Observations from Angela Lennox, DVM:

Spay and Neuter for Exotic Pets? Is this really important?

We all know the benefits of spay and neuter for dogs and cats, and most people are very comfortable with the idea.

Is there any need to spay and neuter exotic pets? The answer is actually quite complicated, and depends entirely on the type of pet. Spay and neuter is always beneficial when owners want to keep a male and female together, but not end up with lots of “extra” pets. However, there are some other important reasons why some exotic pets benefit from spay and neuter.

Take the following quiz, and test your exotic pet reproductive knowledge!


Which of the following exotic pets has an unusually high risk of uterine cancer if she is not spayed (up to 70%, depending on breed)?

  1. Ferret
  2. Rat
  3. Rabbit

Which exotic pet will probably never experience all-too-common mammary tumors if she is spayed early?

  1. Rat
  2. Guinea pig
  3. Sugar Glider

Which exotic pet really smells TERRIBLE if he is not neutered?

  1. Rabbits and rats
  2. Ferrets and guinea pigs
  3. Ferrets and sugar gliders


  1. The rabbit! Surveys show an incidence of up to 80% once rabbits reach the age of 5 or 6. Many will not die of the cancer, but can experience symptoms such as vaginal bleeding and weight loss. In some cases, cancer can spread to the lungs or other organs. Spaying is a simple option to help prevent, and even treat uterine cancer in the rabbit.  

An abnormal cancerous uterus removed in a 5 year old female rabbit presented for blood in the urine. The rabbit did well post surgery, and luckily cancer had not spread.



  1. Some strains of rats have a very high incidence of mammary tumors, which can become very large, sometimes larger than the rat! Mammary tumors are influenced by estrogen, and can be prevented by removing the ovaries (it’s not even necessary to remove the entire uterus)!

This rat with a very large mammary tumor is undergoing surgery to remove the mass. These masses can grow to very large size rapidly.



3. Male ferrets and sugar gliders that are not neutered have a very strong odor, which most people find objectionable. Male sugar gliders can be neutered; however we recommend implantable “birth control” for male ferrets instead of neutering.

This sugar glider is anesthetized, has been given several types of preventative pain medication, including a local block, and is ready for neuter. The procedure is very quick and can be accomplished in less that 30 seconds!