Pet ownership comes with an array of fun and enjoyable encounters as well as daunting—and sometimes unpleasant—responsibilities. Your dog is a part of your family, after all, and everyone knows that families go through triumphs and difficulties together. One necessary yet challenging event that many male dog owners will experience at one point is having their furry friend neutered. Putting your dog under the knife may not be something you look forward to, but it’s an important part of keeping your dog healthy while contributing to the wellbeing of your community. Check out these facts from the friendly team at Penny Paws Animal Clinic about having your dog neutered as well as how to help him heal at home with the help of an E-collar.

What is Neutering?

When a male dog is neutered or castrated, his testicles are surgically removed, preventing him from being able to reproduce. In general, neutering can be performed anytime after four months of age, although some pets are safely neutered even earlier in life. There are many factors involved in determining the best age to neuter a dog, including size, breed, and genetic history. Regardless of your dog’s age, breed, or background, it’s important for him to be examined by a veterinarian before he undergoes surgery. Our veterinary team can help you decide on an appropriate neutering plan for your dog. 

Why Should I Have My Dog Neutered?

The idea of bringing your dog in for surgery can be overwhelming for some people. You may ask yourself if neutering is really necessary. While some dog owners may be hesitant to have their pet neutered, or, “fixed,” doing so can have several benefits for you and your pet alike. 

#1. Neutering Prevents Reproduction

First and foremost, getting your dog neutered will prevent him from impregnating an unspayed dog (or several). While the idea of having six to ten miniature versions of your four-legged buddy may sound appealing, it’s important to remember that a litter of puppies also comes with an array of inconvenient responsibilities, if you aren’t prepared for them. To avoid dealing with an unwelcome surprise later, you may choose to neuter your dog sooner.

#2. Neutering May Reduce Unwanted Behaviors

It’s not uncommon for male dogs to exhibit annoying behaviors as they become sexually mature, such as roaming and mounting other animals and objects. Fortunately, having your dog neutered can greatly minimize these pesky behaviors, especially if the surgery is performed earlier in life. Additionally, intact dogs can often act aggressively toward other dogs when searching for a female partner to mate with, but neutering may discourage this dominant behavior since it eliminates the production of hormones that lead to it. 

#3. Neutering Lowers His Risk of Certain Cancers

Did you know that neutering can reduce your dog’s risk of developing cancer? It’s true. While rare, testicular cancer can occur in male dogs, just as it can in humans. But, by surgically removing these organs, testicular cancer is one less disease you’ll have to worry about your pet contracting.

#4. Neutering Saves Money in the Long Run

Having your dog “fixed” can be a money-saving solution. While you’ll have to front the initial cost of surgery, preventing your dog from reproducing means there will be fewer homeless puppies (and pregnant mothers) that you’ll need to support. Additionally, a reduction in aggressive behavior may mean fewer altercations with other dogs, fewer injuries, and, subsequently, fewer veterinary bills. 

What Are Some Misconceptions About Neutering in Dogs?

While getting your pets “fixed” has become more widely accepted in recent years, there are still numerous misconceptions surrounding the topic.  Some claim that spaying or neutering will make dogs gain weight or impact their personality. These are simply not true. It is recommended that dogs who have been reproductively altered eat about 20 percent less than they would if they remained intact, however, an active dog should not gain a substantial amount of weight simply due to neutering. Likewise, neutering your dog shouldn’t have a negative impact on their personality. Neutered dogs are less likely to exhibit undesirable behaviors, such as urine marking or aggression, depending on when the surgery is performed.

When Can I Take My Dog’s E-Collar Off After Surgery?

After your dog is neutered, he will likely be sent home with a plastic cone known as an Elizabethan collar or e-collar. This protective cone is worn around the neck to prevent licking or biting at the incision as it heals. While it’s easy to pity a pet struggling with an e-collar, you must follow your veterinarian’s directions and leave the cone on until you are directed to remove it. Usually, it takes about 14 days for the incision to completely heal.

If your dog has trouble eating or drinking with his cone on, it’s acceptable to remove it at mealtimes, however, this should always be done under supervision and it should be replaced immediately after eating. Even if your dog looks sad or annoyed that he can’t lick or scratch his incision, it’s never a good idea to take his cone off and allow him to do so. Healing incisions can easily become opened or infected in just a few licks, leading to potentially complicated treatments, discomfort, and added costs. Additionally, healing complications will inevitably lead to prolonged cone-wearing. 

Can My Dog Sleep With an E-Collar On?

Your dog should be able to sleep comfortably with an e-collar. While there may be a minor adjustment period as he gets used to the contraption, plan to keep it on him for the two weeks following his surgery or until your veterinarian says it’s safe to remove—including during sleep. It may be tempting to remove the cone so your pet can rest easier, but doing so may lead him to lick or bite his incision when you’re not looking. He might seem confused or uncomfortable at first, but he will eventually find a way to rest. Most e-collars are flexible enough to shift or bend when lying down, making most pets able to easily rest in no time. Plus, you need to be able to sleep peacefully at night without having to worry about your pet bothering his wound.

If your dog normally sleeps in a crate, pay attention to his demeanor before insisting he sleep there. What may have previously been his favorite place to hang may now be an afterthought given his new e-collar and any post-surgical discomfort he may be experiencing. Rather than force him to sleep in a particular spot,  follow his lead in terms of where he’d like to rest. Offer multiple resting areas around the home so he can find one he likes best. Once he starts feeling like himself again, you can go back to your normal routine, including crate training.

Practical Tips to Help Your Dog Heal While Wearing an E-Collar

After your dog has been neutered, your primary goal should be to help him heal. Check out these practical tips to keep your pup’s healing process as quick and smooth as possible.

#1. Avoid Baths

Your dog’s incision will be held together by either internal or external sutures, which need to remain dry to work properly. If your pup’s wound gets wet, it is more likely to get infected, extending his recovery time. If your dog is dirty or smelly, do your best to spot clean only the necessary areas, avoiding the incision. If possible, postpone bathing altogether until his incision is completely healed and his sutures are removed (if applicable).

#2. Limit Exercise

Taking your dog for short leash walks during his recovery is fine, but long walks or hikes should be avoided. Rough playing, running, and jumping also put your dog at risk of incision complications and delayed healing. To prevent this from happening, it’s best to take it easy until your pup is back to normal and cone-free.

#3. Keep Him Away from Other Pets

Socializing with other pets should be avoided as much as possible while your dog is healing from surgery. Playing too heavily could irritate or tear your dog’s incision and, since dogs tend to sniff and lick each other’s wounds, this could also cause problems for your recovering pup. If you have other pets in the household, confining your dog to a separate area of the home while he is healing may be a good idea.  

#4. Monitor the Incision Regularly

Get into the habit of looking at your dog’s incision at least twice a day for signs of infection. The area should appear clean and dry with all sutures intact. If your pet has internal sutures only, you won’t be able to visualize them, but the incision edges should line up evenly without any gaps. In the early days of healing, the area may appear pink and slightly swollen, but this should normalize as healing progresses. To make sure you don’t forget to check the incision, plan to do so after his morning and evening meals. This is also a wonderful opportunity to show your dog extra affection and comfort as he may be slightly stressed or uncomfortable during the postoperative period.

#5. Call Your Veterinarian if Negative Side Effects Emerge

If you notice anything concerning about your dog’s incision site, such as redness, a foul odor, missing sutures, unexpected bleeding, or unusual discharge, contact your veterinarian right away. Likewise, be sure to pay attention to your dog’s behavior. If you believe he is in pain or is difficult to keep calm, call your veterinarian for guidance.

How to Help Your Dog Love (Or, at Least Tolerate) His E-Collar

It’s no surprise that most dogs hate wearing a cone around their neck, and we don’t blame them. While it’s an important step to ensure they heal properly, wearing a cone can still be an inconvenience for dogs and their owners alike. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your dog more comfortable while keeping his incision safe. He may never love his e-collar, but he can learn to tolerate it.

#1. Choose the Right E-Collar

Choose a cone collar that is neither too large nor too small for your dog. When looking at the length of the e-collar, a proper fit will extend to the length of the nose (or slightly longer), so that he cannot reach around it to bite or lick the affected area. If your chosen e-collar is too long, it may be cumbersome for your pet to walk or rest. It’s possible to trim the edges with scissors for a custom fit, but be sure not to cut it too short. You should be able to slide the cone on and off of your dog’s neck fairly easily, and it should stay secure with a gauze tie or when adhered to a neck collar. Most e-collars have an adjustable neck that can be modified to fit each individual pet. If you need help with e-collar sizing, your veterinarian can help. 

#2. Walk By His Side

Your dog may seem disoriented as he tries to navigate familiar spaces while sporting a cone, especially during the first 24 hours after his surgery. To ensure that he can go upstairs, get in his crate, and walk around your home comfortably, guide him as he tries to find his favorite toys, get to his bed, or relieve himself. 

#3. Protect Him

Your dog’s e-collar may draw unwanted attention from other dogs and children. Don’t put your dog in a compromising situation by allowing strange animals or kids to approach him when he is healing from surgery. Instead, do your best to keep him isolated until he is fully recovered.

#4. Pamper Him

As with any surgical procedure, your pup may not feel great for the first few days after being neutered. It’s perfectly normal for an otherwise jovial, energetic dog to be less active in the postoperative period. With this in mind, try giving him a bit more affection than usual, if he is comfortable with it. Doing so won’t only boost his spirits, but it may help him feel more comfortable while wearing his new accessory.

Patience is the Key to Proper Healing

Your dog’s e-collar will play a significant role in his healing process after being neutered, but so will how you, his owner, look after him. Aside from keeping the cone on around the clock, the best thing you can do for your pup as he recovers is to be patient. Healing takes time—trying to rush the process will only backfire and make it take even longer.

For more information on the benefits of dog neutering and tips to help make wearing an e-collar more comfortable, the experienced team at Penny Paws Animal Clinic can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your four-legged friend.