Vasectomy instead of neuter? (for your dog)

By Patty Khuly, DVM on Sep. 30, 2009
Vasectomy instead of neuter? (for your dog)

Well, why the heck not? Though vasectomies are out of favor in the veterinary community (not that they were ever popular), there’s no reason why I wouldn’t consent to snip a bit of tiny tubing through a small incision over taking out the testicles—as long as the owner understands that testosterone and all its effects will still be on hand to work their mysterious charms.

Sure, neutering will typically rid you of the roaming, the pee-peeing over any available surface, freaky behavior around bitches in heat, and the triple terror of testicular tumors, perineal hernias and prostatic enlargement. Yet sometimes owners want just the reproductive issue addressed, thank you very much.

But the jury has spoken—for now, anyway. The veterinary establishment is loath to relinquish its recommendation that full castration (neutering) is the end all and be all when it comes to canine sterilization.

Indeed, vasectomies are so rare that I recall being laughed at by my professor in my Principles of Surgery lecture when I asked whether anyone was performing this technique in lieu of castration. That was fifteen years ago when I was still stupid enough to slink back into my seat and make myself invisible after such an oratory “fiasco.”

Now that I’ve wisely shed such inhibitions, I can proudly proclaim: Vasectomies are surgical procedures, too! They have a place in vet medicine along with the not-so-recommended (but still sometimes necessary) anal gland-ectomy and the feline thyroidectomy. Yes, sometimes they are indicated.

Given the new wave of discussions on the potentially dubious medical benefits of early castration, it seems reasonable to look to vasectomies as a sound solution for those in doubt as to whether a normal neuter is best for their dog. (btw, I'd never question this for cats as their neuter is required for indoor livability and reduction in disease transmission.)

Yesterday’s patient was a perfect example: A young, fit agility dog, this Shepherd mix was all muscle. His owner wanted to ensure his “safety” around her friends’ breeding bitches for a couple more years of competition on full testosterone overdrive. She’d read about vasectomies online and immediately knew “Buddy” needed one.

It just made sense. “No problem—I’ll do it.” Afterwards, I had to wonder: How come more owners don’t ask about this?

Though it’s an easy surgery (far less painful than a routine castration, with fewer complications, to boot), it’s clear that we vets have serious power over what procedures become accepted as the norm. Yet as science advances, as it inexorably does, what was laughed at by a gray-haired professor over a decade ago may just be the most responsible thing I might advocate ten years from now. It remains to be seen.

Three cheers for choice in sterility!

Stay tuned for Monday's post on spay choices. 

Dr. Patty Khuly


Patty Khuly, DVM


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