Neutering

Unless you are planning to breed from your pet, we strongly advise you to have him or her castrated or spayed. This can help to protect your pet against potentially life-threatening conditions such as cancer in later life, and in the case of males can help avoid aggressive and territorial behaviour. Every year, thousands of unwanted animals are destroyed because homes cannot be found for them – neutering your animal is the responsible way to avoid this.

If you are considering having your pet neutered, you are welcome to telephone us to find out the cost and to arrange an appointment. The operation is performed at our Penwortham branch, and most animals go home the same day.

Rabbits

Rabbits are social creatures, and they are much happier being kept in pairs. However, rabbits are also territorial, and it can be very difficult to keep unneutered rabbits together without them fighting. The best combination is to keep a neutered male and a neutered female. We recommend neutering male and female rabbits from the age of 4 months.

Male rabbits are castrated: this means the surgical removal of both testicles under anaesthetic. This is a short procedure, and where possible we close the wound using skin glue so there are no stitches to remove.

Entire male rabbits can be aggressive and territorial, and will frequently spray urine. It is almost impossible to house them with another rabbit, and so they must live alone which is not ideal for such a social creature. Neutered males are happier and more relaxed, and do not have the stress of the urge to find a female to mate with. They are less aggressive and easier to handle.

Female rabbits reach sexual maturity, and can therefore become pregnant, as early as four months of age, and this brings many health risks to the rabbit. Female rabbits become territorial and aggressive, and experience repeated false pregnancies. This can be a very stressful event for the rabbit, and she may pull out her fur to expose the nipples and use in nest building. Even more serious, up to 80 % of entire female rabbits will develop cancer of the uterus by the age of 5; this is almost always fatal. This risk is entirely eliminated by having her spayed. There are also other health problems that entire female rabbits can develop. It is a fact that spayed female rabbits live longer and healthier lives than their entire sisters.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are social creatures and should be kept in same sex groups, pairs or male and female pairs where the male has been castrated. Pairs of males may need to be castrated if aggression develops.

Male guinea pigs are castrated: this means the surgical removal or both testicles under anaesthetic. Where possible, we use skin glue to close the wound so there are no stitches to remove.

It is worth considering having your guinea pig castrated if he lives with a female guinea pig, to prevent breeding, or he fights with the other guinea pigs that he is housed with. Castration is possible from 4 months of age, and we advise booking a free appointment with a Nurse to discuss the procedure beforehand.

Female guinea pigs can be spayed, but this is generally only done where a specific problem, such as ovarian cysts, is suspected or diagnosed.

Ferrets

A male ferret is known as a hob, and a female ferret is known as a jill. There are several problems that can occur with an entire jill or hob, and our advice is to always spay the female and castrate the male.

Hobs can either be castrated or vasectomised.

Castration involves the surgical removal of the testicles. The testicles produce male hormones, and a castrated male will therefore be sterile and disinterested in mating a female ferret. A castrated ferret will generally be more amenable as a pet and should have a reduced odour. He will not be able to get a female ferret pregnant. Fighting and aggression is greatly reduced between neutered ferrets, meaning there are less injuries and the stress associated with establishing a pecking order is reduced. He should therefore remain healthier for longer. We therefore advise that all male pet ferrets are neutered early on in life to ensure that they have the longest and happiest life available to them.

A vasectomy is also a surgical procedure performed under general anaesthesia; in this case, the spermatic cord is cut and a small section is removed. The testicles are left in place and male hormones are still produced. This means that the vasectomised hob will still be capable of sexual intercourse with the jill. However, the male will not ejaculate any sperm and therefore will be incapable of impregnating the female.

A vasectomised hob will have the same urges as an entire male, so he will show the same levels of aggression and other behaviour. He will need to be housed separately during the breeding season. Generally, the only reason vasectomy would be chosen over castration is when an entire jill is also kept as the vasectomised hob can be used to take her out of oestrus without any risk of pregnancy.

Jills are spayed: this procedure, technically called an ovariohysterectomy, involves the removal of both the uterus and the ovaries. It is performed under general anaesthetic, and can be done in any jill over three months of age.

Jills are induced ovulators, which means that they must mate before the eggs are released from the ovary. This is very unusual, and the jill can remain in oestrus (in season) for 4-6 months if she is not mated. This can cause several problems, but mainly it leaves the jill at a high risk of anaemia, which can be fatal. Having the jill spayed is the best way to resolve this problem; other alternatives are to mate her to a vasectomised hob, to mate her to an entire male and to have a litter of kits, or for a vet to administer a hormone injection to prevent oestrus. From the jill’s point of view, mating can be quite rough on her, resulting in cuts and bites. The hormone injection (often referred to as a ‘jill jab’) will need repeating, often twice yearly. Entire jills can also suffer from pyometra, which is a serious infection of the uterus and can only be treated with surgical intervention by spaying her, although when the jill is already sick and there is infection present the procedure is a far riskier one than in a normal healthy jill.