Why should I have my pet desexed?
Female dogs can be messy when in season with a tendency to leave blood spots, and they will take any opportunity to escape to look for a mate. This can lead to owner stress, car accidents and council fines! Male dogs will become more aggressive as they mature sexually (peaking at about 3-4 years) with fights putting the owner at risk of being bitten while stopping fights, sued, or even having their pet compulsorily euthanased. Non-desexed dogs will also mark more frequently with smellier urine.
Female cats will tend to disappear when on heat, and if kept in will often remain on heat for a long time. Male cats will constantly be out on the prowl, fighting their rivals to return battered and bloodied. At home they will carefully mark their territory with smelly sprays.
Desexing will avoid these problems.
Around 80% of female dogs over the age of 8 years suffer deterioration of the uterine lining. This leads to associated infections which can damage the kidneys and sometimes kill the dog. Cats can suffer from similar problems unless they are allowed to breed constantly, which is not a reasonable option.
Male dogs can develop prostatic hyperplasia, which is rarely cancerous but can result in dangerous internal abscesses.
Although some old warriors survive, the average life expectancy of an un-neutered male cat is only around 3 years due to the constant injuries from fighting.
A female cat allowed to reproduce freely will have about 15 kittens every year, spread over typically 3 litters. This is clearly far too many! Dogs are less fecund, but still the number of puppies will be many more than is required to maintain a stable dog population. Unwanted animals end up abandoned. Animal shelters may find homes for the lucky few, but the majority will be euthanased.
Are there any alternatives?
Progesterone pills can defer the onset of sexual maturity by 1-2 years in females, but this hastens uterine degeneration. Males can be given progesterone to reduce aggression, and there are implants that can last for 6-18 months at a time and be repeated if necessary.
What animals should be desexed?
Dogs and cats certainly. Rabbits can become grumpy if not breeding and desexing cures this. Rats and mice can be desexed but it is not common. We have once desexed a budgie that was having egg-binding problems!
When is the best time to have it done?
Early desexing can cause the animal to grow somewhat taller and narrower due to the hormonal changes, and there is an argument for allowing the animal to experience it's true gender for a while, at least while it's brain is still developing. On the other hand, it is simpler to desex a female before she is mature, and councils encourage earlier desexing through discounted registration fees. Around 8 months would be typical, but there will be cases in which a propensity to weak hips makes a later desexing preferable.
For males the operation is just as easy at any age.
What is removed during the operation?
In males we entirely remove the testicles, leaving the scrotal sac intact. Vasectomies are not feasible in dogs as they are allergic to their own sperm and leakages cause major problems. In addition, the behavioural problems are not addressed. In females, we remove the ovaries and the 'horns' of the uterus.
Some owners ask if we can leave the ovaries in, but again this risks the behavioural problems remaining. A compromise we have sometimes adopted is to implant thin slices of ovary in the abdominal muscle, where they remain alive and continue to produce female hormones but in much reduced amounts.
What is involved in the procedure?
The animal is first given a sedative on arrival, which should be a couple of hours before the operation. That gives them a chance to calm down, and also ensures that their stomach is not full.
During the operation, there is at a minimum the vet as surgeon, plus an anaesthetist. In more difficult cases, such as for an obese or older animal, there may also be an assistant surgeon. Once in the operating room the animal is given an anaesthetic injection, and then connected to a supply of anaesthetic gas and oxygen for the duration of the operation. Heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen are all continuously monitored.
After the operation the animal stays in the surgery room under constant surveillance until it can sit up. Heart rate, temperature and colour are monitored and if there are any signs of anxiety we will give reassurance. Finally, it is given a penicillin injection plus a pain killer, and once it is fully awake and stable, it can go home.
There is no need to continue dosing with painkillers unless the owner requests more pain medication as there is only mild stiffness the next day and everything is usually back to normal a day after that.
Stitches come out in 10 days.