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To spay or not to spay?

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's the deal. I'm a married college student living in an apartment with my husband, and we're going to get two (maybe three) rats for Christmas. We'll be getting two females, maybe adding a male down the line a bit.

It is my understanding, based on information here and on other forums, that it is advisable to spay female rats to reduce the risk of mammary tumors. However, I've seen other opinions. I've seen lots of people saying that it helps, I've seen people say that the study was bunk, I've seen people say that the risks of the surgery outweigh the risks of the tumors.

Spays in general are expensive, and $256.34 from the only exotics vet that's close is hard on the bank account. I really want to be able to give my rats the best life possible, so if it's necessary, I will find a way to do it, but I need to know that spays are worth it first.

Is it worth it to spay female rats?
 

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I have to say, my sister has always had females and never a mammary tumor and never a spay. A friend of mine had a spayed female and a mammary tumor. The two females I have ever lost went from pneumonia complications from advanced Myco. None of my current girls are spayed (I'm a grad student, I totally understand your money woes). I know that in the dog world, people are starting to shy away from spays (those that are very concerned about their dogs) as they worry about having to put their pups under for any reason.

Does anyone have the study a la mammary tumors?
 

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The anesthesia risk is somewhat overhyped, I think. Or possibly a carryover from days gone by when we didn't have as good of veterinary care for our rats as we do today.

I can say that my 2.5-year-old female was under anesthesia for two hours once, and pulled through. She was cold and pretty sluggish for the rest of the night, so I slept on the futon with her on my chest, but she made it. A spay takes about a quarter of that time.

Anyway, spays don't just reduce the risk of mammary tumors, they also completely eliminate the possibility of pyometra. If you add up the costs of having one or two tumors removed from each rat, and compare it to the cost of a spay, usually the spay ends up paying for itself.

Another thing to consider is age. Two of my three unspayed girls have developed mammary tumors after they were 2 years old. Gracie will be three in January, is still in good health, active and bright-eyed, but the tumor is right in her armpit and if it grows any bigger it will start to impede her movement. But she's almost three, and I don't feel confident putting her under the knife at her age. If I'd spayed her when she was younger, who knows if the problem could have been avoided?

If I had it to do over again, I would've spayed them all the moment I got them.
 

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Hmmm, so that study essentially said there is no significant effect of spay...are there any studies done with a larger sample size that anyone know of?
 

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sunbirdx said:
Hmmm, so that study essentially said there is no significant effect of spay...are there any studies done with a larger sample size that anyone know of?
If you could stand to read through all the babble what the study said (and its not uncommon to not have statistical significance with such varied data):

- all rats used for this study were spayed, it did not compare spayed vs not spayed

- 21.7% of the rats studied developed tumors HOWEVER all of the tumors remained small and DID NOT cause the death of the rat

- there was a slight trend in a spay early in life being more effective at preventing tumors, but again not statistically significant

- rats having tumors before their spay and have the removal and spay at the same time are not more likely to have a post spay tumor than those who never had tumors.


A larger study needs to be done comparing spayed rats vs not spayed rats with a larger test group. The format of the study is not set up to answer this type of question. There are many factors that can go into a rat developing tumors, among them diet and genetics.

Bottom line: This study does not say spays are useless or ineffective. 21.7% is pretty small, epsecially when you consider that none of the post-spay tumors were deadly

*edit because I forgot my main point
 

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I wasn't saying they were pointless, just the trend was not statistically significant (as far as preventing tumors). So it doesn't actually prevent tumors, but what tumors do form are smaller and don't cause death. I wonder what the actual death rate from mammary tumors is. Most likely, there is some larger study out there comparing spayed vs. not spayed. I bet one of the major lab rat breeders out there has the data. It would be so interesting to see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
the Rat Report
http://www.ratfanclub.org/spay.html

Tumors and Spaying
http://www.ratbehavior.org/TumorSpaying.htm

AFRMA-Medical-Spaying Rats
http://www.afrma.org/med_spayingrats.htm


I found some articles that have information on scientific research regarding tumors in females and spayed v. unspayed females. Anyone care to help me interpret the results? It seems that spaying does significantly reduce the chance of mammary and pituitary tumors in female rats.

I'm going to do research on the possible risks of the spay itself next.
 

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There is a lot of fallacies out there about spays that Jo's study (they contacted me to ask to be able to post it...I sent them to Jo)...the under 6 months is BS, the benefits lessen after this age but very gradually. Mammary tumours have a lessened chance but non-mammary tumours can still occur. A spay at the time of removal doesn't necessarily mean more tumours will develop. All of those rats were necro'd by an awesome vet so its not a guess why they passed.

I am finding years ago that my rats would hit 25-26 months and then the tumours would start. Now I am finding rats getting them at 15-17 months regularly. :( Spaying will often prevent tumours (less estrogen involved) until much later in life, or if they do develop they will grow more slowly. I only have 12 girls here who are spayed out of 40 girls...but I do take in much older rescues as well. An unspayed girl can have tumours develop and grow very very fast. Of the 12 spayed rats I have a girl with an inguinal tumour (most likely cancerous) and the rest of them range in age from 17 to 24 months). I also have 2 unspayed girls who have tumours and just lost 3 unspayed girls to tumours within the last few months. Two ruptured, and became necrotic. :(

Plus there are no uterine infections, no pyometra, no possible pregancies etc.
 

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After re-reading the article I noticed the 21.7% was just from the deceased rats. From the entire study group of rats (57) over the age of two that were spayed only 8.8% (5 out of 57) developed tumors post spay.

Another study done here shows a significant difference in tumor appearance. It also shows spayed rats in general live longer lives. Mammary tumors are estrogen dependent and spaying removes a big supply of estrogen. Therefore spay=fewer tumors.

other reasons for spays:
-if you have boys in the house you should/need to get your rats spayed, accidents can happen to anyone, don't make your rats pay for it
-completely removes the possibility of pyometria


A really big factor that no one has mentioned is your vet and their experience/success
 

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A spay is an invasive procedure but if you have a good vet its not that much more difficult than a tumour removal. My vet prefers spays to tumour removals as with tumours you really don't know what you will find until you cut. Some shell out nicely, others have to be cut out little by little.

I started spaying when I had a 16 month girl have to have 3 tumours removed from her side. She was soo unhappy and uncomfortable...that I vowed to try spaying so my healthy rats could have the surgery rather than an older compromised girl. This poor girl died 2 months later from PT (pituitary tumour).



I find my girls bounce back very quickly from spays, as long as you manage any discomfort with pain meds for 1-3 days. They can cramp for the first few days...they will do an owwie stretch, but I use metacam and they are just fine. They are normally literally bouncing around within a

day.

Just home...


 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Okay, well I've come to the conclusion that I will spay my rats as soon as my vet is comfortable with it. Now to start that spay fund... :(
 

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sunbirdx said:
I bet one of the major lab rat breeders out there has the data. It would be so interesting to see.
More than likely not, actually. Not to put too fine a point on it, but lab rats (unless they are adopted out) don't live to see the age where mammary tumors would be an issue. And none of them are spayed/neutered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
JulesMichy said:
sunbirdx said:
I bet one of the major lab rat breeders out there has the data. It would be so interesting to see.
More than likely not, actually. Not to put too fine a point on it, but lab rats (unless they are adopted out) don't live to see the age where mammary tumors would be an issue. And none of them are spayed/neutered.

Sorry, but I have to contradict you. Check out the three articles I posted above. They are all about research done on laboratory rats to see what effect spaying had on tumors. Research has been done.
 

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Sadly the lab rats were euthanized before the end of their life span. So as a pet owners its still good data but not exactly directed at what we need. Our whole aim is to keep our beloved friends with us longer.

One key point to keep in mind with the study is that they use small groups and euthanized the rats at 630 days (less than 2 years of age) so true life-span data is not available.

I read the articles (seen them before) and copied some relevant info for others who don't want to swim through the jargon :roll:

n this study, the incidence of mammary tumors in the control rats was 71.5%. The rats allowed to have one litter had a tumor incidence of 70%, so one breeding did not have an effect on mammary tumor incidence. The spayed rats had a mammary tumor incidence of only 4%, which matches the results of the 1995 study.

The maximum life span for the control rats was 2 years 10 months, while their average age at death was 2 years. The maximum life span for the spayed rats was 3 years 7 months, nearly 25% longer than the controls. The average life span for the spayed rats was 2 years 10 months.
 

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Katherose said:
JulesMichy said:
sunbirdx said:
I bet one of the major lab rat breeders out there has the data. It would be so interesting to see.
More than likely not, actually. Not to put too fine a point on it, but lab rats (unless they are adopted out) don't live to see the age where mammary tumors would be an issue. And none of them are spayed/neutered.

Sorry, but I have to contradict you. Check out the three articles I posted above. They are all about research done on laboratory rats to see what effect spaying had on tumors. Research has been done.
And I have to contradict you. The studies were done ON lab rats, which is essentially saying nothing at all. All live animal studies are done on lab animals. What happens is a private researcher buys rats from a breeding facility like Harlan Teklan and then will usually rent lab space from a housing facility in order to conduct their studies.

What sunbirdx was suggesting was that the large, labratory animal breeding facilities would have performed these studies themselves, presumably in order to provide healthier rats.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
JulesMichy said:
Katherose said:
JulesMichy said:
sunbirdx said:
I bet one of the major lab rat breeders out there has the data. It would be so interesting to see.
More than likely not, actually. Not to put too fine a point on it, but lab rats (unless they are adopted out) don't live to see the age where mammary tumors would be an issue. And none of them are spayed/neutered.

Sorry, but I have to contradict you. Check out the three articles I posted above. They are all about research done on laboratory rats to see what effect spaying had on tumors. Research has been done.
And I have to contradict you. The studies were done ON lab rats, which is essentially saying nothing at all. All live animal studies are done on lab animals. What happens is a private researcher buys rats from a breeding facility like Harlan Teklan and then will usually rent lab space from a housing facility in order to conduct their studies.

What sunbirdx was suggesting was that the large, labratory animal breeding facilities would have performed these studies themselves, presumably in order to provide healthier rats.
My apologies. Apparently I misunderstood.
 

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I'm the one that Anne has been working with. She is waiting on more results to tweak that study. As more of our females pass, the better the study.
But so far... it's a huge benefit.
If I couldn't afford a spay, I wouldn't have females.
 

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And even though that study is still in the works the same falls true for pretty much any mammal. Spaying lessens the risks of mammary tumors, eliminates the risk of pyrometria, lessens hormonal aggression some animals are prone to, etc etc. Happens in dogs, cats, and rabbits so it's pretty much needed for any mammal type pet that you CAN spay. I just can't see why there is still any debate as to whether spaying is beneficial.

But sadly, I have to still wipe away the myths to dog owners about spaying/neutering their dog and not very many know the risks and just focus on 'it seems so cruel' or 'it will change their personality'. Not saying you are doing that, just venting lol.
 
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