Why Spay and Neuter Your Rabbit?
- 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.
- 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 are 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, where they suffer starvation, sickness, and often death from predators and being run over by cars. Rabbits sold by pet stores don’t necessarily fare any better, since pet stores sell pets to anyone with money to buy, and don’t check on what kind of home they will go to or provide purchasers with rabbit care information. Many of these rabbits will be sold as snake food, or as a pet for a small child who will soon “outgrow” its interest in 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 an experienced rabbit veterinarian. 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. DO NOT 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 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 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.
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 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.
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. 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)
The following morning, or at latest by the next evening, it is important for the rabbit to be nibbling something. It doesn’t matter what or how much, as long as she is taking in something, so the digestive tract won’t shut down. If she isn’t, tempt her with everything possible, and as a last resort, make a mush of rabbit pellets (1 part pellets, 2 parts water, run through blender thoroughly, add acidophilus, and feed in pea-sized bits with a feeding syringe through the side of the mouth).
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.