Spayed or Neutered rabbits

There are various reasons why you should have your rabbit spayed or neutered.

Being spayed or neutered is in a rabbit's best interest as it will make them less aggressive and deter certain cancers.

Female rabbits, Does, are spayed and male rabbits, Bucks, are neutered.

When a female rabbit is spayed, they will live longer since the risk of reproductive ovarian, uterine and mammarian cancers are all but eliminated. They will also live healthier lives since they will not get infections of the urinary tract.

A neutered male rabbit lives longer for the reason it as has lost its sexual aggression and won't fight.

When rabbits are spayed or neutered they become calmer, more loving and dependable, once the urge to mate has lessened.

Both sexes are easier to litter train and easier to train in other areas.

Although male rabbits spray urine more frequently, it is a practice familiar to both Bucks and Does. Once neutered or spayed this will no longer happen.

Rabbits enjoy each others company and wanting to introduce one rabbit to another is common practice.

However, to do this they must be spayed or neutered. Without this, a rabbit will not be able to have that companion/s, of either sex, owing to sexual and aggressive behaviour.

Spaying is the process of removing the female's reproductive organs. The procedure takes place through the abdomen. Blood vessels leading to the reproductive tract are tied and the reproductive tract is taken out.

Neutering involves the removal of the testicles. For a month or two after being neutered, the male rabbit can still have semen stored in its body, so keep the rabbit away from any unspayed female for this period.

Female rabbits can be spayed around 4 months of age but many vets prefer to wait until 6 months, since surgery is riskier on a younger rabbit.

Males can be neutered once the testicles have descended. This usually happens from 3 months, up to perhaps 6 or 8 months. Having a rabbit spayed or neutered is now a safe procedure when carried out by veterinarians who are experienced in dealing with rabbits.

You would be strongly advised not to consider a vet with very little rabbit experience to carry out this procedure.

If the rabbit is over 6 years it is likely that a vet will not recommend the rabbit be spayed or neutered because from that age anesthetises and surgery can be riskier.

When you buy your rabbit, if it is not a baby rabbit, ask if the rabbit has already been spayed or neutered.

Make sure you ask this because if you don't know and are trying to find out later, it is hard to tell if a female has already been spayed.

A vet may be able to tell by seeing a scar or if the previous vet made a mark, but this is not something you should rely on.

Even when you have two or three baby rabbits living contently together, once the hormones kick in their behaviour will change.

You will notice them perhaps circling your legs, grunting, maybe following you everywhere or spraying urine.

There will be a loss of previously good litter trained habits, or the mounting of objects including your head, growling, territorial biting and nipping or destructive chewing and digging.

Same sex pairs that previously got along fine will start to fight leading to un-bonding and worse.

In addition, and far worse, opposite sexes will reproduce. There are already far too many rabbits in animal shelters or dumped at a pet stores and sold as snake food.

Click here for the horror story on what happens to unwanted rabbits, if you really doubt the benefits of your rabbit being spayed or neutered. When you arrange to have your rabbit spayed or neutered, it may be that you know your vet quite well and you are already aware that he/she is fully capable carrying out spaying or neutering.

However, if you do not, then you should ask questions before making the decision that the vet is the correct one for you.

Perhaps ten years ago matters were different, but now the success rate for these procedures should be extremely high. It should be as high as 99%, Not 95 or 96% etc.

Ask what anaesthetic is used. The common proven anaesthetic is isofluorene. If the vet intends to use another, inquire about this.

When enquiring about pre op preparation, there is no reason for the rabbit to have an empty digestive system since they can't vomit. If the vet says otherwise then this is a clear warning to consider elsewhere. A rabbit can eat up to 2 hours prior to surgery.

Find out whether the vet intends to remove the uterus and the ovaries. They should do both.

Ask for an explanation on the difference between open and closed neuters. Closed is preferable.

With males, entry to the testicles should be through the scrotum and not abdomen. Which way is your vet considering?

As already advised, if you are not on familiar terms with your vet, Do ask questions.

As a foot note to this you should note that rabbits can die during operational procedure, under anaesthesia, because the heart rate is not monitored and it is assumed, incorrectly, that rabbits can tolerate a rapid heart rate.

Alternatively, when higher doses of anaesthesia are used to prevent pain, respiratory depression can occur (rabbits are more prone to the respiratory depressant effects of certain drugs). When rabbits stop breathing, resuscitation is extremely difficult.

So taking the above into account, if your vet is experienced with rabbits then you can feel much more assured that all will be well.

With any rabbit or if the rabbit is older you can ask for a blood check to check on liver and kidneys are working fine. A good vet will always give the rabbit a thorough examination before any surgery.

As mentioned, prior to surgery do not alter the rabbit's usual diet at all.

Your vet should give you proper post operative or after care instructions. You should be made aware of what signs to look out for. Make sure you are kept informed of these. Enquire about pain killers, as a pain free rabbit will eat and relax much more readily.

Keep the rabbit warm and give them plenty of attention, such as stroking on the head or chatting to them.

If there are any concerns or signs of infection take the rabbit back to the vet immediately.

The rabbit's after care environment must be quiet and comfortable.

Your rabbit should not be suddenly alerted or scared and start dashing around.

The vet will probably keep the rabbit in overnight but if not, make sure the usual diet, including water, is available for the rabbit.

A female rabbit will probably be less interested in eating and moving around and will seem more withdrawn than a male rabbit.

If the behaviour seems too quiet or the rabbit seems unable to move, then you should be concerned.

By the following morning of the operation the rabbit should be, at least, nibbling or, if not, at the latest the same evening of the following morning. If not, try and tempt them with something from their diet or a treat, in order to make sure the digestive tract does not shut down.

Herbs are a good idea to feed, during this period.

If a rabbit pulls out the stitches, then return to the vet for re-stitching, and ask the vet on the best way to prevent it happening again. Some recommend loosely wrapping a clean towel around the whole middle of the rabbit and binding it in some way.

In all events if you are concerned in any way take your rabbit back to the vet immediately.

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