Dog Neuter Recovery: What to Expect

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Published: July 29, 2021

Neutering is the term used for getting a male dog “fixed” or castrated. The surgery involves removal of the testicles and results in surgical sterilization of your dog so they cannot make puppies. 

Why neuter your dog? Beside the fact that neutering will help with the problem of dog overpopulation, neutering at a young age can help prevent testicular cancer and prostate issues, as well as behavioral issues like roaming and marking that are part of the mating cycle. 

Puppies from shelters may be neutered as early as 8 weeks of age, but it's common to wait until your puppy is 6-24 months of age due to all the factors involved. 

The decision on when to neuter your dog should be made in conjunction with a veterinarian. There are several factors to take into consideration when making this choice, including genetic predisposition to disease, behavioral considerations, environmental factors, and medical needs. Your vet will advise you on the best time for your dog to be neutered.

What’s the Procedure for Neutering a Dog?

The procedure for neutering a dog can be performed in a few different ways. 

The procedure chosen will depend on whether the testicles, or male sex organs, have descended into your dog’s scrotum. Testicles start inside the dog's abdomen and gradually make their way to the scrotum early in life. 

In some cases, the testicles don’t descend, or only one descends normally. Your veterinarian will check for this at puppy exams and make a surgery plan for your dog based on their findings. 

Standard Neuter Procedure: Both Testicles Descended

When both testicles are descended in a dog’s scrotum, a small incision will be made on the underside of their belly, just below the penis and in front of the scrotum. 

Stitches may be absorbable or buried under the skin with no removal necessary. Stitches may also be placed in the skin and require removal by your vet, usually 10-14 days after surgery. 

Neutering a Dog With Two Retained Testicles

If your dog has one or two retained testicles, the surgical incision may be made elsewhere. Where the incision is made will depend on where the testicles are located. 

The testicles can be located just under the skin and tissues to either side of the penis (called the inguinal area), or deeper down, near the entrance to the abdomen (called the inguinal ring or canal). 

Your dog’s testicles may also still be inside their abdomen. In this case, the incision will be larger on the underside of your dog’s belly, usually from just below the belly button to in front of the penis or extended down the side. This version of the procedure is an intra-abdominal procedure similar to a spay, which means the veterinarian must go inside your dog’s belly to remove their testicles. 

Dog Neuter Recovery Checklist

Follow this checklist to support recovery from neutering a dog. 

During the dog neuter recovery period, call your vet immediately if you see any of the following, since these can be signs of a surgical complication:

  • Refusing food

  • Discharge or swelling at the surgical sites

  • Opening of the surgical sites

  • Sluggishness

  • Changes in breathing rate 

  • Pale gums

  • Vomiting or diarrhea 

  • Pain

  • Difficulty using the bathroom

Restrict Your Dog’s Activity for 1-2 Weeks

Your vet will give you instructions for how to rest your dog post-surgery, including specific instructions on whether they want a longer period of rest. Vets will usually recommend leash walks with a gradual return to regular exercise after the 10-day mark. 

Use an E-Collar and Check the Incision Daily

An E-collar will prevent your dog from licking their incision and needs to be kept on at all times, or as instructed by your veterinarian.  

You’ll be asked to monitor the surgical site daily for swelling, redness, or discharge. If you see any of these signs or notice that the incision has opened or stitches have come loose, check in with your dog’s vet. 

Check For Swelling in the Scrotum

Monitor your dog’s scrotum (the bag of skin that contains the testes) daily for swelling. If your dog returns to activity too soon or has a bleeding complication, the scrotal tissue can become full of blood. This is called a scrotal hematoma. Hematomas can lead to infection or even opening of the surgical site.

If you see swelling in the scrotum area, contact your dog’s vet right away. 

Give Your Dog Prescribed Pain Medication

Medications to manage pain should be given as instructed. The goal is to prevent pain, which your vet can help with through a pain-management plan. 

Watch for Changes in Your Dog’s Appetite

Feed your dog according to your veterinarian’s instructions. While some dogs may not want to eat the evening they go home, they should be interested in their next morning meal.

If your dog refuses food, their appetite changes, or you see any of the signs of surgical complications mentioned above, call your vet right away. 

Monitor Your Dog’s Bathroom Habits

Pay attention to your dog’s ability to pee and poop after surgery. When you pick your dog up after surgery, ask your vet whether they’ve used the bathroom yet. 

Not urinating in the first 24 hours at home may be a sign of a surgical complication and warrants a check-in with the vet. If your pet has any difficulty going to the bathroom, call your vet.