How to Tell If a Male Dog Was Neutered

Fluffy corgi puppy looks back
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It's common for most pet owners to spay or neuter their newest edition. Behavioral issues with male dogs, in particular, make this a standard minor surgery for most male dogs. The process seems straightforward, but it's not uncommon for a pet owner to return home after a neutering surgery, only to find that it appears that his testicles are still there. Did your vet forget to finish the job or is something else going on?

Or, perhaps you have adopted a male dog and wonder if he has been neutered. 

How to Determine If a Male Dog Has Been Neutered

If you have adopted an older male dog that that was reportedly neutered before you owned him, it is sometimes—but not always—easy to verify this. In addition to the lack of visible testicles in the pet's scrotum (the sack containing the testicles), you should be able to see a scar on the bottom side of the sack, near the front. If you can not see a scar, it does not necessarily mean that the pet was not neutered, since the scars may have healed so well they are hard to see. If you don't see the surgery scars, the only way to make sure is to have your family veterinarian check hormone levels to make certain he is neutered. It's also possible your veterinarian may be able to spot the physical scars that you missed, without running hormone tests.

What May Happen After Neutering

A more puzzling situation occurs when you have taken your male dog in for his surgery, then begin to wonder if the veterinarian did indeed perform the neutering.

It's highly unlikely that your vet would actually forget to neuter your pet. However, the healing process may temporarily make it look like that's what happened. In a dog neuter surgery, also called castration, the scrotum is not usually removed. The incision is made just in front of the scrotum. There are some medical conditions that warrant removal of the scrotal tissue, but that is not the norm.

Sometimes, post-op bleeding can cause a small clot to form inside the scrotum. Swelling of the scrotal and adjacent tissues, either from surgery or post-op licking by the dog, can also add to the appearance that his testicles are still present. 

This is usually nothing to be concerned about. The swelling in the area should resolve within a few days. Physical activity and licking should be kept to a minimum, and, for the persistent lickers, an e-collar may be necessary to prevent problems such as infection and to keep the dog from prematurely removing the sutures. 

When You Should Worry

The incision should not be actively weeping or seeping fluid when you pick up your pet up. Most veterinarians schedule a discharge appointment to go over post-op instructions and care of your dog, and this usually includes a peek at the incision to make sure nothing unusual is present. If you notice bleeding or seeping after you are home, call your veterinarian or the emergency service for advice.

If your dog is continually licking the incision, speak to your vet sooner rather than later about ways to stop this behavior. Left unattended, dogs will inflame the skin and can remove any sutures they may be able to reach.

Licking alone, even if the sutures are damaged, can also increase the chance of infection.

If, after a day or so, the scrotum is very swollen (turgid) and not stabilizing or shrinking, call your veterinarian as soon as possible to rule out an active internal bleeding situation.

Finally, if the scrotal tissue and/or skin around the incision is red, swollen, extra-warm to the touch or weeping with a discharge of any color, please call your veterinarian to re-examine your pet and make sure an infection isn't present. 

A Special Situation

Some male dogs are cryptorchid—a condition in which one or both testicles have not descended into the scrotum but instead stay in the abdominal cavity. In this situation, there will also be an incision on your pet's belly, similar to a spay surgery, which the veterinarian made in order to find and remove the undescended abdominal testicle(s).

You should care for this incision the same way you treat the one on the scrotum.