How to desex your dog

It's crazy to think that across the world there are actually a number of different procedures performed to sterilise dogs. I am going to walk through a number of the options available and the key considerations that you should think about before you make the decision to desex your furry friend.

Before Surgery

Before any surgery you should consider doing pre-anaesthetic blood tests. This will show if your dog has any conditions that they have but are not showing any signs of. The body is amazing and often you can have 50% of an organ damaged before there are noticeable changes in your dogs behaviour. These illnesses can cause anaesthetic complications or you may decide to hold off on surgery to give you time to do further investigations and treatment.

In completely healthy dogs this will also give you a baseline if they become sick in the future.   Some clinics there might be a minimum standard for all dogs. In other clinics they will give you the option of having all bloods done. This is not the clinic 'up-selling', it is actually them being responsible. They have made the assessment that they are happy to perform surgery without bloods since the risk is quite low for healthy young animals having elective surgery, however still giving you the option to select the highest standard of care. We believe either of these are ethical. We however would be worried about a clinic that did not at least offer you the option of a blood test.

Fluids are another consideration. Again some clinics decide that all animals will have fluids and others will offer it as an option if there is no specific medical requirement for them. Fluids are used to replace fluids lost during surgery and will also mean that if there is a problem during the anaesthetic drugs can be quickly delivered to your pet. I also find that recovery can be better- although Izzy managed to be a big drama queen waking up even with fluids.

Talk to your veterinarian about the pain medications they will be giving your dog before and after surgery. Pre-anaesthetic medications can smooth out the anaesthetic and how they wake up. Adequate pain medication after will reduce guarding. This can cause your dog to compensate using alternative muscles and regions of the body increasing the amount of work to return them to full function.

Male Dogs

So what are the options for Male dogs.

Vasectomy - where the vas deferens is severed and tied off to prevent sperm leaving the testicle. This may be used by breeders who want to protect their pups from being bred unethically but still want to allow them to reach sexual maturity. This is a good choice in large breed dogs, potential sports stars and breeds at risk of Hip Dysplasia. The downside is two surgeries instead of one if the owner does decide to have the testicles removed at a later date.

Superlorin - this is a chemical castration that can last a minimum of 6 or 12 months. It works by modifying the hormones in the body to the same extent as surgical castration. This was the option we took when Jaime headed off to Europe for 2 months. As expected four girls came in season and by having the boys chemically castrated the rest of the family did not have to worry about carefully keeping them separated. The downside is that it may last much longer than the minimum time length.

Gonadectomy - the most common form of sterilisation with surgical removal of both testicles. This is a relatively quick procedure. It is best to keep males quite for a week after this to stop swelling and allow the area to heal.

Female Dogs

Laparotomy - Also known as key hole surgery. It was in Europe that I had the chance to watch and help with this procedure. I can certainly see the benefits with active dogs to have much smaller incision sites. It is available here in Australia so please contact me if you are interested. They also used it when there was a male with un descended testicle. Typically they only performed ovariectomy using this procedure.

Traditional abdominal surgery - This is clearly the cheaper option and the most commonly performed here in Australia. The downside is ten days of trying to stop your girls from being muppets. It has certainly been a challenge for us the past few days as the girls have been feeling much better and getting throughly sick of taking it slow.

Ovariectomy - Removal of just the ovaries. This is more common in Europe than Australia and America. There is no evidence that there is a significant risk of uterine cancer if the uterus is left and because the ovaries have been removed so has the risk of pyometra and ovarian cancer. It has the benefits of being quicker and requiring less arteries to be cut and tied off so there is reduced risk of haemorrhage.

Hysterectomy - Removal of just the uterus, leaving the ovaries. I can see this as an option for breeders who want to ensure that their female pups can not be bred from while allowing them to physically mature. However, I have heard of many bitches suffering from stump pyometra after the ovary was not removed entirely. I would be very aware of this risk if the ovaries were not removed at a later date. Although less likely to cause systemic problems compared to pyometra with the whole uterus involved, it can still make your pup feel sick and flat.

Ovariohysterectomy - Removal of the ovaries and uterus. This is the most common procedure in Australia and America. It is also the procedure of choice if the bitch has pyometra and needs life saving surgery.

Next up I will be talking about what we've ben doing in the first week after surgery to keep the girls safe, speed their recovery and keep both us and the girls sane.

Dr Jaime Jackson