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Should I Have My Small Animal Spayed or Neutered?

It is no secret how important spaying and neutering is for cats and dogs – not only does altering pets help control the unwanted pet population, but it can also help reduce aggressive or territorial behavior, lowers the risk of certain cancers and can lead to lower license and registration costs. But small pets are different, and it is important to understand the risks spaying and neutering may pose for them before choosing these surgical procedures.

The Risks of Spaying and Neutering

While there can be many benefits to spaying and neutering, it can be challenging and difficult to alter guinea pigs, rabbits, chinchillas, ferrets or other small pets. Because altering involves surgery, it should be considered very carefully before choosing to go ahead with the procedures. Possible problems with altering small pets include…

  • Greater susceptibility to stress, which can increase the pet's vulnerability to infections or raise the risk of stress-related fatalities.
  • Difficulty finding a qualified veterinarian experienced with performing spaying and neutering on small or exotic pets.
  • Higher costs associated with these types of surgeries on small, unusual pets.

Despite the risks and difficulties, however, some pet owners do find spaying and neutering small pets to be very worthwhile.

When You Should Consider Spaying and Neutering Your Small Pet

If you only have one small pet and it is kept carefully controlled in a cage and always supervised when it is playing outside its cage, it may never be necessary to spay or neuter the pet to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If you have both genders of the pet, however, and allow them to live and play together, spaying or neutering may be necessary to avoid unwanted offspring. If your pet has severe aggressive issues, territorial behavior or health susceptibilities to reproductive-related diseases, spaying or neutering may also be desirable, even if there is no risk of pregnancy.

Ultimately, the decision to spay or neuter a small pet is a personal one, and you need to consider the best interests of your pet as well as your enjoyment of your pet when choosing or rejecting alterations. Consulting with your veterinarian can help you make the best possible decision for you and your pet.

Making Altering a Success for Your Small Pet

If you do decide that spaying or neutering is the best choice for your small pet, there are certain steps you can take to make the procedure as easy and comfortable as possible.

  • Consult with your veterinarian for other possible solutions if your intent is to change your pet's behavior through spaying and neutering. Surgery does not have the same effect on all types of small pets, and there may be more effective, less risky alternatives you can choose.

  • Research several veterinarians with appropriate experience to perform the procedure. Discuss their techniques, success rates, care recommendations and costs before choosing which vet to use to spay or neuter your pet.

  • Provide excellent pre- and post-operative care for your pet, following your veterinarian's directions exactly. This may mean providing a secure space for your pet to heal, altering their diet, restricting activities, administering medication or changing bandages as needed.

  • Be prepared for several weeks of healing after the surgery, and do not rush your pet to return to normal activities and behavior. Pulled stitches and hernias are common if healing is incomplete, and you should monitor your pet closely for any adverse reactions, pain or infections and seek additional treatment immediately if necessary.

Spaying and neutering is a responsible part of being a pet owner, but it isn't always right for every type of small animal. By better understanding the risks of these procedures and what is involved to successfully alter your pet, you can make the best possible choice to give your pet a healthy, happy, comfortable life.