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Neutering a Rabbit - Benefits and Aftercare Advice

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. November 20, 2018
Neutering a Rabbit - Benefits and Aftercare Advice

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Some people think the idea of neutering a rabbit is cruel. Their view may be that sterilizing the bunny takes something vital away from them. That it takes away from their freedom or rights as an animal. Rabbits have grown in popularity as pets in large part because they have responded well to domestication. They bond with their human companions and can have a very happy life. However, it is naive to not acknowledge that domestic rabbits live different lives to their wild cousins. The nature of domestication means their freedom to interact with other rabbits is taken away.

AnimalWised explains the importance of neutering a rabbit by showing you how it benefits the animal. We also show you how to take care of them after the procedure so we can best reduce any discomfort.

Importance of neutering a rabbit

Neutering a rabbit does require a surgical procedure which can be intimidating for some pet owners. In general it is best to avoid unnecessary surgery. Technically, it is not necessary to neuter your bunny. They can still live with you and be your pet. However, the advantages to neutering a rabbit lead to a vastly improved quality of life and statistically improve their life expectancy. In this way, it can also be considered cruel to keep a domestic rabbit and not neuter them.

Benefits of neutering a female rabbit:

  • Like dogs and cats, female rabbits suffer from uterine infections. A rabbit's reproductive cycle is similar to that of cats in terms of ovulation and their heat cycle. In addition, the hormonal changes caused by the heat cycle can also lead to ovarian cysts, breast tumors and different uterine infections. Removal of the uterus greatly reduces of developing a wide range of health problems.
  • Female rabbits who have not been spayed or neutered will urinate much more as they want to leave a trail for potential mates. This will not only be in their hutch, but anywhere in the home you have them.
  • While we love rabbits, they are notorious for their prolific breeding. Neutering prevents overpopulation of rabbits which, in turn, prevents abandonment and general neglect.
  • It is advisable to sterilize female bunnies at the same age as males, around 6-8 months. They begin their reproductive cycle before this time, but their lack of weight and other developmental deficiencies make it advisable to wait until about half a year of life.

Benefits of neutering a male rabbit:

  • Upon reaching sexual maturity, a male rabbit begins to manifest certain behaviors. These include dominance and marking. Such behaviors are designed to make them appear a better potential mate to females so they can continue the species. Unfortunately, sexual maturity is most often accompanied by aggression. Such aggression is expressed in mounting behavior, biting, thumping the ground and emitting characteristic angry grunts. They are also in a heightened state of agitation and will mark any territory they can to assert dominance.
  • At 6 months of age, we usually see some sign that puberty has arrived. When this occurs, it is advisable to perform the operation as soon as possible. After surgery, the hormones will take a while to disappear from their blood. Although you can expect changes after surgery, these changes will be part of a process. The ideal age to castrate a male rabbit is between 6 and 8 months.
  • Bunnies are very sensitive to stress. it is common to see them fainting after intense exercise or if they have been startled into a frenzy. If a male rabbit is sexually mature, they are on constant alert for a female to mate with. When kept in a domestic setting with no outlet for these impulses, they will be in a constant state of stress. Maintaining this state of being is cruel to the rabbit.
  • Unneutered male rabbits will be difficult to live with. They will consistently try to mount other bunnies, whether male or female. They will bite and scratch other rabbits as well as their human companions. This can mean the bond you have is poor and often leads to irresponsible owners from abandoning their pets.
  • As the testes are removed by castration, so too are the hormones they produce. This means the chances of developing hormone imbalance disorders are greatly reduced which can improve their overall quality of life.
Neutering a Rabbit - Benefits and Aftercare Advice - Importance of neutering a rabbit

Caring for a rabbit before neutering surgery

There are two main types of sterilization for rabbits. They are both a form of neutering which simply means a process resulting in the animal's inability to reproduce. For female rabbits, the surgery is called spaying. Spaying involves removing both the uterus and the ovaries of a female bunny. it is also known as an ovariohysterectomy. For male rabbits, castration is carried out. This is the surgical removal of the testes. There are alternative ways to neuter such as tubal ligation or vasectomy, but these procedures are not often offered by a veterinarian as they are less effective.

Once you have discussed neutering with your veterinarian and have decided to have the procedure carried out, there are some things you need to expect. It is possible that the vet will give your rabbit a laxative before surgery. This is because the anaesthesia can compact a rabbit's gastrointestinal tract. If food has not been properly digested, it can lead to severe discomfort for the rabbit post-surgery.

As the animal is very small, they will only require the bunny to fast for 2 hours before surgery. Without food intake, there is no intestinal transit, so it is needed for them to have some food in their system to make the anaesthesia effective.

You will need to observe your rabbit and pay attention to certain physical anomalies. Watch out for the presence of secretion in their eyes, sneezing or any behavior or physical alteration which is out of the ordinary. We will need to take the animal to the vet as they may be suffering from something which can complicate the surgery. This can be difficult if they have a subclinical infection. This is an infection which is asymptomatic, yet the person is a carrier of the disease. It can happen that this infection is latent, but will develop symptoms later. Pasteurellosis is an example of such a subclinical disease[1]. Your vet will need to examine the rabbit before surgery to reduce the possibility of complications.

Neutering a Rabbit - Benefits and Aftercare Advice - Caring for a rabbit before neutering surgery

Aftercare post surgery

After surgical intervention, it is essential the rabbit eats as soon as possible. They need to be offered fibrous food (usually in the form of hay) and water. If they have rejected food for a few hours after surgery, they may need to be fed with the use of a syringe. As they will need immediate nutrition, the vet may recommend giving them something like fruit paste for babies.

What to do if my rabbit won't eat after surgery

An alternative, however, is to add three tablespoons of water, a handful of hay, some sliced green peppers and a small piece of unpeeled apple to a food processor. Juice the mixture. This liquid will contain a lot of fiber and nutrients, but will be easier for the bunny to ingest if they feel weak following the operation. This type of postoperative care will help stimulate the rabbit to eat and they should move onto solids shortly.

The above solution should be enough to get the rabbit to start eating. Here are some additional tips for proper postoperative care for rabbits:

  • They will need to be kept in a safe and quiet place for a few hours such as a carrier. As the rabbit recovers from surgery, they may be a little drowsy and clumsy due to the sedatives wearing off. They may not be able to properly control their movements and may receive an injury.
  • Avoid excessive light and noise after neutering surgery. Drafts can also hinder their recovery as their temperature is affected by the procedure. Even though they are awake when you pick them up, you will need to keep them thermoregulated.
  • In the hours following surgery, we need to check on their stool. It is common for there to be the presence of mucus in their stool and we should do our best from prohibiting our bunny from eating this. If you still see mucus in their fecal matter after a day or two, you should take them to the vet as their health may be compromised.
  • They may be prescribed a probiotic. This is because the surgery will likely upset the balance of gut flora[2] and the probiotic can redress this unbalance. The rabbit may even find it present to drink and may recommend it for 4 or 5 days after surgery.
  • Bunnies do not tolerate pain well, so they will be prescribed an analgesic after surgery. It is usually given in an oral syringe.
Neutering a Rabbit - Benefits and Aftercare Advice - Aftercare post surgery

Consejos finales

  • We should not forget that the male will remain fertile for at least a few days after surgery and their hormone levels will remain high even after a few weeks. They may continue to manifest aggressive and territorial behavior for some time after surgery, although it will eventually decrease. We also need to remove them from females otherwise they may reproduce.
  • If a female rabbits is showing signs of their heat cycle at the time of the operation, they can still be attractive to males after surgery.
  • The substrate (what you use to line their hutch) for both males and females is important. This is because it can rip the wound if it is too coarse. Also, material such as paper might stick to the seeping wound and adhere to the incision site. Cat litter and strips of newspaper should be avoid in all instances, eve if they haven't recovering from surgery.
  • Review the incision every day and inform the veterinarian if you see alterations such as bruising, swelling, bleeding, redness, heat or if the animal is in excessive pain.

The bunny may have found the experience quite stressful, but they should be on their way to recovery once back in their home environment. This advice on the benefits and aftercare for neutered rabbits can help give you an idea of what to expect and what is expected of you. However, it is only a compliment to the advice given to you by your veterinarian, so you will need to discuss the procedure with them.

Neutering a Rabbit - Benefits and Aftercare Advice - Consejos finales

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Neutering a Rabbit - Benefits and Aftercare Advice, we recommend you visit our Prevention category.

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