Educational Articles

Small Mammals + Surgical Conditions

  • An ovariohysterectomy is often referred to as a 'spay' or 'spaying'. It is a surgical procedure in which the ovaries and uterus are removed completely in order to sterilize or render infertile, a female animal.

  • An ovariohysterectomy is often referred to as a spay or spaying. It is a surgical procedure in which the ovaries and uterus are removed completely to sterilize or render a female animal infertile. Some veterinarians will perform an ovariectomy on rats, in which just the ovaries are removed. Spaying significantly minimizes the risk of ovarian, uterine, breast, and pituitary gland cancers in rats. Ideally, most rats are spayed between four and six months of age. Your veterinarian may recommend pre-surgical blood tests before surgery. 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 associated with being anesthetized. Most rats will experience no adverse effects following spaying, and in general, spaying is recommended for all healthy, young rats to prevent future health problems.

  • Malignant lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) and leukemia are among the most common malignancies seen in ferrets. Diagnosis may be made by fine needle aspiration or biopsy. For a dedicated owner with a compliant patient, surgery and/or treatment with chemotherapy is an option. Remission of lymphoma is possible with treatment in ferrets, but recurrence is common. Ferrets also commonly develop insulin-producing tumors of the pancreas that lower the ferret’s blood sugar and cause weakness, weight loss, lethargy, seizures, coma, and death. Insulinoma commonly spreads from the pancreas to the liver, so surgical removal of pancreatic insulinoma nodules may not be curative. Affected ferrets respond well for months to years to medical therapy with glucose-promoting drugs (prednisone) and anti-insulin drugs (diazoxide). Drugs suppress effects of the tumor but do not eliminate it; and ferrets on medical treatment must have their medications increased over time as the tumor grows.

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