Desexing you pet

Every year we are reminded, particualrly aduring kitten season, about how important it is to get your cats and dogs desexed.  Other words for desexing include: neutering, castration and speying.  These words are all used to describe the surgical removal of the reproductive organs.


This is a common scenario:  We had a kitten scheduled for her spay. When the patient did not arrive, we phoned the owner to reschedule. We were told that they had decided “since she’s such a lovely cat, we think she should have kittens” and therefore would not be rescheduling her spay.


We hear a lot of other reasons too, as to why people don’t want to desex their pets but most of these reasons can be easily discounted and the option to spey is indeed the best option.


In this article, we will address some of these issues as well as present some benefits of desexing.


Myth 1 - my pet is awesome, so it will make awesome offspring

The appearance and/or nature of the offspring may not mirror the dam or sire. The first cloned cat, “C.C.” (for “copycat” or “carbon copy”) did NOT look like the original, and certainly did not have her personality. If a perfect genetic copy does not have the same characteristics, then odds are a 50% genetic mix will not either. So, a lovely parent may not result in lovely offspring.

Image source wikimedia commons

Myth 2 - the pregnancy and birth will be without problems

If having a litter seems like a good idea and you decide to go ahead with it, be aware that delivery of kittens/puppies by the dam does not always go as planned. Difficult labours are relatively common, and delivery of offspring via caesarian section is an expensive proposition. Sometimes the kittens or puppies do not nurse well and have to be hand fed (every 2 hours). The dam may also develop infections (mammary, uterine) or metabolic disturbances (low blood calcium) after delivery and during the nursing period. And, of course, the mother will have a huge increase in her nutritional needs, not to mention the nutritional and medical needs (vaccinations, worming) of the offspring. All of this can add greatly to the cost of that simple litter.


The benefits of desexing


Spaying or neutering your pet benefits them (and you) in many ways.


  1. Did you know that we pretty much eliminate the risk of mammary cancer in females if they are spayed prior to their first heat cycle?
  2. Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland in male dogs) is also minimized with neutering (and will require neutering if it occurs).
  3. Elimination of attraction to males by females
  4. Decreased fighting with other animals
  5. Decreased drive to wander, resulting in less risk of vehicular accidents and going missing
  6. No messy spotting when in season (female dogs)
  7. Elimination of risk for uterine infections, which are life-threatening and can run $1000-2000 to treat (including the surgery necessary at that time to spay your pet anyway).
  8. Increased average life expectancy if desexed when young


So, when should you spay/neuter your pet?


As soon as possible. We can perform spays and neuters on animals as young as 8 weeks. We’d like them to weigh at least a kilogram at the time of surgery. In the past 20 years, animal welfare groups have been working with veterinarians on “early” spay/neuter programs (8 weeks of age). There have been no adverse effects reported for the now millions of animals having been desexed at this early age. In fact, we have noticed an improvement in recovery with fewer complications related to the surgical site. Younger animals don’t have nearly as much discomfort post-operatively, and they don’t tend to bother the sutures the way our older patients do.


For female cats and dogs the ideal time for desexing is prior to their first heat cycle, which usually occurs at 5-6 months. We’d recommend, again, spaying or neutering as early as possible (well before that 5-6 month age). This eliminates the risk of pregnancy and breast cancer. If you didn’t catch her in time, we can still do spays while she is pregnant; please call us if this is a concern as there are certain time windows we prefer to work within in this situation.


For males, once both testicles have descended into the scrotum, and the patient is 1 kilogram or more in weight, he can be neutered.


"Accidental" pregnancies


Did you know that a single pregnant cat, delivering an average litter of 6 (half female) twice yearly (which they indeed do!) can contribute (with the help of her offspring) over 250 new cats to the population in just 3 years? Dogs aren’t much better, if left to breed uncontrolled. Cats are just a bit more reliable at becoming pregnant.


So, what happens to all these “accidental” births?

Well, some of them do get adopted out and find lovely homes and live a long, healthy life. Unfortunately, a lot of them don’t. There are folks working for animal control/welfare groups who euthanize an awful lot of healthy, unwanted animals because they are left with no choice.


If you are thinking about having a litter for whatever reason, assume the offspring from your pet will result in an equal number of euthanasias at the shelter. Would you be willing to hold these animals while they die or give the injection yourself in exchange for the puppies or kittens you plan to bring into the world? Please give it a thought – remember that there is a person who loves animals deeply who does this every day. And we’re never in danger of running out of puppies and kittens – Mother Nature will keep us stocked, without any help from “accidental” pregnancies.


Myths about the effects of desexing 


Most of the disadvantages are misconceptions or problems that can be corrected with the help of your veterinarian or animal behaviourist.

  • there is no scientific evidence that allowing females to have one litter improves their temperament.
  • neutered animals will not lose their character – they may become more gentle and less aggressive (a good thing) but they will not lose their spirit or their intelligence
  • it is often thought that desexed animals become obese and lazy. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime will not allow this to happen
  • neutering a male animal will reduce their testosterone levels thus causing those neutered before sexual maturity to have a more feminine look (smaller head, less muscular appearance) but this is only a cosmetic issue.
  • some male dogs will squat rather than lift their leg when neutered early.  This tends to be more a beahviourial thing related to copying other dogs or due to discomfort in the hips for example making squatting more comfortable.   
  • urinary incontinence can occur later in life for those females speyed before sexual maturity. This problem occurs in only a small percentage of animals, both those speayed early and those speyed later and can be controlled by daily medications.
  • desexing is an elective surgery i.e. when performed in the young healthy animal. It does involve a general anaesthetic but anaesthesia and veterinary medicine has progressed so that your pet is monitored and cared for appropriately to ensure they recover quickly and are pain free.


What does the desexing procedure involve?


You need to pre-book the procedure. We recommend booking at least 1 week prior to your preferred date for surgery.


Desexing usually involves a one day stay in hospital – your pet needs an empty stomach for surgery so is allowed no food after 8pm the night before surgery. A small bowl of water is allowed.


Your pet should be dropped off to the clinic between 8 and 9am and your veterinarian or veterinary nurse will usually ring you to advise how the surgery has gone and when you can pick them up.


Desexing involves a general anaesthetic so of course there are certain risks involved with every surgery but veterinary science has progressed and every effort is made to ensure your loved pet comes through the procedure well and is made comfortable with pain relief. Ensuring your pet is kept quiet and does no running or jumping for a few days after surgery is essential for a full recovery (often difficult as they recover so quickly). Sutures will usually need to be removed 10-14days after surgery, at which time your pet is checked over to ensure they have come through the procedure well.


Please talk to your veterinarian or veterinary nurse to come to the best decision for your pet and of course if you have any further questions or worries about desexing.


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