Dog Castration: a step by step guide to the operation

by Jenny Sheriff BVM&S MRCVS

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.

Dogs with one or both testicles not descended

During development, the testicles move down from inside the abdomen into the scrotum. Usually both will have descended into the scrotum by the time a puppy is seen for vaccinations at around 2 months of age. If one or both testicles have not descended into the scrotum, this will need to be checked later. If either or both of the testicles stays inside the abdomen, they will be at greater risk of developing cancer in later life, so castration is usually advised. The operation to remove an undescended testicle is a more complicated operation than removal from the scrotum. (see The Operation). A dog which has one undescended testicle is called monorchid. If he has two undescended testicles, he is called a cryptorchid.

Before the operation

Your vet will want to check that your dog is in good general health, is the correct weight and has two fully descended testicles in the scrotum.

Another important way of minimising risks is by taking a blood test before the anaesthetic. This could be done on the day of the operation or a few days earlier. This is used to check the liver and kidney function (both vital when dealing with anaesthetic drugs) and to rule out any unsuspected illnesses.

Before going to the surgery

Before any anaesthetic the dog should be starved for a number of hours, according to the instructions of the surgery. Having an empty stomach prevents any problems with vomiting which could be dangerous. It is also a good idea to allow your dog enough exercise to empty the bladder and bowels. Apart from that, it is best to stick as closely as possible to the normal routines of the day so that the dog does not feel anxious.

Being admitted for surgery

On arrival at the surgery, you can expect to be seen by a vet or a veterinary nurse who will check that you understand the nature of the operation and will answer any questions you may have. They will ask you to read and to sign a consent form for the procedure and ask you to supply contact phone numbers. This is very important in case anything needs to be discussed with the owner before or during the operation.

Before the anaesthetic

Your dog will be weighed to help calculate the dosages of drugs and given a physical examination including checking his heart. If a pre-anaesthetic blood test has not already been done, it can be done now and the results checked before proceeding. If any abnormalities are found, these will be discussed with the owner before deciding whether the operation goes ahead or not. One possible outcome is that extra precautions such as intravenous fluids may be given.

A pre-med, which is usually a combination of several drugs, will be given by injection. This begins to make the dog feel a bit sleepy and ensures that pain relief will be as effective as possible.

The anaesthetic

There are several ways in which this can be given, but the most common is by an injection into the vein of the front leg. The effects of the most commonly used drugs are very fast, but don’t last for very long, so a tube is placed into the windpipe to allow anaesthetic gas and oxygen to be given. The anaesthetic gas allows the right level of anaesthesia to be maintained safely for as long as necessary.

Various pieces of equipment will then be connected up to monitor the anaesthetic. This is a skilled job which would usually be carried out by a qualified veterinary nurse. Apart from the operating table, the instruments and the anaesthetic machine, a lot of specialised equipment will be on “stand by” in case it is needed.

The area where the surgical incision is to be made will be prepared by clipping and thorough cleaning to make it as close to sterile as possible. The usual site of the incision for castration is not through the scrotum but just in front of it.

The operation

While the dog is being prepared for surgery as mentioned above, the surgeon will be “scrubbing up” and putting on sterile clothing (gown, gloves, hat & mask). The surgical instruments will have been sterilised in advance and are opened and laid out at the start of the operation.

The operation involves removal of both testicles. They are removed by cutting carefully through the skin just in front of the scrotum, and through the various layers which cover the testicle. The very large blood vessels and the spermatic cord have to be tied carefully before cutting, allowing removal of the testicle. The layers are then closed up with sutures, which may be visible on the surface or may be buried. Further drugs can now be given as needed.

The usual site of the incision for castration is shown by the arrow. The skin will be shaved and thoroughly cleaned before the operation.
The usual site of the incision for castration is shown by the arrow. The skin will be shaved and thoroughly cleaned before the operation.

If one or both testicles are not in the usual place, the operation to remove them is more fiddly. Occasionally a testicle can be partly descended so that it lies in the groin area, and can be removed in a similar way to a normal testicle but through a separate skin incision. If the testicle is still lying right inside the abdomen, it can only be removed by opening up the abdomen, which is a much bigger operation for your dog and needs a longer recovery time. These testicles are often abnormally small, so can be hard to locate as well.

When the operation is finished, the gas anaesthetic is reduced and the dog begins to wake up. He will be constantly monitored and the tube removed from his windpipe when he reaches the right level of wakefulness.

Recovery

Your dog will be placed in a warm kennel with soft bedding and watched closely during recovery. Most dogs will feel very drowsy at first and will take most of the day to sleep off the effects of the anaesthetic. Your dog will only be allowed to come home when he is awake enough to stand and walk unaided.

After-care

Full instructions should be given by the surgery concerning after-care, including when your dog can be offered food and water. The most important things would be to check the appearance of the wound, to prevent your dog from licking it (with a plastic bucket-collar if necessary) and to limit his exercise by keeping him on the lead. Any concerns of any kind should be raised with the surgery.

The scrotum is not removed during surgery, so it can appear at first as if nothing has been removed, especially if there is a little swelling after the operation. However, the scrotum will gradually shrink as time goes by. If you are not sure whether the amount of swelling after the operation is normal or not, always telephone your surgery for advice.

Any medication supplied should be given according to the instructions. Pain relief can be given by tablets or liquid on the food. Antibiotics are not always needed, but may be supplied if there is a need for them.

Usually there will be stitches in the skin which need to be removed after about 10 days, but sometimes these are concealed under the surface and will dissolve by themselves. Your surgery will arrange an appointment for any follow-up checks that are needed.

The effects of castration can take a few weeks to be seen. If your dog is being castrated to prevent breeding, it is important to realise that he may still be fertile for a while after castration.

If all goes to plan, your dog should feel quite normal within about 1-2 weeks of the operation, or a little longer if the testicles were internal.

Click here for information on the bitch spay operation – female dog neutering

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92 thoughts on “Dog Castration: a step by step guide to the operation

  1. I habe a pit bull and i got him neutered seems like he still have his man hood still and i think they just tie him in side cause his man hood is turning blue ,are they post to tie them or take them out i seen videos of them taking them out.

  2. I habe a pit bull and i got him neutered seems like he still have his man hood still and i think they just tie him in side cause his man hood is turning blue ,are they post to tie them or take them out i seen videos of them taking them out.

    1. Hi Sara, it is best to speak to your own vet about this condition as every case is different depending on medical history etc.

    1. Hi Sara, it is best to speak to your own vet about this condition as every case is different depending on medical history etc.

    1. Hi Jane, sometimes the sac does become red – however it’s best to call you vet for further advice, they might want to check him to be sure!

    1. Hi Jane, sometimes the sac does become red – however it’s best to call you vet for further advice, they might want to check him to be sure!

  3. My basset has just been castrated at 5 yrs old after he became growly and insecure following the death of our 2 beautiful newfoundland (old age) we have yet to see any change in him other than a very sore scrotum which still looks full :/ reluctant to take him back to the vets as he growled at him

  4. My basset has just been castrated at 5 yrs old after he became growly and insecure following the death of our 2 beautiful newfoundland (old age) we have yet to see any change in him other than a very sore scrotum which still looks full :/ reluctant to take him back to the vets as he growled at him

  5. My dog was castrated at 9 mths with good recovery. However he is 2 now and I have never seen his penis? Should I be concerned and could it be related to castration. He seems fit and healthy, but does often lick the area.

  6. My dog was castrated at 9 mths with good recovery. However he is 2 now and I have never seen his penis? Should I be concerned and could it be related to castration. He seems fit and healthy, but does often lick the area.

  7. my 8 month old doberman has just had his testicles removed from his abdomin but he has been vomiting blood for the last 2days also his stools are very runny and hhave blood mixed in,is there anything I can give him thanks

    1. Hello Mark, please call your vet and have you dog looked at again. The operation and these new symptoms could be completely unrelated, but he needs to see a vet today as blood in vomit or faeces needs investigating. Please call them.

  8. my 8 month old doberman has just had his testicles removed from his abdomin but he has been vomiting blood for the last 2days also his stools are very runny and hhave blood mixed in,is there anything I can give him thanks

    1. Hello Mark, please call your vet and have you dog looked at again. The operation and these new symptoms could be completely unrelated, but he needs to see a vet today as blood in vomit or faeces needs investigating. Please call them.

  9. I would like to castrat my 3 year old terrier. I do not drive and the vet is about a mile away. Would the dog be able to walk back from surgery? Or would I have to find transport.

  10. I would like to castrat my 3 year old terrier. I do not drive and the vet is about a mile away. Would the dog be able to walk back from surgery? Or would I have to find transport.

  11. Hi, my male shih Tzu is 7 month old and been neutered tomorrow. He is in need of a trip to the groomers but how long after the operation will he be ok to have his hair cut ..

    1. Hi Mrs Bentham, he should be fine after the stitches are removed which is normally 10 days after the operation, or 10 days after they dissolve if the vet uses that type.

  12. Hi, my male shih Tzu is 7 month old and been neutered tomorrow. He is in need of a trip to the groomers but how long after the operation will he be ok to have his hair cut ..

    1. Hi Mrs Bentham, he should be fine after the stitches are removed which is normally 10 days after the operation, or 10 days after they dissolve if the vet uses that type.

  13. Hi
    We have a 9 yrs old Retriever (approx 35kg) not overweight and with a recent vet’s clean bill of health, but a complete dog (not neutered). His companion is a spayed 3 yrs old Chocolate Labrador (approx 25kg) and healthy. Periodically he gets very randy towards her, incessantly trying to mount her; we presume she gives off periodic scents even after spaying. Are there any options other than castrating our dog? Any medications, standard, herbal or otherwise?

    Kind regards, GERARD

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Gerard, there are a few different options other than castrating your dog, from injections to implants – it really is best to speak to your own vet for advice as not all vets use or stock them. They may also have other suggestions as, of course, they know your animals too.

  14. Hi
    We have a 9 yrs old Retriever (approx 35kg) not overweight and with a recent vet’s clean bill of health, but a complete dog (not neutered). His companion is a spayed 3 yrs old Chocolate Labrador (approx 25kg) and healthy. Periodically he gets very randy towards her, incessantly trying to mount her; we presume she gives off periodic scents even after spaying. Are there any options other than castrating our dog? Any medications, standard, herbal or otherwise?

    Kind regards, GERARD

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Gerard, there are a few different options other than castrating your dog, from injections to implants – it really is best to speak to your own vet for advice as not all vets use or stock them. They may also have other suggestions as, of course, they know your animals too.

  15. My dog is coming up a year and was castrated 6 days ago . He has started wearing round the house big puddles as if he has been holding it for ages . He will do it even thou there are mats in the house which he is used to . Is it just a case of going back to basics with praising him . Is it come ted to the op ?

  16. My dog is coming up a year and was castrated 6 days ago . He has started wearing round the house big puddles as if he has been holding it for ages . He will do it even thou there are mats in the house which he is used to . Is it just a case of going back to basics with praising him . Is it come ted to the op ?

  17. Thanks helpful information.

    Our dog is 51/2 months & was operated on 1 week ago, how long until he should walk downstairs into the backyard, what is the risk of infection.

    Lee

    1. Hi Lee, it really depends on the individual, I am assuming we’re talking about routine dog castration surgery. We aim to reduce movement at the operation site for example by leaping and jumping so that he may heal internally and externally. Therefore if we’re talking about a small dog whereby the stairs pose a reasonable obstacle then it’ll probably be better to carry him up and down for another few days. Keep a close eye on the wound itself as well, it should be healing over nicely by now. If it’s showing any sign of infection (redness, swelling, discharge, lethargy etc), please have it checked by your vet and take steps to prevent further damage e.g. keep your dog on restricted exercise and prevent him licking/scratching the area. If the wound is healing without complication and your yard is clean and dry, then it would be unlikely that you’d introduce infection in your yard, however it’s always best to keep a close eye on these things. As with many things, the vet who has examined your dog and carried out the operation is really the best person to advise you on post operative care so my response is a fairly general one. Hope you find this helpful. Best wishes

  18. Thanks helpful information.

    Our dog is 51/2 months & was operated on 1 week ago, how long until he should walk downstairs into the backyard, what is the risk of infection.

    Lee

    1. Hi Lee, it really depends on the individual, I am assuming we’re talking about routine dog castration surgery. We aim to reduce movement at the operation site for example by leaping and jumping so that he may heal internally and externally. Therefore if we’re talking about a small dog whereby the stairs pose a reasonable obstacle then it’ll probably be better to carry him up and down for another few days. Keep a close eye on the wound itself as well, it should be healing over nicely by now. If it’s showing any sign of infection (redness, swelling, discharge, lethargy etc), please have it checked by your vet and take steps to prevent further damage e.g. keep your dog on restricted exercise and prevent him licking/scratching the area. If the wound is healing without complication and your yard is clean and dry, then it would be unlikely that you’d introduce infection in your yard, however it’s always best to keep a close eye on these things. As with many things, the vet who has examined your dog and carried out the operation is really the best person to advise you on post operative care so my response is a fairly general one. Hope you find this helpful. Best wishes

  19. I have a 3 year old collie neutered on Wednesday I have been applying ice as instructed but the swelling has not gone down but rather seems to be increasing the sac seems to be at least double in size (size of my closed fist) is this normal and will it go down soon ?

    1. Hi Lindsay, that sounds like a reasonably large swelling and since it has been continuing to grow in size, I would take him to your vet for a check-up. Best wishes

  20. I have a 3 year old collie neutered on Wednesday I have been applying ice as instructed but the swelling has not gone down but rather seems to be increasing the sac seems to be at least double in size (size of my closed fist) is this normal and will it go down soon ?

    1. Hi Lindsay, that sounds like a reasonably large swelling and since it has been continuing to grow in size, I would take him to your vet for a check-up. Best wishes

    1. Hi Gemma, Dogs mature at different speeds with small breeds tending to mature a little faster. Vets can have different ideas on what age it is sensible to castrate a dog at and it’s worth listening to the reasons behind why they opt for a certain age. Often vets wouldn’t opt to castrate a dog younger than 6 months but this is too young for many and the decision is based on the examination of the individual. Are they mature enough physically and mentally, have both testicles descended, is there a medical or behavioural reason to wait etc.? This is a decision best made between you and your vet. Best wishes

    1. Hi Gemma, Dogs mature at different speeds with small breeds tending to mature a little faster. Vets can have different ideas on what age it is sensible to castrate a dog at and it’s worth listening to the reasons behind why they opt for a certain age. Often vets wouldn’t opt to castrate a dog younger than 6 months but this is too young for many and the decision is based on the examination of the individual. Are they mature enough physically and mentally, have both testicles descended, is there a medical or behavioural reason to wait etc.? This is a decision best made between you and your vet. Best wishes

  21. I have two border terriers. Is it best to get them both done at the same time. I don’t mind looking after them post surgery together.

    1. Hi Snips, talk through the matter with your vet who will likely know your dogs a little better. Having them both done at the same time might mean that they’re both quiet after the op and therefore one isn’t bothering the other who’s trying to recover. It might mean double-trouble with two buster collars in the house (at least they’re fairly small dogs) and checking that they’re not bothering their wound. It could be good to get it all out of the way, I guess it’s about you weighing up the pros and cons… Best of luck with it all!

  22. I have two border terriers. Is it best to get them both done at the same time. I don’t mind looking after them post surgery together.

    1. Hi Snips, talk through the matter with your vet who will likely know your dogs a little better. Having them both done at the same time might mean that they’re both quiet after the op and therefore one isn’t bothering the other who’s trying to recover. It might mean double-trouble with two buster collars in the house (at least they’re fairly small dogs) and checking that they’re not bothering their wound. It could be good to get it all out of the way, I guess it’s about you weighing up the pros and cons… Best of luck with it all!

    1. Hi Sarah , on occasion a vet will recommend ‘scrotal ablation’ where the scrotum is removed, in particular in older dogs when it can be more ‘established’. It wouldn’t normally be routine to do so in a younger dog. It really depends on the individual and it’s best talked through with your vet. Thanks for getting in touch.

    1. Hi Sarah , on occasion a vet will recommend ‘scrotal ablation’ where the scrotum is removed, in particular in older dogs when it can be more ‘established’. It wouldn’t normally be routine to do so in a younger dog. It really depends on the individual and it’s best talked through with your vet. Thanks for getting in touch.

  23. Will castration make our BEARDIE more nervous than he is already near traffic/loud noises? Plus will his coat become more dense/thicker?

    1. Hi Catylou, behavioural changes after castration may result where a bahaviour is associated with hormones. It’s hard to say without knowing more about your dog’s specific fears and personality. A vet and a behaviourist combined might be able to shed better light on the situation for that reason. They can take the time to fully understand your dog’s way of thinking. I would guess that there’s much that be done to help alleviate your dog’s fears since they seem quite specific and therefore time taken to work through them with a behaviourist would be time spent well regardless of your decision to castrate or not. As for coat quality, it has been reported that coat quality can be affected however you can supplement the diet to assist with this. Whether to castrate or not depends on a number of factors, there are many benefits to castration as I’m sure you’ve read in our blog. For this reason, it’s a very individual decision and therefore discussing the matter with your vet is the best way forward. Best wishes.

  24. Will castration make our BEARDIE more nervous than he is already near traffic/loud noises? Plus will his coat become more dense/thicker?

    1. Hi Catylou, behavioural changes after castration may result where a bahaviour is associated with hormones. It’s hard to say without knowing more about your dog’s specific fears and personality. A vet and a behaviourist combined might be able to shed better light on the situation for that reason. They can take the time to fully understand your dog’s way of thinking. I would guess that there’s much that be done to help alleviate your dog’s fears since they seem quite specific and therefore time taken to work through them with a behaviourist would be time spent well regardless of your decision to castrate or not. As for coat quality, it has been reported that coat quality can be affected however you can supplement the diet to assist with this. Whether to castrate or not depends on a number of factors, there are many benefits to castration as I’m sure you’ve read in our blog. For this reason, it’s a very individual decision and therefore discussing the matter with your vet is the best way forward. Best wishes.

  25. Hi, I have 2 staffies, male (9 years old) and a female(10 years old). I had the female neutered at an early age but I’ve never had the male done. Recently the male has been getting very randy around her at anytime. Should I get the male neutered and will this help this problem?
    Regards
    Philip

    1. Hi Philip, often when people try to fix behavioural issues with neutering they’re disappointed. Behavioural issues can become habitual and therefore it’s the mindset that needs to be adjusted as well. However, castration might well help any issues related to hormones and therefore I recommend that you take your dog to see your vet. They will examine him and decide if there is any medical reason for this change as well as helping you to devise a plan to overcome it. Best wishes.

  26. Hi, I have 2 staffies, male (9 years old) and a female(10 years old). I had the female neutered at an early age but I’ve never had the male done. Recently the male has been getting very randy around her at anytime. Should I get the male neutered and will this help this problem?
    Regards
    Philip

    1. Hi Philip, often when people try to fix behavioural issues with neutering they’re disappointed. Behavioural issues can become habitual and therefore it’s the mindset that needs to be adjusted as well. However, castration might well help any issues related to hormones and therefore I recommend that you take your dog to see your vet. They will examine him and decide if there is any medical reason for this change as well as helping you to devise a plan to overcome it. Best wishes.

  27. I recently lost my beloved Collie/Spaniel to Prostate Cancer. My own vet would not accept my thought it was cancer as we had had him castrated at six months. All the symptoms were there and we eventually took him to Bristol Vet College who confirmed Prostate Cancer. They told us a dog castrated at this age was MORE likely to suffer prostate cancer. I have read widely on this cancer and more recent studies are supporting this. Respectively I believe your reasons for castrating which suggest lessening the potential for Prostate Cancer should be challenged as our sad loss suggests.

  28. I recently lost my beloved Collie/Spaniel to Prostate Cancer. My own vet would not accept my thought it was cancer as we had had him castrated at six months. All the symptoms were there and we eventually took him to Bristol Vet College who confirmed Prostate Cancer. They told us a dog castrated at this age was MORE likely to suffer prostate cancer. I have read widely on this cancer and more recent studies are supporting this. Respectively I believe your reasons for castrating which suggest lessening the potential for Prostate Cancer should be challenged as our sad loss suggests.

  29. Hi,

    My puppy was neutered today and I see two incisions. One near the scrotum, standard neuter. The second us at the head of his penis. Why would this be done?

    Thanks

    1. Hello Danalea, that’s difficult to say as it’s unusual… it’s best if you speak to the practice as they will have all the surgical records to hand.

  30. Hi,

    My puppy was neutered today and I see two incisions. One near the scrotum, standard neuter. The second us at the head of his penis. Why would this be done?

    Thanks

    1. Hello Danalea, that’s difficult to say as it’s unusual… it’s best if you speak to the practice as they will have all the surgical records to hand.

  31. Hi. My dog was castrated just over two weeks ago. The day after coming home, he developed very runny stools which turned into just blood. I took him to the vets, he was given a variety of medication! He seemed to improve over a few days. Although his stools are a lot firmer, he still loses spots of blood and will do it anywhere as he can’t seem to hold it. Friday he had his stitches removed, vets checked him over – took his temperature and said he’s fit and healthy, and that it’s rare that this could be a reaction to anaesthesia. Is this something that will clear? Or is it a case of going back to basics.

    Thank you

    1. Hi, some pets will have a reaction to anesthesia in this way however there are many different anaesthetic drugs used in veterinary practice today so it’s hard to say specifically. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can cause problems in the gastro-intestinal tract and therefore shouldn’t be used in your dog if he has vomiting or diarrhoea. If he’s still passing blood in his stools it’s sensible to approach your vet again and see if you can get to the bottom of it. Best wishes

  32. Hi. My dog was castrated just over two weeks ago. The day after coming home, he developed very runny stools which turned into just blood. I took him to the vets, he was given a variety of medication! He seemed to improve over a few days. Although his stools are a lot firmer, he still loses spots of blood and will do it anywhere as he can’t seem to hold it. Friday he had his stitches removed, vets checked him over – took his temperature and said he’s fit and healthy, and that it’s rare that this could be a reaction to anaesthesia. Is this something that will clear? Or is it a case of going back to basics.

    Thank you

    1. Hi, some pets will have a reaction to anesthesia in this way however there are many different anaesthetic drugs used in veterinary practice today so it’s hard to say specifically. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can cause problems in the gastro-intestinal tract and therefore shouldn’t be used in your dog if he has vomiting or diarrhoea. If he’s still passing blood in his stools it’s sensible to approach your vet again and see if you can get to the bottom of it. Best wishes

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