Neutering Guinea Pigs

Both my boys, Jake and Squeekie, were neutered in October 2003. Here, I will tell you my reasons for having them neutered and how my boys coped during their recovery. However, before Jake and Squeekie's story, there is much to consider before any guinea pig owner decides to have their boar neutered.

What dose neutering mean exactly?
Neutering is a term used for a surgical procedure in boars. Their testicles are surgically removed, making them infertile and unable to make babies with a female guinea pig. Spaying is a surgical procedure for a female which involves removing the ovaries and uterus (womb). Spaying a sow should only ever be considered because of medical reasons because its a large operation. Some female guinea pigs may develop ovarian cysts and surgery is considered. Here is a link where you can read about the symptoms of ovarian cysts and also read about a female guinea pig named Snowflake, who needed to be spayed. There are a few pictures, so if your a little squeamish, I thought I'd warn you first. Guinea Lynx: Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

Although neutering a boar is a smaller operation than a spaying a sow, like with any operations using anaesthesia, it still carries risks. Please remember that although a male guinea pig can impregnate a female as early as 3 weeks old. However, a male guinea pig should only be neutered after the age of 4 to 5 months old and he should be of a good weight.

Will neutering change a boars behaviour
The simple answer is no. Unlike many other animals, neutering a guinea pig does not change their behaviour. If you have two boars that have shown aggression towards each other, neutering won't have any impact on their behaviour towards each other. Besides medical reasons, the only reason to neuter a boar is because you have females that you want your boar to live with.

Unlike many animals, neutering won't change a guinea pigs desire to show sexual behaviour. I have kept two neutered cats and both showed no sexual interest in females whatsoever. Guinea pigs however, still have the urge to romance a female and mount, but after a neutered boar has been living with the same females for a while, their desire to mount will decrease.

Other options to consider before neutering:
Male guinea pigs need a lot of room because some can be territorial ( a few females can also be territorial ) Much can depend on the guinea pigs personality as to whether two boars will get along together. Buying a larger cage might help your boys to get along better, so they'll have enough room to call their own. When my Jake increased his bullying with Squeekie, I didn't have enough room in the house at the time, to accommodate a larger cage. If you do have the space, its worth a try before neutering is considered. You could have two cages next to each other so your boys can still see and talk to each other. It might work out that they could still be together outside the cage, while having their free range time.

Reasons why my boys were neutered:
My decision to have Jake and Squeekie neutered, although a very hard decision, was for their future happiness, especially Squeekie's. Squeekie had always been the under piggy. Before the boys came to live with me, both boys lived together outside in a wooden hutch. Often hutches have a sleeping compartment and I noticed that Jake hardly ever allowed Squeekie in there. He was simply left out in the cold. If Jake was eating, Squeekie ran into the sleeping area, but as soon as Jake had finished eating, Jake ran in, Squeekie ran out. As the boys grew older, Jake began asserting his authority even more. Eventually Squeekie was always having to be on his guard and in the last couple of months prior to neutering, he was becoming quite stressed. I didn't want Squeekie to spend the rest of his life being in a state of panic every time Jake went near him as bullying can be just as damaging as a full blown fight. I just kept imagining how both boys would be, so happy living with my girls. On one occasion Jake attacked Squeekie, resulting in Squeekie having a sore nose. It was the first time Jake had ever drawn blood, so with a heavy heart, I decided to separate them. Both boys were always fine together outside the cage, so it definitely was a territorial dispute on Jake's part. Their cages were next to each other, plus they still had their free range time together, so it was more of a semi-split.

Squeekie was a very relaxed guinea pig living away from Jake. In a way, the separation helped with the very final decision to have them neutered. I personally didn't want them living on their own permanently. Because I already had females, I just knew they would be both very happy living with the girls. A boar would normally live with several females in the wild, so it also seemed a very natural choice. However, that doesn't mean to say two boars can't get along together, some boars have a very close relationship with each other, it often just depends on their personalities and finding a right match.

Please don't make a quick decision to neuter your boar.
Please remember that neutering a boar should never be entered into lightly. Please do lots of research, read about other peoples experience of neutering their boars. Before my boys were neutered, I spent many hours reading threads made at the Guinea Lynx Forum. Another excellent resource that I turned to was Cavy Spirits-Neutering page. I also went along to my vet and asked him lots of questions.

Finding an experieced vet
After reading as much as you can about neutering, the next main step is to find a veterinary who is experienced with this kind of medical procedure on guinea pigs. I was fortunate that my vet had done 20 plus successful neutering operations on guinea pigs and had never lost a guinea pig during a neutering operation or encountered any complications. Please remember you are looking for a veterinary that works with exotic pets, guinea pigs, reptiles and small animals. If your vet isn't experienced, try getting in contact with your local guinea pig rescue centre. Some rescues routinely neuterer boars before adoption, especially single boars who may fair better with a female. Be prepared to travel, as that widens your scope. My veterinary surgeon, who performed Jake and Squeekie's neutering operations, is called Mr.David Hunt. My vet has two surgeries in the Cheshire area UK. Please click onto the image below to find out more information.

Mr.David Hunt has very kindly provided some of his thoughts about neutering a guinea pig. Thank you so much David!

Neutering by Mr.David Hunt:
As a general rule castration of the male is significantly easier than spaying of the female, although certain principles must be adhered to to prevent some complications which are inherently more likely than in other species (eg herniation of abdominal contents). Anaesthesia of guinea pigs is frequently considered hazardous by veterinary surgeons, but with a little knowledge and experience of the species many of the hazards can be minimised or overcome. Some conditions can develop in the entire female guinea pig requiring spaying for example cystic ovaries. If you are considering having your guinea pig neutered ask you veterinary surgeon, a) If they have previous experience of neutering guinea pigs, b) What their success rate is c) Do they routinely provide post operative analgesia.

Please don't be afraid to ask your vet questions. Here is a list of questions you need to ask your veterinary surgeon.

1) You probably won't need to ask, as most vets will ask to see your pet before any operation is carried out. This is so your vet can give your guinea pig a health check to make sure they are as healthy as possible before the operation.
2) Unlike most animals and us human's, guinea pigs are unable to vomit, so food won't need to be withheld before surgery. But ask your vet if they can have any food within the last hour before surgery. My boys were able to eat just before we headed off to the surgery, but its best to check first. You will need to ask how many neutering operations they have performed on guinea pigs and what there success rate is.
3) Ask what anaesthesia they use. Isoflurane gas was used for my boys as its a safer option, but any anaesthesia still carries a risk.
4) Ask your vet about pain relief after surgery.
5) You will also need to ask if your vet routinely prescribes a small course of antibiotic after surgery to hopefully prevent any infection.
6) Remember to ask how soon your boar can safely be put in with a female. Its usually a minimum of 3 weeks after surgery, no earlier, but some vets may say 4 to 5 weeks.
7) Ask if you need to restrict your boars movements after surgery. My boy's were allowed some light exercise two days after surgery. You may find that your boar won't feel up to running around and may just want to walk slowly. Remember to remove any landings/ramps etc from the cage to avoid any straining.

Please remember that not even a very experienced vet can give you any guarantees that the surgery will not have any complications.

After care
As well as finding an experienced vet to do the surgery, its vital that you learn about how to care for your boar after surgery. You will need to provide a 'hospital cage' where your boar can stay in a clean and quiet environment. To prepare a cage, please visit my Hospital Cage page.

You will need to look at the incision area every day to make sure there is no swelling, signs of infection (puss) or blood. You'll also need to make sure that your guinea pig is eating regularly and isn't acting too depressed. If you are worried at all about your guinea pig, please don't hesitate to contact your vet as soon as possible.

Jake and Squeekie's Neutering Story

Day 1: Surgery day arrives:
On Thursday 23rd October 2003, the big day arrived. Half an hour before the taxi was due to arrive to take us to veterinary clinic, I gave Jake and Squeekie a hearty breakfast of their favourite vegetables. I was also constantly telling them that the vet will look after them. I think that was more for my benefit really, thankfully they didn't understand what was about to happen. At 9.30am we arrived at the clinic. After a few more words with the vet, I was asked to ring the surgery up at around 1.00 pm to see how they were. I telephoned the surgery at 1.00pm precisely and was so relieved when the nurse told me both boys had come through the operation and were both sitting up. I was also pleased to be told that Squeekie was cuddling Jake :)

At 4.00 pm, I picked the boys up from the surgery. Straight away, I noticed Squeekie seemed more alert than Jake and was cuddling Jake throughout the journey back home. I was a little concerned for Jake, he looked depressed and hardly moved. I needn't of worried, once Jake was back home in familiar surroundings he soon perked up. I'd prepared two cages while the boys were having surgery, using only newspaper and towels. I put some hay in the corner for eating, as guinea pigs should never be without hay. I also placed a water bowl in the cage in addition to a water bottle. Some convalescing guinea pigs find it easier to use a water bowl.

Both boys had been given pain relief and I was given antibiotic liquid to give to the boys for the following few days.

Jake and Squeekie began eating straight away, I knew some lovely fresh grass would be appreciated. During the day, I kept checking the towels for any blood or signs of infection, thankfully there was none present. Before bedtime arrived, I'd changed the towels three times, I just wanted to be extra cautious so hopefully they wouldn't get an infection.

Day 2
I had stayed up for most of the night to make sure they were ok. Both boys were fine, no blood or any sign of infection on the towels. There was plenty of normal shaped poops and they had also been passing urine. Early in the morning, I looked at the incision area for the first time. My boys had two tiny incisions each. Everything was fine, no sign of infection or swelling and the towels were also clear . I then gave them their antibiotic. By tea time I noticed Squeekie wasn't eating much and seemed less alert than Jake. Squeekie had never taken antibiotic before and had developed a sensitivity to it. It was upsetting his tummy, which resulted in him loosing his appetite and looking depressed. After a talk on the phone to the vets, it was decided that I split Squeekies antibiotic dose up. So the following day, I gave him 0.2ml of his antibiotic and a few hours later, I gave him the remaining 0.2ml. Noticing that Squeekie wasn't eating, I hand fed him and also included some probiotic to hopefully balance out his gut flora. By late evening he was eating by himself again.

Day 3
Everything was going very well, no sign of infection. On this particular day, I noticed that Squeekie was raising his bottom quite a bit, while I was holding him. He must have been in a little discomfort and was just trying to get into a comfortable position. Both boys were allowed to have some free range time by day 3, as long as they didn't go mountain climbing. Jake was fine and seemed to love running around without a care in the world. However, Squeekie preferred to walk everywhere and seemed to be making sure his bottom didn't drag along the floor. It actually looked liked he was walking on delicate flowers, tiptoeing as he walked. He seemed happy though. His appetite was also excellent, so splitting the dose of his antibiotic worked for Squeekie.

Day 4
I kept the boys on towels and continued to keep them on towels for the following two weeks, just to be on the safe side. Everything was going extremely well. Squeekie was now running around and only raising his bottom a little.

Day 5
Both boys were doing wonderfully well, I was so pleased and relieved that they were coming through the post surgery just fine. Lots of towels to wash everyday. I bought 20 extra towels from the pound shop, so I was able to change them frequently.

Day 10
Both boys went through the next few days just fine, no sign of any infection. They finished their full course of antibiotic by day 7 and was now due to have a check up at the vets. Everything was fine and of course a million thank you's to my vet. Now there was just less than two weeks to go before they could finally meet the girls properly.

Day 21
On the 12th November, three weeks after surgery, the boys finally met the girls. The normal recommended time is to wait at least 3 to 4 weeks and no earlier. It was initially hard for me to decide which pair of girls, Squeekie and Jake should live with. I knew all my guinea pigs personalities very well and decided to base my decision on that knowledge. Because Clover can be quite dominant with a guinea pig that isn't a cage mate, I decided Squeekie's more submissive personality would work better with Clover and Peachy. So Squeekie went to live with Clover and Peachy and Jake went to live with Jasmine and Sweetpea. You can read all about the boys introduction to the girls on my guinea pigs introductions page.

Here are some additional sites that cover neutering.

Cavy Spirits: Neutering
Treen's Pigs: Neutering
Hey! Pigs: Neutering

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