Neutering in Rats

What is neutering?istock_000004896930xsmall

Neutering 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.

  1. The obvious is the elimination of unwanted pregnancy if there are unsprayed  females present. To prevent breeding, it is easier to castrate the male than to spay [removes the ovaries (ovariectomy), or the ovaries and uterus (ovariohysterectomy)] the female.

  2. Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. Reproductive cancers are relatively common in rats. 

  3. Neutered rats are much less likely to display undesirable hormone-induced behaviors such as mounting and urine marking (or territorial marking) and may be less aggressive than unneutered rats.

  4. Your rat may be calmer and easier to handle after neutering, 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 six months of age.


What does a neuter surgery involve?

This surgical procedure is done under general anesthesia. Rats do not need to be fasted the night before surgery, as you would a cat or dog having surgery. Your rat should have his food removed on the morning of surgery to prevent it from accumulating in his mouth, making it difficult to pass a breathing tube for anesthesia. Your rat will be given a physical examination prior to the surgery and your veterinarian may recommend some pre-operative blood tests. This ensures that your rat is healthy enough to have surgery performed and that there are no pre-existing problems that may make surgery inadvisable. The operation will be performed through two small incisions in the scrotum or one just in front of the penis at the base of the scrotum. The hair in this area will be shaved, and the skin will be surgically prepared prior to the surgery. The testicles will be removed. The surgical incision will be closed with sutures in the skin or with skin glue. Most rats go home within 24 hours after surgery.


What post-operative care will my rat need?

"Your rat should be separated from other rats for five to seven days while healing and should be fed as usual."

Your rat will likely be given pain medication in the hospital and may be sent home with several days worth. 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 separated from other rats for five to seven days while healing and should be fed as usual. He 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 changes in behavior, appetite, drinking, urination, and defecation to your veterinarian. Occasionally, rats will chew the sutures and open the surgical wound. If this occurs, the rat should receive 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 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: This is uncommon but occurs when a sensitive animal’s skin reacts to certain types of suture material used during surgery. This may result in irritation, redness, swelling, or less often, 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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