What Happens When You Neuter a Dog?

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what happens when you neuter a dog

Dog owners commonly have questions about what happens when you neuter a dog. Below we will review exactly what happens before, during and after neuter surgery. First, let’s review the terminology used for dog neutering because the term “neuter” is commonly used incorrectly.

Neuter, from the Latin word neuter, means the removal of an animal’s reproductive organ. The term neuter is often used improperly when it is used to refer to male animals when the term neuter correctly refers to both males and females. The correct term for males is “Castration” while the correct term used for females is “Spay” or “Spaying”.
For the purpose of this article, we will use the term neutering as a term to mean castration of a male dog.

Why Dog Neutering Is Important

Each year, there are millions of dogs turned over to animal shelters. Last year it was estimated that the number was almost 20 million. If you look at the fact that only one out of every 10 dogs taken in to shelters find homes, that means 18 million dogs and cats were destroyed. This brings a tear to my eye just typing these words.

Neutering can prevent this. Neutering is a simple procedure that can prevent unwanted animals.
The benefits of neutering include:

  • Removes the risk of pregnancy.
  • Dogs are often calmer, less roaming, fewer aggression issues.
  • Eliminates or minimizes health issues such as prostate problems, breast cancer in females, uterine cancer, and uterine infections.
  • Castration is especially important in dogs that testicles fail to descend into the scrotum. There is a high rate of cancer in these dogs and neutering can minimize the chance of future problems.

When Are Most Dogs Neutered?

Neutering is done most commonly at or around six months of age. However, many veterinarians perform this procedure as early as 8 to 10 weeks. Early neutering can be done safely and has a number of advantages, especially in cases of pet adoption.

There are some studies that suggest there are health benefits to neutering later in life. Learn more in this article: To Neuter or Not to Neuter.
In general, most veterinarians recommend neutering around 6 months of age.

What Happens When You Neuter a Dog

The male neutering procedure, medically known as a castration or orchiectomy, is a surgical procedure in which both testicles are removed from the dog’s body.

What to Expect the Day Before The Surgery

Your veterinarian will provide you with recommendations on what you can do the day before the surgery. For most dogs, they will recommend that you not feed your dog food after 6 pm or give water after midnight the night before surgery. This means no food and no treats. This may vary slightly as some toy breed dogs may be offered food later to prevent low blood sugar problems (hypoglycemia).

If your dog is taking medication, ask your vet if they want you to give the medication the morning of surgery. Make sure that you follow those instructions exactly. If your dog is a diabetic, please discuss the insulin dose you should give with the staff prior to the morning of the neuter. Plan to bring any medications your dog is taking with you in case they decide to give it or your dog needs to stay.

Your vet will ask you to bring your dog to the hospital in the morning at a specific time. Many clinics will ask that you drop off your dog between 7 am and 9 am but this varies with the hospital’s surgery schedule.

What to Expect the Day of Surgery

You will need to load up your dog and take him to the hospital. Make sure the collar fits properly and your dog cannot slip out of it and plan to use a regular leash (preferred over retractable leads). Small dogs can be taken in a pet carrier as well.

Below is what happens at many veterinary hospitals but the exact procedure may vary depending on your veterinary and the individual vet hospital.

  • When you arrive at the veterinary hospital, they will likely ask you to sign a surgery consent form that confirms the exact surgery to be performed. It will also include routine questions about if you want baseline bloodwork, any needed vaccinations if you would like your dog microchipped (if not already done), and any other procedures such as removal of baby teeth, dewclaw removal, or repair of an abnormal hernia. Older dogs may also have mass removals after a neuter procedure. This consent form commonly includes a CPR form. CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a routine question asked for any pet undergoing anesthesia. Don’t be alarmed. We are asked the same questions when we go to the ER or are admitted to the hospital. The veterinary team will do everything possible to provide the safest experience for your dog but are obligated to ask this question to honor your beliefs and wishes in regards to CPR. This consent form may also include a cost estimate.
  • It is important that the veterinary hospital have an accurate phone number where you can be reached during the day.
  • Once your dog is at the veterinary hospital, he will be taken back to the hospital’s treatment room where he will be evaluated by the technicians for any problems. Often at this time they will draw blood if approved by you to ensure his organs are healthy. If they identify any problems or concerns, the doctor will call you before proceeding.
  • The doctor will examine your dog and give injectable sedation. While he is relaxed, they will often shave the leg to place an intravenous (IV) catheter and give additional drugs that allow total relaxation.
  • Your dog will then be moved into the surgery room. Most dogs are intubated (a tube placed into the trachea) to deliver safe inhalation anesthesia. Veterinary hospitals have anesthesia protocols that consist of very safe drugs and monitoring equipment that constantly monitors your dog’s heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, EKG, and temperature. The monitoring equipment is attached to your dog.
  • Your dog will then be placed on his back and feet secured to the edges of the table. The technician will generally proceed to shave the hair on your dog’s belly around the testicles.
  • Disinfectant is then used to gently and thoroughly clean the skin. A sterile drape is placed over the surgical site.
  • Your veterinarian will put on sterile hat, gloves, and gown and organize their surgical instruments for surgery. An incision is made just cranial to the testicles on the midline using a scalpel blade or laser. The length will depend on the size of your dog. The testicles are identified and surgically removed.
  • The incision is then closed with one or two layers of self-dissolving sutures (stitches). The outer layer of skin is closed with sutures or surgical staples. The actual surgery will only take about 20 to 45 minutes. The procedure can take longer in older or large-breed dogs.
  • Your dog continues to be monitored as they wake up from their anesthesia. This can take anywhere from an hour to several hours. At first, they are groggy then gradually become more aware and alert as the drugs wear off.
  • When you pick your dog up from the vet, the veterinary team will provide you with detailed post-op instructions. He may be sent home with pain medication and/or antibiotics. Those instructions will most likely include:
  • Keep your dog in its e-collar at all times until your vet gives you the clearance to remove it. This will most likely be approximately 10 to 14 days post-op.
  • Keep an eye on your dog’s stitches to monitor recovery. If the area becomes inflamed, swollen, or has discharge, talk to your vet. Some dogs have sutures and other dogs have sutures under the skin that are absorbable. This will vary with the veterinarian.
  • Keep your dog calm for two weeks after surgery. If there are other dogs in your house, you may need to keep your dogs separated post-op.
  • You may need to get creative with your feeding routine. With the e-collar on, some dogs won’t be able to eat out of their food dish. Most have found success by elevating their dog’s dish so that the e-collar doesn’t hit the floor while they’re eating.
  • Give your dog the prescribed medications. It can be helpful to attach a magnetic whiteboard or paper to your fridge so that you can write down when you last gave your dog meds and when it will need them again. This also helps all members of the household understand the medication schedule to minimize errors.

What to Expect After Dog Neuter Surgery

Some dogs will be sleepy immediately after surgery. Learn more about What to Expect After Neutering a Dog.

How to Deal with Dog Neuter Costs

Clients often ask for suggestions to help with dog Neuter costs. Learn more about How Much Does Dog Spaying or Dog Neutering Costs here. Some shelters have special pricing. Another option is to have pet insurance. Some pet insurance companies offer “basic care” or “wellness care” coverage that will cover routine care such as vaccinations, dental cleaning, parasite control, neutering, and much more. Pet insurance can help cover the cost of surgery and any associated complications. You can learn more about types of pet insurance at Pets Best.

Should You Worry About Your Dog Having Surgery?

Most healthy dogs do well during routine neuter surgery. By knowing what to expect and how to prepare yourself and your dog, the surgical procedure, hospital stay, and home recovery can go smoothly.

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