Dog Castration: a step by step guide to the operation

Deciding whether to castrate or not

Castrating or neutering a male dog is an operation requiring a general anaesthetic. Both testicles are removed. As with all operations, the advantages and disadvantages should be considered carefully before deciding. Your own vet is the best person to advise you about your particular dog, but the following general advice may also help.

The main advantages of castrating a male dog are prevention of breeding, prevention of testicular cancer, reduction in the risk of prostate problems (including prostate cancer) and modification of certain behaviours. Only behaviours which are related to male hormone levels will be improved, so castration is never an alternative to proper socialisation and training. For example, a tendency to escape and run away will improve if your dog is chasing the scent of a bitch in season, but not if your dog is just untrained and wilful. An aggressive dog can be improved by castration if the cause is related to his male hormone levels, but not if your dog has not been well socialised and is afraid of people and other dogs.

The main disadvantages of having your dog castrated are the risks associated with any general anaesthetic and any operation, but these are very small risks when compared to the potential benefits.

Dog owners often ask whether their dog’s character will be changed by castration. In my opinion it is unchanged unless it is a change for the better (as in certain behaviours mentioned above). Another common worry is that a dog will become overweight and lethargic after castration, but this is 100% preventable with the correct diet and exercise.

Deciding when to castrate

The best age to castrate depends on the reason for doing so. If it is a planned procedure, it might well be carried out at 9-12 months of age, if your vet is happy that your dog is physically mature enough. If castration is advised for behavioural reasons, it might not be obvious until 1-2 years of age that there is a need for it. When castration is carried out later in life, the positive changes might not be quite so great, but your dog is never too old to castrate if there is a medical reason for it, like a testicular tumour……….

Owners Choice – The VetHelpDirect Best UK Vets 2013

The winner of the VetHelpDirect.com Best UK Vets 2013 is……. Barton Lodge Vets, Hemel Hempstead. Seventy two of their grateful clients logged on to leave a review giving them an amazing average star rating of 5! ‘First Class, Patient and Understanding’, ’5 Star service’ and ‘The best in town by far’ were just some of the accolades received from their clients. Congratulations Barton Lodge Vets!

In second place Goddard Veterinary Group – Gidea Park in London and in third place were St Georges Veterinary Group – Wolverhampton

The VetHelpDirect Owners Choice awards are based on reviews left by owners over the course of the year 29/1/12 – 28/1/13. The number of reviews and average star rating was used to determine the winner. At VetHelpDirect.com we are determined to provide a fair reflection of the vet practices in our directory, all reviews are subject to rigorous tests of authenticity, all reviews are checked for duplicate ip addresses, email addresses and some reviewers are asked to provide evidence that they are recent clients of the practice.

Ask a vet online – “What can cause staining around mouth and on dogs paws?….”

Question from Ann Hutton

What can cause staining around mouth and on dogs paws? No change in diet and its come on in just a few weeks? Cavalier male aged 9.

Answer from Shanika Online Vet

Hi Ann,

Thanks for your interesting question about the recent staining you have noticed around your dog’s mouth and paws.

The staining you are referring to is most likely caused by a substance called Porphyrin. Porphyrin is a naturally occurring substance in the tears and saliva and tends to show up as a pink/brown colour where your pet has licked, dribbled or produced lots of tears. The discolouration from the Porphyrin is most obvious on light coloured fur.

The staining of the fur itself is of no actual harm to your pet however it is important to get to the bottom of why it is happening and I would definitely advise that you discuss this further with your vet.

There are many possible causes for the staining you have noticed which include: dental disease, other conditions of the mouth, allergies and stress……………

May I Make A Suggestion?

Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions yet? If not, may I make a few suggestions? There are some phrases I hear often in my clinics which I would really rather never hear again (although I’m going to!) and I thought I would share them with you so you know why they irk me and you can make a resolution never to say them!

He’s limping but he’s not in any pain

This one is my biggest bugbear in practice. If clients say this to me I smile politely but really I want to say ‘Well why else would he be lame?!’. The problem is that our pets don’t display pain as we do and will continue to act fairly normally even if they are very sore. This is why you can feel all over the lame leg and they will rarely even wince. In fact, it is often only when they break something that even us vets can find any discomfort, our pets are much braver than us! If any animal is lame, they are sore; whether it is a cat who has been scrapping and developed an abscess or an elderly dog who has been stiffening up for while, and must be brought to the vet (and don’t tell us the problem isn’t pain!)

But she hardly eats anything…..

No, in comparison to you, a person probably 10 times her size she doesn’t but for a little animal she must, otherwise she wouldn’t have a head that looks several size to small for her body! (Another statement I would like to say but have to dress it up in a slightly more polite way!) Small dogs and cats only need small amounts of food to keep them going, often only 50-100g of dry food a day, which can look measly in a food bowl. Also, often they are not particularly food orientated and soon learn that if they leave the biscuits in the bowl (which isn’t a hardship because they aren’t hungry anyway), it will soon be replaced with something much tastier from the fridge (sound familiar?!). The best thing to do is to pick a good quality dry food that you know provides all the nutrition they need, ensure they eat a measured amount every day and stop worrying about them!

Oh, he never goes off the lead

I know it can be difficult to give a dog decent off the lead exercise but it is vital. All dogs can be taught reasonable recall and good dog to dog behaviour but for some it is more challenging than others. Don’t resign yourself to never being able to let your dog run, it is no fun walking a dog who is exploding with energy and often they are quite badly behaved because they are so frustrated, get some professional advice. It can seem embarrassing to have to ask for help for something which many dog owners take for granted but a bit of time and investment can make a huge difference to you and your pets and mean walking them is a pleasure, not a chore.

But she’s so old now, is it worth it?

How would you feel if someone refused treatment for you for a painful or debilitating condition just because you were old? Would you be pleased you weren’t ‘going to be messed with’ or would you prefer to undergo a procedure that would allow you to live a much more comfortable life for the time you have left? Exactly, so why is it any different with our pets?

One of the most common problem I see in elderly animals is dental disease. Not only is it very painful but the infections in the tooth roots can be very damaging to other organs. Unfortunately, they aren’t good at showing they are sore and they are left to suffer in silence. Their quality of life can be massively improved by surgery but it can be difficult to persuade their owners to go ahead. Other diseases which can be very effectively controlled include Kidney Failure, Arthritisand Diabetes, all with very little intervention. Our older pets have given us years of companionship and loyalty, the least we can do is keep them comfortable and pain free.

This is just a small selection of the things clients say to be that make me roll my eyes, (others include ‘He doesn’t eat dog food’, ‘She’s not fat, she’s just big boned’, ‘Oh, you can’t touch his face/ears/paws, he doesn’t like it’) I am sure all professions have their versions (and I have probably said them!) but there is an important message here which I hope you understand! I hope you and your families all have a happy 2013!…

Ask a Vet Online – “My dog gets frontline flee treatment ..”

Question from Tracey Newall

My dog dexter gets frontline flee treatment but recently he seems 2 scratch more i havent found anything but his skin flakey

Answer from Shanika Online Vet

It is good to hear that you are treating Dexter for fleas; fleas are definitely high up on the list of causes for an itchy dog. Dry flaky skin may well be as a result of scratching due to flea infestation but can also be affected by allergies and medical conditions.

It is really important to remember that a pet suffering from a flea allergy or irritation does not need to be full of fleas. All it takes is one flea to bite your pet to set off the allergic reaction cascade that leads to the skin being irritated.

What is a flea?

Ctenocephalides canis or felis (the dog and cat flea) are a small wingless parasitic insect that live on our pets and in the environment. Fleas can jump but they can’t fly, they need blood feeds to survive and a large proportion of the flea population are in the environment as oppose to on your pet.

Where are the fleas coming from?

Fleas live on animals as well as in the environment. The flea population consists of adult fleas, immature larval stages, dormant pupae and then eggs, as you move down the list the numbers increase significantly which is why we refer to them as a pyramid.

Fleas in the environment, by this we mean anywhere a pet with fleas has been, the warmth of our homes provides a great breeding ground for fleas in carpets, pet bedding and just about any nook and cranny.

Cats can also carry the fleas and they do not even have to be your own cats, for example if a cat comes through your home or garden then the fleas can jump off or deposit eggs as they go. This is why we often advise treating the home environment and in-contact animals also.

So how can you tell if your pet has fleas?

Gently part your pets fur and search through close to the skin, fleas are a reddish/brown colour and quickly move away from the light. It can be easier to find fleas on the underside of your pet as the coat is naturally thinner here. It is often easier to see the flea dirt in your pet’s coat than the actual fleas.

So what is flea dirt and how can you tell if there is any on your pet?

Flea dirt is the waste product produced by fleas and when dry it looks like little black specs, however if you wet it these black specs turn red as they contain digested blood. This brings us to the ‘wet paper test’, we comb through your pets coat and collect the debris onto a piece of wet white paper, if there is flea dirt present there will be small red dots visible where the flea dirt has dissolved in the water. The wet paper test helps to distinguish between flea dirt and just dried mud that may be on your pet’s coat.

Can the fleas live on humans?…………………….

Help! My dog is out of control in the countryside!

My dog Spot is a reasonably obedient terrier, never moving more than twenty yards away from me when out on walks in the countryside. I keep an eye out for potential hazards, such as people on horseback or groups of people with dogs, and when I call him, he reliably comes straight back to me, as long as he’s not distracted by something unusual.
On this occasion, I was engrossed in a conversation with a friend, and I didn’t notice Spot’s ears perk up as we moved along the path. It was only when I saw the sheep ahead of us that I recognised the hazard, and by then it was almost too late: Spot had them firmly in his sights, and he had started trotting towards them. A bellow from me, and he stopped, thought twice about it, then came back to me. But it could have gone badly wrong.
Many of you will have seen the infamous Youtube video of “Fenton” from last year: the large black dog had charged off in full chase of deer in London’s Richmond Park, with his owner running after him, shouting his name in vain. The video made many people laugh, perhaps sometimes because they had suffered a similar distressing experience themselves, with an out-of-control dog ignoring all pleas from his or her owner. In reality, it’s a frighteningly serious situation: sheep can be physically injured or killed by marauding dogs, and as a reaction, dogs can be legally shot dead by furious farmers.
Walking the dog in the British countryside can be one of life’s great pleasures, but there are responsibilities that cannot be forgotten. Dogs need to be kept under close control to ensure they do not worry livestock or stray onto neighbouring land. It is a criminal offence to allow a dog to chase or attack livestock on agricultural land and the dog only needs to be in a field with sheep to legally constitute an offence of worrying. By law, farmers are permitted to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals: prevention is the key to ensure that both dogs and sheep remain safe.
The following tips, courtesy of Dogs Trust, should be printed out and stuck on the back of the door beside the dog leashes, to be read before every dog walk in the countryside………..

Think before you throw… The trauma of canine stick injuries…..

Who “wood” have thought that playing with a simple tree branch or stick could result in such life threatening injuries?

With such a vast selection of toys available today for our canine companions it is a wonder why the simple tree branch / stick is still so widely used as an interactive “toy” for dogs to chase , catch and retrieve. Often so freely available after a windy winters day the selection of the most suitable stick can be so tempting, often dogs will help themselves with an overzealous approach attempting to carry a tree branch much larger than their own body length or owners simply pick up a small stick that would be much easier to throw, fly through the air further and with the added advantage to float in water too!

But do you ever stop and think of the implications of throwing a stick? And the serious life threatening injuries that can result?

Dogs are natural athletes often with a desire to do everything with such speed and with an abundance of enthusiasm during play. Mid-air acrobatics during stick catching is often considered part of the “fun” but severe trauma can result ; I have even nursed a dog that have caught the stick and then ran into a tree resulting in a cervical fracture in the neck!

The hidden “minor” injuries that occur through playing with sticks can often go unnoticed for a period of days, often lacerations occur under the tongue, in the laryngeal area, or stick fragments become lodged in the roof of the mouth which cannot be seen. Often symptoms of excessive salivation and reduction of appetite might be the only indication of oral damage……

How to walk your dog safely in the dark months of winter

As the clocks go back next Sunday (28th October) at the end of British Summer Time, millions of dog owners in the UK will be walking their dogs in the dark when they come home from work. Road casualty statistics show that there is an 18 per cent rise during the winter months in the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured in road accidents: it’s darker, wetter and windier out there.
Road traffic accidents – RTA’s – are the most common cause of serious injury to pet dogs. While it’s true that many accidents happen when dogs are out on their own, a surprising number happen to dogs that are accompanied by their owners. And even more surprisingly, dogs can even be hit by cars while on the leash. I remember one case, where an owner was walking on a narrow footpath, with their dog on one of those extendable leashes. It was a dark evening, with poor visibility. Cars were swooshing by at speed. A cat darted out of some bushes beside the road, and the terrier leapt after it without thinking, straight into traffic. The oncoming car braked heavily, but couldn’t avoid hitting the dog. The unfortunate owner was left shocked, with a badly injured dog at the end of his leash.
It’s important to take steps to ensure that you – and your dog – are as safe as possible during those evening walks in the winter. The UK’s biggest dog charity, Dogs Trust, has put together some useful tips to help.
Keep control of your dog and don’t let him off lead unless you are in a safe area which is well lit
Wear high visibility clothing such as jackets, vests or reflective strips on your clothes so you can be easily seen by motorists
A reflective collar and lead or a high visibility coat or flashing collar will also increase your dog’s visibility in the dark
Work out a winter dog walking route which, in urban areas, includes both wide pavements and bright street lighting
If there is no pavement, walk against the flow of the traffic and keep your dog on the side farthest from the road
Carry a torch which will help you be seen and also enable to you see to pick up your dog’s mess. Or, consider a head torch so your hands are free
Walking in groups can be safer than on your own
If possible, take your dog in the car to a place where you can walk away from the roadside. Many parks and sports fields have lighting but always check that dogs are allowed first
Make sure your dog is well trained and responsive to commands. For helpful tips on training, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk
With some thoughtful planning, you can make dog-walking a safer, more enjoyable activity, for both you and your pet. Take care out there this winter.

Fat pets: silently suffering due to their owners’ “kindness”

Here’s a paradox: the biggest cause of suffering in pet dogs may be people who believe that they love their pets the most. What am I talking about? Overfeeding and its consequence: obesity.
Over a third of dogs in the UK (2.9million) are overweight or obese while 25 per cent of cats (3 million) suffer the same problem. These animals have a serious risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and have a lower life expectancy than pets with a healthy weight.
Arthritis is probably the most common issue that causes physical suffering. As a vet, whenever I treat an older dog for sore joints, I write out a check list of the treatment plan. And the top of the list, in nearly every case, is “weight loss”. For many animals, this is more effective than any medication.
The people at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home will be discussing this problem in tonight’s episode of Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs on ITV1 at 8pm. Prevention of obesity seems simple in theory, but for some reason, many pet owners find it difficult. Again, part of the problem may be that we see pets like little humans, and we feed them accordingly.
The Battersea team have put together some simple tips that may help owners understand how to keep their pets slim and trim.
The first aspect is to work out the amount that a pet needs to eat: this depends on its breed, age and size, but as a rough indication, a small dog only needs about 350 calories a day while for a cat, it’s around 280 calories. So a slice of toast is equal to a third of the dog’s daily calories, equivalent to a human eating half a loaf of white bread. Other useful comparisons include a 3cm cube of cheese (equal to a whole cup of molten fondue cheese), one custard cream (half a pack of custard creams), and half a tin of tuna (a large cod n’ chips from the local chippie)…………..

What should vets do about negative comments on their Facebook Pages?

Most vets realise the value of social media for marketing their services, but many have reservations about the possible downside of this type of direct engagement with the public. In particular, vets are often put off interactive online activity like Facebook because of their fear of negative comments by disgruntled pet owners. Is this a genuine concern, and if it does happen, how should vets deal with it?
I’ve just had my first experience of a “grumpy customer” on Facebook and I learned a few lessons during the exchange. I’d be interested to hear what other pet owners out there feel about the way I handled it. For the sake of confidentiality, I’ve changed some of the details.
It happened on a Sunday evening: an email notification arrived alerting me to a new posting on my Facebook page: “You refused to treat a sick kitten: shame on you!”. I responded immediately, by logging on to Facebook and telling the poster that I knew nothing about the situation: we are a four vet practice and it’s impossible for any one of us to know about all events happening in our clinic. The reply came back at once: “You turned a friend away because they had no money. It’s cruel to turn away a sick, dying animal”.
I responded again, explaining that our practice had a fair policy to all sick animals, prioritising their welfare, but that in order to respond properly to the comments, I would need to find out more about the specifics of the situation from the practice during office hours. I also said that it was inappropriate to discuss confidential issues in a public forum like Facebook, and I asked the person to send a private Facebook message if they wanted to discuss it further. The person responded by reposting the public allegation that it was cruel for me to turn away a sick kitten……….

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