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A Guide to Desexing Your Pet: Everything You Need to Know

Desexing is a term widely used by veterinarians but is also known as neutering and involves the surgical removal of your pet’s reproductive organs. ‘Speying’ is the desexing of a female pet and is the removal of the ovaries and uterus. ‘Castration’ is the removal of the testicles of a male pet. Both procedures will mean that your pet is unable to breed. In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about desexing your pet. 

Why Desexing is Important 

The aim of desexing is to prevent unwanted litters of puppies and kittens which may end up as stray, homeless or abandoned; but there are some additional benefits.  

  • Undesexed female pets will have a reproductive cycle which can be messy and have associated behavioural changes such as cats calling out for a mate and wandering away from home.  
  • Female pets that are not desexed can suffer from a potentially life-threatening uterine infection known as pyometra and have a higher incidence of cancer.   
  • Castration of male pets can help eliminate unwanted behaviours such as escaping to find a female, meaning your pet will be a better companion.  
  • Castration will also reduce the incidence of some types of cancer and diseases of the prostate. 

When to Desex Your Pet 

The best time to desex your pet will vary depending on their species, breed and age. The general rule is that pets can be desexed by 6 months of age, and this can be a requirement of some local councils. However, it is recommended that large breed and giant breed dogs are desexed when they are older. This may be at 9 to 12 months of age. If this is recommended for your pet, you might require a letter from your veterinarian to inform your local council. It is appropriate for smaller dogs and cats to be desexed at an earlier age. Veterinarians avoid desexing dogs when they are on heat, as there is increased risk of bleeding associated with the surgery.  

What to do before desexing 

  • Find a vet you trust. Different veterinary clinics will provide different levels of care. Cheaper is not always better. 
  • Make a booking. Most vets will only perform desexing on weekdays, so you will need to book around your own schedule. Desexing is a day procedure. Your pet will be admitted to hospital in the morning and most pets are recovered enough to go home the same day. 
  • Prepare your home. Your pet will need to rest at home for up to two weeks after the procedure. This can be a difficult time, especially for active or boisterous pets. You may wish to create a confined and comfortable space where your pet can rest, such as a small room. Ensure it is warm as your pet should not be cold after anaesthesia. Dogs that are crate-trained might be comfortable enough in their crate.  

The Desexing Procedure 

Desexing is performed under a general anaesthetic and is a whole day procedure. Your pet will be admitted to the hospital in the morning and is ablee to go home the same day. Dogs and cats should be fasted prior to an anaesthetic, this means no breakfast. You may be given the option of a blood test performed prior to anaesthesia. A small patch of fur may need to be clipped to collect a blood sample. This will test for abnormalities that are undetectable on physical examination. Undetected disease can increase the risk of the anaesthetic and surgery. This test is always recommended. 

Once in the hospital, your pet will receive a sedative prior to surgery. This helps relax them and can include pre-emptive pain relief. The veterinarian will usually need to clip some fur on your pets' leg for intravenous access to administer the anaesthetic agent. Once anaesthetised, the surgical site will be clipped and aseptically prepared. The time taken to perform the surgery depends on the species and gender, but it is generally expected to take 10 to 20 minutes in a male and 30 to 60 minutes in a female. While generally considered safe, there is some risk of anaesthesia. If your pet has a health concern, your veterinarian will consider this when making an anaesthetic plan. Electing to perform a blood test prior to anaesthesia may help detect any underlying disease and minimise risk.     

Desexing, or speying, on a female cat or dog involves an abdominal incision and an internal surgery to remove the female reproductive organs. Castration involves incisions into the scrotum of cats and an incision just before the scrotum in dogs. If a male pet has cryptorchidism, or an undescended testicle, the procedure becomes more complicated, and an internal surgery may be required.  

The surgical incision will be closed with external (visible) stitches or intradermal (under the skin) stitches, with the exception of male cats as they generally do not require any stitches.   

Pain-relief will be administered to your pet when in hospital, and depending on the procedure, your pet may also receive pain relief to be administered at home. Your pet will need to stay in hospital until the staff are happy that they have recovered enough to go home.  

Aftercare for Your Pet 

After desexing your pet will need to rest and recover at home for at least a week. Depending on the procedure performed and the type of stitches, if any, recovery times will vary. Your veterinary professional will inform you of expected recovery times on discharge from hospital and provide you with any other information you will need. Some pets will need an Elizabethan collar (the cone of shame) to prevent them from licking at their surgical incision and stitches.  

Desexing your pet and the timing of the procedure is an important decision for owners to make. Desexing is part of responsible pet ownership and has health and behavioural benefits. The timing of the procedure will depend on the species, breed and age of your pet. If you have any questions or concerns regarding desexing, you should contact your veterinarian. They can provide you with all the information you need and help you make the best decision for the health and wellbeing of your pet. 

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