The desexing of puppies

The desexing of dogs and cats is a vital component of urban pet ownership.Companion animals are just that,companions, not to produce indiscriminate offspring, or spend large portions of their time locked away to prevent unwanted pregnancy. A desexed companion animal will have a happy and fulfilled life,without the physical disturbances of hormonal urges.

Sex hormones in the domestic dog and cat are responsible for aggression, territorial marking with urine, roaming and other forms of behaviour which are simply not acceptable.

Socially, and in many cases legally, pet owners have a responsibility to control their animals, and this almost always can be managed best by desexing. The time at which desexing is "best" performed is a matter of opinion. ("opinion"not scientifically established fact, as there have been no studies on the optimal age of desexing.)

Traditionally, most dogs and cats have been desexed around six months of age,thus just getting in ahead of the anticipated first season at six months. Most males have been desexed at or around one year when maturity began to show up nuisance behaviour. It used to be the fashion to let a bitch "have her first season", or worse "have a litter to settle her down", but there is no physical benefit to the bitch from these scenarios, and indeed she is at greater risk of suffering an accident or pregnancy/whelping complications if either of these plans are followed, compared to desexing pre-puberty.

Advances in modern anaesthetics mean that it is no longer necessary to wait until six months or more to allow an animal to safely undergo surgery. We now have ultra-short-acting anaesthetic injectables, and modern gas anaesthetic machines which mean the veterinary patient may be in and out of surgery, and sitting up awake all within less than thirty minutes.

Surgery on young puppies and kittens (six to twelve weeks) is now routine. One welfare group in Massachusetts U.S.A. kept records of early age desexings on over 15,000 puppies and kittens under three months old, and found no complications attributable to the young age. The Queensland R.S.P.C.A. has been routinely desexing all puppies and kittens from six weeks of age. These are animal welfare groups: they are acting in the best interests of the animals. The initial studies began twenty years ago, so have already spanned thousands of individuals lifetimes, with no evidence to show any harm.Surgery is physically less traumatic for younger animals, and their healing is faster than adults. Many breeders are choosing to desex their pet puppies or kittens before they go to their new homes. This has many benefits, as the new owner has not the expense or worry of surgery and convalescence, the breeder knows their pets will not be bred from, and the local councils offer discount registrations for desexed pets.Many pet owners are choosing to get their pets desexed at the time of their 12wk vaccination, as then everything is all over and done with for the year.

With the weight of all available information, and our own years of experience, as both breeders and veterinary staff, we are strongly in favour of early-age desexing. While there will be negative comments, this has more to do with habits ( "that's the way we've always done it") or possibly unfamiliarity with the range of better anaesthetics now available, but the true facts are that early-age desexings in thousands of cases has been studied and found to be not harmful in any way, and is performed by welfare agencies as well as private veterinarians around the world.

Just as dog training used to be postponed until after six months of age (because of disease risks- now controlled by improved modern vaccines), and current studies are proving the benefits of early socialisation and training so that now puppy pre-schools are being actively promoted everywhere, so should our thinking about desexings catch up with the times. Modern surgery techniques and anaesthetics are there to be made use of fully; it's time to update. Responsible breeders are now beginning to pave the way by desexing pet puppies and kittens while still in their care, and individual pet owners may also access the option of early-age desexing.

Submitted by Jacqui Cant

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