View Full Version : Neutering/Spaying To spay or not to spay that is the question...

09-03-10, 11:10 pm
So, basically I'm wondering why everyone appears to be opposed to spaying as a preventative health measure...I realize that every surgery comes with inherent risks, especially when small animals are thrown into the mix, but I personally feel like the benefits outweigh the risks. So here's a little bit of background...
We adopted Penelope from the Humane Society, where I volunteer, about a month ago. She is a year and a half old, and just a few grams shy of two pounds. Her last vet visit was three weeks ago, as she was being treated for an ear infection that has since cleared up. She has a cage mate named Javier, a cute little black and white neutered male that we adopted from a rescue as a companion for her. They share a large (21 square feet!) C&C cage in our living room, and get lots of floor time, fresh veggies and love. We have them on what we consider a good diet, Oxbow Cavy Pellets, and a daily variety of fresh foods that have high levels of Vitamin C. Neither of them have shown any symptoms of illness (other than Penelope's ear infection), and when our vet examined Penelope she said that, other than her ears, she was in perfect health.
As a volunteer with the Humane Society (I work mainly with the small animals) I naturally hear a lot of people's pet stories. Most of those pet stories are about a now deceased animal, how the animal passed away, how much they miss them, etc. And a LOT of people have told me heartbreaking accounts of their pets battling uterine tumors, cancer, etc. My husband and I lost our beloved hamster (named Mouse) last year to a uterine tumor that we only discovered when she started bleeding vaginally. We rushed her to the vet hospital, where they did an ultrasound and found the tumor. At that point there was nothing we could do for her other than put her out of her misery, as she was obviously in pain, and had been for quite some time. After a very long tearful goodbye in the exam room (the one and only time I have seen my husband cry), the vet took her into the back and ended her suffering. We were both depressed for months, and we still have her ashes in our living room. Needless to say, we were very upset over the loss.
As well, as our guinea pigs, we also have two house rabbits. A male and female, both spayed and neutered. I know spaying/neutering rabbits didn't used to be common practice either, until the House Rabbit Society started spreading awareness about the benefits of doing so, and vets started taking an interest in exotic/pocket pet medicine. So why is it different for guinea pigs? The statistic for rabbits (according to the HRS) is that 80% of unspayed females will develop uterine cancer by their fourth birthday. Those are pretty scary odds, and it is the reason we opted to have Bettie spayed even though pregnancy wasn't a concern (Escobar was already neutered).
So to sum it up here are my questions...
Has anyone opted to have their guinea pig spayed? If so what was your experience?
What are the SPECIFIC reasons for not spaying? Please don't just say "because it's risky".
Does anyone know of any reproductive cancer statistics for guinea pigs? They can't be that far off from rabbits can they?
I guess I should also mention that the spay would be done by Dr. Sperlich at Brown's Point Vet Clinic. She is a very knowledgeable cavy vet that is used by both the Tacoma Humane Society and Foggy Creek Cavy Rescue to treat their piggies. We already went through all the interview questions with her and everything checked out.

09-03-10, 11:18 pm
I guess I should clarify that not everyone is against it. There are numerous reputable rescues that swear by it, but then there are also some who say it's too risky. I really just want to know the facts that led to these two opposing conclusions...

09-04-10, 01:51 am
Because, unless it is done for medical reasons, it is an incredibly invasive unnecessary procedure to put a rodent through. Uterine cancer is not common in guinea pigs.

There are numerous reputable rescues that swear by it,

They should be ashamed of themselves – so too should the vets that agree to do it for no medical reason.

The statistic for rabbits (according to the HRS) is that 80% of unspayed females will develop uterine cancer by their fourth birthday.
Can you confirm whether that is all female rabbits or all female rabbits that have not been bred from.

09-04-10, 02:51 am
Well that's the thing with the term "medical reasons", some people would consider a spay a preventative measure, which would still technically be a medical reason. I suppose it depends on where you draw the line. The only reason I am even considering this, is the possibility that it could save her life down the line. I just want the best for my Penelope.
I'm not trying to be rude, but you stated that uterine cancer is not common in guinea pigs. Do you have any data or statistics? I'm wondering if there have ever been studies done. Our vet told us that it is common with small rodents (hamsters, rats, mice, etc.) and rabbits, so how can the cancer rates for guinea pigs be that different?
"Can you confirm whether that is all female rabbits or all female rabbits that have not been bred from." Again it is a statistic put out by the House Rabbit Society, I had no part in the study, so I have no idea. I've never heard of a veterinarian encouraging someone to breed their rabbit (or any other animal for that matter) as a health measure. In fact, I've heard just the opposite. Pregnancy is an extremely risky and stressful thing to put an animal through for no reason, I sincerely hope there aren't actually people out there that breed for that reason.

09-04-10, 03:42 am
you stated that uterine cancer is not common in guinea pigs. Do you have any data or statistics? I'm wondering if there have ever been studies done.

If you check through any of the scientific literature that is available online you will see that most references to guinea pig uterine cancers are for those that have been experimentally induced for research purposes.
To my knowledge no study has been conducted on uterine cancer in pet guinea pigs as it is not known to be a common problem.

It is likely that there is a strong genetic component to uterine cancer and OK, guinea pigs have just been ‘lucky’. One of the problems with rabbits is that they are technically a meat animal (they are still classed as meat in UK for ministry and tax reasons). Therefore many are/were bred and not kept to old age - there was no reason to selectively breed for long term health. This is not true for guinea pigs; they have never been a meat animal in UK and are kept into old age.

I have kept guinea pigs for 30 years and do not remember hearing of a case. I am fortunate to have several friends/acquaintances that are vets and keep many cavies. I have particularly discussed ovarian cysts with one of them (very experienced, semi-retired and has kept cavies all his life and has obviously specialised in treating them) and he did not mention it at the time. He did, however, mention that asymptomatic ovarian cysts were very frequently seen in older sows at post mortem or other surgery.

This would not be a reason to risk spaying a pig. I will be seeing him in two weeks time and will try and remember to ask if he has diagnosed many cases of uterine cancer.

09-04-10, 09:25 am
Hey guys! I know I'm out of my depth here, as I only own one guinea pig and he's a male, but I just wanted to throw it out here that the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue spays all of their girls, and they say "Female guinea pigs have an elevated risk of uterine cancer, ovarian cysts, mammary tumors, and other reproductive organ tumors as they age. Spaying them eliminates these risks." But is the chance of developing a tumor smaller than the chance of a guinea pig being spayed dying?

09-04-10, 10:27 am
Personally, I would not put my pig through that scary and traumatic experience unless there was a good reason for it. In my situation right now, my oldest sow is developing ovarian cysts and I may need to spay her. Now, I would do that without a thought as to the cost (at least $400) if I had a bottomless supply of money and if she was two years younger. But considering she's getting to be about five years old now, we are probably not going to spay her...I don't think she's strong enough to survive the surgery. We will pursue less invasive options, but really if there is no good reason to spay, why do it?

09-04-10, 10:46 am
I totally understand- my guinea pig, Sir Guinea, had a large growth on his neck this spring and surgery to get it removed would cost $500! I would have still gotten it done, but it would have been very stressful on him and he was already over 4 years old, not to mention the growth would have likely come back and he would be in pain. We ended up having to euthanize him. Good luck with your cavy!

09-04-10, 12:32 pm
@Dales Lass: Thank you for all your info! It would be great if you could talk to your vet about it, and see what his experience has been. That makes me feel a lot better knowing that you haven't heard of a case in 30 years!
@sgdevinhp: Hi there. Yeah, they were one of the rescues that I was referring to that swears by it. And as for your question, that's pretty much what I'm wondering. None of the vets I've spoken to have lost a guinea pig during a spay. I'm sorry Sir Guinea passed away : (
@sdpiggylvr: I'm so sorry to hear about your piggie! I hope the treatment goes well! That unfortunately is why I began contemplating doing the spay now, when she's young and healthy, versus down the line when she's elderly and the procedure is more complicated.

I'll try and get ahold of my vet (she's a busy lady), and see if she wants to throw in her two cents on the issue. But so far it sounds like uterine problems aren't a widespread epidemic, which is very comforting to hear.
Thank you everyone for your input!

09-05-10, 09:52 am
Thanks for bringing this up. I've often wondered the same thing, but after doing a ton of research I opted not to spay my pigs. Another huge factor in my decision was the fact that I have no cavy savvy vets in my area. There are a few who claim to be but I wouldn't trust them from reports of others in the area.
My problem with this conversation is with the House Rabbit Society's "statistics". I called them out on this before as they have not done a real study, so where did they get this "fact"? One of the chairmembers of the nation HRS responded back to me by saying that about 90% of the ones she took in had cancer when she spayed them. That may be true, but with my veterinary technician experience a LOT of rabbits have fibroid tumors which are normally not deadly. While they are technically cancer, its not malignant so the statistics they claim are a little shady and just a scare tactic.
I have rescued rabbits for many years and used to spay every bunny that came into the rescue. After around a hundred spays and 70-80% (which would make the HSR "statistics" correct) having fibroids, only 2 hispathology reports came back as malignant cancer. By the time though that the rabbit's cancer would have spread they would havve been very old. Both of my girls were over 7 that had cancer, which is nearing the end of their days anyway. There is just no reason in my book, after my experiences, to spay a rabbit/piggy.
Dogs and cats are another thing though. Please spay or neuter those!!

09-10-10, 05:23 pm
When I was trying to find a good vet to do my boars neuter so that he could live with my females I spoke with at least three vets that told me to spay my females instead because it would prevent many dangerous health problems later in life. I think they were just trying to get more money out of me, I spent 100 to neuter my boar but it would have cost 500 a piece (three sows) to spay. I think there is no reason to spay a female if you don't have to in order to save her life. On the other hand neutering my boar was the best thing I could have done. He will be sooooo happy living with my girls and although any surgery is invasive for such small mammals he showed not visible signs of pain or struggle during recovery!