Traditionally dogs have been desexed at about 6 months of age, just before they reach sexual maturity.
It was thought that desexing earlier than this might affect the development of the urinary tract and lead to urinary obstruction in males and “immature vulva” in females however controlled experiments in the United States have shown that this is not the case and now large numbers of puppies are being desexed at 6-12 weeks of age(Early Spay Neuter -ESN), both in the US and Australia, with no ill effects being reported.
The RSPCA strongly supports ESN and you can read more about this on their website. There is controversy surrounding desexing dogs before puberty and some breeders and even some vets oppose the normal practice of desexing at 6 months. The argument supporting prepubertal desexing is discussed in detail in this article.
Studies have shown that there are differences in behaviour and development between dogs desexed before and after puberty. Dogs that are desexed before puberty tend to remain more “puppy like” in their behaviour and tend to grow a bit taller. But the timing of pre-pubertal desexing was not shown to have an effect on development. There was no repeatable difference between pups desexed at 6 weeks and at 6 months. The prevalence of Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) injury does increase in desexed dogs and was reported in a 2004 study to be 3.48% of all dogs with a 2.25% in entire dogs and a 4.71% incidence in desexed dogs.
Desexing puppies at six to eight weeks of age is quick and simple and puppies recover rapidly and are feeding and playing within half an hour of surgery.
I have been desexing puppies at 6 weeks of age since 1993. In our health survey of over 500 owners we have found a surprisingly low incidence of urinary incontinence, lower than would normally be expected in desexed female dogs. We have found 4.6% incidence of this CCL in older dogs which is consistent with the reported figures for desexed dogs in general. I am confident that our dogs are no more prone to health problems than dogs desexed at the “normal” age of 6 months
Desexed male dogs
Most people when buying a family pet have a strong preference for female puppies. This is not at all surprising given typical male dog behaviour. If you own a Pit Bull Terrier you may expect, and enjoy, a bit of macho behaviour in your dog, however most people don’t want a family pet that cocks its leg on every post, marches about stiff legged and bristling to sniff the bum of every dog it meets, bolts the minute a bitch within a five mile radius comes into season, and most importantly runs any risk at all of biting anyone.
Male dogs desexed at an early age will show little or none of this behaviour. Although most do learn to lift their leg to urinate they will do this predominantly to relieve themselves – not to scent mark their territory, which is the function of this distasteful male dog habit. While they may show interest in females in season this interest is not strong and doesn’t lead them to wander.
Desexed males are not prone to fighting or to dominance aggression and do not figure in the statistics on dog attacks on people.
Many studies have shown that some men strongly resist the idea of owning a desexed male.
If you are reading this and find yourself among this group it is important to think through why you are buying a pet. Are you looking for an animal that reflects your personal self image or do you want a childrens pet?
This is a serious question and I don’t mean to appear judgemental. I fully sympathise with men who feel that they couldn’t own a Chihuahua or a toy Poodle, but I also believe that when the animal is to be a family pet compromises need to be made.
If you can’t handle the idea of a desexed male dog perhaps you should get a female? You must feel comfortable with the breed and sex of the dog you choose – it is a decision you will hopefully have to live with for 14 years.
In summary desexed male dogs are similar to females in their behaviour and make safe, loveable and loyal family pets.
All the puppies that I sell are desexed at six weeks of age. There are a number of reasons why my puppies are desexed before sale:
First cross dogs don’t “breed true”. If you cross two “Labradoodles” the puppies will be a mixed bunch and only a few will resemble their parents. If you want to breed “Labradoodles” you have to cross a poodle with a labrador or you will have to spend years inbreeding to fix the type you want to breed.
I sell family pets. While I can sympathise with people who want their children to experience the very real joy of breeding a litter of puppies, I’ve had to euthanase Pound dogs in the past and I don’t want to run any risk of contributing to the unplanned and unwanted dogs which end up being disposed of in Council Pounds and animal shelters.
I believe that childrens pets should be desexed because they then make better and safer family members. Most attacks on children are made by dominant male dogs which have not been desexed.
I can do the operation myself and people who buy my pups benefit from a saving in costs.