Desexing Dogs & Puppies: Benefits and costs of neutering or spaying your dog
Are you interested in learning more about dog desexing, or deciding whether or not to desex your pet? The topic of dog desexing and when to do it is often debated, and there seems to be new research coming out regularly supporting one viewpoint or another. This article aims to give an overview on the benefits of desexing male and female dogs, when the ideal time to desex a dog is and how much the desexing procedure usually costs.
Desexing dogs – the bigger picture
The vast majority – around 90% – of registered dogs in Australia are desexed. It is believed, however, that a large percentage of unregistered pets in this country have not been desexed.
In Australia, the desexing of dogs plays a large role in the animal birth control strategy, and helps keep the number of accidental litters and unwanted dogs low.
In North America, desexing is very popular too whilst in Europe the number of desexed dogs is much lower in comparison.
Dog desexing is not mandatory in Australia, however, rescue organisations and shelters will generally desex animals before they go into new homes.
What does desexing mean?
There are many words to describe the same thing: sterilising, fixing, spaying, neutering, castrating. The outcome is the same – the animal will no longer be sexually productive. For females, this means that after the procedure they will no longer fall in season and cannot get pregnant. For males, they will no longer be able to impregnate a female. It is a permanent procedure that can not be reversed.
The procedure for desexing female dogs is called spaying and includes the removal of the dog’s uterus and ovaries. It is a standard procedure, but is still a major surgery, done under full anaesthetic, that requires hospitalisation.
The procedure for desexing male dogs it is called neutering or castration. The testicals, which produce the dog’s sperm and are the main source of the male sex hormone testosterone, are removed, It is a shorter and less complicated operation.
The surgery is done under full anaesthetic.
The risks of desexing procedures
As dog desexing is a standard procedure, complications are not very common. However, complications can occur if the wound gets infected, and the opening of the abdomen during the spaying procedure can, very rarely, cause haemorrhaging.
Anaesthesia also has its own inherent risks.
Post surgery treatment
The vet who will be performing the procedure on your dog will advise the details of the recommended post surgery treatment. Generally the following is advised:
- Keep the dog quiet for several days, exercising him only very gently e.g. a short stroll or walk on leash;
- No exercise or excessive play for a week to allow the incision to heal;
- Prevent physical activity like jumping or play fighting;
- No water or bathing until the stitches are removed;
- Your dog may need to wear an Elizabethan collar to stop him from licking or biting the stitches;
- A checkup is recommended 7 – 10 days after the surgery, during which your vet may remove the stitches;
- The younger the dog is, the more care required in anaesthetic and recovery.
Benefits of desexing dogs
First and foremost, the most obvious benefit of desexing dogs is to control the dog population and reduce unwanted pregnancies.
Desexing female dogs will also:
- stop periodic cycles and messy bleeding;
- eliminate the risk of pyometra (infection of the uterus);
- reduce the risk of mammary (breast) cancer and ovarian cancer (the earlier they are spayed the less the risk, especially if before their first cycle).
Desexing male dogs early means that they often don’t learn the behaviours that are related to adult sexual behaviour such as being overly territorial and excessive urine marking. It can also help reduce behaviour that is related to higher testosterone levels in the dog, such as territorial and roaming behaviour. Desexing male dogs is not always the solution for behavioural problems, but it can help reduce them. Neutering a male dog can also reduce the risk of testicular cancer and prostate problems.
When to desex a dog
The right timing of when to desex a dog is much debated, and different organisations support different views. In the old days, desexing female dogs was usually done after they gave birth to their first litter, and never before 6 months of age.
But by 6 months, especially for smaller breeds, dogs can already be sexually mature and capable of reproducing. Puppies can be spayed or neutered from 8 weeks of age, and most breeds gain sexual maturity by the age of 5 or 6 months.
Many rescue organisations support desexing dogs at a very early age in order to help avoiding unplanned litters, and more unwanted dogs ending up in shelters and pounds.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recommends that vets should desex dogs before puberty unless there is a valid reason to delay the procedure.
However, there are a few factors to consider when choosing the right time to desex your dog:
- Desexing dogs that weigh less than 1kg should be avoided.
- Females dogs should not get spayed if they are on heat.
- Desexing should not be done right after a severe injury – the dog will need to recover first.
- Desexing dogs before the age of 12 months results in a delayed closure of growth plates. This will need to be considered by owners when exercising their puppies. Therefore, early desexed dogs are often taller and have longer limbs than dogs that get desexed once their growth plates have closed.
- Especially when desexing giant breeds, the delayed physical development should be considered, and it is often recommended that their physical development should be complete before desexing.
- If desexing female dogs before 5.5 months, the risk of developing urinary incontinence increases from 5% to 12.9%.
Speak to your vet about when is the best time to spay or neuter your puppy. Bear in mind that it is never too late to desex a dog. The risk of developing certain diseases can increase with age, so desexing can be even more important for older dogs.
How much does it cost to desex a dog?
The costs of desexing a dog are dependent on the sex of the dog and what the weight of the dog is. The surgery is more complex for females than for males, and the weight of the dog will give an indication of the amount of anaesthetic that is required.
The following is just a price guide, and your vet can advise the actual costs. Costs will also vary depending on the area you live in.
Desexing female dogs:
Starts at around $200 – $220 for small dogs and can go up to $400 or more for large dogs (60kg plus). The typical cost for desexing female dogs weighing 10 – 20 kg is around $250.
Desexing male dogs:
Starts at around $180 – $190 for small dogs and can go up to $380 and more for large dogs (60kg plus). The typical cost for desexing male dogs weighing 10 – 20 kg is around $220.
A veterinary consultation will need to be done prior to the desexing surgery and consultation costs will be in addition to those outlined above.