Desexing cats and dogs

Child with cat being held by a vetThousands of healthy cats and dogs are euthanased each year in shelters and pounds across Victoria. This is because not enough homes can be found for them — we have an 'over-supply' of pets.

Many cats and dogs are bred by accident, because owners don't get around to desexing their pets.

It is possible for cats to breed from as young as 4 months of age.

Cats and dogs can breed if:

  • they escape or are allowed to wander off the property
  • other cats and dogs get into the yard and breed with confined pets.

Even owners who intentionally breed pets can still have trouble finding homes for all the puppies or kittens.

Animal shelters do their best to rehouse unwanted cats, dogs, kittens and puppies. However the sad fact is that many of the animals handed in have to be euthanased.

Desexing is the solution

If you own a pet and do not intend to breed from it — have it desexed. Most cats and dogs can safely be desexed at 3 months of age.

You are less likely to forget to desex your pet if you have it done as soon as you get your pet.

Some councils help pensioners or health care card holders with the cost of pet desexing.

Desexing your pet entitles you to a discount on your council pet registration fees — for the life of your animal.

More about desexing

Choosing whether or not to desex your pet is one of the most important (and sometimes difficult) decisions pet owners make.

Desexing normally involves the removal of the testicles of males (also known as 'neutering') or ovaries and uterus of females (also known as 'speying') through surgery. It is one of the most common surgeries performed by vets in clinics and  it is the only effective permanent method of preventing pregnancy in animals.

Generally, vets recommend desexing animals before they are able to breed usually from 3 months of age — this is called 'early age desexing'.

Animal shelters have done early age desexing for more than 20 years. Many studies over long periods of time have shown it is just as safe as desexing older cats and dogs.

Doing surgery on animals before they have fully developed, or had any litters, is much quicker and less risky as their reproductive tracts are smaller and there are less blood vessels.

Your veterinarian can offer the best advice for your pet based on its age and physical condition. For most pets, desexing provides many benefits.

For female pets, desexing:

  • decreases the chances of developing mammary cancer, especially when done before your pet's first heat. Mammary cancer is fatal in 90 per cent of cats and 50 per cent of dogs1
  • decreases the chances of infections of the uterus, which can be life-threatening2
  • decreases the chances of developing cystic ovaries or uterine cancer3
  • decreases the desire to roam, which can result in unfortunate situations like getting lost, or hit by a car
  • prevents animals coming on heat, which can be messy and pose behavioural problems such as calling in queens

For male pets, desexing:

  • decreases the desire to roam, which can result in unfortunate situations like getting lost, or hit by a car
  • decreased aggression, which can be a danger to humans, and increase the likelihood of fights between animals which risks injury or transfer of diseases
  • decreases the chances of cancers including prostate cancer, testicular cancer and peri-anal cancer4
  • prevents Tom Cats from urine spraying

For the community:

  • Decreased number of unwanted animals, which may otherwise be euthanased due to lack of homing options.
  • Prevents wandering in the environment, where they may harm native wildlife, frighten people, or cause car accidents.

Some concerns raised about desexing include:

  • It is unnatural.
  • It removes the 'masculinity' of a male dog, or they don't like the aesthetics.
  • There may be an increased likelihood of female dogs developing urinary incontinence later in life, although this has not been proven definitively.

Desexing myths debunked

  • Desexing will not change your animal's personality — it will not make them less active, or lazy.
  • Desexing does not cause weight gain in your pet.
  • Desexing is not expensive, compared to the costs of caring for and feeding new litters, or the lifetime costs involved in keeping an animal.
  • Females do not need to need to have at least one litter in order to have a fulfilling life.

1 Chapter 3 — Veterinary Cancer Etiology Cancer Management in Small Animal Practice (2010) pg 16-27

2 Hagmana, R, Lagerstedta, A, Hedhammara, A, Egenvallb, A (2011) A breed-matched case-control study of potential risk-factors for canine pyometra, Theriogenology (75) 1251–1257

3 Chapter 3 — Veterinary Cancer Etiology Cancer Management in Small Animal Practice (2010) pg 16-27

4 Chapter 3 — Veterinary Cancer Etiology Cancer Management in Small Animal Practice (2010) pg 16-27

Page last updated: 24 Nov 2020