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Early Age Desexing for Dogs & Cats – Blessing or Curse?

“In the good old days”  puppies and kittens were neutered (speyed, desexed) at 6 months of age. We desex our dogs and cats so we can:

– reduce the risk of testicular cancer in males ( a horrible cancer that can cause major hormone imbalance and death)

– eliminate the risk of pyometra in females (a horrible infection and pus condition in the uterus that can cause rapid death)

– reduce fighting, between males in particular ( with the high vet bills for stitching up, surgery for cat bite abscess and grovelling apologies to neighbours)

– reduce wandering in males. They spend less time thinking about where to find sex, and more time thinking about finding their family.

– improve the family friendliness of our pets. They spend less time thinking about territory, sex and raising offspring and more time thinking about doing things with the family, running in the park and lying in front of the fire.

– reduce accidental litters of puppies and kittens, who come with all the added extras of vet bills, weaning with mushy meat, cleaning up poo from the whelping box or crawling under the house to rescue newborn kittens, not to mention trying to sell them when there are already lots on sale!

Problem was, by the time of “good old days” desexing at 6 months old, many cats were already pregnant, and some small dogs as well, and the boys had already been “wandering to sow their seed”!     Too late!

Early age desexing ( that is, desexing between 6 & 16 weeks of age) was developed in the USA in the 1980’s mainly to address an overpopulation problem. While it is used in many shelters in Australia, it is not widely practiced by private veterinarians.

SO WHY NOT DESEX EARLY?

According to a comprehensive study by the University of Queensland, advantages of Early Age Desexing include:

shorter recovery times

minimal blood loss

– cats and dogs desexed early tend to be bigger as adults, because bone maturity is delayed

– reduced frequency of urinary disease in cats (3% vs 17% for late desexed). Urinary disease is a key cause of illness in older cats and this is a major change

– reduced aggression in cats and dogs, even compared with the positive effects of later desexing

SO WHY DESEX LATER?

– Early Age Desexing is not suitable for pets less than 1kg weight, for crytporchid animals (males where only 1 testicle is in the scrotum), for pets with congenital malformations, and there could be a “question mark” for giant breeds where the increased size adds to significant bone stress already present in these breeds.

– there is evidence to suggest an increase in hip dysplasia (6.7% vs 4.7%) in dogs desexed before 5.5 months of age – not a lot of difference, at least one you might not notice anyway

– evidence shows a substantially higher risk of urinary incontinence (12.9% vs 5%) in female dogs desexed before 5.5 months of age. This condition is the dribbling of urine in older bitches especially while they are asleep, which is distressing and unpleasant for owners and often results in the bitch being surrendered to a shelter or put down.

SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT?

Evidence suggests Early Age Desexing as young as 8 weeks of are is likely to be suitable for:

– all kittens over 8weeks of age provided they are more than 1kg weight

– male puppies over 8 weeks of age when both testes are descended into the scrotum and provided they are over 1kg in weight, except where there are congenital issues, a risk of hip dysplasia or for giant breeds

Bitch puppies should not be desexed until at least 5.5 months of age to reduce the risk of incontinence later in life.

Pets Australia is working with the Australian Veterinary Association, the Animal Welfare League NSW, Dogs NSW, ANCats, and other pet industry associations to try to develop a joint policy.

RSPCA has a great literature review on the topic, CLICK HERE TO SEE IT

 

 

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