There are 4 ways to help prevent tumors in your pet rats:
Spaying Female Rats
The most effective way to prevent mammary tumors in females is to have them spayed. Studies have shown that spaying drastically reduces the incidence of these tumors, from 40-70% to only 4%! Spaying also decreases the incidence of pituitary tumors. In the laboratory, spayed rats also tend to live longer than unspayed rats. Spaying is most effective at 3-6 months, but has benefits at any age. Lab studies showed that spaying will often cause mammary tumors to shrink. The cost of having a rat spayed may be less than having a tumor removed, and since many female rats get multiple mammary tumors, requiring multiple surgeries, having them spayed may financially the best bet in the long run, as well as extending your rat’s life.
An alternative to spaying is to give your female rats tamoxifen, starting at age 18 months. Laboratory studies have shown that it does reduce the incidence of both benign and malignant mammary tumors and pituitary tumors when given preventatively. However, many rats object to taking oral tamoxifen over a long period of time. An alternative to giving tamoxifen orally is to use a pellet implanted under the skin. This method has been used in the lab, however, the implants are not easily acquired and are expensive. Again, in the long run, it may be more practical to have the rat spayed, which will accomplish the same thing more effectively.
Choose a Male Rat
A third way to avoid having to deal with potential tumors is to choose male rats over female rats. While males can get other tumors, the benign mammary tumors and pituitary tumors that are so common in females occur in only about 2-7% of males.
Feed Your Rat a Nutritious, Low-fat Diet
Finally, diet may help prevent cancer. It is reported that one should feed your rat a nutritious low-fat diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables that have been shown to have cancer preventing components, such as cooked dry beans (especially soybeans), broccoli, and tomatoes.
Several studies have shown that feeding female rats miso, a soybean product, as 10% of their diet, had a protective effect against induced mammary tumors. When combined with tamoxifen, the soy diet was almost 100% effective in preventing the tumors. Another study found that flaxseeds given at 375-1500 mg per day also had a protective effect against mammary tumors.
Some of the non-surgical treatments discussed in Rat Tumor Treatments, especially CLA, have preventative effects as well. A study showed that giving pre-pubescent female rats about 150 mg of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) per day provided significant life-long protection against induced breast cancer.
Bottom line is that rats are a great pet and quickly become an important part of the family. So however we can help to maximize the quality and longevity of their lives, please let us know.