When and why should I have my animal desexed?
We routinely desex dogs and cats between five and six months of age. The RSPCA desexes animals at much younger ages to exclude any chance of any more unwanted litters. While desexing at a younger age is possible, it is associated with a greater anaesthetic risk.
Desexing is recommended not only to prevent unwanted litters but also to protect your pet’s health.
- Female dogs are at a high risk of developing breast cancer, and uterine disease, the most severe of which is life threatening pyometra.
- Male dogs have increased risk of prostate disease, perineal hernias and tumours around their backside.
In addition to this, desexing can result in positive behavioural changes in your pet.
They are less likely to:
- Wander, run away or get into fights. This reduces injuries such as abscesses, car injuries and infected wounds;
- Suffer from anti-social behaviour and aggression;
- Spray and mark its territory.
In each of these cases desexing at a younger age will reduce each risk.
Female dogs for instance, have a one in four chance of developing breast cancer if they are desexed later than two and a half years of age or left entire. If they are desexed before their first season at around six months of age, then the risk of developing breast cancer is negligible (less than half a percent), however even after just one season, their risk jumps to an astounding 8%! About half of breast cancers in dogs are malignant. It is hard to justify letting your dog have one season or one litter with these risks unless you are a registered breeder of dogs.
Female cats are also commonly affected by breast cancer with desexing offering a similar protective effect. Unfortunately, breast in cats has a much higher chance of being malignant.
Pyometra is an important condition of both female dogs and cats. It is a result of a massive life threatening infection in the uterus. Nearly one quarter of entire female dogs will be affected by pyometra by 10 years of age. Desexing will prevent your pet getting this disease.
For male dogs, castration dramatically reduces the risk of developing, benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatic cysts, prostatic abscesses and prostatitis. Many of these conditions are present at the same time in an affected patient and they can be difficult to accurately diagnose and treat. It is far better to prevent these conditions by castrating dogs at a young age.
Perineal hernias are an unusual condition which is most commonly seen in entire male dogs. It is one of the most difficult types of hernia to fix and if left untreated can result in unrelenting constipation and bladder prolapse. Once again, this condition is far better to prevent by castrating early.