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Desexing is the process of removing reproductive organs so a dog can no longer produce offspring or hormones associated with sexual behaviours and reproduction. A general anaesthetic is required and surgery is performed to remove the ovaries and uterus in a female dog (ovariohysterectomy or spay) and testicles in a male dog (castration).
From a medical standpoint there are a variety of advantages. Female dogs (bitches) are very much less likely to develop malignant mammary cancers later in life if spayed at an early age. The chance of developing these tumors increases with each successive heat, so spaying at 6 months of age, prior to the first heat provides the best possible protection. In older unspayed bitches we also commonly see infections of the uterus which quickly cause the dog to become unwell and are very likely to be fatal if left untreated.
Another common condition in older unspayed bitches is pyometra – an infection of the uterus, in which the uterus becomes extremely enlarged and filled with pus. This necessitates an emergency operation to remove the ovaries and uterus – a much larger and riskier surgery than a routine spay, as it can be fatal if left untreated.
Male dogs will not develop testicular tumors if castrated, and are much less likely do develop prostate enlargement and tumors around the anus.
A desexed animal is also a much easier pet to care for. In the male dog castration removes the sexual urge so that if the dog gets the scent of a bitch in oestrus (heat) he is less likely to show any interest which in certain breeds can be an undoubted advantage. Castration also removes any testosterone related aggression. It should be noted that aggression can result from various sources, and that even if testosterone is part of the cause this aggression can become a learned behaviour and castration alone will not resolve it, it may still help, but is much more effective when performed as a preventative at 6-8 months of age.
Desexing the bitch prevents oestrus as well as breeding. She will not come into heat and therefore will not have to be confined and deprived of her usual exercise and companionship which otherwise will occur usually twice a year when she is in heat (oestrus) for at least 3 weeks each time.
And, to state the obvious, desexing will prevent dogs from breeding. Allowing your bitch to breed can involve a huge commitment of time, effort and money and is not without risk to the bitch, so should not be undertaken lightly. Our SPCAs are constantly inundated with unwanted animals, and desexing your dog will make sure you are not contributing to this very sad problem.
It is a common fallacy that a desexed dog will become fat and lazy. Remember that all service animals, Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Dogs for the Disabled are routinely desexed. Desexing may alter your dogs metabolism slightly, making it a little more prone to weight gain, however judicious feeding of a scientifically prepared complete diet without excessive titbits should adequately control any problems of obesity, just as it does in the entire animal.
Another common fallacy is that the desexed dog loses character. Admittedly desexing is often carried out, both in dogs and bitches, for certain behavioural abnormalities and often dogs will become more gentle but they lose neither their spirit nor their intelligence and provided they are not allowed to become obese are just as active as the entire counterpart.
There may be a slight increased risk of some tumors such as haemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma, and desexed female dogs are more likely to develop urinary incontinence later in life – however if this occurs it is easily treated with medication. We feel that the medical benefits of desexing far outweigh these risks.
Desexing for both male and female dogs does involve a general anaesthetic, and as always this does carry a very small element of risk. However your dog will receive a full clinical examination prior to the procedure, and we will give you the option of a blood test to check their blood cell counts, liver and kidney function prior to the procedure. We run a full sterile surgery, and have modern heart rate, breathing and blood pressure monitoring equipment with a nurse dedicated solely to monitoring your pet the whole time it is under anaesthetic. We can confidently say the chance of having problems during anaesthetic and surgery of a young healthy animal is extremely small.