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What do we mean by desexing?
Surgical de-sexing 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 de-sexing or neutering.
Why do we recommend de-sexing?
Veterinarians recommend de-sexing 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, de-sexing 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 de-sexing
There are also significant medical reasons for de-sexing. 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.
De-sexing 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.
What does de-sexing involve?
Speying 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 de-sexing
Misconception 1: "Females should have a litter before being de-sexed." 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: "De-sexing 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 de-sexed." 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: "De-sexing a trained guard dog will reduce his/her ability to guard." Guarding results from instinctive territorial behaviour... it is not changed by de-sexing.
Misconception 5: "I don't want to de-sex my dog because he will miss it." De-sexing 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 de-sexing decision
The final decision is up to you. De-sexing can be performed from five to six months of age onwards. Every year many stray and abandoned animals are euthanased at welfare organisations so it is best to de-sex 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 de-sex your pet, here's some information you may be interested in...
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.