Skip to content

When should I have my dog desexed?

Desexing is important to consider for both male and female dogs as it can improve their overall health and behaviour. It also prevents unplanned litters of puppies that if not rehomed could add to the thousands of dogs who are waiting for homes in shelters or with rescue groups. If they cannot be placed in a rescue group or shelter, they may suffer poor welfare through being abandoned or becoming stray, with some being euthanised as a result. In some states such as South Australia and the ACT, desexing is compulsory, except for breeders with government permits.

If you don’t plan on meeting and maintaining high health standards for the purpose of breeding, it may be best to have your dog desexed. However, many owners ask what desexing involves and when this should be performed. Here’s an easy guide to help you understand the process.

What is desexing?

Desexing is a routine surgery performed under anesthesia by veterinarians and involves removing the reproductive organs of dogs to permanently prevent them from breeding. It is referred to as ‘spaying’ in female dogs and as ‘castration’ in male dogs. The health benefits include reducing the risk of mammary cancer and preventing infections of the uterus and false pregnancies in female dogs, and preventing testicular cancer and prostate disease in male dogs. The benefits don’t end here, because desexing also prevents a number of behaviours that owners find undesirable, that can even lead to dogs being given up for rehoming. Desexed males are less likely to wander off looking for females, so there is a lower risk of getting into fights with other animals or potentially being injured by cars when roaming.

Desexing can also reduce ‘mounting’ and urine marking. Desexed female dogs are less likely to engage in noisy cries and will not come into heat and expel discharge, which generally makes them easier to care for.

When should dogs be desexed?

Traditionally, the recommendation was for dogs to be desexed between five and six months of age. In more recent years and based on scientific evidence, the RSPCA and many veterinarians are recommending that dogs be desexed before they reach puberty, which for some dogs can be as early as four months. Desexing can be performed safely from eight weeks (at a minimum body weight of 1kg), and evidence shows that at this earlier age, surgery time and healing are both faster.

Early age desexing is the usual practice in most animal shelters, and any dog adopted from a reputable shelter will already have been desexed before rehoming. For other privately owned dogs, owners will need to consult their veterinarian for advice, as they will consider a range of factors, including the dog’s size, breed, vaccination status and overall health before recommending the timing of surgery. While there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to the question of when you should have your dog desexed, this surgery is being safely performed much earlier these days, and well before your dog reaches the stage of being able to reproduce.

Cost of desexing dogs

Another question that owners often ask is how much does desexing cost? Prices vary by clinic and organisation but it has been estimated that the average range is from $200 to $500. The total amount usually depends on your dog’s size, age, or other individual factors. The procedure may be slightly more expensive for female dogs because the surgery is more involved and usually takes longer, with more medication needed.

Desexing your dog offers health and behavioural benefits and can potentially increase the time you have with your precious companion. It also helps to prevent the number of unwanted puppies who may never find homes. Like you, your veterinarian has the best interests of your dog at heart and will advise you about the best timing of this important procedure.

While desexing is not always covered under pet insurance (it may be depending on the exact policy and circumstances), it’s still important to consider taking out cover for your dog to make sure you can provide them with the best possible care when they’re sick or injured. You can be prepared and help to protect your back pocket against expensive vet bills with a pet insurance policy.

Image of Dr Rosemary Elliot

Dr Rosemary Elliot 

Dr Rosemary studied veterinary science at the University of Sydney after having established her career as a clinical psychologist, and has qualifications of BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), MPsych (Clin), BA (Hons) as well as previously establishing her career as a clinical psychologist. Her experiences during veterinary training fostered an ambition to focus directly on animal welfare and ethics, with a particular interest in animal sentience and the human-animal bond. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Rosemary combines her psychology background and veterinary skills to contribute to and promote animal welfare, and regularly contributes quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance's Pet Care blog.