It shouldn’t surprise you that there are arguments for and against puppy early or late desexing.
If you get a puppy from a rescue, you may find them already desexed. This is due to the increasingly popular practice of puppy desexing at a very young age, such as two to three months of age. The main driver for this is to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the numbers of unwanted dogs, with there are already being too many dogs for too few homes.
It may sound alarming to put such a young puppy through an operation but in fact, the pups cope very well. Plus, evidence now tells us that this has little or no impact on the dogs’ long term health.
To look at this in more detail, on the plus side of desexing a puppy, the youngster recovers quickly because the womb or testicles are immature and thus the surgical time is much less. Modern anaesthesia techniques also mean no increased danger despite the young age, and modern drugs can safely keep the patient pain free.
On the minus side, the sex hormones play a part in telling the bones when to stop growing. When a puppy is desexed at a young age, they lose this feedback and so the bone growth plates stay open for longer. This means the dog may be slightly leggier as an adult than they might otherwise be. This is all well and good, because it doesn’t mean the puppy will become a giant, but it may have implications for the ligaments that hold the joints together.
Current thinking is that early desexing of pets may add to the risk of knee-ligament rupture in later life. Also known as cruciate ligament rupture, this is a potentially debilitating condition that may require expensive surgical repair.
But again balancing the risks, smaller dogs are those least affected by early desexing. However, large or giant breeds do have a credible increased risk of conditions such as osteosarcoma. Thus, for the bigger dogs it does seem sensible to desex sometime after their first birthday, but before their second. After two years of age, this is classed as late desexing, which comes with a new set of pros and cons.
The main disadvantage against late desexing is that the cancer-protection factor is lost for the females. There is less pressure for males to be desexed, because of the lack of a strong health argument in favour of desexed dogs. However some states in Australia, it is compulsory to desex puppies when they are 6 months old. South Australia (Section 42E of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995) & ACT (Section 74 of the Domestic Animals Act 2000) – there are some limited exemptions. This is to limit backyard breeders and to reduce the number of abandoned animals.