Sounds like an April Fool doesn’t it? But actually, it’s surprisingly common how often people ask us this! We asked our vet blogger Lizzie to look into the question of what happens to “his bits” after they’re removed…

I’ve worked in veterinary practice for over a decade, and there are very few questions left which would surprise me! Pet owners are often understandably curious about what exactly occurs when their pet goes in for surgery, and what happens to their pets’ missing “bits”! In some, this curiosity extends to a desire to keep the testicles after a neutering procedure. If this is you – you’re not alone! I have been asked this question before, and the answer is not as simple as you might think. Taking a pet’s testicles home is possible, but there are some safety issues that should be considered. 

What happens when my pet is neutered?

Castration – the term for neutering male pets – is a routine procedure at most veterinary surgeries. However, it is still a surgery, performed by a qualified veterinary surgeon and with the animal asleep. The surgery differs slightly between dogs and cats, and will also vary between veterinary surgeons. There are many correct ways of performing the same procedure.

In cats, the scrotum is first cleared of hair (for hygiene), and thoroughly cleaned. Two small cuts are made into the scrotum, and a testicle removed from each. The blood vessels and spermatic cord are tied off, and the testicles removed. The small incisions (cuts) in the skin of the scrotum are left to heal. Pain relief is given, and the cat is woken up and monitored in their recovery.

In dogs, often only one incision is made, just above the scrotum at the very bottom of their belly. Both testicles are removed through this cut, which is stitched up afterwards. The stitches may be internal (inside the wound), or external that you can see. Pain relief is given, and the dog monitored as they wake from the anaesthetic.

What happens to the testicles?

Vets perform thousands of castration procedures – so what happens to all the testicles?

Veterinary surgeries have a fairly complicated waste system. Vets need to dispose of all sorts of things, including medicines, needles, blood, surgical by-products, contaminated products and more. Testicles, as long as they don’t contain any disease which could be transmitted to humans, are anatomical waste and will be disposed of as such. Anatomical waste is usually removed by a professional disposal company and incinerated. 

Can the testicles be returned to me?

This is a question which occasionally occurs in practice. It’s a bit of a grey area, with no real official guidance, which often means that there are some differing opinions.

The testicles themselves are not inherently a problem, as long as they are not diseased. Farm vets, for example, would regularly castrate cattle on farms and not carefully gather up the testicles when they leave. Testicles are bodily tissue, but should not cause any kind of health risk unless contaminated or infected. 

The main concern that vets have is how to preserve the testicular tissue. If left exposed, the tissue will become extremely unpleasant and rot. Vets usually keep specimens – such as removed tumours – in formaldehyde, which preserves the tissue. However, formaldehyde is extremely toxic, and therefore many vets wouldn’t be comfortable with the potential risks of returning testicles kept in this way. 

Therefore, the options may be to return the testicles either in plain air or in saline, with the proviso that they will decay, or in formaldehyde in a sealed pot and a written disclaimer that this pot should not be opened and may pose a health risk. Neither of these options are ideal, which is why some resistance may be met to the suggestion. Your vet may want to have a chat with you about your plans for the testicles and how this can be done safely.  

Final Thoughts

If you’re curious about your pet’s castration, what happens to their testicles, or even whether you can take them home – talk to your vet! They will be happy to go through the procedure in detail, and a thorough discussion will likely be needed to discuss some safety aspects if you wish to retain the testicles. 

It is worth noting that if you’re thinking of keeping your pet’s testicles, they may not look like what you might think! This can catch people out, and it is important that expectations are clear. The testicles are removed from inside the scrotum during the castration procedure, which means they are internal tissue and will not be covered in skin or hair. They will look quite different from how you view them externally before removal! 

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