Neutering FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

Special thanks to Teresa Haas for compiling this information and allowing me to post it here...

This information is being offered only based on my own research and experiences (I?ve had 28 gliders neutered to date). Please discuss all medical questions and concerns with your vet.

1. Why should I have my male neutered? 

There are many reasons and benefits to having your male glider neutered. 
a) To prevent joeys. This is especially important to prevent inbreeding, where males are housed with their sisters, mothers or dad?s housed with their daughters. 

b) Intact males living together, especially if there is a female in the house, even if not in the same cage, can and often will fight viciously, sometimes to the death. Intact males are often more aggressive with other gliders, especially other males due to dominance issues. 

c) Neutering reduces the risk of testicular cancer (since the testicles are removed). 

d) Neutering reduces the male hormones thus causing their head and chest scent glands to dry (stop producing the scent oils) reducing the ?smell? of the gliders. 

e) Neutering generally reduces the mating urge although some neutered males will still go though the act, not realizing they can not produce offspring. Reducing this urge is important especially in cases where the male has created mating wounds on the females in the past. Neutering will NOT guarantee that the male will not still try and will not guarantee that it will prevent future mating wounds.

f) In some cases, neutering will stop the cycle of self mutilating when the SM is hormone driven.

g) Many neutered males just make more sweet, loving companions for their cage mates and humans.

2. At what age can gliders be neutered?

Male gliders are born with their testicles inside their abdomenal cavity. As they mature, the testicles descend into the scrotum. This can happen as early as about 8 weeks oop but generally not until 3-5 months oop. Some vets will neuter very early on but it seems the majority prefer to wait until the glider is at least 4 months oop OR has reached a certain weight. The concern about weight has more to do with the administration of anesthesia and pain meds as those are usually calculated based on the weight of the glider. Gliders CAN be neutered anytime AFTER their testicles have dropped into the scrotum. Neutering earlier than that means they will have to open the abdomen to search for the testicles to remove them. This is much more invasive and dangerous to the glider.

3. How are gliders neutered?

There are several methods to neutering. 

a) Removing the testicles and the scrotum. 

This method generally requires the use of glue or stitches to close the incision and has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is testosterone is found both in the gonads and the scrotum. Removing the scrotum does further reduce the hormones present in the glider. This can be very important in cases of self mutilators where other causes beyond hormones have been ruled out. Reducing the hormone levels may or may not decrease the mating urge as well. One disadvantage is the use of glue or stitches increases the risk of post neuter self mutilation (SM) due to the glue or stitches being an irritant to the glider and him wanting to remove that irritant. Generally, proper pain management and possible use of an ecollar for 24-36 hours can prevent this type of post neuter SM. In some cases of cloacal SM, where neutering is indicated, it is recommended that the scrotum be removed to reduce the hormone levels and the risk of future cloacal SM.

b) Removing just the testicles, leaving the scrotum. 

This method seems to be less invasive for the glider. An incision is made in the scrotum, the blood vessels are tied off or cauterized and the testicles are removed. Generally no external glue or stitches are needed as the incision will usually close on its own within 24 hours. The healing time seems to be less with this type of neutering. However, there is still a risk of post neuter SM and pain management is still needed. 

Regardless whether or not the scrotum is removed, laser surgery is an option, although it can be expensive. Using a laser cauterizes the blood vessels and reduces any bleeding.

4. What are the odds of post neuter SM?

The truth is, no one can predict which gliders will SM post neutering. It seems to be almost a 50/50 chance. The best plan is to be prepared for the worst.

5. What can I do to prepare for possible post neuter SM?

a) One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to have an e-collar and KNOW how to use them BEFORE you have your glider neutered. Practice putting the collar on your glider before it is needed so that if/when the need is there, you will have a better understanding of how to put them on, how tight it needs to be and how to tell if your glider is breathing okay in the collar. Not all gliders will need an e-collar post neuter but it is best to be prepared and know what to do IF it is needed. Truth is, most vets don?t have e-collars for gliders nor do many of them have any idea how to put one on properly. Make sure you have the proper size of e-collar as well. With a shot glass style e-collar (like the one Xfilefan makes) if the glider?s nose extends beyond the end of the e-collar, they can still chew and do damage. With the satellite dish style, the collar should extend anywhere from half an inch to one inch beyond their nose. Use of a satellite dish style should only be used with constant supervision as many gliders can still curl their body around and into the e-collar allowing them to reach their cloaca or incision site.

b) Discuss with your vet what method he/she uses and ask them WHY they do it that way. Some vets just don?t realize there are other methods used successfully with gliders. Don?t be afraid to voice your concerns about the different methods and discuss alternatives with your vet.

c) PAIN MANAGEMENT! Pain management is crucial. This can not be stressed enough. When gliders are in pain, they believe they are being attacked and will fight back. They will chew at the site of the pain which only makes it worse causing them to chew more. When a glider is coming out of the anesthesia, they are often disoriented and will sometimes (often) attack anything handy. I have had them bite at me, their feet, tails and cloacal area as well as their incision site. Again, not all gliders will need an e-collar post neuter but it is best to be prepared and know what to do IF it is needed. By using an e-collar and proper pain management, the risk of SM is greatly reduced. There are many options to pain management.

1) Bufranoraphine is a gel, a neuro-blocker that is placed behind the ear. It blocks the transmission of pain impulses to the brain. In effect, the brain never receives the message that anything was even done. This has a short-lived effect of only about 2 hours. With many gliders though, that is often long enough.

2) Torbitol is a pain med that can be administered before the procedure begins or before the glider comes out of the anesthesia. This generally lasts for 4-6 hours but can be given more often IF needed and only on the advice of your vet.

3) Metacam is an anti-inflammatory medicine. It does have its purposes but there is a risk of organ damage in gliders; therefore, this is not a med that I will use.

I?m sure there are other options as well but these are the ones I have either used or heard the best results with. Again, this is something to discuss with your vet. Whatever method of pain management you choose, please make sure you do use some form of pain management. Oft times vets will tell you it isn?t necessary, but from my experience, I will not ever have a glider neutered without pain meds.

6. How long does my male need to be kept separate from his cage mates?

This depends on your glider and your own comfort level. When I have my males neutered, the surgery is generally done between 10 am and 12 pm. I keep a close watch on them throughout the day and if, by 7pm, they have shown no signs of problems, I will return them to their cage. Some I have kept watch on for 24 hours. Really, it depends on the glider and the method used. One thing to watch for if you do return them to their cage mates is that the other gliders do not start grooming the incision site. 

7. Do I need to remove their wheel? 

Some will tell you "Yes, remove their wheel for 3 days". Honestly though, I never have. Again, this is a comfort issue for you. If you feel that leaving the wheel could make them further injure themselves (and risk SM) then by all means, remove their wheel. It definitely won?t hurt them to go without their wheel for a few days. With my gliders, it seems as if the wheel provides a distraction for them as well as a stress reliever. It is very hard for them to chew if they are running. Keep in mind that if the glider is in an e-collar, many have a hard time with wheels, especially if they are a close-fronted wheel like the Wodent Wheel. It is just hard (or impossible) for them to get in and out of the wheel with the collar on. Also, some mesh tracks can snag the e-collar while the glider is running.

8. How long post neuter will it be before they can no longer get my female pregnant? 

Here you will get a variety of answers. Sperm only has about a 72 hour life span. It can take anywhere from 1 month to a year for their hormones to dissipate and their scent glands to disappear. As long as those hormones are present, their mating urge will still be strong. If you are neutering to prevent unwanted joeys, it is probably best to keep them separate for 3-5 days. Keep in mind though, females can keep fertilized embryos in stasis for 6 months to a year so if they have mated prior to the neutering, you may still end up with a surprise bundle of joy. This does not mean the neutering was unsuccessful.

9. What if my glider does self mutilate?

First, do whatever you need to do to prevent damage from being done. Such as putting them in an e-collar or even wrapping them up in fleece so they can not chew at themselves. It is better that they bite and chew you than themselves. You will not die from the bites but they often can do fatal damage in a very, very short time. Then, contact someone on the SM team: Bourbon, Mary Holcomb or Xfilefan. They will be able to help you and walk you through what to do next and what to expect.

10. What are some of the risks involved with neutering?

Neutering is surgery regardless which method is used. Any time gliders (or any animal) are put under anesthesia, there is the risk of respiratory failure. Infection is also a possibility. Post neuter hematoma can occur if a blood vessel ruptures or leaks causing internal bleeding. Post neuter self mutilation is also possible (as already discussed).