Neutering in Rats

What is neutering?

istock_000004896930xsmallNeuter is also referred to as orchidectomy or castration. It is a surgical procedure in which the testicles are removed in order to sterilize or render a male animal infertile.

Why should I have my rat neutered?

There are many behavioral and health benefits associated with neutering your rat.

  • The obvious is the elimination of unwanted pregnancy if there are intact females present. Although raising baby rats might be a wonderful family experience, finding homes for the new rats might prove more challenging than one would anticipate. When preventing breeding is desired, it is easier to castrate the male than to spay (ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy) the female.
  • Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancers. Reproductive cancers are a relatively common in rats. 
  • Neuteried rats are much less likely to display undesirable hormone induced behaviors such as mounting, urine marking (or territorial marking) and may reduce aggression.
  • Your rat may be calmer and easier to handle as it is not experiencing the stresses of sexual frustration.  

When should I have my rat neutered?

Most rats are neutered between four and six months of age. Many veterinarians prefer to neuter at 6 months of age.

What does a neuter surgery involve?

This surgical procedure is done under general anesthesia. You must NOT fast your rat the night prior to surgery as is done with other animals. Your rat will be given a physical examination prior to the surgery. Your veterinarian may recommend some pre-operative blood tests. This is to ensure the rat is healthy enough to have surgery performed and that there are no pre-existing problems that may compromise your pet. The operation is performed through a small incision in the scrotum or just in front of the penis at the base of the scrotum. The hair in this area will be shaved and surgically prepared prior to the surgery. The testicles are removed. The surgical incision will be closed with sutures in the skin. Most rats go home within 24 hours after surgery.

What post-operative care will my rat need?

Your rat will likely be given pain medication in hospital and may be sent home with several days worth of the same. Keep your pet in a clean, quiet environment and try to minimize excessive running, jumping or hard play that may stress the incision. Your rat should be removed from other rats for 5-7 days while healing. Feed normally, he/she should be eating and drinking within 12-24 hours. Inspect and assess your rat and the incision several times daily and report any concerns regarding behavior changes, appetite, drinking, urination and defecation to your veterinarian. Occasionally, rats will chew the sutures and open the surgical wound. This needs immediate veterinary attention.

Skin sutures will be removed in seven to ten days.

Are complications common with neutering?

In general, complications are rare with this surgery. However, as with any anesthetic or surgical procedure, in any species, there is always a small risk. To minimize risks, it is important to follow all pre-operative instructions and report any signs of illness or previous medical conditions to your veterinarian prior to the day of surgery.

The potential complications may include:

  • Anesthetic reaction
. Any animal may have an unexpected adverse reaction to any drug or anesthetic. These reactions cannot be foreseen, but are extremely rare. 
  • Internal bleeding
. This may occur in association with any of the cut or manipulated tissues. This is very rare and is more likely to occur if your rat is too active in the days following the surgery. Signs to watch for include weakness, pale gums, depression, anorexia or a distended abdomen. 
  • Post-operative infection.
 Although rare, this may occur internally or externally around the incision site. Infection can be managed with antibiotics. Infections most commonly occur when the pet licks the surgical site excessively or is kept in a damp dirty environment. Monitor the surgical site several times daily for swelling, redness, wound breakdown, pus or other discharge.
  • Suture Reaction or Sinus Formation.
 This is extremely rare but occurs when a sensitive body reacts to certain types of suture material used during surgery. This results in a draining wound or tract that may appear up to several weeks after the surgery is performed. Further operations may be required to remove the suture material and correct the issue.

Will neutering have any adverse effects on my rat?

ratThe vast majority of rats will experience no adverse effects following neutering. There are many myths and beliefs about neutering that are not supported by facts or research. Your pet will not become fat and lazy. Feel free to discuss the pros and cons or any concerns you may have with a veterinarian familiar with rats.

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