Surgical Procedures 

Do you want to know more about having your dog castrated ?

To help you understand what happens when your dog is castrated we are going to use Fritz as an example. Fritz is a miniature wire-haired Dachshund who belongs to our senior partner Tim Lawrence. Tim decided to have Fritz castrated to stop him wandering off chasing bitches in season, and to stop him fathering potentially unwanted litters of puppies. Castration would also prevent testicular cancer and reduce the risk of prostate problems that Fritz could suffer from when he gets older.

Your dog will be admitted in the morning by one of our nurses and will then be given a thorough clinical examination by the operating vet to make sure that both testicles are descended and that he is healthy enough for the anaesthetic. This didn't happen to Fritz because he belonged to the operating vet! After admission Fritz was given a "pre-med", a combination of a sedative and a strong painkiller to relax him and to reduce the amount of anaesthetic needed. He was also given an injection of metacam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkiller which reduces pain and swelling after the operation.

Once the pre-med had taken effect Fritz was put under general anaesthesia. Tim first injected propofol into the vein in Fritz's front leg which caused him to lose consciousness. An endotracheal tube was then placed down his windpipe and connected to an anaesthetic circuit and machine so that Fritz could breathe anaesthetic gas and oxygen and the nurse could control the depth of anaesthesia. Tim clipped the hair away from Fritz's scrotum and the area between the scrotum and penis. Fritz was then moved from the prep room into one of our surgical theatres.

Tim scrubbed his hands until sterile (this takes five minutes) and then put on sterile surgical gloves. Meanwhile the nurse scrubbed Fritz's surgical area until this was sterile. Both Tim and Fritz were now ready for surgery. Tim cut through the skin and tissue in front of the scrotum and pushed one testicle up from the scrotum and out through this cut. The testicle could now be released, and clamps were placed across the spermatic cord. 

The spermatic cord contains the tube for carrying semen and the blood supply to and from the testicle. The cord was then ligated with an absorbable suture material before being cut; the end was then checked for any bleeding before being released back into the body. The procedure was repeated with the other testicle, which was removed through the same incision. The wound was then closed with nylon skin sutures which marked the end of the procedure. Once Fritz began to wake up he was taken back to his kennel where the kennel nurse watched him carefully to make sure that he recovered without any problems. Fritz was ready to go home within a few hours, managed to eat a light meal and was back to his normal self the next day. 

Some dogs may only have one testicle in their scrotum. We call these dogs “cryptorchid”. The undescended testicle may be present beneath the skin in the groin – this is removed through an incision directly over the testicle whilst the descended testicle is removed through the incision described above. The undescended testicle can also sometimes be found inside the dog’s abdomen and this requires an incision and exploration of the abdomen.

Normally we ask to see dogs two days after castration for a post-op check, but Tim was able to check Fritz at home. It is normal for the scrotum to swell up afterwards (some people have even phoned us to ask if we actually removed the testicles!). At the post-op check the nurse will check the wound to make sure the stitches are in place and there is no excessive swelling or infection present. If there are signs that your dog has been licking his wound the nurse may suggest that he wears a buster collar (the plastic lampshade-like contraption). Ten days after the operation Fritz had his stitches removed by Tim; your dog will need to come back to us to have this done. Fritz's scrotum slowly reduced in size in the weeks following his castration.

Do you want to know more about having your bitch spayed?

We would like to help you understand what is involved when your bitch is spayed (neutered), and to do this we are going to use Stuart and Martha as an example. Stuart is one of our vet nurses, and Martha is his Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who was spayed in May 2012.

Stuart decided to have Martha spayed for several reasons. Spaying removes the uterus (womb) and ovaries, and all associated reproductive hormones. Martha no longer comes into season, so cannot be mated and produce potentially unwanted puppies. Martha will not develop a pyometra when she is older, which is a life-threatening infection of the uterus. Because Stuart chose to have Martha spayed when she was young, her risk of developing mammary tumours has been significantly reduced.

What happened on the day?

Martha was admitted by one of the nurses, before being checked by the operating vet, who made sure that she was healthy, and had regular heart and lung sounds. She was then given a "pre-med" injection, a combination of a sedative and a strong pain-killer to relax her, provide some pain relief before the operation even started and to reduce the anaesthetic dose needed later. An injection of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain-killer (Metacam) was also given at this point. An intravenous catheter was inserted into one of her front legs, so that, in the very rare case of an anaesthetic or surgical emergency we could have given drugs or fluids straight away. You will be pleased to know that this was just a precaution and wasn’t needed during Martha’s operation!

Once the pre-med had its effect, the operating nurse (Stuart) and veterinary surgeon worked together to induce general Informative image: Martha under Anaestheticanaesthesia. An induction agent (propofol) was injected through the catheter which caused her to fall asleep quickly, before an endotracheal tube was placed down her throat and windpipe to maintain an open airway. Anesthetic gas was then delivered by a special anaesthetic machine. As all this was happening Stuart monitored her breathing and heart rate, and adjusted the flow of anaesthetic gas accordingly. Her tummy was clipped so that the surgical site could be cleaned ready for surgery. Martha was then moved from the prep room into one of our surgical theatres.

In theatre her tummy was "scrubbed" - cleaned until sterile and ready for surgery. Meanwhile, the vet scrubbed his hands and arms until sterile, and put on sterile surgical gloves. Martha was then covered in drapes so that only the operating site was exposed. Surgery was now ready to begin!

The vet started by cutting through the skin on the middle of the tummy, followed by the fat and connective tissue, before reaching the muscle layer underneath. Once the muscle is cut the vet has reached the abdominal cavity and then identified the uterus (womb), and ovaries. The uterus in dogs is a Y-shaped structure starting at the cervix, then dividing into two long horns each attaching to an ovary. The ovaries and cervix have a huge blood supply, which must be tied off (or ligated) - the most technical and dangerous part of the procedure. Once the blood supply was ligated, the ovaries and uterus were removed. The abdominal cavity was checked for any bleeding, and the muscle layer was sewn closed with a special type of dissolvable but very strong suture material (vicryl). The fatty layer was then closed, followed by the skin. Nylon skin sutures (stitches) were placed in the skin. Some owners may prefer to have "intradermal" sutures, which are special dissolvable sutures buried just inside the skin, so that no stitches can be seen once she wakes up.

At this point the anaesthetic gas was turned off, and Martha woke up slowly and gently. Once she was able to swallow again the endotracheal tube was removed, and she was taken back to her kennel. The kennel nurse monitored her carefully as she slept off the anaesthetic. Once awake and alert she was offered some food, which she was more than happy to eat. Different dogs take longer to recover from anaesthetics, so the kennel nurse watched her carefully. If your dog is in for spaying the kennel nurse will phone you when she is ready to go home. Martha went home with a buster collar (lamp-shade!) that went over her head to stop her licking at the wound, which can delay healing and cause infection. She also went home with a liquid painkiller to go on her food - spaying is a major operation and dogs are much happier in the following days if given pain relief. 

Two days after the operation Stuart gave Martha a post-operative check, to make sure she was comfortable and that the surgical wound was healing well. You will be asked to bring your dog back into the hospital for a post-op check with one of our nurses. Ten days after the operation Martha’s stitches were removed, and she was free to go back to her normal activities.

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