** CAUTION – some graphic images ahead**
Hi everyone! This month we are going to talk to you all about the importance of de-sexing various exotic pets! Many people think that de-sexing procedures are only for dogs and cats but that isn’t true. We advise de-sexing for many of the creatures that we see. First up this month we are going to talk to you about the various benefits of de-sexing rats.
Both male and female rats can be de-sexed as part of their routine health care. Male rats can undergo a castration procedure, where each of their testicles are removed. This reduces the production of sex hormones and can reduce some hormonal behaviours such as aggression. It also removes the risk of reproductive cancers, and will prevent unwanted pregnancies if you want your male rat to be housed with females!
Many people under-estimate the importance of de-sexing female rats. Female rats that aren’t de-sexed are at a higher risk of developing pituitary neoplasia (brain tumours) that can affect their hormones and increase the risk of developing mammary cancer. De-sexing or using other methods of hormone control (e.g. hormone implants) are ideal.
We love seeing rats here at BBEVS – they are just so sweet!
De-sexing rats can make housing them easier (males can be housed with females without risk of unwanted pregnancy!)
Male rats can make wonderful pets, and often if they are brought up together two entire males can be housed without issue. However some rats can become aggressive towards others when they reach sexual maturity. These rats may benefit from surgical de-sexing, a procedure called a castration. This procedure is also designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies (so males can be housed with un-desexed females), and to prevent testicular cancers. The castration procedure involves a general anaesthetic, an incision is made into each scrotal sac and the testicle is removed. The skin is glued or sutured closed.
We don’t ever use skin sutures in rats (unless they are under the skin) as this will predispose them to chewing at the surgery site! Most rats won’t chew at their surgery sites if appropriate pain relief is used, however some do and require a vest to stop them from getting to the area! As soon as the area is healed this can be removed. After de-sexing it is advisable to still keep your male rat away from females for 4 weeks, to ensure that any sperm remaining in the reproductive tract is cleared.
This rat is having surgery to remove a diseased uterus. This rat had a benign tumour in the left uterine horn.
This is another abnormal uterus removed from a rat – there is a large cystic structure in the region of the right ovary.
As stated above, de-sexing female rats is advisable for a number of reasons:
- Prevention of unwanted pregnancies
- Prevention of reproductive neoplasia
- Reducing the development of pituitary tumours and subsequent mammary tumours
It is well known now that un-desexed female rats will be at greater risk of pituitary tumours and subsequent mammary tumours. When un-desexed, the female rats’ hormones can have an effect on the pituitary (an area of the brain), they result in hyperplasia and then subsequent cancerous transformation of lactotrophs – cells that produce prolactin. This is called a pituitary prolactinoma. This neoplasia produces prolactin which stimulates the mammary tissue. The mammary tissue can become hyperplastic (and even start lactating!), but with chronic exposure this can change to mammary cancer. The best way to prevent this from happening to your rat is managing their reproductive hormones. This can be done through a surgical desexing procedure – where the ovaries and sometimes the uterus are removed, or it can be managed medically. The medical reproductive management involves using hormone implants to effectively chemically desex your rat. These are given underneath the skin (often under a quick general anaesthetic) and are often replaced every 12 months.
How sweet are these ratties!