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Veterinary Q & A - Neutering (Castration) in Dogs and Cats

Also known as castration, continued

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What happens during the surgery?

Your pet will be sedated and anesthetized so he won't feel any pain or be aware of what is happening. His breathing and heart rate will be closely monitored by the veterinary staff.

(Note: there is more than one way to neuter an animal - descriptions here are the most common techniques used.)

Dog: The surgeon makes a small incision just in front (towards the pet's head) of the scrotum (sac that contains the testicles). Each testicle is removed separately, and the blood supply and vas deferens (spermatic cord) are ligated (tied off). The subcutaneous layers are sutured together with an absorbable thread, then the skin is closed with either skin staples, absorbable (hidden) sutures, or sutures that will be visible and need to be removed 10-14 days after surgery. Click here for a pictorial description of the surgery itself. (Warning - surgical photos may not be suitable for all viewers.)

Cat: Many veterinarians prefer to incise (cut) the scrotum itself in the cat to remove the testicles. Each testicle is removed and ligated as described above, and the two incisions are allowed to heal as an open wound - no sutures. The incisions are very small, and are usually barely noticeable shortly after the surgery.

My vet said that my pet is cryptorchid. What is that, and will the surgery be different from a "normal" neuter?
Cryptorchid is a medical term meaning literally "hidden testes" (crypt = hidden, orchid refers to the testicle, or testes). This is considered a birth defect - where the testicle doesn't "migrate" out of the body cavity and into the scrotum like normal during fetal development. Some pets can be "late bloomers" and a testicle not present at birth can descend later, but by 4-6 months of age, if it isn't there, it won't likely be. It is a heritable trait, so any pets in a breeding program with this condition should be neutered to not pass on this trait.

Where is the testicle?
That depends! It can be deep inside the abdomen, similar to where the ovary would be found - by the kidney. It may be anywhere from the kidney area to the bladder. It could also be in the inguinal canal, the passageway from the abdomen to the scrotum.

Testicles in the abdomen are not likely to be palpated, but the vet has a good chance of palpating a testicle in the inguinal canal. I say "not likely" to be palpated, because most of the time, the hidden testicle is much smaller than normal, even when in the inguinal canal. This is not always the case -- as I remember a geriatric Irish Setter that had been neutered as a pup. Apparently, only the testicle in the scrotum had been removed at the time of neutering, several years before. This dog was presented for difficulty defecating and urinating, with a large abdominal mass. A very large (12" diameter) testicle was taking over the abdomen! Thankfully, surgery went well, and he could live out his senior years comfortably.

Moral of the story: cryptorchid dogs should NOT be bred, and must be neutered - since the risk of testicular cancer in an abdominally cryptorchid dog is high.

How soon will he be "back to normal"?
Most people are surprised at how quickly their pets recover from surgery (certainly much sooner than their human counterparts!) Most pets are up and alert shortly after surgery, and for neuter patients, most are back to their "normal" self by the next day. It is very important to restrict activity in those pets who are very active and to control excessive licking of the surgical site. It is also important to note that if your pet has already reached puberty (age 5 to 6 months or older), behaviors influenced by hormones will take a month or two to subside. Behaviors include, but are not limited to: fighting, roaming, urine marking and so on. Some of these behaviors are learned in addition to being hormonally influenced, so do not expect complete cessation of undesirable behaviors in all cases post-surgery. Neutering prior to puberty will lessen the occurrence of these behaviors from ever showing up.

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.

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