Benefits and risks of neutering pets – what is the evidence – Surgical options

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Surgical options

Published 27 November 2020 | Updated 16 May 2024

  • Shivley, J.M. et al. (2024) A randomized trial to compare smooth monofilament suture vs. barbed suture using the three-layer continuous closure technique in canine ovariohysterectomy in a high-quality high-volume spay/neuter clinic. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 11.
  • Souza, A. et al. (2023) Dexmedetomidine alone or combined with morphine for epidural anesthesia in bitches undergoing elective ovariohysterectomy. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, 53-54, 100775.
  • Tavares, I.T. et al. (2023) Premedication with acetazolamide: Is its use for postoperative pain and stress control after laparoscopic ovariectomy in dogs ruled out? Veterinary Medicine and Science.
  • Kramer, B.M. et al. (2022) Anesthetic and analgesic techniques used for dogs undergoing ovariohysterectomies in general practice in the United States. Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia.
  • Pecile, A. et al.(2021) Immunohistochemical insights into a hidden pathology: canine cryptorchidism. Theriogenology, 176, pp. 43-53.

Once the decision to neuter has been made there are still decisions to be taken regarding the most appropriate technique.

  • Tivers, M.S. (2005) Questionnaire study of canine neutering techniques taught in UK veterinary schools and those used in practice. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 46 (9), pp. 430-435
  • DeTora, M. and McCarthy, R.J. (2011) Ovariohysterectomy versus ovariectomy for elective sterilization of female dogs and cats: is removal of the uterus necessary? Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 239 (11), pp. 1409-1412
  • Van Goethem, B., Schaefers‐Okkens, A. and Kirpensteijn, J. (2006) Making a rational choice between ovariectomy and ovariohysterectomy in the dog: a discussion of the benefits of either technique. Veterinary Surgery, 35 (2), pp. 136-143
  • Culp, W.T., Mayhew, P.D. and Brown, D.C. (2009) The effect of laparoscopic versus open ovariectomy on postsurgical activity in small dogs. Veterinary Surgery, 38 (7), pp. 811-817
  • Owen, M.A. et al. (2023) Canine laparoscopic-assisted ovary-sparing hysterectomy does not increase risk of stump pyometra. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • Brunn, A. (2022) Surgical castration in dogs: does the incision approach influence postoperative recovery? Veterinary Evidence, 7 (4), no. 587.

When deciding on a surgical technique, it is also important to consider the possible risks and complications, as these can have a significant effect on animal welfare, client satisfaction and the wellbeing of veterinary staff.

Alongside primary published evidence there are also a number of evidence reviews available relating different surgical options:

  • Pennington, C. (2020) In female dogs undergoing elective neutering is ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy superior? Veterinary Evidence, 5 (2), 303
  • Phypers, C. (2017) In Cats and Dogs Does Laparoscopic Ovariectomy Offer Advantages Over Open Ovariectomy for Postoperative Recovery? Veterinary Evidence, 2 (2), 59
  • Candetoft, M.N. (2020) The incidence of uterine pathology in ovariectomised bitches.
    Veterinary Evidence, 5 (3), 331
  • Stavisky, J. and Brennan, M. (2020) Midline versus flank approach and wound complications in neutering of cats. [BestBETs for Vets][online] Available from: [Accessed 20 November 2020]
  • Doit, H. and Belshaw, Z. (2019) Laparoscopic vs conventional midline approach for dog spays and post-op activity. [BestBETs for Vets][online] Available from: [Accessed 20 November 2020]
  • Espadas‐González, L. et al. (2023) Using complete blood count‐derived inflammatory markers to compare postoperative inflammation in dogs undergoing open or laparoscopic ovariectomy. Veterinary Record, e2835.

As well as looking at complication rates in the published literature it may be helpful to carry out a clinical audit of complications following routine neutering in your own practice. You can benchmark your own practice by contributing to the National Audit for Small Animal Neutering

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