Desexing

It is recommended that pets not intended for breeding, are desexed to help reduce health and behavioural issues.

Overview

Desexing is the surgical sterilisation of dogs to prevent them from having puppies. It is a recommended procedure for all dogs not intended for breeding purposes.

Males

A castration involves the removal of the testicles from within the scrotal sac.

Females

A spey involves the removal of both ovaries and the uterus. Without desexing, your pet will proceed to puberty and leave bloodstains around the house during each heat cycle.

Benefits of desexing:

  • Prevention of unwanted litters
  • Health benefits for females such as womb infections (pyometra), breast cancer
  • Health benefits for males such as reduced prostate disease, testicular cancer, perianal tumours
  • Behavioural benefits such as reduced spraying, marking, fighting if castration occurs before 6 months of age or before the onset of these behaviours
  • Prevention of hormonal changes that can interfere with the medical management of pets with diabetes or epilepsy

Desexing is usually recommended before puberty between the age of 4 and 9 months but can occur at any age. Just under six months (5 to 5.5 months) is an ideal age as the puppy vaccination series is usually completed and council will charge less for the lifetime registration of desexed pets. Males undergo a castration which is the removal of both testicles from beneath the skin. Females undergo a spey or ovariohysterectomy which requires abdominal surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries.

Before surgery

Desexing is usually a day procedure in which the pet undergoes a general anaesthesia.

It is important that your pet's stomach is empty before a general anaesthesia as the drugs can cause vomiting and lead to an aspiration pneumonia during surgery recovery. If your pet accidentally gets access to food, please inform the veterinary staff immediately to avoid any serious complications.

After surgery

Although rare, your pet may experience some potential risks associated with desexing surgery. This can range from mild to serious complications so your pet will be closely monitored after surgery for early signs while in the hospital.

Serious complications associated with desexing:

  • General anaesthesia complications such as hypothermia, low blood pressure, vomiting
  • Surgical complications such as internal bleeding
  • Breakage of sutures internally or externally
  • Excessive swelling
  • Excessive external bleeding

Your pet will be allowed to go home once it is fully awake from the anaesthesia, stable and able to walk.

What to expect after surgery:

  • Grogginess
  • Decreased appetite for 24-48 hours
  • Decreased bowel movements for 1-2 days after coming home
  • Mild clipper rash at the surgery site
  • Mild bruising and discomfort a day after surgery
  • Mild cough 2-3 days after surgery from the anaesthetic tube causing a small amount of irritation to the throat

Home care

Ensuring the right home care is important in achieving a full recovery.

It is important to:

  • Avoid overexcitement
  • Ensure water is available and accessible
  • Leash walk
  • Limit access to stairs and jumping up on furniture
  • Offer small amounts of water the night of surgery - ideally food is withheld until the next morning to avoid vomiting and inhalation of vomit overnight.
  • Clean bedding to avoid contamination of the wound
  • Follow strict medication instructions - we usually dispense some anti-inflammatory pain relief.
  • We apply or send your pet home with an Elizabethan collar to avoid licking at the sutures or wound
  • Check the suture line every day and keep suture area clean and dry
  • Do not bathe or swim until the sutures are removed
  • Suture removal 10-14 days after surgery
  • Resume normal activity following suture removal

NOTE: Intradermal sutures are dissolving sutures in the skin that do not require removal. In these cases, your pet will require a post surgery check up but no sutures will be removed.

When to call your veterinarian

If you notice any of these signs, notify your veterinary practice immediately:

  • Severe bruising or discomfort a day after surgery
  • Urinary incontinence (leaking of urine following surgery)
  • Vomiting
  • Odour from the wound indicating an infection
  • Off food for greater than 48 hours
  • Chewing at sutures
  • Broken sutures
  • No stools for more than 2 days from coming home

Frequently asked questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about desexing.

Should a pet be desexed when in heat?

  • If you notice your pet in heat prior to surgery, notify the veterinary practice. Unless it is an emergency, it is often best to wait 3-4 months after the heat before booking them in for desexing. During a heat, the uterus has an increased blood supply and can be more fragile. Afterwards, your pet thinks she is pregnant so things may still be swollen for a while.

Are there any behavioural changes associated with desexing?

  • Sexual behaviour will disappear after desexing, however on rare occasions sexual behaviour such as mounting, masturbation may continue.
  • Occasionally pet owners notice behavioural changes after desexing. These are usually described as more consistent and calmer personalities. Desexed females are less likely to urinate at the front door or howl nonstop when in heat. Desexed males are less likely to roam, mount, mark or fight.

Are desexed pets prone to obesity?

  • Energy levels are known to decrease by a third after desexing. Managing your pet's caloric intake and exercise levels are important it keeping your pet at a healthy weight.
  • As with people, pets become less active with age and, therefore, caloric requirements may decrease.

What is a retained testicle?

  • A retained testicle is a testicle that has not descended into the scrotum by the age of 6 months. Abdominal surgery may be required to locate and remove the retained testicle.

How soon after having puppies should a bitch be desexed?

  • It is recommended that a brood bitch is desexed once puppies have been weaned, their milk has dried up and the breast tissue has returned to normal size.