ONE in five households in Australia owns a pet, with many tragically ending up in animal shelters.
National Desexing Month, held in July, aims to keep these numbers in check.
Since its inception in 2004, the annual drive has seen 160 participating veterinary clinics desex about 250,000 cats and dogs across Australia.
Local councils are also on board to prevent animals from roaming the streets and ending up in shelters.
Desexing is performed by a qualified veterinarian, who removes the animal's reproductive organs to prevent unwanted litters. In males, this is called castration and in females, spaying.
A benefit of desexing a male dog is that it reduces the risk of developing testicular cancer and inhibiting prostate problems.
Australian Veterinary Association national manager, policy and veterinary science Melanie Latter said there was no specific time ideal for desexing a dog.
"The appropriate age for desexing in dogs varies depending on the individual animal, on the breed or breed mix, size and likely age at which skeletal maturity will be reached," Dr Latter said.
"Veterinarians will therefore make recommendations about the age of desexing on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the client, based on the risks and benefits to the individual animal and current scientific evidence.
"Relevant regulations and registration requirements should be taken into account."
Desexing cats reduces their desire to roam, making it safer for the animal to remain indoors and also protects wildlife.
With this in mind, many councils offer reduced registration fees for desexed animals.
"Desexing is an important tool to reduce unwanted dogs and cats in the community, particularly when combined with relevant community education programs," Dr Latter said.
Desexed cats are more docile and so are less likely to fight with other cats.
Dr Latter says the best time to desex cats is before 16 weeks since they may be able to reproduce from four months of age.
"Current scientific evidence supports desexing cats before puberty."
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