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Discussion Starter #1
This is a tough one. I've researched like crazy and still have a split opinion about this. I really want a couple of your thoughts, I'd really appreciate it.

My 2 girls are both about 8-9 weeks old. I have only owned boys before, and kept them intact. I went to get more boys after they passed away, and ended up taking home 2 girls instead, to my surprise. Only after I got home did I remember the issue about spaying.

Now my problem... I live in a rural town. There are only about 4 vets here, only 3 of which see "exotics" like rats. NONE OF THEM WILL SPAY. :( They will all neuter boys, but they will not do spays on rats. I am currently without a vehicle, so my only option is to call the vet in the next city over, about an hour's drive, and ask a friend to drive me back and forth.

Is this worth it? The cost of spaying both my girls would likely be around $500-600 plus the price of paying my friend to drive me. So we're looking at around $700 just to "POSSIBLY" prevent tumors. Apparently the rate of mammary tumors is up to 70% in intact females (if I remember correctly). But they could still get tumors anyway, and need more surgeries. The cost is really not the problem, I will pay whatever necessary to keep them healthy. But I actually just had 2 of my own major surgeries that I've been recovering from and have had to pay more than I expected for myself. So I am not working at the moment, my fiance is working 2 jobs to make sure we can keep up and make sure both our needs AND the animals' needs are met. We can afford anything necessary, I have emergency funds if needed. But I would like to be able to plan ahead and make the best choice. Life sucks sometimes huh! Also driving the rats back and forth for an hour each way would be very stressful for them.... and myself lol.

Would keeping them intact and dealing with tumors as they appear be a better choice in my case? Have any of you guys spayed and still got tumors anyway? Or does spaying really help a lot? Do the tumors actually kill them, or just make life uncomfortable?

As a note, my current vet is great, she just has never done a spay on a rat before and is not comfortable doing it. Which honestly I understand. They're so tiny! They must use tiny little Barbie Doll tools on something so small!
 

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Someone may have a completely different experience than me but out of the female rats I've owned/currently own (6), only one has mammary tumors and shes currently my longest living rat. She will be 3 in January. For my other girls that have passed: two were sisters and battled resp illness for most of their life, one we suspect was a PT or stroke or some other brain issue as she went very quickly, and finally my little heart-rat was just very very old and we're not quite sure what she passed from but it wasn't mammary tumors.

Nugget, my very old lady rat, started showing a mammary tumor around 2 yrs and we opted not to do surgery. Here we are almost a year later and, while her tumor is very large and she has the start of a second one, she gets around just fine. So far it doesnt bother her and when it does, we will take her to the vet to be PTS.

Again, I'm sure lots of other people have seen many more mammary tumors than me, but I haven't spayed any of my girls and I'm happy with my odds so far.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you PaigeRose! I have heard such great stories from people who chose not to spay, but also some horrible ones. My fear is that I will put them through all the stress and expense of spaying, and then they'll end up with tumors anyway. And if I don't spay them, they'll get a million tumors and be miserable. That would be my luck anyway! It makes me happy knowing that your girls did not have much issue with tumors. I would not mind them getting tumors at the end of their lives... it's sad, but at least they would not have too long to suffer, right?

If you don't mind me asking, why did you choose not to remove the tumor for Nugget? I don't know anything about the removal surgeries, are they risky?
 

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First, the good news is you don't have to decide right now. You can opt for spay surgery any time over their first 6 months to a year, in my understanding.
The reasons I opted for spaying was in part that it is something I have been used to doing for my pets, in part that I read about the tumor protection, and in part that I was looking at having a mixed mischief. Some I had spayed as early as 3 months, some were 6 months or older. They were all rescues so were differing ages when I got them. I had 13 rats at one point - 8 spayed females and 5 neutered males. I had no tumors in my bunch. My sister had 13 intact females and only 1 or 2 had tumors, but in at least 1 case they recurred.
While both surgeries may be nearly equally dangerous, tumor surgeries typically happen when the girl is older and less able to bounce back easily from it. For me at least it was easier to consider having a young rat go through surgery than one that was over a year old with declining health.

Take your time. Do research, reading, and make your decision at your leisure. It doesn't have to be decided today.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That's a good point Rain. They are very young, only about 2 months, so I do have plenty of time. Also wow! 13 girls and only 1 or 2 with tumors! Those are amazing odds. That makes me feel a lot better. Perhaps if I can wait long enough I can have a better option of which vet to visit, maybe it will be less stressful. Otherwise I may opt out of spaying. We'll see. Thanks guys!
 

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Here in Las Vegas and Pahrump rat spays and neuters are priced the same as cat spays and neuters which certainly made a big difference to the decision. If I was looking at your prices, I might not have gone that route.
 

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Just to throw in my experience, I had two rat girls who where sisters and both of them weren't spayed. At almost 2 years Dragon got a tumor, and we had it removed by a local vet college at around $100 USD. She ended up passing some months after because of strokes. Pinky lived till almost 3 with out any problems and she passed of old age. Both of our rats came from a pet store.

If the price is alright I would definitely suggest you look into spaying. However $700 sounds expensive, and for me might signal a red flag that a vet hasn't done this before, and in that case maybe check more vets even out of your area. If there is a veterinary college by you with experience in operating on rats I'd suggest that as an alternative option. In any case there will still be a chance that your rat will still develop tumors.

It's not an easy choice by a long shot, but like others have said you have some time to decide, and whatever you do choose you're doing the right thing. :)
 

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If you don't mind me asking, why did you choose not to remove the tumor for Nugget? I don't know anything about the removal surgeries, are they risky?
She had never been to a vet before, never needed to, so I wasnt sure if the trip/surgery would stress her out more than necessary. Not only that but she was already 2 when it started, so I wasn't sure she would even make it through surgery. On top of that, tumors tend to reoccur anyway so... we just opted to leave it alone and care for her as needed. I've heard of a few herbal remedies that supposedly slow tumor growth (turkey tail mushroom or something?) but she (and the other rats) gets echinacea for immune support and that seems to be keeping everyone healthy!
 

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Doctorowl, I struggled with these same questions a year ago. After I found out how invasive the surgery was, and after I saw post-op pictures, I decided I could not do it to my girls (although they were about 9 mo, and in great shape). As of now they are both fine, they will be turning 2 years old in 4 months or so. But I think of it often whether this was the right decision.
And about the vet. If you decide to go for the surgery - I would rather look for a vet who specializes in exotic pets, or at least treats them as part of his routine job.
 
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