Sterilisation (orchidectomy) in male dogs involves surgical removal of the testes and in the female dog, surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries (ovariohysterectomy)
In small to medium breeds sterilisation is recommended at 6 months of age. In some cases, sterilisation can be performed earlier. The RSPCA, dog pounds and some breeders will sterilise female and male dogs at 10-12 weeks of age.
This is called prepuberal sterilisation and is very safe. Waiting until a dog is 6 months of age before sterilisation does generally has some advantages. Older puppies are less fragile and metabolise the anaesthetic drugs more rapidly.
The decision as to when to sterilise medium to large breed female dogs is more complicated. It would be wise to consider sterilising after the growth period to reduce the risk of joint developmental problems but doing this will mean that they will need to be sterilised between the first and second heat or after the second heat. This will then immediately put them at higher risk for developing breast cancer.
Female dogs that are sterilised after the first heat (the first heat is usually between 7-12 months, depending on breed) will be at increased risk for breast cancer. The life time risk of developing breast cancer in female dogs that are sterilised after the second heat or are unsterilised is 27%. That is 2-3 out of 10 dogs will develop breast cancer. Mammary cancer is malignant in 50% of these patients. Sterilisation between the first heat and second heat will reduce the life-time risk to 8% and those female dogs sterilised before the first heat will have a life-time risk of 0. 05%.
We still recommend that female dogs be sterilised before the first heat as we feel that the danger of breast cancer is sufficiently large to override the protective effect of early sterilisation on joint development. Please do not hesitate to discuss this with us.
Health benefits of sterilisation:
Males – eliminates risk of testicular cancer and greatly reduces risk of prostate cancer.
Females – eliminates the risk of uterine cancer and pyometra (a life threatening infection of the uterus females. It also greatly reduces chance of mammary cancers.
Behavioural benefits of sterilisation:
Reduces unwanted behaviours like mounting, inappropriate urination and marking, territorial aggression. Reduces the desire to roam which may result in many dogs escaping and being hit by cars or becoming involved in fights with other dogs.
Socio-ethical benefits of sterilisation:
Decreases the massive burden of unwanted pets
Sterilisation of cats:
Sterilisation in cats is performed at six months of age prior to the first heat for females. Sterilisation can be performed earlier if required. Kittens from breeders, the RSPCA and the Cat Haven will often be sterilised between the ages of 10-12 weeks. We still prefer to sterilise our kittens closer to 6 months of age.
The behavioural benefits include:
Reduced territorial urine marking. Reduced fighting and territorial behaviour. Reduced desire to roam which results in many cats escaping and being hit by cars.
The Health Benefits include:
Eliminates risk of testicular cancer and uterine disease.
Population control: there are many feral and unwanted kittens and cats
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