Sometimes referred to as neutering or spaying, desexing is the surgical removal of a dog's sexual organs under general anaesthetic. In female dogs, the ovaries and part or all of the uterus are removed, and for male dogs, it's the testicles. It is usually performed when a dog is between six and nine months old, but your vet can offer you the best advice for your dog. Although the idea of major surgery can seem daunting, desexing has behavioural, health and welfare benefits.

Every year, tens of thousands of healthy dogs are euthanased because there are not enough homes for them all. Desexing your dog will help reduce the problem of unwanted litters of puppies as well as the likelihood of male dogs straying to find mates and ending up at a dog shelter themselves. Desexing also reduces aggression in male dogs and helps against other hormonally influenced behaviour problems, like dry-humping. And while some owners fear that desexing will alter their four-legged friend's personality, it's not the case. All the puppylike characteristics of playfulness, happiness and brightness stay with your dog for life.

Desexing your female puppy before her first heat or oestrus cycle not only reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies and all its possible complications, but it will significantly reduce the risk of some very serious, life-threatening conditions in later life, like mammary tumours, or breast cancer, and pyometron. Pyometron is an infection of the uterus, causing it to swell and fill with pus.

Over 80% of all older, unneutered male dogs develop prostate diseases – such as enlargement, cysts and infection, causing problems with urination, defecation and infection. Testicular cancer and perianal hernias are also prevalent in dogs over 5-7 years old. Castrating your dog early prevents any chance of testicular cancers, while perianal hernias are very, very rare in dogs castrated as puppies.

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