General Information on Spay and Neutering of Pet Rabbits
Sterilizing your pet rabbit is highly recommended to prevent problems down the road. Male rabbits that that are not neutered have a tendency to fight and will rip and tear each others scrotums leading to surgical intervention. Intact males will also be difficult to litter box train because they have a tendency to fecal and urine mark their environment. Intact females will also be difficult to litter box train and if left intact throughout their lives have a high potential of developing uterine cancer as older rabbits. If your rabbit is a housepet (not breeder), and is healthy, there really isn’t any good reason to not spay or neuter.
IS IT SAFE? Yes, in the hands of an experienced exotic surgeon and with good nursing staff and monitoring. All pets should have a dedicated nurse to monitor their vitals throughout any anesthetic procedure, increasing the potential for a positive outcome.
Elective surgery in pet rabbits is also made safer by completing pre-surgical diagnostics such as a metabolic blood profile and cbc. All rabbits should first have a complete physical examination by their veterinariana and this should include a thorough discussion of feeding and housing. Any corrections needed in nutrition or environment should be implemented prior to the surgical procedure. The importance of this testing and exam cannot be overstated, after any stressful event (surgery, anesthesia, pain, disease, environmental change…) the pet is more likely to have a reduced immune function and pre-existing disease is more likely to flare up and cuase problems. Therefore, it is important to monitor your pet for normal appetite and fecal production prior to surgery. I advise my clients that one of the most important clues to the health of a rabbit is the poop. Healthy rabbits eat well throughout the day and make round fecal balls of the normal size. Rabbits that are stressed for any reason will sometimes stop eating or defecating (pooping). You may see that the fecal balls are smaller then normal, or they may be absent all together. If noted, this is a serious and potentially life threatening condition that should be addressed immediately.
WHAT ABOUT PAIN? As discussed, rabbits do not respond well to stress do it is important to minimize any preceived pain and thus allow them to stay well and heal faster. As veterinarians one of the things that we can do is to provide pre and post surgical pain control to minimize the stress on your bunny. This should include injectable medication of both a pain and anti-inflammatory type and go home medication.
WHAT ABOUT AFTER CARE? The most important thing to monitor at home is food intake and fecal output. If your bunny is eating and making normal fecal balls he/she is likely comfortable. If you notice a reduction in feces or change in appetite, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Typically, we’ll try to adjust the pain control and if still not eating we’ll often introduce syringe feeding for a short time to jump start their GI tract again. The syringe formula will consist of a slurry of grass hay pellets, water and vegetable baby food. It is also important to provide your bunny with plenty of fiber to ensure that the gut works properly. Fiber will be discussed further under the diet section.
CONCLUSION: The intent here is not to scare you away from elective or necessary surgery, but rather to advise of potential problems in an effort to ensure that your bunny is properly monitored and cared for following surgery. The benefits of spaying and neutering your bunny far outweigh the risk.
SUMMARY: – PET RABBITS SHOULD BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED – THERE IS ALWAYS A RISK WITH ANY SURGERY/ANESTHESIA – MINIMIZE RISK WITH PROPER SCREENING PRIOR TO SURGERY – MINIMIZE RISK WITH PROPER POST-SURGICAL CARE AND MONITORING
Jill M. Patt, DVM For readers of my content: Unless stated otherwise, I do not endorse content of web sites other than the two listed below.
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