Desexing A Pet: An Owner's Major Decision
Wed, April 21, 2021

Desexing A Pet: An Owner's Major Decision


Desexing a puppy or a kitten is one of the most significant decisions you have to make as a pet owner, said Purina, a pet food company. A surgical procedure, desexing is performed by a registered veterinarian to sterilize male and female dogs and cats. The dog or cat will no longer get pregnant or have a season after being desexed. The procedure is permanent and ideally, desexing can be performed while your pet is still a puppy or a kitten and if it’s female, before their first heat cycle. For females, it is referred to as spaying. Desexing removes the uterus and ovaries. For males, it is called castration, which involves the removal of the testicles.  

Veterinarian Attitudes On Prepubertal Desexing of Dogs and Cats In the Australian Capital Territory (2019)

Bronwyn Orr and Bidda Jones of life sciences and biomedical journal portal PMC emailed their survey to all registered veterinarians in the ACT, consisting of 350 veterinarians as of July 2017. The authors excluded respondents who listed their business address as either a government department, non-practicing, non-veterinary business or NGO, or a non-domestic animal veterinary business. Only a maximum of 211 veterinarians were assumed to be in clinical practice. Overall, 59 email recipients activated the survey, with 14.9% of registered veterinarians completing the survey.

87% (45/52) identified as small animal practitioners, 96% (50/52) in suburban or urban locations, comprising 25% (52/211) of clinical veterinarians in the ACT. Only 10% (5/52) recommended their clients to desex their cats before three months of age. Some of the respondents advised their clients to desex their cat before five months of age (38%; 20/52) or 6 months of age or older (40%; 21/52). When asked how often the respondents desexed cats before three months of age 7% stated almost never (19/52) and 13% never (7/52).

Only 15% (8/52) always recommended PD (prepubertal desexing) for cats, assuming there were no contraindications to surgery. Meanwhile, 46% saying they almost never (33%; 17/52) or never (13%; 7/52) recommended PD. When veterinarians recommended the procedure to some (but not all cat owners), they cited population reasons for giving this advice, including if the cat was from a rescue, pet shop or was to be re-homed early (40%; 21/52) or if unwanted pregnancy or early estrus was probable (42%; 22/52). 

Many veterinarians did not recommend or practice PD, but 77% answered positively with either maybe (37%; 19/52) or definitely (40%; 21/52) when asked if the procedure was an appropriate management strategy to curb the overpopulation of cats. No respondents advised their clients to desex their dogs before four months of age. However, 71% (37/52) recommended clients to desex their dogs at six months of age or older.  When asked if they currently recommend PD to new owners, assuming that there were no contraindications to surgery, 13% of respondents said they always recommended PD for dogs and 42% answering almost never (33%; 17/52) or never (10%; 5/52) recommended the procedure.

Among the veterinarians who recommended PD to some owners, they cited population reasons including if the dog was from a rescue, pet shop or was to be rehomed early (38%; 20/52) or if unwanted pregnancy or early estrus was probable (38%; 20/52). 33% (17/52) said they would recommend PD if desexing would prevent unwanted behavior in dogs like roaming. When asked whether PD was an appropriate management strategy for canines, 33% (17/52) said definitely while 33% (17/52) remained neutral.



What Are the Myths Surrounding Desexing?

1.       Pregnant Animals Cannot Be Safely Spayed

On the contrary, many pregnant dogs and cats are spayed to prevent them from birthing puppies or kittens, asserted Humane Society of Charlotte, a community resource dedicated to delivering effective, innovative services that strengthen the bond between humans and animal and improve the lives of companion animals and the individuals who care about them.  Your veterinarian will assess your pet and its stage of pregnancy if she can be spayed.

2.       Desexing Is Painful and Harmful

When undergoing the procedure, your cat or dog will be fully anesthetized so they won’t feel pain. In some cases, they may feel some discomfort. However, pain management medication may prevent your pet from experiencing pain. Serious harm or complications post-surgery is rare.

3.       My Male Dog or Cat Will Be Less “Manly”

Neutering will not change your pet’s personality. He won’t also suffer from an identity or an existential crisis after the procedure.

4.       My Pet Can Become Overweight

Metabolism decreases after desexing, at least in most cases. However, feeding your pet appropriately and engaging it in exercise reduces its risk of becoming overweight. 



Why Should I Desex My Pet?

Desexing can prevent unwanted pregnancies, resulting in thousands of puppies and kittens. For example, kittens begin their reproductive life cycle as young as five months, averaging two to three seasons a year with two to five kittens per litter. In as little as five years, she could have more than 200,000 descendants. Desexing a bitch can prevent male dogs from roaming the streets to look for a female on heat as the bitch cannot cycle and no longer have messy bleeding. This also applies to cats, though spaying the female before her first cycle reduces her risk of mammary tumors and infections in the uterus.

Castrating a male cat reduces aggression. Unneutered males tend to make their territory with urine, roam around looking for females in season, and are more likely to sustain injuries from fighting with other felines. Desexed male cats are less likely to spray malodorous urine in the house. Likewise, desexed male dogs are less aggressive and their tendency to mark their territory with urine. They are also less likely to develop testicular cancer, minimizing complications associated with the prostate like cancer, infections, or enlargement including hernias associated with testosterone.



What Are the Complications Associated With Desexing?

Complications include the animal pulling the sutures out, swelling, and inflammation around the surgical site. Spaying is a major surgery considering that the abdomen is open, increasing your pet’s risk of hemorrhage than the males.


Owners should discuss with their veterinarian about the risks associated with desexing. Since desexing is permanent, pet parents should weigh the pros and cons before undergoing the procedure.