Canine Vasectomies

Do you know that vasectomy surgery can be performed on dogs? Indeed this is true, Photo Credit: Nguyen Hoangnam, cute, Flicker CC licenseand, as we learn more and more about the impacts of traditional canine neutering (castration), vasectomy surgery is becoming increasingly popular.

What exactly is a vasectomy?

Whether performed on a human or a dog, vasectomy surgery involves clamping, cutting, or ligating (tying off) the vas deferens, the duct that transports sperm out of the testicle and into the semen. Local anesthesia is all that is needed to accomplish this surgery in men. (Most men will lie still when told to do so.) Vasectomy surgery is performed in dogs using general anesthesia.

Vasectomy versus castration

Castration is referred to as “neutering” because the reproductive organs (testicles) are removed. With vasectomy surgery, the testicles remain in place, so the dog is not considered to be “neutered.”

Whether castrated or vasectomized, the end result is a sterile dog. And, there is a period of surgical recovery with both procedures. Castration tends to be a “bigger deal” surgery in that the incisions are larger and there is more overall tissue trauma. Performed by someone with significant experience, a vasectomy tends to be considered a relatively minor procedure.

The testicles are where testosterone is produced. So, it makes sense that castration (removal of both testicles) reduces testosterone production to almost nil. A very small amount of testosterone continues to be produced by the adrenal glands. Vasectomized dogs maintain normal testosterone production.

Choosing whether or not your dog should live his life with or without testosterone is a big-deal decision these days. There is mounting evidence (pun intended) that removal of testosterone, particularly in dogs under a year of age, might be associated with negative health implications. There are plenty of pros and cons to consider, and they should be discussed at length with a veterinarian you hold in high regard. Be sure to do some investigating yourself. I have compiled a bibliography on canine spay/neuter research, including that which is most current. Please shoot me an email if you would like a copy.

Be forewarned

If you opt to sterilize your dog via vasectomy, here are some things to consider:

– There is no “Vasectomy 101” course being taught in veterinary schools (yet). Most veterinarians who perform vasectomies are somewhat self-taught. While this surgery is pretty darned simple, be sure that you are working with a surgeon who has several vasectomies under his or her belt (pun intended). If you are having difficulty finding an experienced surgeon, look for a surgical specialist. He or she will be able to handle your request.

– If ever you become unhappy with the role testosterone is playing in your vasectomized dog’s life (he’s humping everything in sight, he’s jumping the fence to be with the neighbor’s dog who is in heat), you can always opt for castration at a later date.

– Following vasectomy surgery, a male dog can successfully breed for up to two months. Do not let your vasectomized dog interact with a female in heat during this time period.

– You might be ostracized and/or interrogated at dog parks and other public venues where only neutered dogs (those without reproductive organs) are allowed.

– Proprietors of doggie day care facilities may refuse your vasectomized dog because they hold negative and sometimes inaccurate impressions of testosterone-driven behaviors.

Would you ever consider a vasectomy for your dog?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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