Castration or Neutering
(also known as "brain surgery")

Why, When,
and a few choices we want you to make
before the surgery
Why Neutering is such a good choice
Why What & When:

We encourage that ALL male pets be neutered except for the few exceptionally smart, calm, personable, and healthy few that you want to breed. 

1.  Neutered dogs are much less likely to spend half their day lifting their leg on everything.  Neutered cats are much less likely to mark urine all over your house.

2.  Neutered male cats and dogs are much less likely to roam, prowl, and get into trouble.  Roaming make not sound like too big a problem, but it's probably the #1 cause of death when you realize that a high number of roaming dogs get hit by cars, shot at, attacked by other dogs protective of "their" territory, and picked up by dog catcher

3.  Neutered cats and dogs are much, much less likely to fight.  At least one case a day at our clinic involves expensive surgery and antibiotics treating severe bite wounds.  Dog and cat fights often lead to bad relations with your neighbors.  And life for a non neutered, outdoor cat can mean a lifetime of wounds from pecking order and territory fights.  A life that is nasty, brutish, and short. (Hobbes)

4.  You might already know this, but the urge to have sex can be very strong.  And sex causes pregnancy !  And dogs and cats have LOTS of babies when they get pregnant.  Often 10 or more a year.

As a result, there are WAY MORE puppies and kittens born each year than there are comfortable, loving homes.

And as a result thousands of pets are killed each year by our shelter system.  And when I say thousands... I'm talking just in our sparsely populated Oconee County.

Thanks to the efforts of many volunteer organizations, every one of our local veterinarians and their staffs, and our county shelters the push to spay and neuter, breed less, and adopt more is helping to get our pet over-population tragedy under control.  But success still relies mostly on each pet owner being responsible and willing to neuter their pets at the appropriate time.  

In summary, neutering makes your male pet less frustrated, much less likely to be injured, and guaranteed to not result in unwanted pets that roam the streets or get put down at the shelter.

Oh, I forgot something;  Neutered pets also get to avoid all the painful, expensive, and sometimes deadly diseases of the reproductive tract.  No prostate problems or cancer in males.  No uterine infections (very common), breast cancer, or ovarian cancer in females.  Fewer bladder infections.  And once again, a lot fewer wounds due to fighting.

What: .  This surgery removes the testicles from the scrotum, thereby removing the major source of testosterone as well as the ability to make sperm.  It's a simple procedure and unlike human males, there doesn't seem to be any emotional attachment.

When: Shelters frequently castrate kittens and puppies as early as 8 weeks old, but the very best time is after puppy or kitten vaccines have been completed, after the young pet's immune system is working well, but before sexual puberty.  
That means the best time is between 4 and 6 months of age for both male kittens and puppies.  Castrating pets older than this is fine too but it may not be in time to prevent unwanted male behavior such as marking, roaming, and fighting.

The disadvantages are few but straight forward: 

1.  It costs the pet owner $6-215 depending on whether the neutering is subsidized by fund raising groups or tax paying citizens and on whether you keep the surgery very basic or spend a little extra to make the experience as safe and comfortable as possible.

2.  There's often a little post op swelling, inflammation, or discomfort for a few days.  This can be minimized with post op laser therapy, pain medications, and common sense post op care.  Most pets, however, especially if the surgery is done prior to puberty as we suggest, are running around like nothing happened within a few hours.

3.  And of course, you won't be able to have puppies from a castrated pet.

Here's what to expect when you bring your dog in for castration .... and about some choices you need to make regarding the safety and comfort of your pet during this surgery.

Here's what happens:

Check In:  We usually ask you to drop your pet off during the morning before 11 am on an empty stomach.  That means no solid food for about 9 hours prior to surgery.  Pick up is usually between 5 and 6 in the evening of the same day.

Consent Form:  Anesthesia and surgery is serious business.  A responsible adult will be asked to sign a consent form designed to inform you that of course there are some risks and expenses involved. It would be great if you would print this out and bring it with you if your pet is coming in for surgery soon.
Click here to preview our general anesthesia and surgery consent form  It would be great if you read and printed this form out prior to the surgery

The information pertinent to neutering is nicely summarized below but if you want more details, I've written a page discussing the choices you will have to make for your pet if it needs surgery

Presurgical exam to make sure your pet is healthy prior to surgery.
Note; This is not a major work up for your pet's skin problems, diarrhea, and so forth ... it's a presurgical exam designed to make sure your pet's hydration, blood pressure, temperature, pupil response, mucus membranes, pulse, heart, & lung sounds indicate a "go" for anesthesia.  (Included in surgery fee)

Choosing Pre-Anesthetic blood work package:  
This is the first big choice you need to make.

Lab Choice # 1:  to make sure we don't lose a patient to some of the more common dangers whenever anesthesia and surgery is involved, we should at least screen for 
kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, and anemia.  The cost is $45 for these 4 tests.

Lab Choice # 2:  If it weren't for money, it would be much better medicine and safer to your pet to also check for infection, protein levels (critical for healing), platelet levels (critical for clotting), and electrolyte levels.  For $95 we can do all these tests plus the 4 screening tests in choice #1, plus some additional tests to get an even better evaluation of the liver and kidneys.... both organs being critical for metabolizing anesthetic agents.
We will probably insist on this higher level of testing if your pet is older, sickly, malnourished, or a high risk breed.

Choice # 3:  You can decline doing any lab work if you must save the money.  And if your pet is young and healthy, the vast majority of pets have no complications.  But anesthesia and surgery are both serious and occasionally deadly when things go wrong.
You need to sign a liability release if you decline blood work.

Choosing the type of anesthesia:  

Anesthesia Choice # 1:  Injectable anesthetic agents.  Convenient and inexpensive.
This is what I recommend and use on the majority of young, healthy pets being castrated simply because the surgery is simple and quick and problems are fairly rare... especially if the blood work comes up clean.  The cost is $65 for most patients.

Anesthesia Choice # 2:  Isoflorane GAS Anesthesia.  A little more expensive ($90 for most patients), but safer for high risk patients, and very rapid recovery.  Pre-Anesthetic sedation, induction medications, an open IV line, EKG, electronic monitoring of vital signs, & oxygen therapy are all included with this choice.

The Surgical Procedure:  $75 for cats     $95 for dogs  (not including anesthesia)
The procedure itself is the same for every patient.  Clean, carefully, quickly and skillfully done.

Extra: Morphine, Domitor, or Anesthetic Reversing Agents are sometimes needed:

Hospitalization and careful monitoring during recovery:  no extra charge 

Post Op Pain Medications to take home: 
Most sexually immature pets don't seem to have much pain after their castration. But it's got to hurt at least a little.   And sexually mature pets definitely experience mild to moderate discomfort after this surgery.  Minimizing pain is a must unless you want to go to purgatory. $3-10

Some other options to consider:  

Post Op Laser Therapy: 
Laser therapy greatly reduces post op swelling, inflammaiton, and discomfort.
Highly recommended.  Just $15

Very easy to insert and greatly increases the chance of getting your pet safely home should it run away or get snatched.  $32 including registration

Dewclaw removal (Dogs):  Mostly done for cosmetic reasons but removal also keeps them from getting snagged and torn later in life.  $15 each

Other Stuff:  Extraction of retained baby teeth, ear cleaning, toe nail trimming, and other minor requests:  $0-10

And finally: 

Follow up recheck if there are any problems: Usually no charge

Suture removal 10-14 days after the surgery:  No charge for dogs, and not needed for male cats

If you're anxious...

We know a lot of you are very anxious and worried about the dangers and expenses of leaving your pet for surgery.

We know a lot of you are worried about your pet's fear, anxiety, and stress while away from home and about the fear and pain associated with recovering from surgery.

We take these concerns quite seriously, and as you will discern from reading this page, much of our standard protocol is devoted to maximizing anesthetic safety and having a smooth, quick, pain free recovery.

As for any worries about expenses, there aren't any surprises; we've listed our fees and will gladly give you an estimate for anything we do at our hospital.

And as for the comfort of your pet during it's stay with us before, during, and after surgery, you simply have to trust us to care as much as we do.  

In addition to simply being compassionate and caring, we have policies and facilities designed to prevent escapes, injuries, and infection while at our hospital.  

We are big believers in pain management, and big believers in pre-anesthetic sedation not only because it reduces the amount of anesthetic needed but also because it makes most patients calm and blissful.

Shelters and high volume neuter clinics can do a cheaper job, especially if subsidized with tax money, but a shelter surgery won't include all the steps, tests, pain medications, and care that we (and most other vets in our area) take to make sure that your pet will have a successful and positive experience.

Thanks again, 
Roger Ross DVM