Desexing Your Dog



There are a variety of factors that we consider when recommending the best time to perform elective desexing in dogs. Desexing for a male dog is castration(removal of both testicles) and for a female dog is ovariohysterectomy or spey(removal of both ovaries and the uterus).


As a general rule we suggest dogs undergo routine desexing from 6 months of age.


This is for a variety of reasons which are discussed below. Depending on certain individual situations we may recommend either delaying desexing past the age of 6 months or very occasionally performing the procedure earlier than six months of age.


In making these recommendations we weigh up all factors that influence the timing of this procedure such as:


  • Minimizing anaesthetic risk – as desexing is an elective procedure we should be choosing to do this at an age when the dog has strength, body reserves and ability to deal with the general anaesthetic and surgery involved. This is one of the main reasons we do not desex dogs prior to 6 months of age.


  • Prevention of unwanted pregnancy - the timing of a dogs first oestrous or heat cycle will vary greatly depending on size and breed of dog but is generally between 6 and 10 months of age. Desexing prior to this will ensure no unwanted pregnancies especially in very young and still growing female dogs.


  • Prostatic enlargement in male dogs - as in humans the prostate will enlarge under the influence of testerone and so castration prior to adult prostatic development will help reduce prostatic issues later in life.


  • Reproductive tumours and other problems - cancers such as testicular(male), ovarian and uterine tumours(female) are completely prevented when the dog is sterilized. The life threatening condition of pyometra is also prevented through desexing female dogs.


  • Behavioural traits – this can work both ways and can be a cause for changing the recommended age to desex your dog. In male dogs, undesirable urine marking is reduced with desexing prior to puberty. In timid, shy or anxious female puppies there is evidence that delaying desexing may allow the effect of oestrogen and oxytocin (female hormones) to possibly reduce these less desirable behaviours. Our staff may discuss this with you if your dog exhibits any of these characteristics during puppy visits or early puppy learning classes.


  • Orthopaedic Issues - in the absence of androgenic hormones as a result of sterilization, musculoskeletal maturation can be effected. Particularly in larger breed dogs there is some evidence that delaying sterilization until the pup is over 12 months or a few months after its first season can reduce risks of some orthopaedic conditions eg. cruciate disease.