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Desexing is the term used to describe surgery that removes the reproductive organs from an animal. In the case of the male it involves removing the testicles (castration) and in the female it involves removing the ovaries and both horns of the uterus (spay).

We normally talk about “desexing” dogs and cats. Most responsible owners do get their animal desexed at a young age before the animal starts to breed. Most cases the operation is done around the 6 month old mark before the animal enters into the phase called puberty.

On the day of the surgery it is important that you do not feed the animal – we normally recommend giving the animal a meal the night before but then removing all food after 8.00pm. The animal can have water until the time it comes for the surgery.

Once the veterinarian has examined the animal for any problems that may affect the surgery or the recovery after the surgery you will be asked to sign a consent form. The attending nurse (who will be the nurse assisting the vet during the whole procedure) will discuss with you any queries that you may have and she will explain the consent form to you before you are asked to sign the form.

The animal will now be taken to the pre anaesthetic area where the animal is housed in its own room and is allowed to “settle in”. This area is temperature and humidity controlled as well as being quiet and away from any stressful areas of the building.

The operation starts with an anaesthetic that is given by placing a small mask over the mouth and nose of the animal and allowing the animal to breath in the anaesthetic gas. The animal quietly falls asleep within a minute and then a tube is place down the windpipe of the animal and the anaesthetic is delivered via this pipe directly into the lungs of the animal. All carbon dioxide and gaseous waste products are removed by this method and are delivered to the outside of the hospital via a “scavenger tube”.

The skin around the operating site is then shaved and cleaned. The final preparation involves scrubbing the area with special surgical disinfectant and then sprayed with alcohol to assist drying of the area.

The surgeon will then “scrub up” which involves washing and scrubbing the hands and forearms with special surgical disinfectant. This procedure can take up to 5 minutes. In the mean time the sterilized instruments and drapes are placed on the instrument tray by the attending nurse. The surgeon will then put on a full operating gown, operating gloves and mask and open up the instruments and drapes.

Once all the drapes are in place the surgeon will make an incision using a new scapel blade and the surgery begins. Most desexing surgeries can take from 10 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the size o fthe animal and what desexing operation is done.

The underlying tissues such as muscle are sutured using a product called catgut which will dissolve in time. The skin will be sutured using a nylon based material that does not dissolve and will need to be removed in 10 days.

All animals are given a pain killing injection and an antibiotic injection before they are removed from the surgical area.

The animal is then removed from the anaesthetic machine and taken to the recovery area where it is monitored by the attending nurse until it is fully awake. At this stage the attending nurse will contact the owner and inform them that the animal has recovered from the surgery and she will make a time for the owner come back and take the dog home.

The animal is then placed in the discharge area and is allowed to rest until the owner comes to collect it.

At all times the animal is monitored by the kennel nurse to make sure that the animal is comfortable and the recovery is pain and stress free.

De Sexing your pet is important.

Frequently Asked Questions

What age should I get my dog or cat desexed?
The dog or cat can be desexed once it is big enough to identify the reproductive organs and the animal is strong enough to handle the anaesthetic. There are huge variations in ages that are recommended by different organisations.

We recommend that 6 months of age is the ideal time to desex your dog or cat

If I want to breed from my dog or cat, do you recommend desexing once the breeding is finished?
We recommend all dogs and cats are desexed before they reach their senior years. Male animals do get a lot of prostate problems and testicle problems as they age.

Female animals often develop a life threatening infection of the uterus and ovarian cancers are always a threat.

If I desex my male dog, will it change its personality?
No. there are a lot of “old wives tales” surrounding the act of castration of dogs. There is belief that the dog will become lazy, the dog will get fat, the dog will not “guard” etc. All these are wrong.

We recommend all male dogs should be desexed unless the owner wants to use the dog as a breeder. BUT we still recommend the dog is castrated once the breeding phase of its life is over

Should I let my bitch have a litter before desexing?
There is NO evidence to show that the female dog will benefit from having a litter. In our experience letting the female dog have a litter can be harmful to the bitch and certainly the bitch will change her personality after having a litter. Often this change is detrimental and the female dog loses its playfulness and is not “so much fun” after having a litter.

Also the owner has to consider what they are going to do with the puppies, can the owner afford a caesarian if there are complications with the birthing, has the owner the time to orphan rear if the bitch refuses to feed the puppies etc.

We do NOT recommend a bitch has a litter of puppies before desexing.

Will desexing my dog calm him down?
No. Desexing removes the reproductive organs. There is little evidence to show that the hormones associated with the reproductive organs (testosterone, progesterone, estrogens) cause the animal to be excitable.

Most of the time the activity of the animal is associated with age – the younger the animal the more active it is.

If you want to have a calm dog – wait and eventually time will cure all.

Cute french bulldog puppy. Think about de sexing your dog.
How do I know if my dog or cat is on heat?
With dogs it is easy – the vulva of the dog will swell up and the dog will start to discharge a bloody type fluid from the vulva. Usually as the dog stands up it leaves a small area of blood where it has been lying.

Cats are different – they do not show any sign of blood or vulva swelling. With cats it usually is a personality change – they start acting more “silly”, climbing the curtains, more activity, want you to rub them around the tail area, when you touch them on the rump they will lift their tail.

What age does a dog or cat “come into heat”?
This varies with the size of the dog but as a general rule most dogs and cats reach puberty around 7 to 9 months of age
How often does my dog have a heat period?
Dogs generally cycle every 6 months but that can vary up to once a year for some of the big dogs.
How long does a “heat period” go for in my dog?
The dog’s heat cycle lasts normally for around 21 days. For the first 8 to 10 days the bitch will bleed and have a swollen vulva but not accept the male. For the next 5 to 7 days the vulva will stay swollen and the discharge becomes clear. This is the period when the bitch will allow mating. In the last 5 days the swelling goes out of the vulva and the discharge becomes a white colour. The male and female dog are not interested in mating in this period.
How often does my cat cycle?
Cats have mainly two periods of year when they have cycle in these periods. The “heat” cycle usually occurs every 3 weeks and when the cat is “on heat” is usually for 3 to 5 days.

The two periods usually go on for 3 months unless the cat becomes pregnant.

Is there a contraceptive for dogs and cats?
For dogs there is a contraceptive tablet that can be given for 8 days but it must be started within 48 hours of the dog starting to have its “heat” period.

After using the contraceptive the dog will normally cycle again 5 months later (not the 6 months that normally happen).

There are no contraceptives for cats.

If I want to mate a male dog with my female dog – when is the best time?
Assuming you are not testing hormonal levels with your vet and just want to allow the male and female to mate – then we recommend that you allow the male and female to come together each morning after the 8th day and observe for mating. Once mating occurs then we recommend NOT to leave the male dog with the female and only allow mating once a day for the first 3 days then every 2nd day until the female will not allow any more mating.

The sperm will last up to 5 days inside the uterus so there is no need to panic. By allowing the male dog to mate only once a day then you are allowing the sperm concentration to increase inside his testicles. By the 3rd day the testicles are at their maximum production and then we mate every 2nd day to allow the highly concentrated sperm to enter the uterus to maximise the chance of pregnancy.

How long is my dog or cat pregnant for?
Dogs and cats both are pregnant for 63 days for the moment of conception. We allow a plus and minus of 3 days so once the owner is aware of mating the dog or cat should have its puppies or kittens between 60 to 66 days later.
When is the earliest you can detect if a dog is pregnant?
Ultrasounds allow us to detect pregnancy by the 23rd day.

X-rays do not show puppies until they are over 45 days pregnant.

How do I know if my dog is pregnant?
Good question. Some dogs do not show any sign of pregnancy until the 6th week of pregnancy while others may start producing mammary glands by the 3rd week. Some dogs even do not get pregnant but show all the signs of mammary development and that can fool some owners into thinking the dog is pregnant.
red german boxer dog runs with a toy in his mouth


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