The Benefits of Neutering Your Rabbit
Neuter is the medical term for removal of the reproductive organs in both male and female animals. Spaying specifically refers to females and castration specifically refers to males. Neutering your pet rabbit has many health and behavioral benefits. Continue reading to learn more!
Behavioral Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Rabbit
Rabbits reach sexual maturity around 6 to 12 months of age (small rabbits reach maturity before the giant breeds). It’s ideal to neuter your rabbit around 4 to 6 months of age to deter behavioral changes that develop when sexual maturity is reached.
Both male and female rabbits will spray urine when they reach maturity and they can spray urine vertically onto walls and other surfaces. If you can get your rabbit neutered before or shortly after this behavior develops, you can often greatly limit how often this is done.
Both male and female rabbits will also develop some type of aggression once they reach sexual maturity. This can range from more aggressive thumping to biting, chasing, not wanting to be picked up or held, and destroying random things. They may even start attacking their cage mate or other pets in the house. This behavior change can develop quickly and be very upsetting for the owners and housemates.
Medical Benefits of Neutering Your Rabbit
Female rabbits have a high risk for developing cancer of the reproductive tract, such as uterine adenocarcinoma. This is an aggressive form of cancer that often spreads to other organs in the body and can also trigger breast cancer development. By spaying your female rabbit, the uterus is typically removed and will eliminate this cancer risk. Some vets are removing just the ovaries. By removing this hormone-producing organ, there is hope it will also eliminate the uterine cancer risk.
Females can also develop infections in the uterus (pyometra) and inflammation of the uterus lining (endometriosis). Spaying and removing the uterus will eliminate these risks.
Male rabbits can develop testicular cancer and get wounds and infections in the scrotal/testicular region, typically from fighting with other rabbits. Castration will reduce the behavioral changes that lead to fighting and if your bunny is castrated, the testicles are removed so there is no risk for testicular cancer to develop.
When to Spay/Neuter Your Rabbit
Ideally, having your rabbit spayed or neutered around 4 to 6 months of age is ideal. For females, the risk of uterine cancer and other diseases typically develop at 2 years of age and older, so getting the girls spayed before this age is ideal.
What to Expect With Spay/Neuter Surgery
Rabbits are considered higher risk for anesthesia and surgery-related complications compared to dogs and cats. Rabbits are prey animals, so they have learned to hide illnesses and injuries well. You’ll want to have your bunny examined by a vet experienced with rabbits before the surgery to be sure they’re healthy and have the best chance of a safe and uneventful surgery and recovery time. Your vet may recommend blood work, fecal parasite screens, and possibly other tests to help ensure your bunny is ready for surgery.
Female rabbits most often have a spay surgery just like dogs and cats where the ovaries and uterus are removed through an incision in the abdomen. The incision will be closed with multiple layers of suture and the skin layer is often closed with the suture buried below the skin to reduce the risk of your bunny chewing out the suture material. An e-collar may be sent home for your bunny to wear to further reduce the risk of them licking or chewing at the incision site. Great pain control and a confident, quick surgeon will help your rabbit recover easier and limit anesthesia time.
Male rabbit castrations are also similar to dog and cat neuters. There may be one or two incisions, either just in front of the scrotum or over each testicle through the scrotum directly. The testicles are removed and the incisions are either closed with suture, glue, or left open to heal on their own. The scrotum may swell for 1 to 2 days post-op, which is normal. Be sure to keep the cage and environment very clean since you do not want a bacterial infection to develop in the incision site.
Your rabbit should be sent home with 1 or 2 types of pain medication to give for up to 5 to 7 days after the surgery. Often an opioid-based pain medication and an anti-inflammatory are used together for more comprehensive pain control.
Be sure to check your rabbit’s incision site at least twice daily. If there is excessive pain, heat, swelling, odor, or discharge, be sure to contact us or your vet right away as these can be signs of infection developing and antibiotics and additional treatment may be indicated.
Your rabbit may not feel like eating for 24 hours post-op. You should discuss with your vet about getting a liquid diet such as Critical Care to syringe feed your rabbit if needed. This is ideal to discuss prior to surgery so you can have all the supplies on hand or quickly accessible in case they’re needed. Regular eating is important to keep your rabbit’s GI tract moving and healthy.
You may notice some softer, less volume, or moist stools for a few days after the surgery. If your rabbit develops true watery diarrhea, be sure to let your vet know immediately. This may be a higher risk if your rabbit is taking an oral antibiotic post-op and is not on a probiotic supplement.
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