How Do They Neuter Dogs?

By Jane Meggitt

Veterinary neuter surgery, performed using standard surgical instruments or a laser, is a relatively simple procedure as long as both of a male dog's testicles are descended. Within a few days after neutering surgery, formally known as orchiectomy, your dog should feel just fine.

Canine Neutering

Neutering prevents testicular cancer in male dogs and lessens their chances of developing prostate cancer. It also makes them better pets with far less desire to roam, fight with other male dogs or engage in inappropriate mounting. Urine marking is less frequent or eliminated entirely after neutering.

Some veterinarians practice pediatric neutering, sterilizing puppies as early as 8 weeks of age. Many vets prefer the traditional neutering age of about 6 months, when puppies turn into an adolescents. Dogs can be neutered well into adulthood and even into their senior years.

Surgical Preparation

A dog requires general anesthesia for neuter surgery. Prior to the surgery, he'll need a veterinary examination. A blood test will check kidney and liver function, and will determine the dog's red and white blood cell counts, to ensure it's safe for him to receive anesthetic and undergo surgery. Your vet will probably tell you to fast your dog the night before.

Preparation for surgery includes shaving and disinfecting the area around your dog's genitals. He'll receive an injection to induce drowsiness and ease pain. He'll then go under general anesthesia. During the operation, a technician will monitor the dog's heart rate and oxygen levels.

Standard Neutering Procedure

In standard neutering surgery, the vet makes an incision in the skin near the base of the dog's penis, close to the scrotum. She removes both testicles through this opening, then closes the incision with dissoluble stitches placed under the skin. Your vet then seals the outer skin with staples, glue or additional stitches. The entire procedure takes between five and 20 minutes. Puppies take less time to neuter than mature dogs.

Laser Surgery

Some vets neuter via laser surgery. The procedure is much the same as in standard surgery, but the incision and cutting are made via laser. Dogs undergoing laser surgery typically experience less bleeding. They also experience less post-operative tissue swelling and pain. Although infection after neutering is rare, use of a laser -- operating at more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit -- kills potentially-infection-causing bacteria, putting the risk at nearly zero.

Undescended Testicles

If your dog has an undescended testicle, neutering surgery is more complicated. Removing just the descended testicle will render the dog sterile, but it won't eliminate other undesirable behaviors of intact male dogs. That retained testicle is also a strong candidate for cancer.

The retained testicle may be near the scrotum, not quite dropped in, or it could be in your dog's abdomen. Your vet will locate the testicle ahead of time via ultrasound. If the retained testicle is located in the inguinal canal near the scrotum, she will make an additional incision to remove it. If it's located in the abdomen, she must make an incision there to take it out.

Neutering Recovery

Your dog might come home the same day as his surgery or might stay in the hospital overnight. Your vet will supply you with pain medication to administer for a few days. Keep your dog quiet for several days after the operation, and allow no vigorous exercise. If your dog had abdominal surgery for a retained testicle, his recovery will take longer.