Why spay and neuter rabbits?
- Altered rabbits are healthier and live longer than unaltered rabbits. The risk of reproductive cancers (ovarian, uterine, mammarian) for an unspayed female rabbit stands at is virtually eliminated by spaying your female rabbit. Your neutered male rabbit will live longer as well, given that he won’t be tempted to fight with other animals (rabbits, cats, etc.) due to his sexual aggression. Rabbits are at risk by two years of age, and those risks increase greatly as they age, according to the House Rabbit Society.
- Altered rabbits make better companions. They are calmer, more loving, and dependable once the undeniable urge to mate has been removed. In addition, rabbits are less prone to destructive (chewing, digging) and aggressive (biting, lunging, circling, growling) behavior after surgery.
- Avoidance of obnoxious behavior. Unneutered male rabbits spray, and both males and females are much easier to litter train, and much more reliably trained, after they have been altered.
- Altered rabbits won’t contribute to the problem of overpopulation of rabbits. Over 7 million adorable dogs, cats, and rabbits are killed in animal shelters in this country every year. In addition, unwanted rabbits are often abandoned in fields, parks, or on city streets to fend for themselves, where they suffer from starvation, sickness, and are easy prey to other animals or traffic accidents. Those rabbits who are sold to pet stores don’t necessarily fare any better, as pet stores sell pets to anyone with the money to buy, and don’t check on what kind of home they will go to. Many of these rabbits will be sold as snake food, or as a pet for a small child who will soon “outgrow” the rabbit.
- Altered rabbits can safely have a friend to play with. Rabbits are social animals and enjoy the company of other rabbits. But unless your rabbit is altered, he or she cannot have a friend, either of the opposite sex, or the same sex, due to sexual and aggressive behaviors triggered by hormones.
- Spaying and neutering for rabbits has become a safe procedure when performed by experienced rabbit veterinarians. The House Rabbit Society has had over 1000 rabbits spayed or neutered with approximately .1% mortality due to anesthesia. A knowledgeable rabbit veterinarian can spay or neuter your rabbit with very little risk to a healthy rabbit. Don’t allow a veterinarian with little or no experience with rabbits to spay or neuter your rabbit.
Is surgery safe on rabbits?Surgery can be as safe on rabbits as on any animal. Unfortunately, the vast majority of veterinarians aren’t experienced with safe rabbit surgery techniques. Don’t allow a veterinarian with little or no experience with rabbits spay or neuter your rabbit. Using isofluorene or sevoflurane as the anesthetic and appropriate surgical and after-surgery techniques, spaying and neutering of rabbits is as safe as for any other animal.
At what age should rabbits be spayed or neutered?Females can be spayed as soon as they sexually mature, usually around 4- 5 months of age, but many veterinarians prefer to wait until they are 6 months old, as surgery is riskier on a younger rabbit.
Males can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend, usually around 3-1/2 months of age.
When is a rabbit too old to be spayed or neutered?Veterinarians will have their own opinions on this, but in general, after a rabbit is 6 years old, anesthetics and surgery become more risky, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Simply consult your veterinarian regarding your rabbit’s health and circumstances, and opt for pre-surgical blood work.
It is always a good idea, in a rabbit over 2 years of age, to have a very thorough health check done, including full blood work. This may be more expensive than the surgery, but it will help detect any condition that could make the surgery more risky. This is especially important if anesthetics other than isofluorene or sevoflurane are used.
Can you tell if female rabbit has already been spayed?The probability is very high that she hasn’t.
One can shave the tummy and look for a spay scar. However, when veterinarians use certain stitching techniques, there is no scar whatsoever. Hopefully, these veterinarians will tattoo the tummy to indicate the spay has been done, but otherwise, the only way of knowing is to proceed with the surgery.
What does the surgery cost?Spay/neuter costs vary tremendously in different areas of the country. The low end of the range can be as inexpensive as $50-75 (often in spay/neuter clinics), while vets in major metropolitan areas, where rents and labor costs are very high, often charge several hundred dollars.
Remember, sometimes, you do get what you pay for in care.
An exotic vet who
1. Takes the time and pays attention to detail,
2. Can resuscitate in an emergency,
3. Feels more comfortable with having the bunny stay until he has eaten and poops before he leaves
Is worth the money!
How can I find a veterinarian that can do the surgery safely?See our veterinary listings: http://rabbit.org/vet-listings/
What kinds of questions should I ask the vet?
- about how many rabbit clients does the veterinarian see in a year?
- how many spays/neuters OF RABBITS has the veterinarian has done in the past year?
- what was the success rate? 90% success is way too low. Every doctor, whether for animals or humans will occasionally lose a patient; usually because of an undiagnosed problem. veterinarians across the country who spay and neuter rabbits for the House Rabbit Society have lost on average less than 1/2 of 1%.
- if any were lost, what was the cause?
- does the veterinarian remove both uterus and ovaries? (they should)
- does the veterinarian do “open” or “closed” neuters? (closed is preferable–let your veterinarian explain the difference)
- is entry to the testicles made through the scrotum or the abdomen? (Entry via the abdomen unnecessarily increases the trauma for male rabbits)
- does the veterinarian require withholding of food and water prior to surgery in rabbits? (Do not do this–rabbits can’t vomit, so there is no risk of that during surgery, and rabbits should never be allowed to get empty digestive tracts)
- what anesthetics are used–some veterinarians are quite successful with anesthetics other than isofluorene or sevoflurane, but the bunny is “hung over” after surgery, which increases the probability that s/he will be slow to start eating again, which can lead to serious problems if not dealt with.
- Review the procedure (op and immediate post-op) with your vet. Ask how problems will be detected: how often will they (the veterinarian and the techs) look in on your rabbit and what will they look for?. What will they do pre-op to find any potential problems? How will they support your bun in the hours after surgery: Oxygen, warmth, quiet (barking dogs and yowling cats in the next cage are probably not helpful), and stimulation? What are they going to do to make it come out right?! Ask questions! That will get your veterinarian’s attention. Let them know you’re concerned and that you’ll be paying attention.
Isoflurane vs. Sevoflurane Anesthesia
Article to just inform you about different types of anesthesias used and how with rabbits.
What pre- and post-operative care should one give?Some rabbit people give their rabbit acidophilus for a couple of days prior to surgery, just to be certain that the digestive system is functioning in fine form. But don’t change the diet it any way during this time.
After the surgery, ask your veterinarian for pain medication, especially for a spay. Medicam is very common.
If you choose, continue giving acidophilus until the appetite has returned to normal.
Inspect the incision morning and evening. After a neuter, the scrotum may swell with fluids. Warm compresses will help, but it is nothing to be overly concerned about. With any sign of infection, take the rabbit to the veterinarian immediately.
After surgery, keep the environment quiet so the rabbit doesn’t startle or panic, don’t do anything to encourage acrobatics, but let the rabbit move around at her own pace– she knows what hurts and what doesn’t.
Some veterinarians keep rabbits overnight. If your veterinarian lets you bring your bunny home the first night, note the following:
- Most males come home after being neutered looking for “supper”– be sure they have pellets, water, and some good hay (good, fresh alfalfa is a good way to tempt them to nibble a bit)
- Most females want to be left alone, are not interested in eating at all, and will sit quietly in a back corner of the cage (or wherever in the house they feel they will be bothered the least). Try not to pick up or bother her much for the first 4 days. Females take it harder.
Occasionally a female will pull out her stitches. Get her stitched up again, and then belly-band her by wrapping a dish towel around her whole middle and binding that with an elastic bandage wrapped snuggly over it. If she can breath normally, it isn’t too tight.
Our Exotic vet requires our bunnies to stay overnight after any surgeries. If your vet does not require this, please read this info before the surgery so you know how to care for your bun when you bring him/her home. And ALWAYS keep the vets number handy if there is any type of emergency!
CARE FOR THE FIRST 24-48 HOURS
Looking after rabbits following surgery or an anesthetic requires a degree of extra care. They have higher rates of metabolism than larger pets, such as cats or dogs, and so are susceptible to body heat loss, dehydration and a drop in blood sugar levels.
Rabbits as a prey species are also very prone to stress and will benefit from this being minimized whilst recovering.
These potential problems are more of a risk after surgery or an anesthetic, but can be minimized with some specific care laid out below, but guidance will be given by your vet based on the specific procedure that your rabbit is recovering from. The basics generally remain the same.
- Keep your pet in a quiet, warm environment overnight once you get home. If your rabbit(s) are not normally unduly stressed, they can be brought indoors overnight and kept in an indoor rabbit cage/dog crate or if neither are available, a pet carrier
- For the first few days the bedding should be of a dry, soft and absorbent material such as shredded tissue paper, soft meadow hay or Vet Bed. Avoid bedding with fine particles such as shavings and sawdust (never recommended for rabbits) as they may irritate and contaminate any wounds
- Provide fresh water.
- Provide food straight away. This should be their usual variety, with no special and unfamiliar treats as this may upset their digestion
- Ensure that your rabbit(s) eat within 12-24 hours of coming home and monitor output of poos in that time. Whilst your rabbit(s) may be quieter than normal for 24-48 hours, it is important to see evidence of eating, drinking and pooing.
- .Rabbits should not be allowed to exercise overly for a few days to help their wounds repair e.g. not using a ramp in multiple floor housing, using a run, and not playing with exercise toys such as tunnels/stools/jump boxes/steps
- Rabbits (and/or their partners) can be inclined to lick and chew their wounds and stitches, so it is important to check them several times a day
- Already bonded (paired) rabbits should remain together throughout any visits to the vets And traveling to reduce stress, unless this is contra- indicated (e.g. risk of mating, inability to nurse with partner rabbit in situ., risk to partner rabbits health)
- Complete any course of medication prescribed to you to give your pet
- If you are concerned about your rabbit(s) recovery for any reason, please telephone your vet immediately
24 hour pain relief
Your rabbit will normally be back to normal in a few days, and should have a followup consultation with your vet to ensure that he or she is happy with progress.
Please note following neutering, both mature males and mature females can remain hormonal for between 4-6 weeks and that males are still capable of breeding for up to 6 weeks post op.
THE ABOVE IS NOT A VETERINARY OPINION OR GUIDE, BUT IS BASED ON MY OWN PERSONAL LAYPERSON'S EXPERIENCE. SHOULD YOU BE ANY WAY CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR RABBITS POST OPERATIVE CARE, THEN PLEASE DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR VETERINARY SURGEON.
Footnotes and further reading;
Sevoflurane or isoflurane anaesthesia in rabbits: