Desexing - about the sterilisation procedure

Surgical desexing involves removing part of the reproductive system of an animal whilst under a general anaesthetic. There are many different names to describe this procedure but the correct word in females is spay or an ovario-hysterectomy and in males it is castration or desexing or neutering.

Why do we recommend desexing?

Veterinarians recommend desexing to prevent unwanted litters of puppies and kittens. This is especially important for cats, as it is not always possible to tell when she is ‘on call'. In female dogs, desexing automatically stops their cycles and the associated bleeding and attention from male dogs. Castration helps to control male dominance aggression problems and also reduces their wandering instincts if a bitch in the neighbourhood is on heat. Uncastrated tomcats have a tendency to roam and fight, leading to cat bite abscesses.

Medical benefits of desexing

There are also significant medical reasons for desexing. Spaying performed before two years of age reduces the risk of mammary tumours (which are very invasive). Tumours of the ovaries, uterus and cervix, and pyometra (a gross infection of the uterus) can be prevented. Castration reduces the risk of prostatic disease, perianal tumours, and eliminates the risk of testicular cancers.

Desexing may also be recommended in your pet to prevent hereditary diseases being passed on, or for treatment of some diseases such as prostatic hypertrophy or pyometra.

Read our article on "Medical benefits of desexing for male and female pets."

What does desexing involve?

Spaying involves entering the abdominal cavity and removing the ovaries and uterus (an ovariohysterectomy). Castration involves the removal of the testicles through a skin incision. In dogs and female cats the surgical site will be sutured.

The operation is a day procedure and is performed under full general anaesthesia by our veterinarian, and monitored both electronically and by a fully trained veterinary nurse.

We recommend a pre-anaesthetic blood test before surgery to detect any abnormalities with the liver, kidneys or blood which may increase the risk of anaesthetic. We also recommend that intravenous fluids (a drip) are administered during the surgery. Fluids help to maintain normal blood pressure throughout an anaesthetic and assist in a speedy recovery.

Some common misconceptions about desexing

  • Misconception 1: "Females should have a litter before being desexed." This is not necessary for your pet's benefit. Spaying a dog before her first heat will reduce the risk of mammary cancer to nearly zero.
  • Misconception 2: "Desexing will make my pet fat." By removing organs that produce hormones your pet's metabolism may be slowed, it's overfeeding your pet that will make it fat.
  • Misconception 3: "Pets become lazy after they are desexed." There is generally no change in the character of your dog. Young males will be less inclined to mount objects and jump the fence.
  • Misconception 4: "Desexing a trained guard dog will reduce his/her ability to guard." Guarding results from instinctive territorial behaviour... it is not changed by desexing.
  • Misconception 5: "I don't want to desex my dog because he will miss it." Desexing animals at six months means they do not have a chance to develop mating behaviours. Dogs are an important part of the family, but remember - they are not human!

The final word on making the desexing decision

The final decision is up to you. Desexing can be performed from five to six months of age onwards. Every year many stray and abandoned animals are euthanised at welfare organisations so it is best to desex your family friend to prevent unwanted pets. The vets and nurses in our clinic are always available to discuss this with you.

If you do decide to desex your pet, here's some information you may be interested in...

Preparing the patient for Desexing

As desexing is a sterile procedure we need to ensure your pet's skin and coat is as clean as possible.  Bathing your dog 1-3 days before the operation helps to provide a cleaner patient for their surgical clip and clean on the day.

Same as in human surgery, your pet will need to be fasted for 12 hours before their anaesthetic. This means the night before their surgery dinner will need to be given prior to 8pm and then nothing after that. Also, NO breakfast is to be given on the morning of the procedure.  Water can remain available for your pet until the morning of the procedure.

Toileting your patient on the morning of their anaesthetic is also recommended.  Some pets get shy going to the toilet in a strange environment and may try and hold on.  Providing your pet with opportunity before they arrive at the clinic is recommended.

Your pet will need to rest when they arrive back home after their anaesthetic, so ensure there is a nice warm and quiet place for them to recover when they arrive home.

Your role on the day of the operation

We are often asked whether or not a pet parent should stay at home to care for a pet after surgery. Generally pets make a speedy recovery after surgery. For this reason staying at home with them is not necessary as long as they have somewhere warm and comfortable to sleep off the anaesthetic. However, if you are considering making special plans to be with your pet, we suggest you take the day off after surgery rather than the day of surgery.