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I've recently adopted 4 little girls, Rosie, Bear, Delilah, and Madame Dupree. Soon they will be 5 months old. The only other rat that I've loved and cared for was male, Richard. Sooooo, I'm scared about spaying. It seems so traumatic and dangerous. Has it really made a difference with respect to tumors, etc.? Do you all get your girls spayed? How old? I'm very worried. I've heard stories of rats disemboweling themselves.
 

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Spaying has a risk (as with any surgery) but in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the risks - especially if the risks are minimized through finding a wonderfully experienced vet. Of course, there is no straightforward answer with regards to whether or not you should spay as it all depends on each individual rat and their circumstance. Since I have a mixed gender colony, I opt to do a spay rather than a neuter on my boys due to the greater health benefits for young females. They go home with me on the same day of surgery and always heal up great. If you do decide to spay your girls, here are my general tips.

General tips:
-Research, research, research!
-Take your rat to somebody who has experience operating and performing surgery on rats, not somebody who only spays dogs or cats. This will probably be more expensive but has the best chance of zero complications.
-An Ovariohysterectomy (where they remove both the ovaries and uterus) is better since it also prevents uterine cancers and other complications with the uterus as well as the regular benefits of an Ovariectomy.

"Female rats who are spayed have a reduced chance of developing estrogen fueled tumors, and are less likely to develop mammary and pituitary tumors. One study (Hotchkis, 1995) found that in unspayed rats used in the study, 49% developed benign mammary tumors, 8.2% developed mammary carcinomas and 66% developed pituitary tumors. In the spayed rats used in this study, 4% developed mammary tumors, none developed mammary carcinomas and 4% developed pituitary tumors. Given the inoperable nature of pituitary tumors, this is a massive health benefit for female rats.

Female rats who have an Ovariohysterectomy are no longer at risk for developing uterine cancer, as the uterus has been removed. It also eliminates the risk of Pyometra, a hormone mediated disorder where the uterus becomes abscessed and pus filled.



Unspayed female rats go into heat every four days, and during this time they can be excitable, frantic, grumpy or have other changes in their personality. Some owners also report a reduce in ammonia smell in their rat's urine, although we currently are not aware of any studies on this possible additional benefit.


It is an ideal time for female rats to be spayed between 3-6 months as the effects of estrogen are cumulative, and may be already present in an older rat. However, spaying an older rat may still be beneficial by halting estrogen production and decreasing the rat's likelihood of developing mammary or pituitary tumors later in life. Female rats are sterile immediately following an Ovariohysterectomy" (http://www.northstarrescue.org/pet-care-information/pet-rat-care/107-spaying-neutering-rats)


At the end of the day it is up to you to do the research for your pets and if any of it makes you scared, do not do it.
 

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The thing that reassures me about spaying is that it gives me a way to pick a time for surgery when my rat is young and in good health. When I've had to bring a rat in for tumor surgery, that's likely to happen later in their life, and they may not be in the best health, so the surgery can be riskier.
 

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Thank you pawsandclaws and nonce words. I will schedule them once I've found a doc who knows whats to do. I will definitely ask about ovariohysterectomies.
 
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