering of dogs and cats weren't widely performed or available until around the 1930’s. The procedure was considered more of a convenience for owners rather than a solution to an animal welfare issue.
As pet overpopulation sky-rocketed, sterilization shifted to being a standard procedure in dogs and cats. In 1969, the first low-cost spay and neuter clinic was opened in Los Angeles, CA. As intake of animals into shelters started to decrease, the procedures quickly gained momentum as a way to mitigate pet overpopulation.
Today, neutering is still the most common sterilization procedure in male dogs. It is the standard procedure taught in most veterinary schools and has numerous health benefits, thus many veterinarians stand by neuter as the number one option.
However, as growing research sheds light on the potential negative impacts of the procedure, more and more owners are opting for vasectomies for their canine companions. As both procedures have their benefits and drawbacks, it is best to consult your veterinarian to determine which is best for your particular furry friend!
Science Behind Vasectomy and Neuter Procedures
Neutering (or castration) is the primary surgical procedure employed to sterilize male dogs. After blood work takes place to be sure your dog can be safely anesthetized, he is placed under general anesthesia. A small incision is made towards the front of the dog’s scrotum and both testes are removed. The blood supply and vas deferens are then tied off before the incision is sutured shut. The surgery is minimally invasive and has a recovery time of up to 14 days.
A vasectomy is an alternative surgical procedure for sterilizing male dogs. Though a vasectomy is even less invasive than a neuter, the dog is still placed under general anesthesia. A small incision is made just in front of the scrotum. The two vas deferens are then bluntly dissected, one at a time. Each tube and its respective blood supply is either clamped, cut, or tied off. After both tubes have been blocked or severed, the incision is sutured shut. Recovery may take up to 14 days, though the procedure is less invasive and yields less tissue trauma than a neuter.
Training Your Dog Through Recovery From Neuter and Vasectomy Procedures
It is important to monitor your canine companion closely as they recover from a neuter or vasectomy to ensure no complications arise during healing. Recovery can take up to 14 days, though most dogs bounce back just a few days after the surgery is completed.
As the anesthesia wears off, your dog may be drowsy and have a reduced appetite. It is best to keep your dog confined to a small space and without any stairs to prevent accidental injury or damage to the incision. Most dogs will be alert and eating within 24 hours of the surgery’s completion.
Watch your dog closely throughout recovery and don’t let him lick or chew at the incision site! If licking or chewing persists, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar (a.k.a. E-collar or “cone of shame”) to prevent it. This cone-shaped collar is placed around the dog’s neck to inhibit oral access to the incision site.
Limit your dog’s activity for up to two weeks or for as long as your vet advises. It is best to keep your furry friend separate from kids or other animals while he heals to prevent unnecessary activity! Check the incision daily for any signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or opening. If any of these are detected, consult your veterinarian immediately! Do not bathe your dog for at least 10 days post-surgery as the incision heals.
If your dog was sent home with pain medications, administer these as prescribed by your veterinarian. Some dogs have a tendency to be too active when their pain is well-managed, so it’s important to monitor him closely to prevent this! Only walk your dog for short periods on a leash for the first 10 days post-op to prevent overactivity. Your furry friend will be back to his normal self in no time!
How To React If Your Dog Is Having Complications After a Neuter or Vasectomy
Check the incision daily for redness, swelling, discharge, or opening.
Monitor your dog's temperature in case of a fever.
If irritation around the incision, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, or lethargy occur, contact your veterinarian immediately!
Safety Tips for Handling Your Dog During Recovery
Prevent your dog from running, jumping, or roughhousing with other animals as he recovers.
Do not touch, clean, or apply ointment to the incision site.
Be gentle and cautious with your pet during transport home and during the first 24 hours post-op, as the anesthesia wears off.
Only take your dog out on a leash and for short walks for at least 10 days post-op.