Today, most people who purchase or adopt rabbits, guinea pigs, and other exotic small mammals recognize the necessity and benefit of routine veterinary examinations. Public awareness of common diseases has improved and more small mammals see the veterinarian at least annually. However, many may still believe routine surgeries such as spays and neuters are too risky for these small exotic patients.
Advances in anesthetic monitoring and knowledge of drug metabolism reduce the risks associated with anesthesia in these small patients. With proper training, rabbit, guinea pig, and rodent spays and neuters become routine just as they are for our more common companion animals. Additionally, the benefits of spaying and neutering exotic small mammals extend far beyond just preventing unplanned pregnancies, just like in cats and dogs.
Let’s look at some of the common reproductive diseases in our most common exotic mammal pet species. Intact female rabbits are at high risk for uterine cancer. Spaying the doe removes this risk. Neutering male rabbits can assist in litter box training as it reduces the tendency of some male rabbits to mark their territory. Guinea pigs can develop a number of reproductive diseases, of which ovarian cysts are the most common. These cysts can be quite large and cause significant disease, as well as death. Also, it can be quite difficult to tell male and female young guinea pigs apart, leading to owners often housing males and females together. Not only can this lead to unplanned pregnancies at very young ages, it can lead to serious, even fatal, complications associated with pregnancy and dystocia. Both guinea pigs and rabbits are prone to developing pregnancy toxemia, or ketosis, which occurs most commonly in very young mothers or those that are obese or on inappropriate diets. Unfortunately, pregnancy toxemia carries a very poor prognosis for recovery. Male and female rats are prone to development of mammary cancers. However, the incidence is much reduced in spayed and neutered pets. Intact males of all species are also at risk for developing testicular cancer.
We hope that this discussion of reproductive diseases in exotic small mammals illustrates the importance of spaying and neutering your pets. Here at Lake Olympia Animal Hospital, we strive to provide you with quality species appropriate veterinary care, as well as the necessary information to help you have happy, healthy, long-lived pets. We encourage you to contact us to discuss any concerns you may have about this process in your particular pet.