Surgical castration in dogs: does the incision approach influence postoperative recovery?



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PICO question

In male dogs undergoing surgical castration, does a pre-scrotal approach in comparison to a scrotal approach lead to a superior recovery, in terms of duration of postoperative pain and/or reduced post-operative complications?


Clinical bottom line

Category of research


Number and type of study designs reviewed

Two prospective clinical trials were critically appraised.

Strength of evidence


Outcomes reported

Woodruff et al. (2015) evaluated postoperative recovery in 206 dogs following surgical castration using a scrotal incision in comparison to 231 dogs using a pre-scrotal approach. Complications observed in order of frequency, included: incisional swelling; haemorrhage; pain; and self-trauma, however, apart from self-trauma, complications were not influenced by incision location. Dogs castrated using a scrotal approach had reduced odds of self-trauma (OR: 0.51, P = 0.04, 95% CI 0.27–0.97). Moreover, mean duration of surgery was faster for the scrotal versus the pre-scrotal approach (3.6 minutes, P<0.01, 95% CI 3.38–3.82 versus 5.1 minutes, 95% CI 4.86–5.41).

Miller et al. (2018) evaluated complication rates following open or closed castration using a scrotal approach in 400 shelter dogs under the age of 6 months. Complications involving intra-operative bleeding were not observed, while marginal rates of post-operative events were reported, including peri-incisional dermatitis (2.3%), skin bruising (1.0%), and swelling (0.3%). No self-trauma or rescue analgesia was recorded. In comparing surgical time, the mean duration was 1 minute ± 0.2 minutes in dogs undergoing scrotal surgery, in comparison to canine patients undergoing the same procedure using a pre-scrotal approach, where the mean duration was 3.5 minutes ± 0.4 minutes.


The outcomes of these two studies imply that a scrotal incisional approach in canine castration is at least no worse in the first 24 hours than a traditional pre-scrotal approach and may also reduce mean duration of surgery. However, limitations to the evidence do not permit a firm conclusion and it also remains unclear whether these advantages persist in the longer postoperative period. Further research is needed to confirm initial findings suggested here.


How to apply this evidence in practice

The application of evidence into practice should take into account multiple factors, not limited to: individual clinical expertise, patient’s circumstances and owners’ values, country, location or clinic where you work, the individual case in front of you, the availability of therapies and resources.

Knowledge Summaries are a resource to help reinforce or inform decision making. They do not override the responsibility or judgement of the practitioner to do what is best for the animal in their care.


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Miller, K.P, Rekara, W.L., DeTar, L.G., Blanchette, J.M. & Milovancev, M. (2018). Evaluation of sutureless scrotal castration for pediatric and juvenile dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 253(12), 1589–1593. DOI:

McGreevy, P.D., Wilson, B., Starling, M.J. & Serpell, J.A. (2018). Behavioural risks in male dogs with minimal lifetime exposure to gonadal hormones may complicate population-control benefits of desexing. PLoS ONE. 13(5), e0196284. DOI:

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Woodruff, K., Rigdon-Brestle, K., Bushby, P.A., Wills, R. & Huston, C. (2015). Scrotal castration versus pre-scrotal castration in dogs. Veterinary Medicine. 110(5), 131–135.

Vol. 7 No. 4 (2022): The fourth issue of 2022

Section: Knowledge Summaries

Categories :  Small Animal  /  Dogs  /  Cats  /  Rabbits  /  Production Animal  /  Cattle  /  Sheep  /  Pig  /  Equine  /  Exotics  /