Ela

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Hi all,

Does anyone have any actual experience with spaying female rats at about 1yr old to prevent mammary/piruitary tumors? We're wondering if it truly is worth it for our girls (one is 11mo. one 9mo and dwarf). We've recieved mixed advice from vets. Our go to vet is very neutral and thinks it's a gamble if it may or may not help after 6mo. Since surgery (no matter how skilled the vet) is always tough on them we want to gather as many opinions as possible before making a choice. We've read about every internet article and talked to several vets. Just looking for rat parents with experience...

Our precious girl Noma passed at 2yrs 4 mo from what we think was a lightning fast growing pituitary tumor. It all happened in 24 hours. We were able to get her sister Willow on Cabergoline the first sign of symptoms, and she's still going strong (and HAPPY) at almost 3yrs... both unspayed.
 

Rattdad

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I can tell you my experience. I started in the rat game with three sisters that my daughter got from a breeder in Western Mass. None were spayed as I didn't really know about the issue then. One passed from a PT at about a year, one developed a tumor a few months later and passed from complications related to that, and the third, a very special one, had a number of tumors, two of which were surgically removed; a third tumor grew quite big, and while waiting for a scheduled surgery, she developed PT and was put to sleep. The vet I had at the time was great, a particularly good surgeon, with a fondness for small mammals like rats; but when I asked her about correlations between spaying and tumors (which I'd read about in Deb Ducommon's book), she told me there were none. (Not uncommon to find very good vets who still have holes in their knowledge, I've found.) She also told me that male rats had as many tumors as females, which I don't believe to be true, either.

I started adopting rescue rats from a rat rescue organization in the northeast and the adoption counselor told me that she thought the incidence of PT's among spayed rats was much, much lower--she thought maybe about 5%, versus about 50% among intact females. In that time I did have one female develop a PT even though she was spayed, at around two years. But I have definitely seen fewer tumors and lower incidence of PT among my female sweeties. The first three rats that my daughter had still hold a special place in my heart and I regret not having them spayed. It does seem like some breeders are trying very seriously to develop lines of rats that are much less prone to PT's and other tumors (you'd think this would be possible) but until that time I'm definitely having my females spayed. Good luck and congratulations on your success with cabergoline--I tried this once and would have been very, very happy with your outcome.
 
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Ela

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Philadelphia PA
Thank you so much for the response! You're definitely right about holes in the knowledge. I've had 3 vets in the area tell me not to risk the spay, one was all for it, and another neutral. The issue with our girls is they are over 6 months... Apparently spaying prevents them up to 90% if you spay early, but after 6 months it's a total gamble, and the longer you wait there might not be much benefit if at all.

One thing I discovered right after posting this (via reddit of all places) is some vets are starting to use Suprelorin implants to non-invasively spay and supress the hormones that do the damage. I guess it works tp prevent pregnacy and help agressive males too.The trouble is, the research is pretty new... so most vets aren't familiar or comfortable speaking on it. I found a super reputable exotics (like 30+ yrs experience) vet here who thinks doing that is a good alternative to spaying at least my older girl who is almost a year.The 8 mo is a delicate little dwarf so we may opt to do that for her too. The implants last 6-9 mo and here in Philly run a couple hundred dollars. Depending on where you go they may be cheaper.

The good thing is this procedure is supposed to be super easy, and only requires less than 5 mins of light gas so they don't feel anything. They just put a rice sized implant on a needle and put it between their shoulder blades. So far no side effects have been reported and there isn't a recovery time. Now I haven't done this yet but so I've been told...

I think you're totally right on the spay if we had the option to do it by 6mo... it's the most failsafe option. But with it being a gamble it just seems so much for our girls to go through if there's another way. Neither is guaranteed but anything to eliminate those hormones...

We have an appointment for out first girl to get the implants, and discuss what's best for out dwarf. Wish us luck! Hopefully we're making the right call. :)
 

Rattdad

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Wow, that thing about the Suprelorin implants is super fascinating! So the implant both prevents them from getting pregnant and also lowers the incidence of tumors? How is the cost? (Along the lines of complaints about vets, I found wildly different prices for surgery...) I hope you continue to post more info about it.

I'm pretty sure I've read that a spay decreases the incidence of tumors well into late life (closer to two years), and is recommended beyond one year, but I'd have to dig that info up. I've also found that rats *generally* do very well with their recovery and don't seem too traumatized by surgery (but aggressive groomers can have a problem removing their stitches), often recovering in just a few days. But, it seems like you potentially have a great solution to the issue, and I'm looking forward to learning more about Suprelorin! I actually have another rescue in my near future (delayed by the foster owner being exposed to you know what) and she is scheduled for a spay next week.
 
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Ela

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The cost for the implant here is $230, and they last 6-12mo. Studies are very new, but some vets are starting to slowly swear it helps to decrease and possibly prevent tumors. The problems is the hormones. What I've been told by multiple vets is the longer hormones have to run rampant in an unspayed females body, the more cells are essentially damaged becoming tumors later in life. That's in my non medical speak. While it can help to still help spay later in life, there's no guarantee and many argue not worth the risk. They're also wondering after 6mo just how much effect it has.

Rats are good/hearty patients for sure. I've been through many tumor removals. But each time it does take something out of them, and I've even read that in some cases if a pituitary tumor is already present (often they are there but don't grow large enough to show symptoms) the anesthesia can trigger it to grow... Prob not an issue in the young ones but possible in the older. I can't swear by that, but I do believe it could be true as two of my girls ended up with wicked pituitary tumor symptoms about a month after surgery.

We may still spay our dwarf girl depending on this vets advice... but for the year old girl we are going to see how the implant goes. Obviously asking tons of questions before they do it... But I've been finding all kinds of research on it's use for all kinds of animals (in chickens especially) and it's promising enough to take the risk!
 

Ela

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Philadelphia PA
Also thank you for rescuing! Rats are the best pets. And you can search on youtube: "Prevent Mammary Tumors in Rats Without Surgery" for the woman who introduced me to the implant idea. I spent like 24 hours in research after watching. She also posted research links as well with the video.

I guess I can't post the clip here since it deletes the content.
 

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