Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When you take them out, but leave them in.

I had an interesting conversation today.

Actually, I had a lot of interesting conversations today, for the definitions of “interesting” that include “seriously unpleasant, yet necessary,” “horribly painful and depressing,” “same old family drama, different day,” and “you can’t make this shit up.” The one I want to discuss right now, though, was interesting to me because it reminded me yet again how perception differs between individuals, and how the most obvious fact to me can be completely non-obvious to someone else.

Today I saw the new puppy of a long-time client. The puppy was adorable, as puppies generally are. He did take issue with the whole temperature-taking thing, but I’m not 100% sure it was an inappropriate response. We’ll see how he does over the next few weeks. So, I did my exam, and chatted with his people, and was basically wrapping things up as I tend to do by explaining what had been done in the past, what I had found on my exam today, what other things I’d done today, and what needed to be done in the future and when, and I mentioned that generally speaking, I like to neuter male pups at about 6 months old.

Well, that led to a discussion of the fact that the breeder wanted them to neuter the puppy at one year old or later. For the first time ever, y’all, I replied brightly “Oh! The breeder’s a vet? Where did she go to vet school?” They looked at me blankly for a moment and then started laughing. “No, doc. She’s no vet. She wants to breed him is the thing.” “Oh, ok. I didn’t realize he was such a fine genetic specimen. I’m not an expert in the miniature schnoodlehunden breed standard, or anything. I had thought your breeder was one of those breeders who just prefers to neuter everyone really late because they think neutering sooner causes cancer, or growth problems, or whatever it is that they think it causes. You know, there are a couple of issues that have been looked at that may be influenced by pre-pubertal neutering, but generally having reviewed the available data, I think neutering males at 6 months is reasonable and results in a healthy pet with appropriate pet behaviors.” The other owner then said “actually, you’re right. She IS one of those breeders.” I just smiled and said “well, regardless, you have plenty of time to think about it and decide. I’ll have the front desk print you a handout about neutering to take with you.” And THAT is when it got interesting.

The man said “by the way doc, our last dog, you know, Cheeksie - we had him neutered, but they left the testicles in. Can we do that again?” I looked at him blankly this time. “I’m sorry, there must be some misunderstanding. The point of neutering is to remove that hormone source. The testicles are not left in.” He said “well, it was more like a vasectomy then. You know.” I said “I do know what a vasectomy is, but most vets don’t do them.” He tried to tell me we’d done it at our hospital and I told him there was no way that happened. Then a lightbulb went off over my head. “Is it possible that you were simply seeing the empty scrotum, without the testes in place?” and he said “yes! that’s what it was! So, you don’t take that part off then, just the inside?” and I explained that yes, generally speaking, we don’t remove the scrotum. He asked me what made it hang down like it was full, and after a couple of failed attempts to explain I said “forgive me for being crass, but - imagine a breast, after the removal of a breast implant. Wouldn’t there just be an empty breast hanging down, kinda flat?” And then his lightbulb went off and he nodded yes. “That’s great!” he said. “Because I was afraid, you know, you were gonna mutilate him.”

I just laughed and said that generally speaking, we preferred to avoid mutilation at our hospital. He laughed too and everyone was happy.

**Please note: my choice of breast implant as teaching model should in no way suggest any dislike of, disdain for, or other negative attitude directed at any woman who may have had or considered having placement or removal of breast implants at any time. No breasts were harmed in the writing of this blog post.**


  1. Reminds me of one of my favorite stories: Several years ago I a neutered a young dachshound puppy. When he went home the following day, he rolled over on his back so the owner's young daughter could give him a belly rub. She called her mom over and (poking at his empty scrotum) complained that "someone at the vet's office let the air out of my dog!"

  2. I had my doxie neutered at 7 mos. He is now a year old and the sacs have apparently 'sucked it up' as there is no evidence of them every being there. Which I would prefer over empty scrotum!

  3. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. The other volunteers and I noted the packs of wild dogs wandering around, the stray cats, and not one apparently neutered housepet. When one volunteer asked the Chilean family why they didn't neuter their dog, the man flinched. "I could never do that to an animal!" Another family told another volunteer that they wouldn't neuter their cat because how could they deny her the chance to be a mother? Because pets have biological clocks, you know.

  4. I have had a client get a second opinion at another veterinarian because they were absolutely certain that I had left testicles in when their dog was neutered. They claimed that I had probably just made a cut and sutured it back up just to save money and time. She then stated that she used to be a vet tech so she is well aware of what testicles feel like. I took this whole ordeal as an insult not only to my ethics, but to my common sense as well.

    I have a very good relationship with the Dr. who performed the second opinion and he to this day will tell me to be sure that I remove the testicles when I neuter dogs