When should you book the operation?
Once you have decided that you would prefer your dog to be neutered, you need to choose when to schedule the procedure. It is theoretically possible to neuter a dog from a very early age but vets usually prefer to wait until the dog is at least 6 months old. This ensures that the dog’s testosterone and growth hormone levels are sufficient to prevent developmental abnormalities later in life. It is also possible to neuter an adult dog, though electing to neuter at a later stage means that the effect of neutering on undesirable behaviours could be significantly decreased. Recovery time is also much shorter in younger animals.
Before the operation
Before booking the operation your vet will usually want to see your dog for a check-up, and to conduct a blood test. This will ensure that your pet isn’t suffering from any illnesses or abnormalities that could make the anaesthetic, or the surgery itself, more risky.
On the day of the surgery, your dog should not be fed to limit the danger of him vomiting while under anaesthetic. If your vet advises that this is ok, you might want to take your dog for a nice walk first to help him burn off some energy. This should help him to stay calm at the vet’s. Just make sure he’s nice and clean! While you’re walking, have a think about any questions you’d like to ask the vet or nurse before the operation goes ahead so they can help you with any doubt, concerns or worries you may have.
Once you arrive at the surgery you will check your dog in. As you do this, it might be wise to confirm your telephone numbers so that you can be contacted quickly in case anything needs to be discussed with you during or after the operation. For example, your vet may want to give you any updates or tell you that your dog will require an overnight stay.
Your dog will be weighed so the vet can calculate accurate doses of anaesthetic and pain relief. This will ensure that the drugs are both safe and effective. His heart will be checked to make sure it’s beating normally and he will be given an injection containing a combination of drugs, which will make him start feeling sleepy. Sedating your dog in the first instance will make it easier to place the needle delivering the anaesthetic.
The anaesthetic is generally in two stages, the first being injected into a vein in the front leg and the second being delivered via a tube which is placed in the windpipe. The initial injection puts your pet in a fast, deep sleep, while the gaseous anaesthetic is easy to control over a period of time. This is the safest combination of anaesthetic types to keep your pet anaesthetised for the duration of the surgery, and allows for adjustments to be made to the dosages as necessary.
As soon as your pet is asleep the vet nurse will clean and shave the site of the surgery, which is typically at the top of the scrotal sac. Shaving the area stops any stray hairs getting into the incision, which in turn helps to prevent infections. It also makes it easier for you to keep the area clean and easy to inspect post-op.
The surgeon will use freshly sterilised surgical instruments to make a small cut on the scrotum. One of the testicles will be pushed upwards towards this hole and the fat around it will be trimmed away. This will allow the vet to ease the testicle through the incision in the scrotum. The testicles are covered in a thick membrane called the ‘tunica vaginalis’. Once it is exposed the vet will make a further cut in this casing to uncover the testicle itself.
Having made the testicle itself is visible the vet will tie around the sperm ducts and blood vessels that connect it to the body. This will prevent any bleeding. The sutures dissolve over time so they will not need to be removed. When they are in place the vet will cut through the tubes and blood vessels, severing them completely for removal. The whole process is then repeated for the remaining testicle.
Having removed both, the vet will stitch up the wound, either with internal or external stitches. Internal stitches will dissolve but external ones will need to be removed by your vet after a couple of weeks. Once this is complete the anaesthetic gas dose will be slowly reduced to allow your dog to wake up gently, at which point the gas tube will be removed.
If you’ve ever had general anaesthetic yourself you’ll know it can make you feel a little bit wobbly and confused just after you’ve woken up, and it’s the same for your dog. He will be placed in a warm, cosy cage at the vet and kept under observation. He is likely to want to sleep for a little while but most dogs are right as rain fairly quickly after the surgery.