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What is Neutering?

A neuter is a surgical procedure used in male dogs to remove the testicles. The goal of neutering a dog is to prevent a male dog from reproducing (preventing overpopulation) as well as preventing certain diseases. Neutering can also be used as a curative measure for certain testicular cancers as well as enlarged prostate. This is a very common procedure in dogs and can be performed by your dog’s primary care veterinarian. 

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Neutering Procedure in Dogs

Your veterinarian will give your dog a thorough physical exam before the neuter procedure. Most often, neuters are performed in young, healthy male dogs so minimal bloodwork (a simple blood count and total protein count) is needed. For older male dogs that are being neutered to treat certain conditions, more extensive bloodwork may be needed depending on what is found during the physical exam and based on their prior medical history. Often, the initial assessment and the neuter can be done the same day or the exam may be done the day prior to the surgery depending on your veterinarian’s preferred schedule. Your dog will need to be held off food for 12 hours prior to surgery to prevent an adverse reaction to the anesthetic pre-medication.

For the surgery, your dog will be placed under general anesthesia and prepped and positioned on his back for surgery. One testicle will be pushed forward to come under the skin just above the scrotum on midline (the scrotum itself is too delicate to make an incision on).  A small incision will be made in the skin to expose the testicle with another small incision made to free the testicle of its connective tissue covering (parietal tunic). Opening the parietal tunic is optional and there are pros and cons to both an open (opening the parietal tunic) and closed (not opening the parietal tunic) castration. Once the testicle is exposed the spermatic cord and testicular artery and vein are tied off and the testicle is separated from them. The remaining tissue is checked for bleeding and released back into the incision. The remaining testicle is pushed through the same incision and the process repeated. The incision is closed and surgery completed. 

Efficacy of Neutering in Dogs

Neutering is the most effective tool that veterinarians have now to prevent unwanted litters from being born and contributing to the rise of homeless animals. The effects of neutering are permanent and will last for the rest of your dog’s life. Alternative treatments to neutering have been proposed (notably testicular injections) however, none have been able to last as long as neutering or be as effective. 

Neutering Recovery in Dogs

Recovery for most animals is fairly easy. Since this is a procedure largely done on young, healthy animals there are relatively few issues during recovery. As with any surgery, it is important to keep your pet still for 10 days while sutures heal. Your vet may choose to either place intradermal skin sutures which heal and do not need to be removed or external sutures which will need to be cut away after the skin heals. During recovery, it will be important to monitor your dog’s incision for signs of infection such as redness, swelling or discharge at the incision site. If this procedure was done on a young healthy animal as a preventative procedure, the only follow-up exam will be suture removal, however if this was done on an older animal to treat another disorder there may be several follow up exams.

Cost of Neutering in Dogs

Since neutering is such a common and accessible treatment, cost can vary. Often, it is possible to find shelters or services that will perform a neuter for free as part of the adoption fee for your dog. There are low cost clinics that can also perform a neuter for $60-$80. On the high end, a neuter could cost up to $200. 

Dog Neutering Considerations

It is important to consider the age of the animal you are having neutered. For larger breed dogs, it is important to not have them neutered too early as this may interrupt hormones needed for proper bone development and lead to orthopedic problems later on. Most dogs are neutered between four to six months of age, however larger breed dogs may need to be neutered closer to 8 months. The main risk associated with this surgery is the risk of bleeding if the ligation of the artery and vein slips off. This can be avoided by using an open castration technique, especially in older dogs. 

Neutering Prevention in Dogs

Neutering itself is considered a preventive surgery. As previously mentioned, it can prevent/mitigate certain behavioral problems, testicular cancer and prostate enlargement. It can also prevent unwanted litters from being born, reducing the numbers of stray dogs in shelters and on the streets.