Understanding the factors to consider when desexing your pet

We understand that there are many factors to consider when it comes time for desexing. We’ve created this page to assist you in making the best decision for your pet. Below, you’ll find:

    • The Importance of Desexing: Why do veterinarians recommend it?
    • The Best Time to Desex: We’ve compiled and simplified recent research findings, including insights on delayed desexing, tailored to various breeds. What age is best for your dog?
    • Anaesthetic Safety: Addressing common concerns, our educational material aims to provide reassurance regarding anaesthetic safety.
    • Laparoscopic (Keyhole) Surgery: Exciting news! We now offer Keyhole desexing for Female dogs. Learn more about this innovative procedure.
    • Additional Services: Some pets may require extra attention during desexing, such as Rear dew claw removal, Deciduous (baby) teeth removal, or Hernia repairs.
    • Gastropexy Surgery: A crucial read for owners of large breed dogs, potentially life-saving information.
    • BOAS Surgery: Essential reading for owners of Brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pugs, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
    • Pre-Op and Post-Op Care: Comprehensive guidance on preparing for surgery and caring for your pet afterward, including suture care instructions.

We’re here for you every step of the way so don’t hesitate to reach out with any further questions. Your understanding and comfort in the decisions you make for your pet, are our top priorities. We’re here for not only your pet, but you too.

The Importance of Desexing

Desexing, which includes speying (for females) and castration (for males), is a surgical procedure that prevents pets from reproducing. Desexing has several health and behavioural benefits in both females and males and is proven to significantly increase their lifespan.

We know that the benefits of desexing are:

Female dogs:

  • Markedly decreased risk of mammary cancer. With each heat, the risk of mammary cancer significantly increases. Dogs desexed before their first heat have a 0.05% risk of mammary cancer; those desexed after their first heat have an 8% risk, and those desexed after their second heat have a 26% risk (American College of Veterinary Surgeons data).
  • Eliminates unwanted pregnancies. Population control is still one of the most important reasons to recommend desexing pets. Overpopulation is still a major cause for excessive euthanasia rates.
  • Eliminates the risk of pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus requiring emergency surgery. Up to 25% of non-desexed females will develop a pyometra (Xavier et al 2023).
  • Longer life expectancy. In a study by Hoffman in 2013, it was shown than desexing increased life expectancy by 26.3% for females. Eliminates messy bleeding throughout the house with each season.
Male Dogs:
  • Reduced risk of trauma. Intact dogs are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car as desexed dogs, due to roaming behaviours.
  • Population control is still one of the most important reasons to recommend desexing pets. Overpopulation is still a major cause for excessive euthanasia rates.
  • Reduced incidence of hormonal-driven behaviours such as urine marking, mounting and roaming. Likely some other behavioural benefits such as reduced aggression, though studies are conflicting. Decreased risk of perineal hernias and perianal adenomas (growths around the anus). Eliminates testicular cancer risk.
  • Decreased incidence of prostate problems such as enlargement (prostatic hyperplasia) and other associated prostatic diseases (e.g. prostatitis, prostatic cysts).
  • Longer life expectancy. In a study by Hoffman in 2013, it was shown than desexing increased life expectancy by 13.8% for males.
For these reasons, we wholeheartedly recommend that desexing is performed, and this page will help you to decide when this procedure should take place.

The best time to desex

New research suggests that the timing of desexing plays a key role in the health and behaviour of pets. One such study, published in July 2020 by the University of Davis, California, examined a sample of 35 different dog breeds and assessed the risk of certain joint disorders and cancers with the age of desexing. This study is available for free online should you wish to review the recommendations for your dogs’ specific breed.

Key takeaways from these studies:

  • Orthopaedic Concerns: Removing hormonal influence on the developing skeleton via desexing can delay growth plate closure, affecting joint alignment and increasing the risk of joint disorders like cruciate ligament rupture and hip dysplasia in certain breeds.
  • Cancer Risks: Early desexing may heighten cancer risks in specific breeds; for instance, Rottweilers desexed before 1 year face higher osteosarcoma risks.
  • Urinary Health: Delaying desexing until maturity, particularly in large/giant breeds, may lower the risk of urinary incontinence in females. If urinary incontinence does occur due to early desexing, it is often manageable with medication.
  • Behavioural Impact: Desexing can reduce aggressive, roaming, marking, and mounting (humping) behaviours. Optimal timing for behavioural benefits varies. Please consult with us for your pets’ specific needs.

Additional Considerations:

  • Lifestyle considerations including the dog’s living environment, interaction with other dogs, and the owner’s capacity to manage a dog in heat.
  • Costs including higher fees for desexing mature dogs and elevated registration fees for undesexed dogs imposed by the Gold Coast City Council. Personal financial circumstances are also taken into account.
  • Increased surgical risk as a result of delaying desexing in large/giant breed female dogs due to longer surgery time required.
  • Maintaining lean body condition. Neutered pets have an increased risk of becoming overweight; feeding them the correct amount and providing adequate exercise is important to risk of orthopaedic issues and promote longevity.

So, what do we recommend?

Given the ongoing debate regarding the optimal desexing age for different breeds, decisions should be tailored individually. Informed by a thorough examination of scientific literature.

Telehealth Appointment:

We’ve introduced a Telehealth appointment to enable you to discuss desexing directly with a veterinarian, ensuring personalised guidance for your pets’ needs. The fee for this appointment is at a discounted rate of $55.00 (inc GST). Our vet will discuss the research with you and determine the best time for desexing. Please call the practice to book in, or you can book online through our website.

While evidence favouring delayed desexing for certain breeds is strong, it remains inconclusive and further comprehensive research is required to establish universal guidelines. Given this context, if you choose to desex your pet at an earlier age (between 5-7 months), a protocol we’ve long endorsed, we fully support your decision and will proceed with desexing.

We have also developed a chart below if you would like to consider the new research but do not want to discuss your pet’s individual needs. This is a guide only, based on some of the new research.

Small/Toy 6 months 5 months (before heir first heat)
Medium 9 months 9 months
Large 12 months 9 months
Giant 16 months 12 months

Summarising, you have three options for desexing:

1. Traditional desexing at ages 5-7 months, as commonly practiced.
2. Desexing according to our chart above, which incorporates the latest research findings.
3. Consult with a Veterinarian to determine the optimal timing for your pet, considering factors such as breed, age, health risks, behaviour, and a thorough risk/benefit assessment.

Anaesthetic Safety

We understand that the thought of your pet undergoing anaesthesia can be nerve-wracking. However, it’s essential to know that anaesthesia techniques have advanced significantly in recent years, and safety measures are now more comprehensive than ever before.

Patient history and a physical exam provide us with a large amount of information, but there is information that is impossible to know without blood tests. This includes information that detects disease which cannot be seen by physical examination.

Minimising the potential risks involved with anaesthesia provides everyone with peace of mind and safer anaesthetics for your pet.

What does the test do?

Pre-anaesthetic blood testing checks kidney and liver function, which are important for the elimination of anaesthetics and other drugs from the body. It also checks for anaemia, or evidence of infection.

Here’s how we use the blood test results:

  1. The results of the blood test will be kept on your pet’s file as a baseline should they become unwell in the future. We can compare the results and see what has changed (just like your own blood tests).
  2. If the results of the pre-anaesthetic blood test is normal, we can continue with confidence and know that anaesthetic risk has been minimised even further. We’ll also now have a healthy baseline for your pet to compare in the future.
  3. If the results are not within the normal range, the anaesthetic protocol can be modified to provide extra patient support, during and after anaesthesia.
  4. If the results show significant abnormalities, we may choose to postpone the procedure and instead opt for additional treatment or testing. Rest assured, we will only proceed with anesthesia when we are fully confident that your pet’s safety will not be compromised.

The blood test is performed the morning of your pet’s procedure and only requires a small amount of blood to be taken. It’s over very quickly for them! Our in-house pathology machine will do the rest and we’ll have the results in around 20 minutes.

If we are happy with the results, we’ll proceed with the procedure as planned and you’ll receive a copy of the results.

If the results show something of concern, we’ll call and discuss them with you. For example, we recently ran bloods on a Staffordshire Terrier requiring dental work. The blood result showed a decline in kidney function (even though he showed no signs of illness), so we placed the patient on IV fluids for 24 hours to support his kidneys and moved the procedure to the next day. This will better hydrate the patient and lessen the burden on his kidneys. We can therefore proceed with anaesthesia under safter conditions.

For some patients, this test is compulsory (you would have been advised if this is so).

If the test is not compulsory but you would like to add this extra layer of safety, simply tick the box on your paperwork that asks if you would like a pre-anaesthetic test performed.

Please watch our video below on the blood test mentioned above.

 Rest assured, your pet is in excellent hands with us. We’re committed to addressing all your questions and concerns, guiding you through each step with care and providing consistent support. Recognising the immense love you have for your pet, we endeavour to make the process as seamless as possible, ensuring peace of mind for both you and your pet.

Laparoscopic (Keyhole) Surgery

What is Laparoscopic or ‘keyhole’ surgery?

This innovative surgical method is accessible to all female dogs and male dogs with retained testicles. There are many advantages of a Laparoscopic Spey over a Traditional Spey. Smaller incision, less pain, and a faster recovery to name a few. If you’d like to read more about this procedure, click here. It’s a much nicer technique for any pets requiring abdominal surgery.

For more infomation on Laparscopic surgery click here.

Additional Services

Gastropexy Surgery

If you have a deep chested breed such as Great Dane, Standard Poodle, Doberman, Irish Setter, German Shepherd, Irish Wolfhound, Weimaraner, Saint Benard or Boxer, please read on.

These breeds are at risk of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), commonly known as ‘Bloat’. When a dog’s stomach becomes filled with food, liquid, or gas, it can rotate as it expands. In some cases, the stomach can twist too far, causing it to fold in on itself. This twisting traps food and gas, obstructing the normal movement through the intestinal tract and compromising blood flow to the lower part of the stomach. This condition necessitates immediate surgical intervention within hours to save the lives of affected pets.

To prevent the potentially fatal consequences of GDV, we highly recommend Gastropexy Surgery. This procedure secures the stomach to the abdominal wall, significantly reducing the risk of twisting. It’s a crucial preventive measure and can be performed at the same time as Desexing.

Watch this 11 second video to see how the stomach twists. 

BOAS Surgery

If you have an English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Boston Terrier, Pekinese, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso or Cavalier King Charles, please watch our video on Brachycephalic surgery.

These breeds are characterised by their short noses and flat faces. While these features are adorable, they can also lead to breathing difficulties and other health issues. That’s where BOAS surgery comes in. BOAS, or Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, surgery aims to correct anatomical abnormalities in these breeds, such as elongated soft palates, narrowed nostrils, and enlarged tonsils.

By addressing these issues, BOAS surgery can greatly improve your pet’s quality of life, allowing them to breathe easier and enjoy better overall health.

If you’re interested in learning more about this procedure or discussing your pet’s specific needs, Dr. Andres Townsend is available for appointment at our Coomera location (07) 5502 3333. Alternatively, you can watch this video to learn more.


Pre-Op & Post-Op Care

For everything you need to know about preparing your pet for surgery (e.g. withholding food) and supporting their recovery at home (e.g. suture care), click here.