Should I Neuter My Rabbit?
Neutering means removing the reproductive organs; this is either the ovaries in females (known as spaying) or the testicles in males (known as castration). Neutering is a routine procedure that does not require overnight hospitalisation, with an average recovery time of 5-10 days.
What are the benefits for females?
- Spaying prevents breeding and unwanted litters (rabbits can breed every 31 days!)
- Spaying prevents cancer of the uterus, which is extremely common in rabbits and often fatal
- Spaying reduces the risk of mammary (breast) cancer
- Spaying prevents infection of the uterus, known as pyometra
- Un-neutered females are often aggressive and territorial, both to other rabbits and humans
What are the benefits for males?
- Castration prevents breeding and unwanted litters
- Uncastrated males can’t bond safely with a friend, as they will fight with males and try to mate with females – even if the other rabbit is neutered
- Castration prevents testicular tumours
- Castration does not prevent rabbits spraying urine, but it does make it much less likely that they will do this
- Castrated rabbits are generally less likely to be aggressive
What are the risks?
Rabbit anaesthesia was considered high risk but both knowledge and available drugs have improved significantly over recent years. Rabbit surgery is better done by a practice with experience as anaesthetic deaths can still happen. The benefits of neutering far outweigh the risks. Specific risks to be aware of include:
- Swelling or infection of the wound
- Energy requirements drop drastically after neutering so weight gain is common - obesity can cause many problems so careful weight management is important
- Anaesthetic drugs can affect the movement of the intestines; monitoring eating and toileting post-surgery is important and assisted feeding may be necessary for some rabbits
- Excessive bleeding during surgery can happen, but is very rare
When can we neuter?
- Male rabbits can be neutered from 3-6 months old, once the testicles have dropped into the scrotum
- Female rabbits can be neutered from 4-6 months old, depending on their size
- Male rabbits are fertile for up to 6 weeks after castration, so should be kept apart from unspayed females
What happens on the day?
- You will be asked to bring your rabbit to the clinic in the morning
- A member of the team will go through a consent form to confirm the procedure and answer any questions you have
- Your rabbit will need to stay in the clinic for the day; most practices won’t be able to give you the exact time your pet’s procedure
- Rabbits shouldn’t be starved before anaesthesia, and bringing some of their normal food along can be helpful to encourage them to eat
- Once your pet is under anaesthetic some fur will be shaved to allow the skin to be cleaned and made sterile. This is either the underneath of the abdomen in females, or around the scrotum in males
- Surgery takes 10-30 minutes, however both operating time and the size of the surgical wound vary with the size of rabbit and different surgeons.
- Pets recover from anaesthesia at different speeds, but once your rabbit has woken up fully, they will be offered something to eat. If rabbits don’t eat post-surgery, they will be syringe fed a recovery mixture to help encourage the guts to keep moving.
- Depending on the practice protocol, and your rabbit’s recovery, they may be discharged the same day or over-night observation for assisted feeding may be advised.
What happens afterwards?
- After surgery your rabbit may be quieter than normal for up to 48 hours as the anaesthesia wears off, but generally most young animals recover quickly.
- If your rabbit is not eating or passing droppings in the 24-48 hours after surgery, please contact the practice immediately
- If you are given a buster collar this must be used to prevent your pet from licking their stitches. As they heal, they will become itchy, but interference can cause serious infections. If you have not been given a collar and notice your rabbit licking, or they can reach around the collar, please contact your practice
- Check-ups will be within the first couple of days post-op and again at 7-10 days
- Removing any sutures and the buster collar will be done at the 7-10 day check-up
Get 20% off neutering when you are a member of The Healthy Pet Club. Please contact your practice to discuss and book neutering your rabbit.