Sterilization recommendations for selected small mammals: what veterinary professionals need to know
This March, Dr. Cathy Barnette and I wrote a ton of information about reproductive health issues and recommendations for our canine and feline patients. You can check out all this information in the our free download, "Helping Clients Make Informed Decisions About Their Pet's Reproductive Health".
For this article, I wanted to shift gears and focus on reproductive health issues and recommendations for our small mammal patients.
I remembered that in vet school, we were encouraged to ask our dog owner clients if they had any cats at home. The rationale to ask was because people were less likely to bring their feline friends in for a checkup and by asking, we could prompt a reminder to schedule vet care for their cats, too.
I started thinking maybe we should be adopt that same mentality and ask our dog and cat clients if they have any small mammals at home, as they need routine preventive vet care as well. Additionally, we focus a lot on spaying/neutering in our non-breeding cat and dog populations - and we should recommend the same for our small mammal patients, too.
In Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery, there are an abundance of reasons to recommend preventive ovariohysterectomy or ovariectomy. Across the species, spaying can reduce unwanted litters and disorders of the uterus, ovaries and mammary glands as well as other potentially life threatening conditions.
I’ve highlighted a few key reasons to recommend sterilization for some selected small mammal species below:
- In rabbits, uterine adenocarcinoma is the most common neoplasia. In fact, “rabbits of certain breeds (Tan, French Silver, Havana and Dutch) that are older than 4 years of age have an incidence of 50% to 80%.” This extraordinarily common disease is completely preventable by spaying at an early age.(1)
- In ferrets, “Spaying of intact pet ferrets is recommended to prevent life threatening bone marrow suppression caused by by chronically high estrogen levels.” (1)
- In rats, “The prevalence of mammary tumors, as well as that of pituitary tumors, is significantly lower in ovariectomized rats than in sexually intact rats.” (1)
For these reasons and more, we should be not only recommend checkups for our small mammal clients, but also consultations for sterilizations too.
Remember - you’re the expert, so it’s up to you to make the recommendation that is in the best interest of their pet’s reproductive health!
Quesenberry, K.E. and James. W Carpenter. Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. Second Edition. St.Louis, Missouri: Saunders.