Australians love their pets, and more than 60% of households have one. Collectively, millions of dollars are spent every week looking after them, but unfortunately this generosity doesn’t extend to the hundreds of thousands of animals that find their way into shelters every year. Many end up there as a result of unplanned pregnancies, and tragically, many of end up being euthanised. A simple and effective way to prevent these unwanted pregnancies is desexing.  

The large majority Australia’s registered pets are desexed, which demonstrates that people who take registration responsibly, also take a responsible approach to desexing, but there are thousands of animals that are unregistered and potentially not desexed. People choose not to desex their pets for a variety of reasons.

Benefits of desexing dogs and cats

Many believe that desexing is not necessary because their pet is kept indoors, and dogs are kept on leashes when they’re walked or unattended. This may be a valid reason in principle, but even for indoor pets, desexing brings numerous health and behavioural benefits. Following is a summary of some of the benefits for dogs and cats:

Male Dogs

Female Dogs

Prevention of:

  • Certain types of testicle tumours & hernias
  • Enlargement of the prostate gland
  • Prostate infection and inflammation


Reduction of:

  • Aggressive behaviour towards male dogs
  • Wandering for mating purposes
  • Marking with urine


Prevention of:

  • Unplanned pregnancies
  • Ovarian cancers
  • Life-threatening uterine infections
  • False pregnancy (pseudo-pregnancy) symptoms such as lactation - or nursing  without producing puppies
  • Coming on heat

Reduction of mammary cancers

Male Cats

Female Cats

Prevention of testicular cancer


Reduction of:

  • Fighting with male cats
  • Wandering for mating purposes
  • Marking with urine / spraying
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Risks of getting feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).


Prevention of:

  • Unplanned pregnancies
  • Ovarian cancers
  • Vocalising, restlessness and other behaviours associated with being on heat


Reduction in rates of mammary cancer



As well as these, in both male and female cats, desexing usually leads to animal becoming more affectionate towards humans.


One of the reasons desexing is so important for dog owners is that male dogs can be particularly determined when trying to find a mate. Natural instincts take control and even dogs confined indoors may try to escape. This increases the risk of roaming behaviour, and contributes to the risk of road accidents and becoming lost or stolen. Female dogs in season will behave differently, exhibit mood changes, and bleeding will occur. Like their male counterparts, they will actively try to find a mate.  These issues and risks can be addressed by desexing.

What does desexing involve?

Desexing is performed under full general anaesthesia by vets in a sterile environment. Males have both testes removed, thereby eliminating the main source of the male sex hormone testosterone, and sperm which is required for reproduction.  In females, both the uterus and ovaries are removed. (Sometimes the terms neutering and spaying are used, which refer to the desexing procedure of males and females respectively.) Animals usually remain in hospital during the day of the procedure, and can return home that evening.

Early-age desexing

Concerns that animals are too young is another reason people choose not to desex their pets, however early age desexing is less stressful on animals. Dogs and cats are normally desexed between five-and-a-half and six months of age.


Animals can be desexed at any age, therefore if your older pet is not desexed it’s not too late. The risk of certain diseases that desexing reduces, or eliminates altogether, increases with age, therefore it can be even more important for older dogs and cats to be desexed.


Can it change pets’ personalities?

Some pet owners refrain from having their pet desexed due to concerns that it will affect their personality or they’ll become docile. This is a fallacy, and desexing won’t change an animal’s underlying personality, however it can lead to animals being more relaxed and playful, and less aggressive. Desexing will usually address many undesirable behaviours and have a positive impact on an animal’s demeanour.


Some pet owners think that their female pet should be allowed to experience motherhood, however there is no evidence to suggest that female animals who have not had a litter are physically or psychologically worse off. Many who’ve had litters are in fact are worse off, as the demand for calcium in their milk can remove it from their bones. Any argument of deprivation is most likely more to do with anthropomorphisation (the attribution of human motivation and behaviour to animals).


Cost of desexing

Not proceeding with desexing of pets is often blamed on the cost, and whilst the cost of the procedure is a legitimate consideration, pet owners should also consider the risks of not desexing. Surgery required for a pet who has sustained an injury by being struck by a car while roaming during mating season, or as a result of a fight with another animal, could have a much greater impact on the hip pocket.


Is there any case for not desexing?

There is no legitimate reason not to desex your pet, although it may not be appropriate at certain times. Vets4Pets prefers not to desex animals when they’re on heat due to the increased risks of blood loss. Your vet can provide advice about the right time to desex your pet. Some people might decide not to desex because of plans for breeding, but this needs to be evaluated with due consideration of the reduced lifespan that potentially results from breeding.


There is a direct relationship between not desexing dogs and cats and overpopulation, and the ultimate consequence of overpopulation is the euthanasia of animals in shelters and pounds that can’t find homes for them. Desexing is the most responsible choice pet owners can make, and in addition to addressing the issue of unwanted litters, there are numerous health and behavioural benefits. Desexing may also be recommended by your vet to prevent hereditary diseases from being passed on to offspring.


If you have any questions or concerns about desexing, please give us a call. We’re always available to answer your questions.