Overview of Canine Vasectomy
The procedure referred to as a “vasectomy” in dogs is a method of birth control which redirects the release of sperm in the male dog during breeding.
Controversy surrounding the health risks associated with the neutering (castration) of dogs has lead veterinarians and dog owners to question if there are alternatives. These include vasectomy and intratesticular injection of zeuterin.
Both of these procedures (vasectomy and intratesticular injection of zeuterin) result in a dog that is sterile (unable to breed) but able to maintain hormonal function will encourage normal growth and development. This article will refer to the procedure of vasectomy alone. For more information about the use of zeuterin – go to: Zeuterin.
How is a Vasectomy Performed on Dogs?
A vasectomy on dogs involves first making an incision in front of the testicle. The tube that carries sperm out of the testicle (called the vas deferens) is clamped, cut, or sealed. This prevents sperm from being ejaculated out of the body, thus preventing a male dog’s ability to breed. The testicle will still produce sperm but it is reabsorbed by the body.
With a vasectomy the testicles are left intact, allowing reproductive hormone function to continue normally. (Unlike a vasectomy, castration involves surgical removal of the testicles.) Dogs with a vasectomy will still experience the same reproductive urges as intact dogs and retain their desire to breed. It can take several months after the vasectomy surgery for all the sperm to be ejaculated or reabsorbed, therefore dogs can remain fertile and able to reproduce for a period of time. Dogs should be prevented from roaming or having contact with intact female dogs for 2 to 6 months after the vasectomy procedure.
Vasectomy VS. Neutering Dogs
Vasectomy is commonly performed to render pets unable to breed without altering normal hormonal production, thus helping to control pet overpopulation while reducing the developmental impact on the animal.
Most veterinarians are not routinely taught vasectomy and tubal ligation procedures in school but they are quite easy to perform and can be done by most veterinarians who are willing to learn. To date, veterinary schools in the United States focus on teaching the traditional castration surgery. Some believe that vasectomy may become the “norm” in the future while castration will become less common.
Some breeders embrace the idea of vasectomy as an alternative to traditional neutering as it can be performed on young dogs before a leaving for adoption. This ensures that the dog will not breed, which is an important stipulation of many adoption contracts. As an additional benefit, young dogs who are neutered are less likely to suffer problems with growth and development due to a reduction in hormones as a result of castration.
For more information on the risks of neutering, go to: Pros and Cons of Neutering
Veterinary Care of Vasectomy on Dogs
Most vasectomy procedures in dogs are performed on young healthy animals, and extensive pre-operative work-up is not usually necessary. Pre-operative evaluation usually involves a thorough physical examination and may include blood tests.
When a vasectomy is performed in older animals, additional diagnostic tests may be necessary to exclude concurrent diseases and to minimize anesthesia-related risks.
With most vasectomy procedures, a single incision is made just in front of the dog’s scrotum. Some veterinarians use nonabsorbable sutures to close the incision that needs to be removed, while others use absorbable sutures beneath the surface of the skin that will absorb on their own.
Home Care of Dogs with Vasectomy
Keep your dog quiet and indoors for approximately 2 weeks after he returns home from the hospital to allow him to heal. Prevent him from “roughhousing” and do not allow him to be excessively active.
Monitor the incision daily for signs of redness, swelling, or discharge. Do not allow your pet to lick or chew at the incision. If you find it is impossible to stop your pet from irritating the area, obtain an “Elizabethan” or “e-collar” which is placed around the neck to prevent access to the incision.
Skin sutures, if present, will be removed in 10 to 14 days. If the castration was performed for reasons other than preventing reproduction, further treatment and/or monitoring may be necessary.