Why Spay and Neuter Your Rabbit?
- Altered rabbits are healthier and live longer than unaltered rabbits. The risk of reproductive cancers (ovarian, uterine, mammarian, testicular) for an unfixed rabbits is eliminated by spaying and neutering. Your rabbit will also live longer since s/he won’t be tempted to fight with other animals (rabbits, cats, etc.) due to 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?
Ideally, your rabbit should weigh at least 3 pounds before going into surgery.
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 since females have a high risk of bone density loss when spayed too young.
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. The Santa Fe Shelter spay/neuter clinic has the only low-cost spay/neuter for rabbits in New Mexico. They also tattoo a mark in the rabbit’s ear to indicate the bunny has been altered.
What pre- and post-operative care should one give?
It’s important to not change anything for your rabbit before the surgery, especially the diet. Since rabbits cannot vomit they have no risk of aspirating during surgery. This means that they should NOT fast the night before surgery like a dog would. Fasting your rabbit may result in death since it is crucial that their digestive tract is always moving. If your vet tells you to remove all food, you need to find another vet.
After the surgery, ask your veterinarian for pain medication, especially for a spay. Pain meds should be given once or twice daily for three days following the surgery. The most common pain med for rabbits is meloxicam (also known as metacam).
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.
After coming home on the first night, note the following:
- Most males come home after being neutered looking for “supper”– be sure they have water and some good hay (good, fresh alfalfa is a good way to tempt them to nibble a bit if they reject everything else). Continue their normal routine, so if they normally get a salad every night they should still get a salad the night of their neuter
- 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). Continue their normal routine, so if they normally get a salad every night they should still get a salad the night of their spay
The following morning 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 (try banana), and as a last resort, make a mush of rabbit pellets (1 part pellets, 2 parts water) and feed in pea-sized bits with a feeding syringe through the side of the mouth. You can feed Critical Care in place of homemade pellet mush.