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Desexing Your Pet

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.

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It’s little surprise that Kiwis love their pets – after all, we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Each year, healthy cats or dogs are euthanised in shelters because there are not enough homes. In Auckland alone, approximately 55 dogs a week are euthanised, which is why it’s imperative to get your pet desexed. This guide highlights why you should desex your pet, the costs involved, and how pet insurance could help.

Why should I get my pet desexed?

New Zealand 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 unwanted cats and dogs. Each year, vast numbers of unwanted puppies and kittens are dumped, surrendered to animal shelters and destroyed. Pets that are abandoned suffer terrible lives of starvation, disease and abuse, without protection or love.

Did you know?

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 are 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 that a vet performs under general anaesthetic. It only takes a few days for your pet to recover and return to its usual energetic selves.

As well as reducing the enormous number of healthy, loving, but unwanted dogs and cats euthanised each year, desexing also has benefits for each animal, improving their behaviour and 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 is injured while 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 to go on holiday, some kennels and catteries may refuse to take undesexed dogs and cats, while others may charge more to do so.

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 be hit by a car while finding a mate.
  • Is less likely to get some types of cancer such as ovarian and testicular cancer.
  • Is less aggressive and suffers less anti-social or embarrassing behaviour such as fighting or leg mounting.
  • Is more affectionate and calm.
  • Is less likely to spray urine to mark its territory and attract mates.
  • Females 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.
  • Lives a longer, healthier and happier life.
Veterinarians usually recommend desexing dogs and cats about six months old. However, please speak to your vet and take their advice on the best age to desex.

What does it cost to neuter a dog in New Zealand?

Having your dog desexed costs approximately $200 and $500, depending on the dog’s size, age, and sex.

How much does it cost to desex my cat?

It costs approximately $50 to $125 for male cats and $70 to $150 or more for female cats (Stuff, 2019).

Do pet insurance policies cover desexing?

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

Myths about desexing

Many myths about desexing have been in circulation for many years 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 myth is untrue. It’s better to spay a female before she’s had a litter. Desexed females won’t get ovarian tumours and are at less risk of mammary cancer or uterine infection. They are also spared the trauma or complications from pregnancy and birth, requiring expensive surgery.
  • Desexing a dog or cat changes 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 never have to worry about unwanted puppies or kittens. It’s just as essential to desex males as it is females. Most dogs that end up in animal shelters are undesexed males that have wandered 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 produce 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 find a mate). It 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 costly, the cost is negligible considering that it is one procedure that lasts your pet’s lifetime. The cost outweighs 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.

Can I get a discount on desexing?

If you wish to desex your pets but are having difficulty with the cost, you can apply to the Humane Society of New Zealand Inc, which has a “Spay and Neuter assistance fund”, to which you can apply.

The SPCA has a “Snip and Chip” initiative whereby it offers to desex and microchip your pet for free or at a reduced rate. The campaign runs in different areas of New Zealand at various times, so keep a lookout for the programme in your area, or contact the SPCA for more information.

You may find charitable trusts in your area that help with the cost of desexing. For example, For The Love of Animals in Hastings, Hawkes Bay asks for $30 towards the cost of desexing, and it covers the rest of the price. The Cats Protection in Wellington offers desexing at $40 for male cats and $65 for females for owners with a Community Services Card or Student ID.

Keep a lookout in your area for similar offers to help cover the cost of desexing your pet and help reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs in New Zealand.

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