Most pet cats and dogs in Australia are speyed or castrated before 1 year of age, usually around 5-6 months of age when they are still very much a baby.  In shelter environments desexing is performed as young as 6 weeks of age.

Desexing has been advocated as a form of population control, and considered necessary to prevent problems like mammary tumours and pyometra (uterine infections) in intact females, and aggression and benign prostrate growth in intact males.

Evidence is mounting, however, that shows DELAYING desexing is necessary for long-term health

A number of studies have demonstrated links between early neutering (before maturity) and the following problems:

  • debilitating hormonal diseases such as Cushing’s, atypical Cushing’s and thyroid disease
  • cruciate ligament ruptures
  • hip dysplasia
  • abnormal bone growth and joint conformation problems
  • bone cancer
  • cardiac tumours
  • lymph cancer (lymphosarcoma)
  • blood cancer (haemangiosarcoma)
  • mast cell tumours
  • urinary incontinence
  • higher incidence of adverse vaccine reactions
  • increased incidence of some behaviour issues such as fears and phobias
  • increased risk of infectious disease
  • shortened lifespan (not surprising given all of the above!)

Desexing your pet early in life significantly increases the risk of all the above conditions.

Reasons given for desexing your pet at a young age include a higher risk of mammary cancer and uterine infections in females left entire, and behavioural issues such as dominance aggression in male dogs.

If you desex after your female dog has had one or two heat cycles it is unlikely that a uterine infection will develop at such a young age prior to desexing. Mammary cancers were thought to be more common in dogs speyed after their second heat cycle, however, recent studies have been unable to validate the theory that early spaying protects female dogs from mammary cancer.  

Intact males have a higher risk of benign prostatic enlargement, but this is fixed by desexing at the time of diagnosis.  More aggressive prostate cancer occurs equally in entire and desexed males.

In male dogs, there is a belief that neutering before puberty is necessary to prevent problem behaviours such as urine marking in the home or aggression toward the owners.  Most intact males who are properly socialised, trained and handled will not develop behaviour problems, however, and certainly won’t wee in your house.  And if testosterone-related problems do develop, research shows that neutering males in adulthood is as effective in changing the behaviour as neutering before puberty is in preventing the problems.

Certainly some male dogs may benefit from earlier desexing, particularly if they are around entire female dogs on heat which quite frankly sends them crazy!

So what is the alternative?

Sterilisation is the best option for individual animals.  It is important that all dogs not intended for breeding not be bred.   But we also want every pet to experience optimal health, wellness and longevity, and delaying desexing can help them achieve this.

In most situations it is best to delay desexing until after your dog has reached adulthood.  In most dogs this is 12 months of age, but some large and giant breeds aren’t considered fully grown until two years of age.  This does mean the procedure will be more costly as it is a more difficult procedure technically and takes more time when the animal is fully grown.

Cats are faster maturing, and so desexing at 6 months of age is still considered to be appropriate for them.

For people wanting to preserve the sex organs but sterilise the animal (for example breeders who choose to sterilise their pets prior to adoption) we offer gonad-sparing sterilisation procedures (hysterectomy which is also called ovary-sparing spey, and vasectomy procedures).

Please call 07 54767674 today to discuss what options and timeframes best suit your pet.⁠