Desexing Your Pet

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From reducing your vet bills to keeping unwanted dogs and cats off the streets, find out why neutering or spaying your pet is so important.

It's little surprise that Aussies love their pets - after all, we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. But unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

Each year, more than 250,000 healthy cats or dogs are euthanised in shelters because there are not enough homes for them. This is why it's extremely important to get your pet desexed. This guide highlights the reasons why you should desex your pet, the costs involved, and how pet insurance could help you.

Why should I get my pet desexed?

Australia is a nation of dog and cat lovers, but in a country with one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world, it’s alarming to see that animal shelters are overwhelmed with thousands of unwanted cats and dogs. Each year, huge numbers of unwanted puppies and kittens are dumped, surrendered to animal shelters and destroyed.

About 250,000 dogs and cats are euthanised every year in Australia because there aren’t enough homes for them. Unwanted pets that are dumped suffer terrible lives of starvation, disease and abuse, without shelter or love.

Did you know?

According to the RSPCA, just one female dog and her offspring can produce about 20,000 puppies in five years, while a female cat and her offspring can produce 20,000 kittens in just two years.

Having your dog or cat desexed means your pet won’t add to this number and you will be doing your part as a responsible pet owner by reducing the number of unwanted puppies and kittens.

Every dog and cat owner is responsible for desexing their pet. Desexing a dog or a cat (also known as spaying in females and neutering in males) is a quick operation performed under general anaesthetic. It will only take a few days for your pet to recover and return to their normal energetic selves.

As well as reducing the enormous number of healthy and loving, but unwanted, dogs and cats that are euthanised each year, desexing also has benefits for each individual animal, improving their behaviour and their health and extending their lifespan.

What happens if I don’t desex my pet?

In the greater scheme of your pet’s life, the cost of desexing is small. Owners of undesexed pets can be hit with high vet bills if their animal gets injured while out roaming or has complications during pregnancy and birth. Taking an undesexed dog out for a walk or to a dog park can be stressful and embarrassing if your dog is aggressive or tries to mount other dogs.

If you’re planning on going on holiday, many kennels and catteries refuse to take undesexed dogs and cats, while others charge more to do so. And local councils charge more – over four times as much – to register an undesexed animal.

What are the benefits of getting my pet neutered or spayed?

A desexed dog or cat:

  • Is less likely to wander, get into fights or get hit by a car while trying to find a mate.
  • Is less likely to get some types of cancer such as ovarian and testicular cancer.
  • Will be less aggressive and suffer less anti-social or embarrassing behaviour such as fighting or leg mounting.
  • Will be more affectionate and calm.
  • Is less likely to spray urine to mark its territory and attract mates.
  • Won’t attract male dogs or cats to your home while on heat.
  • Won’t suffer the physical injuries, exhaustion and possible infection from having one litter after the other.
  • Will live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Veterinarians usually recommend desexing dogs and cats when they are between five-and-a-half and six months old, but the RSPCA desexes animals at eight weeks, which it says is safe and effective.

How much does it cost to desex my cat?

It costs around $115 to have a male cat desexed and around $300 to have a female cat desexed, according to the RSPCA.

Note that many councils will charge more to register an undesexed cat. The registration costs could be as much as four times the cost of registering a desexed cat.

How much does it cost to desex my dog?

Having your dog desexed will cost between $200 and $500, depending on the size, age and sex of the dog, according to the RSPCA. As with cats, many councils will charge much more to register an undesexed dog. The difference can be more than four times the cost of registering a desexed dog.

Which pet insurance policies cover desexing?

Some pet insurance policies have additional options to help cover the cost of desexing your dog or cat.

Australia Post Pet Insurance

Australia Post Pet Insurance offers an optional benefit that contributes to the cost of desexing. Under the Bronze, Silver and Gold Pet Insurance policies, the $200 optional wellbeing benefit includes $120 towards the cost of desexing or other procedures each year. The other procedures covered include heartworm control, dewclaw removal, prescription diets and microchipping.

Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance

Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance has an optional Routine Care Wellness benefit. This option gives you a $50 annual benefit, which can go towards the cost of desexing. It can also go towards other procedures such as microchipping, teeth cleaning, council registration, heartworm medication or burial/cremation.

Woolworths Pet Insurance

Woolworths Pet Insurance gives you the option of choosing Comprehensive Cover, which provides $50 towards the cost of desexing. The $50 annual limit can alternatively be used towards other procedures such as microchipping, dental treatment, dewclaw removal, council registration or obedience training.

Can I get a discount on desexing?

In July every year, vet clinics in Australia reduce their desexing fees in an effort to encourage more pet owners to bring their pets in for the procedure. The National Desexing Network (NDN) is a charity that aims to end pet overpopulation by making it more affordable for pet owners in financial need to have their animals desexed.

The NDN keeps a list of veterinarians on its website, so that in July each year you can find the nearest vet clinic that offers a discount on desexing. The registered veterinarians who participate in the NDN program don’t get any extra funding. They choose to reduce their fees out of their own concern for animal welfare.

If you are genuinely struggling financially and can’t afford the cost of desexing, you can apply to the NDN at any time of the year to get help finding a vet who will desex your pet for less. Please note that year-round fee reduction is only available to pet owners who genuinely need it.

Myths about desexing

There are a lot of myths about desexing that have been in circulation for many years now and that you might still hear from time to time. Here are some of the myths and why they’re not true:

  • A female dog or cat needs to have at least one litter before she is desexed. This is definitely untrue. In fact, it’s better to desex a female before she’s had a litter. Desexed females won’t get ovarian tumours and will be at less risk of getting mammary cancer or a uterine infection. They will also be spared any trauma or complications from pregnancy and birth, which can require expensive surgery.
  • Desexing a dog or cat will change its personality and make it fat and lazy. Your pet is more likely to become calmer and more affectionate, less aggressive and easier to train. Feeding your pet too much food and not letting it exercise is a surefire way to make it overweight, not desexing it.
  • You don’t need to desex your male dog or cat because you’ll never have to worry about unwanted puppies or kittens. It’s just as important to desex males as it is to desex females. Most dogs that end up in animal shelters are undesexed males that have wandered away from home or have been dumped by their owners because of behavioural problems resulting from sexual frustration. Undesexed males are also more likely to get testicular cancer and prostate disease.
  • It’s not natural to desex a pet. Modern dogs and cats have been bred a long way from their original wild wolf and cat states. There is also nothing “natural” about a pet that has the desire to breed but can’t because it lives in a modern urban environment where it can’t reach another animal (or, a pet that’s so frustrated that it risks being hit by a car to in order to find a mate). This is not “natural”, nor is it responsible.
  • You want your female dog or cat to have a litter so that your children can see the miraculous event of an animal giving birth. It’s far better to teach them how to be responsible pet owners and the importance of not adding to the number of unwanted animals.
  • Desexing an animal is too expensive. While desexing a pet may seem expensive, the cost is small when you consider that it is just one procedure that will last your pet’s lifetime. The cost is also outweighed by the potential vet bills that you may have to pay due to illness or injury, the cost of caring for unwanted puppies and kittens (including food, vaccinations and worm and flea treatments) and higher council registration fees.

William Eve

Will is a personal finance writer for finder.com.au specialising in content on insurance. While he cannot give personal advice to clients, Will enjoys explaining the intricacies of different types of protective cover to help individuals and businesses find affordable cover that won't leave them underinsured.

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