Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Henry's Big Day. Neutering a Small Breed Dog

Henry and I on Sunday December 1, 2013.
He was at the clinic for our annual Pets With Santa event.
Coincidentally this was the day before his neuter.

Henry is a 7 month old Yorki-Poo. How is quite possibly the cutest scruffy pup you will ever see.

He has been to the clinic almost weekly since his parents adopted him at 8 weeks old.

There are a few important things that a small breed puppy needs.

First, every new puppy (or pet for that matter), should be to visit the vet within their first three days with you.
Bring your puppy and a fresh fecal sample.

Also, bring a list of questions. Your first visit (and every one thereafter), is the time to get your feet solidly in the ground.

For small puppies, (or sensitive dogs), I recommend splitting up vaccines. You are more likely to see a vaccine reaction if you give multiple vaccines. Smaller dogs seem to be more sore after vaccination also. The advantage to splitting them up is that we can reduce the likelihood of soreness and if you do get a reaction you know what vaccine caused it. The disadvantage, well, you have to make more trips to the vet. At my clinic, however, you will not pay for a separate office visit if we decide to split up the vaccines. But this is something to ask at your first visit. The cost of a vaccine is somewhere between $10-$30, but an office visit might be $30-$50, or more.

Another note on vaccines: All vaccines have the potential to cause a reaction. It doesn't really matter how many times a pet has been vaccinated, had the same vaccine, or whether they have never had a problem before. It can happen at anytime and with any vaccine. For this reason, I always recommend that you vaccinate your pet on a day that you can be with them after the vaccines have been given. You should also have the vaccines given as early in the day as is possible. Nothing worries me more than vaccinating a pet with known prior reactions 15 minutes before closing time. The worst reaction (anaphylactic shock, respiratory or cardiac arrest, or even death) is most likely to occur within the first few minutes to hours of the vaccine. Pets with known previous reactions should be watched very closely for a few hours after their visit. Some of my patients stay in the clinic for about 30 minutes after in the reception area so we are steps away from help if needed. Assume a reaction might happen and be prepared for it. But, remember vaccines save countless lives so please keep your pet vaccinated, and if you do have a problem talk to your vet about it. There are lots and lots of options!

At the puppy visits we discuss basic training, housebreaking, leash walking, socializing, behavioral concerns, any special breed health concerns, how to successfully get your pet used to having their teeth brushed and nails trimmed, etc.. We also set up the vaccine schedule for the first four months (or longer if you started late) of age. Spaying and neutering age is usually about 6 months old.

Henry dressed up in our ravens room.
Looking so dapper!
For Henry, like most small breed dogs, we waited and watched for his deciduous (baby) cuspid (canine) teeth to shed. This is never normally a problem in the larger breed dogs, but many smaller  breed puppies do not shed. These can cause significant and severe dental disease, tooth decay and affect overall health and longevity. If the teeth have not fallen out by 9 months old, they probably never will, so they should be removed under general anesthesia either with the spay/neuter or as a separate anesthetic event.

In Henry's case we waited until he was 7 months old in the hopes that they would depart on their own accord.

When they did not we scheduled his neuter and removed them.

Lucky for Henry, our resident dental expert was on hand. She removed his baby teeth as I removed his testicles.

Dr. Hubbard, our resident dental expert works on the front end, while I neuter the back end. Only the luckiest of dogs has two vets to work with them at the same time!

A prefect extraction!
The entire tooth was removed and the adult tooth was not damaged
or jeopardized in the process.

Henry also has vestigial rear dewclaws. Puppies should have these removed between days 2-5 after being born. Henry was not adopted from a breeder who followed this. So we removed them at his neuter.

Many clients ask me about dewclaw removal, (I have been asked to remove them from 10 plus year old dogs). The discussion about removal is multi-factorial and needs to be a discussion with your vet. Don't just ask them to remove them without your vet examining the feet and discussing the surgery.

For Henry the rear dewclaws were not articulated with the foot. They were what I refer to as "just hanging in the breeze." They had nail, but they were small. These nails will grow and bleed if you cut them too close, but becuase they are not held close to the leg they often catch on things and can tear easily. Because they are not articulated (joint and bone attached to the foot) they are easily surgically removed. Removing them at the time of neuter saves having to risk anesthesia and pay for a another surgery.

For those pets with dewclaws that are articulated (tightly adhered to the leg/foot), then we talk about why the client wants them removed. Most clients want them removed because they are cosmetically not pleasing. The client had expected they would have been removed before they adopted their puppy, or they are not comfortable trimming nails. Because these nails are not in contact with the floor they are not worn down naturally so they need to be trimmed. Nails should not be surgically removed because a parent can't (or won't or is afraid to) trim nails. Also those dewclaw that are held tight to the foot (articulated) must be surgically amputated at the joint that is at the very base of the toe. This can often cause a long (anywhere from an inch to multiple inch long) scar. The hair may, or may not grow back over this scar. The cosmetic after may not be as "pleasing" as the owner expects.

Henry's caudal half, post-op. He has some abnormal scrotal erythema (redness) and needed an ice pack post op. He also has two one inch incisions to remove his dangling dewclaws.

Waking up.
I don't bandage the feet unless I am worried about bleeding and want to keep pressure on the incision.

Bandages, in my opinion, are just a cover to hide potential disaster. They get wet, they hold in infection and they provide the perfect hiding place and environment for badness, warmth, humidity, and secrecy! Bandages in my hands are only used for very limited periods of time and under very close supervision. Bandages need to stay dry, be removed as soon as possible if they get wet (water or blood) and never be on longer then a few days.

Now he is awake!

Going home with momma! And an e-collar!
The more incisions you put in a puppy the more they want to investigate them!

Post-operatively for the tooth extractions, Henry should be offered softened food (either add water to dry food and let it sit until softened) or wet food for the first 3-7 days. A healthy mouth will heal very quickly after a tooth extraction, if it is done with minimal trauma, clean techniques, and surgical closure after. 

For the neutering Henry had a cold pack applied to the scrotum to reduce redness and aid in the discomfort of the incision.

For the dewclaws we keep them clean, dry, monitor for infection. Use booties if he goes outside and it is muddy, snowy, etc. 

For more information on puppies;

If you have any pet questions you can find me at Pawbly, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. I was so interested to read what you wrote about vaccinations. I have previously owned two spoodles (the larger one was 9kg) and have never had a Vet suggest to split the vaccinations. Both these dogs suffered reactions (one had facial oedema, the other got achey all over and I had to carry him to the car- these reactions occurred in separate years) that required treatment with cortisone and antihistamine. I live in Australia where, at that stage, we were administering a C5 vaccine yearly. I am pro-vaccination but cautious about it (I actually wrote a blog post about human vaccination last week- http://seekingvictory.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/drugs-are-not-safe-but-they-can-save.html ) and have always spent the day at home with my pets post-shot and received mild ridicule from some Vets when I have mentioned I do this. It is nice to feel supported in my caution.

    I also am really interested in your thoughts about having a puppy checked out thoroughly within 3 days of getting him/her. My current dog is a 14 month old cattle dog x (Blue heeler, Border collie, kelpie plus some other bits). He is a rescue pup and was due for his 16 week vacc about a week after I got him. Despite telling the Vet this, she barely looked at him, she listened to his heart for about 3 seconds and didn't really look at anything else; if she had, she would have been able to tell me that rather than the 16 weeks we thought he was, his growth had been quite stunted by poor nutrition and illness and he was much closer to being 7 months. Instead, this important bit of information was suggested by a pet supplies store staff member when we were playing about with his food to deal with some itchiness (another thing the Vet brushed aside when I mentioned it). I have since found a wonderful Vet that has helped with a number of puppy dramas and given him the full check-up I so desperately wanted as a new pet owner. It is the original Vet I saw that creates the bad reputation you are so often fighting against.

    Also just wanted to thank you for your beautiful, thoughtful response to my comment about my parent's struggle with the euthanasia of their aged renal-failure cocker spaniel. I will show it to them when I see them at Christmas (not on Christmas day obviously:) and hopefully they can get some peace about their decision.

    1. Hello,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your stories.

      It is so important to have a vet that you trust and feel comfortable with. I am so glad that you found one.

      Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday!

      Please keep in touch!