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Help! Should I desex my dog, Fortitude Valley Vet?

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Many people think that when a vet encourages a pet owner to sterilise a pet, it is because we'd like to help reduce the number of unwanted puppies and kittens abandoned and put down at shelters. Yes - that's one of the reasons, but I encourage my clients to consider sterilisation because it offers other health benefits that can prolong the life of your dog. There is no doubt in my mind that spaying/neutering your pet can help reduce the number of wasted and shortened pet lives. However, there are also health risks to consider if you choose not to desex your pet.

I think it is important for pet owners to come to their own conclusions and be proud that they have made the correct decision for their pet’s future.

Should I desex my pet, Fortitude Valley Vet?

Unless you are a dedicated breeder of pedigree dogs and cats, my stand is to desex your pet. As mentioned above, there are possible disadvantages to desexing your animal. The two common ones are obesity and urinary incontinence in desexed female dogs.

Studies have shown positive correlation between desexing and a lower metabolic rate in your dog but this can be easily overcome with the right combination of diet and exercise. There is also an increased risk of a female dog developing urinary incontinence later on in her life, but those that do represent a small percentage compared to those who do not develop this problem.

Fortitude Valley Vet outline the advantages of having your dog desexed:

Female dogs:

  • Decreased risk of mammary cancer if desexed early. (Read further down for more information.) 
  • Remove inconvenience of menstruation (blood stains on carpets and attracting other intact male dogs to your home etc).
  •  Prevent unwanted litters.
  •  Prevent pyometra (pus in the uterus, potentially a fatal problem for intact older female dogs).

Male dogs:

  • Greatly reduced marking/roaming/aggression/sexual behaviour if desexed early. However,         such behaviour may not go away if you decide to desex your pet at a later stage in life.
  • Prevent unwanted litters.
  • Reduced risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate gland increases in size, resulting in urinary and defecation problems). Please note that desexing does not reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

At what age should I desex my pet, Fortitude Valley Vet?

The vet community cannot agree on when it will be a good time to desex your pets. Some recommend early desexing at 2 months of age (some female intact dogs can have babies at 5 months old!), others will only do it past 6 months old (reduced risk of anesthetic problems). It is important to note that there is a 0.5% chance of developing mammary cancer if desexed before first season, 8% chance between first and second season, and 25% chance after second season (no significant differences compared to intact female dogs passed second season). There is also the issue of learned behavioural problems (marking and sexual behaviour) that may not go away if your intact male dog is desexed at an older age.  It is also likely that your older dog may develop pyometra or benign prostatic hypertrophy.

Some experts argue that desexing should only be done after your pet has skeletally matured, citing the high incidence of crucial ligament ruptures in early desexed dogs compared to intact dogs in Europe. However this correlation requires further studies.

I  hope this helps you to decide if your pet should be desexed.

If you have more questions, come see us at Fortitude Valley Vet, Emporium, Brisbane. (07) 3216 0045.