By Andrew Fischer
Labrador Castration: A step by step guide
In this article we want to have a look at the castration of male Labradors. If you have wondered about the neuter procedure, this step-by-step guide will take you through all the important facts.
Castrating a male dog requires a surgery. During general anaesthesia your veterinarian will remove both testicles.
As with all surgeries, neutering your dog has some advantages and disadvantages you should consider carefully before making a final decision. You can read more about the pros and cons of dog neutering HERE.
Among the main benefits of dog castration is the prevention of dog overpopulation, improvement of problematic behaviour and the reduction of certain health risks (testicular cancer, prostatic hyperplasia etc).
The effects of neutering are not visible immediately. The testosterone levels will drop gradually over a few week period after the surgery. So if your Labrador is being castrated to prevent breeding, make sure he avoids contact with bitches in season for few more weeks.
When should I castrate my Labrador?
The most suitable age to castrate your pup depends on the reason for the castration. If it’s just a planned, preventive measure it’s recommended to carry it out at 2 years of age.
It’s not recommended to neuter your Labrador before he reaches his full size because hormones like testosterone and oestrogen play a vital role in his growth and healthy development. If you neuter your dog too early he will not have enough of these hormones to grow healthily.
If the castration is advised for behavioural reasons, anyway it might not be obvious sometimes until 2 years of age that there is an actual need for it.
When neutering is carried out later in life, there may be more risks associated with the procedure. But you should know that your dog is never too old to be neutered, especially if there is a health reason for castration.
Before the surgery
Your veterinarian will check the health condition of your dog. If your dog would be too overweight your vet may recommend to undergo a weight-loss program prior to the castration.
It’s also necessary your vet checks that both of his testicles are fully descended into the scrotum. Removal of undescended testicles is much more complicated.
Your veterinarian will also run some blood tests in order to make sure the liver and kidneys of your dog work properly and can manage anaesthetic drugs. The blood tests are usually done few days before the surgery.
Before giving any anaesthetic drugs to your dog, he should be starved for few hours. Your vet should tell you the precise time. It’s also advisable your dog empties his bladder and bowels before going to the surgery.
It’s also common that the vet lets you sign a consent for the surgical procedure. You will also have to give the vet your phone number in case of complications that would require your further consent.
The nurse will weigh your Labrador and check his heart in order to calculate the precise dosage of anaesthetic.
A combination of several drugs may be given by injection to make your dog feel sleepy and free of any pain. There are also other ways to give anaesthetic, but the intravenous one is the most common.
The effects of the commonly used anaesthetics are quite rapid. Additional anaesthetic and oxygen may be supplied directly into the windpipe. The dosage of this additional anaesthetic can be adjusted in order to maintain a safe and efficient level. Various sensors will monitor the anaesthetic level.
The area of incision will be shaved and thoroughly sterilised before the surgery.
The usual site of the incision is just in front of the scrotum. The vet will have to remove several layers of tissue that cover the actual testicles. The spermatic cord and selected larger blood vessels will have to be tied off before the removal of the testicles. The layers will be closed up with sutures. It’s more convenient if the sutures are placed under the skin as they can dissolve by themselves and your dog will not bother them.
Partly descended testicle needs to be removed separately through another incision. If the testicle didn’t descend at all and if it’s still located in the abdomen, it can be removed only by opening up the abdomen, which makes the whole surgery much more complicated. The recovery time of such surgery is also significantly longer than if both testicles were fully descended before the surgery.
The scrotum is usually not removed during surgery, but it will gradually shrink as times passes.
After the surgery
When the procedure is over, the source of anaesthetic is removed and your pup begins to wake up. The intubation will be removed from his windpipe when as soon as he reaches a higher level of wakefulness.
Your dog will most probably feel quite drowsy and will sleep a lot in order to sleep off the rests of the anaesthetic. The nurse will monitor your pup closely during recovery. He will be allowed to go home first when he is able to walk unaided.
When your dog gets home you should try to prevent him from licking the wound. You may use a plastic bucket-collar if necessary. Make sure your dog gets enough rest and limit his exercise. Excessive post-surgery activity can open your pup’s incision.
Monitoring the wound is important. If there is a little swelling after the operation on the scrotum or around that’s normal. However, if the swelling seems excessive, call your veterinarian and ask about his opinion. Other things to monitor after the surgery include any signs of infection, redness, odour or discharge from the wound. If you notice any of these signs, it’s also recommended to contact your vet.
Your vet may also give your Lab some pain relief drugs. These can be given in the form of liquid or tablets. Antibiotics may prescribed if there are complications. If you administer all post-surgical drugs according to your vet’s recommendations, your dog will experience only minimal post-operational discomfort. If your vet told you so you should administer pain medications even if your pup doesn’t seem to be in pain.
If there are undissolvable stitches you will have to visit your vet after a week or so and he will remove them. Follow-up checks are also a standard procedure.
If there are no extreme complications your dog should feel fine within 2 weeks of the surgery. (1)
Are there any risks associated with the castration?
Every surgery has some risks involved. Castration is not an exception.
The most common risks and complications include infection, excessive bleeding, hematoma, opening of the wound and other conditions.
There are also certain risks associated with the administration of anesthesia. These risks include stroke, pneumonia, heart attack, high blood pressure etc.
Recent medical studies recommend delaying Labrador castration until they are fully grown, which happens when they have around 18-24 months of age. This radically reduces the risk of developing hip dysplasia and other joint disorders as well as certain types of cancer.