Female ferret spaying
The medical term for spaying a female ferret (jill) is an irreversible procedure known as an ovario-hysterectomy. This is a major operation because the procedure consists of entering the abdominal cavity. Once performed, the jill can never breed again and this is often one of the reasons for owners having their jills spayed. Other reasons include the prevention of certain diseases and to keep the jill safe from hobs (entire male ferrets) or hoblets (vasectomised ferrets).
At what age should a female ferret be neutered?
Veterinarians advise jills to be spayed before their first season which can occur usually after four months of age. The reason for this is to prevent the common problem of the possibly fatal oestrogen-induced anaemia which occurs as a result of bone marrow suppression. As jills become elderly, the greater the risk of being under a general anaesthetic and so the opinion of the vet should be sought.
The ferret should be starved the night before to ensure that no complications arise during surgery. The ferret is given a general anaesthetic along with pain medication. A nurse will scrub and disinfect the surgical site and then monitor the ferrets heart beat and blood pressure using specialised equipment.
An incision is made by the veterinary surgeon in the direction of the head to the tail, starting from just below the umbilicus. The subcutaneous and muscle layer is also cut through until the abdominal cavity is entered. Each ovary is removed along with the uterus following the ligation of the connecting blood vessels.
Once the incisions are closed using absorbable or nylon sutures, the ferret is made to rest in a clean and quiet area. The pet is usually allowed to go home on the same day. The ferret will usually heal between seven to fourteen days.
Are there other ways to spay a female ferret?
Another method to sterilise a jill is a hormone injection which some call a “jill-jab”. This is a hormone injection and must be applied before every single season so that this season doesn’t occur. One of the problems for this is that false pregnancies can happen. Spaying is arguably a better method because the jill-jab has been thought to increase the incidence of a pyometra which is a painful and usually fatal condition where the uterus fills up with pus.
The ferret’s bedding should be cleaned with disinfectant and the living environment should be kept warm and isolated from any noise and other ferrets for a couple of weeks. The surgical site should be checked daily to ensure there is no swelling, heat, soreness, redness, or discharge. If these do occur, then the vet should be called immediately. If nylon sutures were used for the operation, they will remove by a vet ten to fourteen days following the operation.
Jills should have a litter of kits before they are spayed
This is not true since, unless the ferret is being used specifically for breeding, spaying is usually the best option. This is because the risk of a pyometra or anaemia is high and it is difficult to sell kits. Also, mating is a very unpleasant experience for female ferrets as they are often held down by the hobs’ (male ferrets) teeth and the aggressiveness from the hobs causes it to be very painful.
Spaying my jill is too dangerous
One of the advantages of owning a ferret is that they recover from most surgeries relatively quickly. Most vets are now experienced with ferret surgery as ferrets are becoming more common pets. As a result, the risk of the operation should not be the main reason for not spaying a ferret.
It can prevent certain diseases
Diseases such as pyometra and oestrogen induced anaemia are prevented and, in the case of pyometra, sometimes cured. Pyometra is a generally fatal problem where the uterus can become filled with pus. In this case, if it is caught in time an ovario-hysterectomy (spaying) can sometimes treat the condition. As a result, spaying is arguably a life saving operation.
It is understood that jills can give off a stronger more pungent odour than hobs. Spaying the ferret can reduce this problem. Without this smell, which strengthens when having mated with a hob, the ferret is less likely to come to any harm from any other ferrets. This means that the ferrets need not be isolated which is ideal since ferrets are very social animals.