Mouse Neutering: A Whole New Ballgame
by Lee Chambers
Earlier this year Dakin's medical team broke new ground by introducing mouse neutering to its capabilities. Dr. Elizabeth Helton is one of the surgeons who perform this delicate work and she explains how it became integrated into Dakin's programs.
“I went to Tufts University and trained with their exotics vet to do rat surgeries,” she explains. Dakin's Director of Operations Karina King steered Dr. Helton toward the shelter's mouse population, and with some additional mouse-specific training, she was soon in business.
Besides the obvious benefit of birth control, neutering male mice also addresses an odor issue that happens with intact (unneutered) mice. The surgery itself doesn't take long – about 30 minutes including prep time, surgery and post-op care - but keeping the patient safely anesthesized presented a challenge.
“Normally animals have anesthesia masks, but mice are too small,” she explains. “I came up with an injectable anesthesia protocol that keeps the mice sedated without using gas.” She adds that the process “is more like a rabbit neuter surgery than a dog or cat surgery. It involves more steps to get it done right.”
Recovery is fairly easy for the patients. They receive some antibiotics, and running wheels and climbing toys are removed from their cages to minimize their movement for a few days.
While not all male mice at Dakin are neutered, the plan is to increase the numbers on an ongoing basis. To be eligible, the mice need to be around 2-3 months old and weigh a mimimum of 30 grams. Adult sized mice weigh between 30-40 grams.
Since female mice are capable of producing a litter each month - with an average of 15 babies at a time – it's important that some procedures are in place to help curb the mouse population.