Ovariohysterectomy of Ferrets (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information

Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords Spay
  • In Europe, this is usually carried out when the ferret is 6 - 9 months old, just before the first oestrus. (B339.9.w9)
    • It can be carried out within a month after vulval swelling has started in the spring. (B232.19.w19)
  • In the USA, often ferrets are neutered at just 4-6 weeks of age, before leaving the breeding farms. (B339.9.w9)

The procedure is basically the same as in cats. (B339.9.w9)

  • Make a midline abdominal incision in the skin from just caudal to the umbilicus, caudally for a few centimetres. (B631.23.w23)
    • To minimise the risk of leaving an ovarian remnant, a 3-4 cm incision is recommended to provide good visualisation during surgery. (B339.9.w9) A 4 cm incision midway between the pubis and the umbilicus. (J15.24.w5)
  • Identify the linea alba - a wide thin aponeurosis, semi-transparent in very young ferrets. (B631.23.w23)
  • Grasp the linea alba with forceps or haemostat and elevate it. (B631.23.w23)
  • Using the tip of a scalpel blade, make a small incision in the raised linea alba. (B631.23.w23)
  • Continuing to raise the linea alba with haemostats, use rounded-tip scissors to extend the incision cranially and caudally.
  • Locate the bicornuate, short-bodied uterus, on the dorsal side of the urinary bladder. (B631.23.w23)
    • The uterus is about 4 cm long. (B232.19.w19, J15.24.w5)
  • Gently retract the uterine horns cranially to locate the ovaries. (B631.23.w23)
    • These are caudal to the kidneys. (B232.19.w19)
    • These lie inside a bursa of fatty tissue, and may be dark. (B631.23.w23)
  • Use haemoclips or 1.5 metric (4/0 USP) absorbable monofilament suture material to ligate the ovarian arteries and uterine arteries. (B631.23.w23)
  • Use 3-0 or 4-0 absorbable suture material to ligate the ovarian pedicles. (B602.12.w12)
    • Preferably double-ligate the ovarian pedicle. (B232.19.w19, J15.24.w5)
    • Check carefully that all the ovarian tissue has been removed. (B232.19.w19, J15.24.w5)
  • Suture the cervix just distal to where the two uterine bodies join, by transverse suturing, transfixing sutures or clipping; if suturing, 2 metric (3/0 USP) absorbable monofilament suture material is suitable. (B631.23.w23)
    • Use 3-0 or 4-0 absorbable suture material. (B602.12.w12)
    • A transfixing ligature reduces the risk of ligature slippage and uterine artery haemorrhage. (B232.19.w19)
  • Close the linea alba using 3-0 or 4-0 absorbable suture material. (B602.12.w12) e.g. 1.5 or 2.0 metric polyglactin 910. in a simple interrupted pattern. (B232.19.w19)
  • Close the skin with a subcuticular suture of fine absorbable suture material e.g. 1.5 or 2.0 metric polyglactin 910.  (B232.19.w19)
In cases of pyometra
  • Carry out a complete blood count and clotting tests prior to surgery. (B232.19.w19)
  • Ensure that the uterus is outside of the abdomen and a laparotomy sponge is placed underneath the uterus, to prevent contamination with pus in the abdomen. (B602.12.w12)
  • Lavage the abdomen once the uterus and sponge has been removed. (B602.12.w12)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • To prevent bone marrow suppression, which occurs with prolonged oestrous in entire females not allowed to breed. (B339.9.w9)
  • Ferrets have a bicornuate uterus with a very short uterine body. The ovaries, which may be dark, are located within a fatty bursa. (B631.23.w23)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Incomplete removal of the ovaries is relatively common. (B631.23.w23)
  • There is a lot of fat in the mesovarium increasing the risk of an ovarian remnant being left behind. (B339.9.w9)
  • If the uterus is ligated and incised too far cranially (leaving a remnant of uterus), uterine disease may occur in the stump. (B631.23.w23)
  • Early ovariohysterectomy is associated with endocrine abnormalities/neoplasia. (B232.19.w19)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Standard anaesthetic equipment

  • Surgical equipment.

  • Suture materials.

Expertise level / Ease of Use This is a surgical technique. This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost/ Availability

The costs of a surgical operation include those associated with: (J15.30.w1)

  • Pre-operative diagnostics (e.g. radiography, ultrasonography, blood tests)
  • Anaesthesia.
  • Perioperative medication (e.g. analgesics, antibiotics, fluids).
  • Surgical preparation (of the operating theatre and the patient, including staff time).
  • Consumables and equipment.
  • Time of the surgeon and assistant(s).
  • Post-operative hospitalisation.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).
Author Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
References B232.19.w19, B339.9.w9, B631.23.w23, J15.24.w5

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