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Old 09-17-2008, 09:44 AM
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Default Spaying / Neutering

What is Spay/Neuter

Spay: removing the ovaries and uterus of a female animal

Neuter: removing the testicles of a male animal (castrate)

'Altered' and 'Fixed' are used as a unisex term

If performed by a rabbit-savvy vet, these operations pose very little risk to a healthy rabbit

Why Spay/Neuter

Your rabbit will become sexually mature between the ages of 3 - 8 months. Sexually mature rabbits usually experience the following behavioural changes:
  • loss of good litterbox habits
  • increased aggression such as growling, lunging and biting
  • destructive chewing and digging
  • territorial markings with urine and droppings
  • spraying urine, especially male rabbits

Altering your rabbit will eliminate such unpleasant behaviours (males should be neutered soon after they start spraying. If you wait too long, spraying may become a habit and your rabbit may continue to spray even after it has been neutered).

Other benefits of altering your rabbit:
  • helps control the overpopulation of rabbits (unwanted rabbits are left at shelters or released into the wild, where the chances of survival are almost nil)
  • unspayed female rabbits above the age of 2 years are at great risks of developing uterine, ovarian and/or mammary cancer. Spaying virtually eliminates these risks
  • unneutered males may develop testicular cancer, although this is not nearly as common as uterine cancer in unspayed females. Neutering will help prevent this
  • increases your rabbit’s lifespan (a well-cared for altered house rabbit can live more than 10 years)
  • prevents false pregnancy
  • improves litter habits
  • eliminates strong urine odour
  • altered rabbits make better companions as they have a calmer personality
  • altered rabbits can have companions in other altered rabbits. Unaltered rabbits get too aggressive with rabbits of the same sex, and will breed with rabbits of the opposite sex

When to Spay/Neuter

Neutering can be done as soon as the testicles descend (around 5 months)

Spaying can be done from 6 months and above. It is best to spay your rabbit before it reaches 2 years of age due to the risks of cancer mentioned above.

Rabbits above 6 years of age are generally at a higher risk from surgery. It is advisable that rabbits above 2 years old undergo a thorough health check before any surgery is carried out on them, to detect whether any conditions exist which may make the surgery more risky.

Pre-operative Care
  • if you do not already have a regular rabbit-savvy vet, hunt or ask around for one. Ask the vets as many questions as you may have about the surgery, until you find a vet that you are comfortable with. Some questions to ask the vet:
  • do not change your rabbit’s diet in any way during the weeks before surgery. Also, take note of your rabbit’s favourite vegetables or fruits
  • some experienced rabbit caregivers suggest giving the rabbit acidophilus for a couple of days prior to surgery, to ensure that the digestive system is functioning well. Acidophilus continues to be given after the surgery, until the rabbit’s appetite has returned to normal
  • DO NOT FAST your rabbit before surgery. Rabbits are unable to vomit so there is no risk of that during surgery, and a rabbit’s digestive tract should never be allowed to become empty
  • when you take your rabbit for surgery, bring along some of its regular food, water and a familiar toy or towel to make the environment as much like home as possible

Before Bringing Your Rabbit Home
  • while your rabbit is at the vet, use this opportunity to thoroughly clean its space. A clean environment is important to prevent your rabbit’s incision from becoming infected
  • clean out your rabbit’s litter box and prepare fresh litter for it. This will help you to monitor its urine and droppings
  • evaluate your rabbit’s environment to minimize the need for drastic movements, such as jumping e.g. create a ‘step’ for your rabbit to get into a high litter box or into its cage, temporarily shut off access to other levels if your rabbit has a multi-leveled cage
  • stock up on your rabbit’s favourite vegetables and fruits

Post-operative Care
  • try to bring your rabbit home the same day as the surgery so that it may recover in a familiar environment
  • keep the environment quiet so as not to startle your rabbit
  • provide your rabbit with its usual food as soon as it returns home, although some rabbits (especially females) may not be ready to eat so soon
  • many rabbits will not use their water bottle following a surgery as it may be too much work for them to lift their heads. Make sure a water bowl is also available nearby
  • the following morning, or at latest by the next evening, it is important for your rabbit to start drinking and eating (even small nibbles are fine, as long as it eats something) so that its digestive tract doesn’t shut down. Tempt your rabbit with its favourite vegetables and fruit. Consult your vet immediately if your rabbit does not eat or drink within 24 hours
  • monitor your rabbit’s droppings and contact your vet if very few or none are produced. Droppings tend to be smaller in size & irregularly shaped after surgery and will gradually increase back to the normal size within a week or so
  • inspect the incision daily. Bring your rabbit to the vet immediately if you notice any discharge, bleeding or torn stitches. Most vets use intradermal sutures (sutures beneath the skin), but some rabbits still manage to pull these out
  • to prevent your rabbit from chewing its stitches, you may use an elastic bandage to wrap your female rabbit’s abdomen snugly for the first 2 or 3 days after surgery. Some vets may suggest an e-collar for male rabbits but from my personal experience, the rabbit gets a bit disoriented with the collar on, and it will also be unable to eat/drink from its food/water bowl. I removed the e-collar within the same day, and luckily my male rabbit did not chew off its stitches. I used the elastic bandage on my female rabbit and she was perfectly comfortable with it
  • if your male rabbit’s scrotum become slightly swollen after its surgery, apply a warm compress to the area to help relief the pain
  • make sure your rabbit does not get cold. If it does, try warming up a towel in the dryer and use it to cover your rabbit
  • newly spayed female rabbits should be kept away from male rabbits (neutered or not) for at least 14 days, as serious internal damage can be caused by a male mounting her
  • neutered males remain fertile for 4 - 8 weeks after surgery, so do not place them with any intact females during this time
  • if you intend to bond your newly altered rabbit with another altered rabbit, wait at least 1 month after surgery for the wound to heal, and for the hormone levels to decrease
  • during recovery, spend lots of time petting and comforting your rabbit
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