Spaying female rats

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Dillie
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Spaying female rats

Post by Dillie » Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:12 pm

So, I am preparing to get my first ever rats. I have decided to get 2 does, but I have a question about spaying. I've heard that it decreases the risk of cancer, is this true?

Basically, I'd love to hear the pros and cons of spaying, what age people would reccomend spaying, and how it affects the rats behavour wise.

I will not spay just to prevent litters, because that is impossible. My ratties will never come in contact with any male rats, so there's not a chance they will get pregnant spayed or not.

I'd love to hear your opinions!
Thanks!

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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by BasilTheRat » Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:28 pm

I am a big advocate of preemptive spaying, since I think the benefits for later on in life are worth the risks of the surgery. All of my girls are spayed. However, a spay is an invasive surgery, which does carry risks from infection and complications from the anesthetic. Only healthy rats should be considered for spaying.

Does are best spayed between 3 and 6 months for the absolute best results (in terms of mammary tumour reduction). Other types of cancer are not effected by the spay, only mammary tumours. Spaying will prevent the rat from getting pyometra as well (infection of the uterus), which is a horrible condition (I have seen this first hand with several of my rats), and the cure for this is spaying! So better to spay before they get it!

There are arguements on both sides, and ultimately it is something you will need to discuss with your vet. My vet would only do mine after she had conducted quite a bit of research on the subject. She came to the conclusions that spaying is definitely beneficial for the younger does. Some people also get their rats spayed after their first mammary tumour removal, though this will have less impact on future tumours.

Since a full spay will remove the overies as well, there is a change in female behavior after a spay. Notably they will not go into heat every 5 days, which is something I have missed a bit with my lot since its a very amusing time with them (ear waggling etc...) Apart from that does will retain their personality. A laid back doe will remain a laid back doe. A pinging one will stay pinging!

Hope that is useful. Like I say, other people have different views, and ultimately it is something you will have to decide. I went down the spaying route recently after many of my older does (who have all since passed) all got mammary lumps, and some of them got pyometra as well... Preemptive spaying based on my rat owning history made the most sense to me. Other people have much more luck when it comes to their rat health histories. Where the rat comes from makes a huge difference as well (rescue vs breeder).

*Edit*

Just to put some numbers on the cancer rate of spayed vs unspayed rats - my vet came out with 50% unspayed rats will develop mammary tumours, while only 4% of spayed rats will develop mammary tumours. I don't know how accurate these numbers are, but I do know my vet did extensive research before agreeing to spay my girls. And she has access to all the RCVS data, as well as other experimental data on the subject. She even wrote an article about preemptive spaying for a NERS newsletter. Though again to stress, it is your decision, and its not one to be taken lightly! There are risks with surgery...

Oh, congratulations on doing the research before getting the rats. It is the absolute best way of going about it. Have you decided to get rescue rats or breeder rats? If you get breeder rats you would have to discuss preemptive spaying with the breeder as well as the vet before you proceed, since some breeders might not like their rats to be spayed. I don't know, since I have only owned rescue mongrels ;) :lol:
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by Dillie » Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:25 pm

Thank you for your opinion! I have been leaning towards spaying, but I'm not sure, those figures you gave are helpful and I'll try to find more. I think in the long run it would be better to get them spayed, but I'm not sure if it's worth the risk of the sugery, and I'm not sure how great those risks are, so I'll definately be looking more into it.

I am going for a breeder since this is my first time, although assuming all goes well and I decide to own more rats in the future, I'll probably look into rescues then. I'll definately discuss it with the breeder and my vet before deciding anything and see what they say.

I'm glad the behaviour stays the same xD

And thank you c: I want to make sure I know exactly what I'm doing before I start so that I can do my best for the rats. Also, I'm pretty clueless. I owned a hamster a few years ago and I've had rabbits and that's all the experience I've had with rodents/small animals, and both hamsters and rabbits are very different from rats anyway so...this is all pretty much new to me.

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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by BasilTheRat » Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:43 pm

Okay, well breeder rats tend to be much healthier than rescue rats, so I would be tempted not to spay if you get some quality breeder rats. Though discuss it with the breeder, and your vet. A rat spay is much like a guinea pig spay, just a bit smaller. So that is useful to tell your vet, incase they have never done a rat spay (but might have done several guinea pig spays).
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by red chicken » Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:54 pm

I work in anaesthetics admittedly with humans rather the animals but the risks are the same, I would never give a human or a animal an anaesthetic unless it was really needed ie to save their life. The risks of anaesthetics are huge as are the risk of surgery I personally would never let my animals or family for that matter have surgery with out it being life saving.
Good luck with the desicion :luck:
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by MarieM » Sun Apr 24, 2011 6:05 pm

I wouldn't spay as a preventative measure. I go with ' If it ain't broken, don't try and fix it'. Surgery always has risks, not to mention the addition of painkillers, ABs and the stress itself for the rat. Just my thoughts.
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by SuzyN » Sun Apr 24, 2011 6:50 pm

red chicken wrote:I work in anaesthetics admittedly with humans rather the animals but the risks are the same, I would never give a human or a animal an anaesthetic unless it was really needed ie to save their life. The risks of anaesthetics are huge as are the risk of surgery I personally would never let my animals or family for that matter have surgery with out it being life saving.
Good luck with the desicion :luck:
I would agree, we have only had one doe spayed and that was following birthing problems necessitating an emergency c sect and spay which was needed to save her. I do not see the point in putting a rat through invasive surgery on a 'just in case' basis.
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by ShinyRainbow » Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:50 pm

SuzyN wrote:
red chicken wrote:I work in anaesthetics admittedly with humans rather the animals but the risks are the same, I would never give a human or a animal an anaesthetic unless it was really needed ie to save their life. The risks of anaesthetics are huge as are the risk of surgery I personally would never let my animals or family for that matter have surgery with out it being life saving.
Good luck with the desicion :luck:
I would agree, we have only had one doe spayed and that was following birthing problems necessitating an emergency c sect and spay which was needed to save her. I do not see the point in putting a rat through invasive surgery on a 'just in case' basis.
I agree with both of these. I had never owned does before my two 9 month old girls, only bucks, and prior to getting them did a lot of research on pros and cons of spaying. Although my vet has done spays on rats before, it is not something that they practice often (unlike neutering). Most of all I was afraid of an invasive procedure being done on my girls (at between 3 and 6 months they were still so small!) and the risks involved so decided against it. If they develop mammory tumours in the future, I would be happier to have the tumours removed as the operation would be more superficial. They would of course still be under anesthetic which also carries risk, but at least they wouldn't be having their insides removed :(
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by Lackis » Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:30 pm

Do you only et the long term health benefits of spaying if it is done when the doe is young? In the 3 -6 month age range. Also if you need to concider spaying for any reason particularly is there an age where it becomes very risky or the cons start to out weigh the pros? Say 18 months + perhaps?
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by BasilTheRat » Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:27 am

Lackis wrote:Do you only et the long term health benefits of spaying if it is done when the doe is young? In the 3 -6 month age range. Also if you need to concider spaying for any reason particularly is there an age where it becomes very risky or the cons start to out weigh the pros? Say 18 months + perhaps?
The most benefit from spaying comes when done between 3 and 6 months, but many owners spay at the same time as the first lump (though this will have less effect on preventing future lumps).

Looks like I am in a minority in this thread, which I fully expected! The reason I went down the precautionary spaying route is that I have had a history of my rats developing pyometra (I have had 4 cases of this now). Its such a horrible condition, that I decided to have all my young ones spayed to prevent this happening to them also. But again, my rats are all rescue rats, from particularly 'dodgy' genetic backgrounds. I would probably not get a breeder doe spayed, since I would not expect them to have as many health problems.

I'm sure everyone thinks I'm the devil for having my girls spayed... But I don't see it that way at all. I see it as making sure they will be fit and healthy when they get older (no mammary lumps, no pyometra). I did say in my original post that there are arguements on both sides. I used to be against routine spaying of does. Its not to say I'm right or the others are right. What really makes the difference is when you look at what health problems you have seen, on and owner by owner basis. I'm sure if I only owned breeder rats I wouldn't have had so many health problems in the past. But taking on rescue rats who have come from rodent farms, their health is inevitably poorer than breeder rats.
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by Ratty_Rhian » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:48 am

I agree with Basiltherat on this one I'm afraid. I won't go over the stats again as that would be daft but I will say that of my first 4 females all of them needed surgery for lumps at one point or another (most requiring more than 1 surgery) and I now have another very old rat who has a lump (her second) who I have decided not to operate on due to age and general condition. I am absolutely convinced that if I had had them spayed when they were between 3 and 6 months then most wouldn't have go these lumps. Unfortunately all my rats have been older than 6 months when I have adopted them so I didn't opt for surgery.

I believe that 1 anaesthetic on a young healthy rat is far less risky than putting an older doe under who is ill because they have a tumour or pyo. Having said that I wouldn't dream of spaying my breeder girls as their breeder has worked hard to minimise these risks. In the rabbit owning world this isn't even debated anymore. All reputable rescues spay females as routine before homing and most non-breeder owners ackowledege the risk and get their female rabbits spayed at 6 months of age where possible.
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by NickyE » Mon Apr 25, 2011 9:00 am

As all my girls have previously been pet shop rats and for the last few years rescue girls I have always had them spayed as soon as they were big enough (with my first 2 it might actually have been a little older than the recommended as I was still looking into it all). 4 of my girls reached 3 years old. 2 got well past 2 years old. The ones who didn't reach that age had other unrelated (to female hormones) health problems.

Having seen my friend's rat with huge mammary tumours that looked almost like men's testicles, too old to operate on (and these were recurred lumps after one two had been op'd on when she was younger) struggling to get around, I just don't want to see that in my girls.

I am very confident in my vets' ability to spay my girls although I do appreciate that there can always be complications under any surgery. The first time I took girls down there for a spay I actually printed out a load of guidance and gave it to them! :oops: :rollred:
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Re: Spaying female rats

Post by Dillie » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:43 am

Thank you all for your comments! A few mixed views, although the overall feeling seems to be spaying is good for pet shop rats/rescues, but not for bred rats. So that could mean it's unlikely for me to get them spayed, as long as I find a good breeder. I will have to see what the breeder and my vet say though.

Thank you everyone!

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