You may have heard the term desexing but may not know what it involves, why vets and animal advocates recommend it and the dangers to your pet’s health if they aren’t desexed.
Put simply desexing is the surgical removal of an animal’s sexual organs so that they can no longer breed. This may sound very barbaric, but in reality it is in your pet’s best interests both medically and behaviourally to have this procedure done. In Australia and most countries throughout the world, there are simply not enough homes for all the dogs and cats born each year. A very large percentage of them are euthanised before they ever reach their first birthday. By preventing your dog or cat from breeding you are helping to control the pet population.
When should I have my pet desexed?
The ideal age for a pet to be desexed is between four to six months, although the surgery can be performed on animals as young as 10 weeks old. In NSW, dogs and cats must be registered with your local council by the time they are 6 months of age. The cost of registering an entire animal in NSW is approximately $120, whilst a desexed animal is $40. So, as you can see, it is much cheaper to register your pet if they have been desexed. If your pet is older than 6 months old, it is not too late to have them desexed. Desexing can be performed on animals up to 8 years of age. The surgery can be done on older animals, but there is an increased risk due to their advanced age.
What does the surgery involve?
Your pet will receive an injection of anaesthetic which will send them to sleep. When they are asleep, a breathing tube will be placed down their throat through which oxygen and an anaesthetic gas are delivered so that they will remain asleep for the entire surgery.
If your pet is a female, the vet will make an incision in her abdomen and will remove both her ovaries and her uterus, a procedure that is called an ovariohysterectomy. The incision is then stitched closed and your pet is woken up. This procedure takes approximately 30 minutes.
If your pet is a male, the vet will make an incision just above the scrotum through which the testicles are removed and the van deferentia (sperm tubes) are tied. The incision is then stitched closed and your pet is woken up. This procedure takes approximately 15 minutes.
Your pet will be discharged either that evening or the following morning with pain relief tablets and the stitches will be removed 10 days post surgery.
What are the benefits to my pet’s health?
If your pet is not desexed, they may develop some extremely serious and life threatening diseases in their later years. The one that affects both males and females is cancer.
Entire males may develop testicular cancer, whilst females may develop ovarian, uterine or breast cancer. The picture (left) is of an 10 year old entire female German Shepherd with advanced ovarian cancer. The tumours were each roughly the size of a basketball. Unfortunately, due the advanced state of the cancer, she had to be humanely euthanised.
Female can also develop pyometra, a disease where pus builds up in the uterus. It is most commonly seen in female dogs, but also seen in cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets.
There are two forms of pyometra – open and closed. In open pyometra, pus is able to escape from the uterus making it easier and safer to treat. In a closed pyometra, pus is trapped in the uterus. If the uterus ruptures, pus escapes into the abdomen causing peritonitis and possible rapid death. The only form of treatment for both forms is an emergency spey which is extremely risky as the bitch is in shock and possibly septic.
Symptoms of pyometra are: vomiting, loss of appetite and increased drinking and urination – with an open pyometra pus can be seen dripping out of the vagina. It is extremely important for the entire female dog owner to be aware of this condition due to its rapid onset and deadly consequences.
What are the benefits to my pet’s behaviour?
Pets that are desexed are generally more settled than others who are not. This is because they are no longer experiencing sexual urges that they want satisfied.
Male desexed dogs are generally less aggressive and less likely to roam than their entire counterparts, this is because they don’t have testosterone circulating through their system that increases aggression nor are they looking for a bitch in heat to mate with. Meanwhile, male desexed cats are less likely to mark their territory, i.e. piss on your curtains and couch.
With female desexed dogs there is not the mess of oestrus (i.e. their period), which lasts up to three weeks, to bother about trying to clean up, nor do you have the concern that when out walking your dog some horny male will attempt to mate with her.
Female entire cats when they come into heat literally scream out to any nearby males. Whilst this is a great feature in the wild, it is not so wonderful when it is occurring in your bedroom at 3am. This behaviour will continue for approximately 10 days or until she has found a mate. Also female cats can go into heat multiple times throughout the year.
Getting your pet desexed is one of the best things that a pet owner can do for their beloved pet and the general pet population. By increasing the number of dogs and cats that are desexed every year, we will reduce the number of unwanted animals that end up in our city pounds. Also you will help ensure that your pets will not develop any life threatening diseases like cancers of the sexual organs and pyometra. If you have any concerns or worries about getting your pet desexed, please discuss them with your local veterinarian.