Why Desex A Dog? Learn the Pros and Cons of Spaying and Neutering

Whether your dog is male or female, the decision to desex can be a difficult one for some owners. There is a lot of confusing information on the internet, and a lot of conflicting opinions, even amongst vets. This post we will give you a breakdown on why desexing is worthwhile to help you make an informed decision for your dog.

Before we continue, some useful definitions to know:

Neoplasia:  Cancer

Desexing:  Removing the ovaries +/- uterus in a female dog & testicles in a male dog to prevent reproduction

Intact/Entire:  A dog that has not been desexed

Spey:  Desexing a female dog

Castration:   Desexing a male dog

Should I desex my pet?

Pros to Desexing

  • Reduces unwanted litters

Thousands of healthy dogs are euthanased in Australia and around the world every year. The number of homes available is finite, and there is a huge problem with over-supply of puppies. One way to look at it, is that for every puppy born and takes one of those precious homes, another dog somewhere at a shelter or pound, is euthanased because a home cannot be found.

  • Reduces sex-exacerbated aggression or dominance

This is especially prevalent in male dogs, and can make your pet more difficult to manage. Castration AFTER the behavioural problem has developed may not result in resolution of the problem. Prevention by desexing early, around 6 months of age, is certainly better than cure in this instance. Desexing can also reduce the risk of your dog being attacked by another dog.

  • Reduces other undesirable behaviours

These include behaviours such as inappropriate humping behaviour, territorial urine marking or barking, difficulty training because of reduced human focus and general difficulty restraining them from other dogs (their instinct will be to get near to other dogs to mate!). Behavioural issues are very important, as there are many instances of intact dogs escaping off the lead or out of a property, only to be hit by a car or sustain other injury.

  • Reduces council registration fees

  • Health benefits

In female dogs, early desexing has been shown to be protective against mammary neoplasia (cancer). Mammary neoplasia composes of around 50% of total canine neoplasia. Female dogs that are desexed before their first heat (around 6 months of age) have a 0.05% risk of developing a mammary neoplasm later in life. Between the first and second heats the risk increases to 8%, and between the second and third heat, the risk is 26%. Intact female dogs aged 2 years and over, have 7 times greater risk of developing mammary neoplasia when compared to dogs desexed at around 6 months.

Cons of NOT Desexing

In female dogs, heats can be messy. Your bitch (female entire dog) may bleed for several days, which can stain furniture/carpet etc. You may also see behaviour changes such as restlessness, humping/mounting behaviour, aggression, excessive vocalisation or difficulty controlling around other dogs when your bitch is in heat. These symptoms are often undesirable to the pet owner. It can also be very difficult to adequately confine a bitch on heat. Entire males can smell a bitch on heat from a long way off and will go to great lengths to get to them (ie. your backyard may not necessarily be safe).

Desexing in female dogs reduces the risk of pyometra, which is an infection of the uterus. 25% of entire female dogs will develop a pyometra. Often the only treatment is emergency spey. Emergency speys are not only a lot more expensive, but they are a lot more risky (you are operating on a very ill patient, not a young healthy patient). Pyometra is potentially a fatal condition and many dogs have died from this.

Desexing in female dogs reduces the risk of mastitis, which may occur as a result of a ‘false pregnancy’ (ie. your bitch doesn’t need to have been mated). Mastitis can be a serious and painful condition.

Pregnancy is risky. There can be complications such as problems delivering the puppies (sometimes also requiring emergency, risky, expensive surgery – caesarian), hypocalcaemia, nutrition issues, mastitis etc.

In male dogs, desexing significantly reduces the risk of prostate problems such as enlarged prostate, prostatic cysts and prostatitis. It does not reduce the risk of prostate cancer, which is quite rare and holds a poor prognosis post diagnosis.

In male dogs, desexing reduces the risk of testicular cancer. Testicular cancer does have a reasonably high treatment success rate in most cases however castration is usually necessary.

Written by Dr Abbie Tipler, BVSc, MACVS (Surgery)

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