The use of the word “must” in the title of this article was an intentional one. For those of us who are involved in rabbit welfare, there is no choice when it comes to spaying or neutering a rabbit, it just must be done. In fact, every rabbit the Georgia House Rabbit Society adopts out has already been spayed or neutered. It is our policy to have this beneficial procedure performed for all of our rabbits and it should be yours too!
Below are points taken from the National House Rabbit Society’s article, FAQ: Spaying and Neutering. We hope that they make clear the importance of providing this surgery for your rabbit. As you will read, your rabbit will be healthier and happier because of it.
So if you have obtained your rabbit elsewhere and are considering whether or not to have the operation preformed, please consider the facts below so you can make the best decision for your bun. If you are considering adoption from the Georgia House Rabbit Society, you can have peace of mind knowing that your bunny will have already gone through the procedure and had ample recovery time.
Why Spay And Neuter Rabbits?
Altered rabbits are healthier and live longer than unaltered rabbits. One study showed that 85% of female rabbits will contract uterine cancer if not spayed before age 3. These painful and terminal diseases, ovarian, uterine and mammarian cancer, are virtually eliminated by spaying a female rabbit. Your neutered male rabbit will live longer as well, given that he won’t be tempted to fight with other animals (rabbits, cats, etc.) due to his sexual aggression. Older males are also at risk for testicular cancer. Though not the common problem uterine cancer is, it is a risk nonetheless and one that can be easily avoided with neutering.
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 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 to fend for themselves, where they suffer from starvation, sickness, and are easy prey to other animals or traffic accidents. Those rabbits who are sold to pet stores don’t necessarily fare any better, as pet stores sell pets to anyone with the money to buy, and don’t check on what kind of home they will go to. Many of these rabbits will be sold as snake food, or as a pet for a small child who will soon “outgrow” 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 experienced rabbit veterinarians. 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. Don’t allow a veterinarian with little or no experience with rabbits to spay or neuter your rabbit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spay And Neuter
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?
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, as surgery is riskier on a younger rabbit.
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 (though we have never heard of the procedure preformed this inexpensively in Georgia) while vets in major metropolitan areas, where rents and labor costs are very high, often charge several hundred dollars. Feedback given from bunny owners in the Atlanta area put the average cost around $250 and we have heard quotes that go over $400. Dr. Colby, an area veterinarian experienced in rabbit care has started a low cost spay and neuter program. To read more about this program, please visit the page Low Cost Spay And Neuter
How can I find a veterinarian that can do the surgery safely?
You can start by checking out our page Area Vets for a list of rabbit experienced vets in the Atlanta area. The National House Rabbit Society also offers an article on tips to find a good rabbit vet. The article includes tips on how to interview a potential vet, questions to ask and things not to do. To read the House Rabbit Society’s article, please click here
What kinds of questions should I ask the vet?
*About how many rabbit clients does the veterinarian see in a year?
*How many spays/neuters OF RABBITS has the veterinarian has done in the past year?
*What was the success rate?
*90% success is way too low. Every doctor, whether for animals or humans will occasionally lose a patient; usually because of an undiagnosed problem. veterinarians across the country who spay and neuter rabbits for the House Rabbit Society have lost on average less than 1/2 of 1%.
*If any were lost, what was the cause?
*Does the veterinarian remove both uterus and ovaries? (they should)
*Does the veterinarian do “open” or “closed” neuters? (closed is preferable–let your veterinarian explain the difference)
*Is entry to the testicles made through the scrotum or the abdomen? (Entry via the abdomen unnecessarily increases the trauma for male rabbits)
*Does the veterinarian require withholding of food and water prior to surgery in rabbits? (Do not do this–rabbits can’t vomit, so there is no risk of that during surgery, and rabbits should never be allowed to get empty digestive tracts)
*What anesthetics are used–some veterinarians are quite successful with anesthetics other than isofluorene, but the bunny is “hung over” after surgery, which increases the probability that s/he will be slow to start eating again, which can lead to serious problems if not dealt with.
*Review the procedure (op and immediate post-op) with your vet. Ask how problems will be detected: how often will they (the veterinarian and the techs) look in on your rabbit and what will they look for?. What will they do pre-op to find any potential problems? How will they support your bun in the hours after surgery: Oxygen, warmth, quiet (barking dogs and yowling cats in the next cage are probably not helpful), and stimulation? What are they going to do to make it come out right?! Ask questions! That will get your veterinarian’s attention. Let them know you’re concerned and that you’ll be paying attention.
What post-operative care should one give?
You can read about post-op care here on our website under our Care Health and Diet section. To read our article on post-op care, please click here. Careful monitoring and rabbit knowledge are important to seeing your bunny through it’s recovery period and making the surgery a successful one. One of the many benefits of adopting from the GHRS is that your bunny will have already been through the experience and will have received the best veterinary care available and compassionate and diligent post-opt care from our knowledgable volunteers!