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When should I desex, spay or neuter my dog? What does desexing a dog mean?

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

This article is written by Brisbane Dog Trainer Peter Bonney. Peter is Director of Brisbane’s multi award-winning Dog Trainers ‘Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School’. Awards include ‘Best Puppy School Australia’ 2018, ‘Best Brisbane Dog Trainer’2022/23, Peter has also been named as one of Australia’s top influencers by the Pet Industry Magazine 2023.

Making any decision to desex, neuter or Spay your dog needs research. Bonnies Dog Obedience in Brisbane Australia are Australia most awarded Dog Trainers.
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This article was written in response to the number of questions from our wonderful clients. I can say that each dog, the families living and life circumstances make our answers different for each. We believe it is prudent to ask necessary questions in order to give the best information we can. The decision to neuter our dog or bitch can be a very difficult decision to make. Unquestionably every person really cares about making the right decision and at the right time. We wish you all the best in making your choices suitable for your family/pack.

When should I desex, spay or neuter my dog?

Desexing, spaying and neutering, sterilization, dog castration, Ovariohysterectomy, Vasectomy are very common terms which can and are used to describe the desexing of a dog or bitch. It is a common surgical procedure that involves removing a dog's reproductive organs. This procedure is often recommended by veterinarians to help prevent certain health problems and reduce the number of unwanted puppies that end up in shelters. However, there is often a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the topic of desexing, particularly when it comes to the optimal age for the procedure.

Advantages of Desexing:

  • Helps prevent certain reproductive disorders, such as pyometra (an infection of the uterus) and testicular cancer.

  • Reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies and the number of puppies that end up in shelters.

  • May reduce certain unwanted behaviours, such as marking, roaming, and aggression.

  • May prevent certain health problems later in life, such as mammary tumours in females and prostate problems in males.

Disadvantages of Desexing:

  • May increase the risk of certain health problems, such as joint disorders and certain cancers, particularly if desexed at a young age.

  • May alter certain aspects of behaviour and temperament, such as increased fearfulness and anxiety, particularly if desexed at a young age.

  • Is a surgical procedure with potential risks and complications.

EAD (Early Age Desexing): EAD is the practice of neutering or spaying puppies as young as 8 weeks old, instead of waiting until they are mature adults. It has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its potential benefits, such as: Pros: Prevents unwanted litters. Reduced risk of some cancers: EAD can reduce the risk of mammary gland tumours in female dogs and testicular cancer in male dogs. Behaviour modifications: Early desexing may help reduce some hormone-driven behaviours like roaming, marking, or aggression. Easier recovery: Puppies tend to recover more quickly from surgery than adult dogs. Cons: Potential health risks: Studies suggest that EAD may increase the risk of certain health issues, such as orthopaedic disorders and certain types of cancer. Possible urinary incontinence: Early desexed female dogs may have a higher incidence of urinary incontinence later in life. Alteration of growth and development: Early neutering can alter the growth and structure of bones, muscles, and joints, which may lead to possible health issues in the future. Prepubescent neutering: Prepubescent neutering refers to the practice of sterilizing an animal before it reaches sexual maturity. This is usually done between 7 months to 12 months of age. Prior to first season (heat) for females. Pros: Prevents unwanted litters: Prepubescent neutering prevents accidental breeding and reduces the number of homeless pets. Reduces behavioural issues: Neutered dogs tend to have less aggression, less roaming, and less territorial marking. Addresses overpopulation: Prepubescent neutering reduces the number of animals in shelters and the burden on animal control agencies. Cons: Changes the hormonal balance: Some studies have suggested that prepubescent neutering may affect the hormonal balance, leading to an increased risk of obesity and certain cancers. Risk of urinary incontinence: Prepubescent neutering may increase the risk of urinary incontinence in female dogs. Changes in body structure: Neutering at a young age may affect bone density and growth, leading to possible health problems in the future. Mature Dogs: Mature dogs refer to dogs that have reached adulthood, typically between one to three years of age, and have not been neutered or spayed. Pros: Maintains natural hormone balance: Neutering may cause hormonal changes that could impact your dog's health negatively. Protection for certain health issues: Unneutered male dogs may have reduced risk of certain types of cancer such as osteosarcoma and lymphoma. Preserves certain behaviours: Neutering can change some behaviour patterns, such as marking, and hunting instincts. Cons: Unwanted litters: Mature dogs that are not neutered may breed accidentally, leading to unwanted litters. Increased risk of aggression: Intact males may be more prone to aggression, especially towards other dogs. Health risks: Unneutered dogs may be at risk for certain types of cancer, prostate enlargement, and infections of the reproductive system.

Rescuing a working dog brings a lot of added effort on your behalf. They are not couch Potatoes. They need mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy and vibrant.
Rescuing a Working Dog is absolutely a positive thing to do.

As a senior member of Bonnies and a professional dog trainer in Brisbane, I believe that it is important for dog owners to weigh the potential benefits and risks of desexing before deciding. This means having a discussion with your veterinarian and considering your individual dog's breed, age, and health status. While there may be some benefits to desexing at a young age, there may also be some downsides that need to be considered.

If you choose to wait until your dog is older to desex, it is important to manage your female dog during her heat cycles to prevent unwanted pregnancies. As a pet owner, it is important to understand the behaviour and needs of your dog, especially when they are going through their natural reproductive cycle. If you own a female dog, correctly referred to as a bitch, it is likely that she will go into heat at some point in her life usually between 1 year and 18 months of age. This can be an overwhelming experience for both the dog and owner, but with proper management and knowledge about your dog’s reproductive health, you can make the process easier. The first step in managing a bitch on heat is understanding what happens during this time. Dogs go into heat every six to twelve months, with each cycle lasting around three weeks. During this time, your dog's reproductive system prepares for breeding, which means there will be changes in her behaviour, appearance, and physical needs. The most notable sign of a bitch in heat is spotting or discharge from her genital area. She may also show signs of restlessness, frequent urination, and excessive licking. One of the ways to manage your dog during her heat cycle is by keeping her indoors and away from other dogs. The hormonal changes in her body can make her more aggressive towards other dogs, and male dogs may become aggressive towards her due to her scent. Always keep your dog on a leash when outside and avoid dog parks and other areas where other dogs and bitches may congregate. Another option for managing your dog’s heat cycle is to use dog diapers, which are specifically designed to catch any discharge during this time. Dog diapers are easy to change and can help your dog feel more comfortable and cleaner during her heat cycle. When it comes to preventing your dog from going into heat, there are several options available. However, it is important to discuss these options with your veterinarian before making any decisions. One option is a hormone injection, which can prevent your dog from going into heat for several months. Another option is a human-style pill, which can also suppress your dog's heat cycle. However, both methods can have side effects, and long-term use may increase the risk of certain health issues. In conclusion, managing your bitch during her heat cycle can be challenging, but it is essential to ensure her safety and comfort. By understanding the changes that occur during this time and taking proactive measures to keep your dog safe and secure, you can help minimize the effects of her heat cycle. Always consult your veterinarian before making any decisions about medical intervention, as they can provide guidance and advice based on your dog's individual needs.

As a dog owner, it is crucial to make informed decisions about the health and well-being of our pets. One of the most significant decisions we must make is whether or not to desex or neuter our dogs or bitches. While many myths and misconceptions surround this topic, scientific research can help us determine the best time to undergo this procedure without putting our furry friends at risk. Here are some key points to consider when deciding the right time to desex or neuter your dog: Health benefits of desexing or neutering: According to a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, desexing or neutering your dog can help prevent or reduce certain health risks such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and pyometra (a potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus in females). However, it is important to note that early desexing or neutering may increase the risk of other health problems such as joint disorders and some types of cancer. Age and breed considerations: The age at which to desex or neuter your dog can vary depending on their breed and size. Smaller breeds tend to mature faster, and experts recommend desexing or neutering them at around 6 months of age, while larger breeds should wait until they are fully grown (around 12-18 months) to avoid joint problems. Behavioural considerations: Many dog owners choose to neuter or desex their pets to curb unwanted behaviours such as aggression, territorial marking, and roaming. However, while this can be effective, it is important to address the root cause of these behaviours through proper dog training and socialisation. Consult with your vet: Your veterinarian is the best resource for determining the right time to desex or neuter your dog. They can evaluate your pet's individual needs and health risks to make an informed recommendation. In conclusion, desexing or neutering your dog can have significant health benefits, but it is important to consider factors such as age, breed, and individual health risks. Consult with your veterinarian and do your research to make the best decision for your furry friend.

Ultimately, whether to neuter your pet and when to do so is a personal decision that should be made after consulting with your veterinarian and considering your dog's specific needs, medical history, and lifestyle.

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Desexing at Different Ages: EAD

  • Early Age Desexing: Refers to desexing puppies between 6-14 weeks of age. While early desexing is still recommended by some veterinarians, recent scientific research has shown that there may be some downsides to desexing dogs at a very young age.

o Advantages: May prevent certain reproductive disorders, reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies, and may reduce certain unwanted behaviours.

o Disadvantages: May increase the risk of certain health problems and may alter certain aspects of behaviour and temperament.

  • Prepubescent Desexing: Refers to desexing puppies between 6 months and 1 year of age. This is the most common age for desexing in the United States Australia and many other countries.

o Advantages: May prevent certain reproductive disorders, reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies, and may reduce certain unwanted behaviours.

o Disadvantages: May increase the risk of certain health problems and may alter certain aspects of behaviour and temperament.

o Scientific research has shown there may be other potential issues

  • Mature Dog Desexing: Refers to desexing dogs over 1 year of age. While desexing at a mature age is less common, it is becoming more popular as scientific research continues to reveal the potential risks of desexing at a young age.

o Advantages: May prevent certain reproductive disorders, reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies, and may reduce certain unwanted behaviours.

o Disadvantages: Is a more invasive surgical procedure than desexing at a young age and may have a longer recovery time.

200 views2 comments


Jun 28, 2023

My vet told me to read this article. I am glad I did. I still haven’t decided when I will neuter my dog but maybe 9 months will be good. I liked the links too. More on puppy’s please.

Jul 12, 2023
Replying to

That’s great we hope it was helpful. Peter

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