Neutering

By Small Furries - July 16, 2019




There are many reasons behind neutering a rat but the most common is usually to house males and females together.

Neutering in both genders, but mainly females, can be a very invasive procedure and as with any surgeries there is a risk that something could go wrong and depending on their age, they may not survive the anaesthesia. 

It is always best to get two of the same gender where possible but sometimes you may end up with both.

To save your rat(s) from going through this surgery you may think about housing them separately, this can be done in the same cage as long as there is no possible way for the genders to interact. If you fear, they may be able to get to each other its best to neuter to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Reasons for neutering

  • Mixing Genders
  • Decrease the risk of mammary tumours and other illnesses in females
  • Decrease the risk of testicular cancer in males
  • Calm an aggressive rat


Preparation

Rats should be neutered at an early age to ensure they are healthy enough to make it through the anaesthesia. The usual and recommended age to neuter a rat is between 4 and 6 months old although some people do neuter them at a later age if they are rescues and it is the only solution to a problem but many vets will refuse to operate on rats over the age of 18 months.

Do not fast 

The vet him/herself will have a vast knowledge on rats but the nurses do not specialise in exotics (some do!) and may give you a form to fill out for small mammals, they are a generic form and will usually tell you do fast your animal before surgery.

Many small mammals must have their food taken away a 4-6 hours before their surgery to ensure they do not vomit during the procedure but rats do not follow the same routine and must not be fasted as they need to be continuously eating to keep their digestive system going and wear down their teeth.

How is it done?

Female rats go through a procedure called an Ovariectomy, which is when both ovaries are removed via incisions in the stomach. They will be shaved before surgery and will be put under general anaesthetic for the whole procedure. 

You may also think about choosing to get an Ovariohysterectomy, which removes the uterus as well and prevents uterine cancer as well as mammary tumours and Pyometra.

Male rats are also put under general anaesthetic for the entire procedure and will be shaved but they do not have to go through the stomach and can make small incisions in the testicular sack and remove the testicles, leaving the sack to remain! This procedure is also known as castration and is much less invasive than an ovariectomy.

Post Neuter Care

After surgery, your rat will be very sleepy coming around from their anaesthetic and you should keep them in a quiet dark place as soon as possible. They will likely be confused and scared so reducing the noise and light should help them feel calm as they wake up.

Ensure to keep your rat(s) warm (especially if its winter) and allow them to have some time on their own as they are coming around. I keep them in my cat carrier and place it on top of a hot water bottle to keep half of the carrier warm. 

Provide their usual food and water as soon as you get home and give them some extra treats like a small bowl of baby food or a handful of mealworms!

As rats love to groom each other, especially if one is poorly, in rare cases cage mates may pull out the sutures so it is best to keep your recently neutered rat(s) separate from their mischief for up to a week and until you are happy, they have healed well.

Male rats have a tendency of getting an abscess after castration, the abscess is usually caused by inflammation due to injury, in this case, the injury is the incisions and sutures put it during surgery.

The abscess can be treated as you would any other abscess. Most abscesses drain on their own but you should keep an eye on it in case it does not heal or there is another underlying problem.

In other rare cases, rats can pull out their own stitches and may need to be re admitted to the vet for emergency surgery. Your rat may pull out their stitches due to pain or being uncomfortable so you should ensure they have the correct pain relief whilst they are healing and check on them as frequently as possible in the first 24 hours, take a day off work if possible.

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Small Furries 2019 Extended Diploma in Animal Management

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References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/
http://www.ratbehavior.org
http://www.ratfanclub.org/

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