We agree with leading rabbit welfare organisations that in most cases, it’s best to have your rabbits neutered. Neutering is a routine surgery, and most rabbits recover from it quickly and easily. It’s still surgery, though, so your bunny will need a little extra TLC when they first come home. So in this guide, we are covering the basics of caring for your neutered rabbit and what to expect after the op.
Why Do I Need Have My Rabbit Neutered?
The most obvious reason to spay and neuter is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Rabbits can start reproducing earlier than you might expect. Female rabbits have a double uterus, which means that they can potentially carry two litters at a time.
The fact is, unneutered female rabbits plus all of their offspring can bring four million new rabbits into the world in the space of a year.
But if that’s not reason enough to have your rabbits neutered, here are a few more benefits of neutering.
It’s Vital for Bonding
It’s easiest to bond a male rabbit and a female rabbit. At the same time, the complication there is obvious. Neutering prevents unwanted pregnancy.
It can be very difficult to sex a rabbit. Rabbit owners may think they have same sex pairs, when they might, in fact, have one of each. Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?
Also, neutered rabbits tend to be less territorial than unaltered bunnies. Unneutered female rabbits are the most territorial of all. Rabbit neutering decreases territoriality and makes every pet rabbit a better rabbit companion.
Neutering Prevents Certain Serious Illnesses
Even healthy rabbits can be prone to certain diseases. Unspayed females, for example, are prone to uterine cancer. Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries, which prevents this potentially life-threatening problem. It can also protect your doe from false pregnancies. It will also help her not to develop womb infections.
Neutering a male rabbit means removing the testes. This protects a buck from testicular cancer, and can help to prevent urinary tract infections.
Neutering can help your bunnies to live a happier, healthier life.
Neutering Can Prevent Certain Behavioural Issues
Certain behavioural issues stem from reproduction and sexual frustration, including:
- Urine spraying
Spaying and neutering can cut down on these behaviours. There is also some evidence that neutering helps with litter box training.
Is Neutering Safe?
Neutering is a routine procedure, which means that vet clinics perform it regularly. The vast majority of rabbits come through the surgery well and without complications.
At the same time, all surgical procedures come with a very small risk of complications, both during and after the surgery. Your vet should be able to inform you of those risks. For most rabbits, the health and behavioural benefits of neutering your rabbit outweigh the very small risk of complications.
What Happens During Spay / Neuter Surgery
Neutering rabbits means removing the reproductive organs. For female rabbits, this means the ovaries and uterus. For male rabbits, the testes are removed.
Because the testes are on the outside, neutering male rabbits is a simpler surgical procedure. This surgical procedure is performed through a small incision in the scrotum.
Removing a female rabbit’s uterus is more complicated and invasive. For this reason, females will have a slightly longer recovery time than males.
Neutering takes place under general rabbit anaesthesia. Before neutering your rabbit, your vet may order pre operative blood tests to ensure that your bunny doesn’t have any health conditions that would affect the surgery.
Rabbits cannot vomit, so there is no need to fast them before their surgery.
Most neutered rabbits go home within 24 hours of the procedure. Your vet may prescribe pain relieving drugs to give to your rabbit at home.
Your vet may ask you to come back after seven to ten days in order to remove sutures.
What To Expect When You Bring Your Bunny Home
At home, your rabbit will need cage rest for a few days. Keep them in a clean, quiet enclosure where they can move around, but not run or jump, as this can put stress on the incision. They will need warmth and low light. If possible, keep your rabbits in familiar surroundings, as they will find this comfortably.
Avoid handling your rabbit excessively while it’s recovering.
Your rabbit should be preferably eating and drinking within 12 to 24 hours. Provide them with plenty of hay, leafy greens, and pellets.
Inspect the surgical site several times a day, and keep an eye on your rabbit’s behaviour. Especially note any changes in appetite, water intake, defecation and urination. If your rabbit isn’t eating or eliminating normally, it’s important to contact your vet as soon as possible.
If your rabbit is bonded to another rabbit, it may be comforting for them to be near one another. However, as separation can sometimes break a rabbit bond, don’t put your rabbits back together in the same enclosure until the neutered rabbit has returned to full health.
Male rabbits tend to bounce back from neuter surgery within 24 to 48 hours. Females can take between two and four days. All the same, limit your rabbit’s exercise for ten days after the surgery.
Possible Complications of Rabbit Neutering
Although most rabbits come through their neuter surgery with flying colours, every surgery carries a risk. Here are a few possible complications to look out for.
Reactions to anaesthesia are rare, but can happen. Note any behavioural changes, especially lethargy, or if your rabbit is simply acting “off.”
Internal bleeding can happen if your rabbit is too active too soon. Symptoms may include lethargy, pale gums, loss of appetite, weakness, or a distended abdomen.
Your rabbit may also develop a post-operative infection at the incision site. This can happen if your rabbit’s enclosure is dirty, or if your rabbit licks at its wound. If you notice redness, heat, or swelling at the incision site, notify your vet.
Your vet will prescribe antibiotics for this.
It’s also possible that your rabbit may have a reaction to its sutures. This can result in a draining wound that can occur even several months after the surgery. This problem may require an additional surgery to remove the sutures.
Some rabbits experience herniation following neuter surgery. You’ll recognize this as swelling in the groin area. This also requires a trip to the vet.
Finally, male rabbits may experience post-operative fluid swelling in the scrotum. Time and pain relief usually resolve this, but if you’re concerned, speak to your vet.
When to Contact Your Vet
Some rabbits may chew at their sutures and re-open the wound. If this happens, don’t try to treat it yourself. Bring your rabbit to the vet immediately.
If your rabbit isn’t eating normally, even when presented with its favourite food, this, too is a cause for concern–and a trip to the vet.
Any problems with urination or defecation could be a sign of GI Stasis or another serious condition. Always report this to your vet sooner rather than later.
Finally, if you notice symptoms of infection or internal bleeding, don’t wait. Bring your rabbit to the vet immediately.
Have questions about rabbit neutering? We have answers.
When Should I Have my Rabbit Neutered?
Male rabbits can be neutered as soon as their testicles descend, that is, as early as 10 to 12 weeks of age. For females, the surgery is called spaying, and many vets prefer to wait until four to six months of age.
These are the earliest points at which one can neuter safely. But don’t wait too long. It can be more difficult to spay older rabbits, as they have more fat around the uterus and ovaries.
Will I have to Rebond My Bunnies?
Surgery is traumatic, and after traumatic events and periods of separation, your pet rabbits may need to renew their bond. This means going through the bonding process again.
Do not attempt this until your rabbit has gone through the natural healing process and healed completely from the surgery.
When Can I Put My Rabbits Together After Surgery?
If you’re introducing your newly-neutered male to an unneutered female, it’s important to wait at least 30 days, as males can remain fertile for that long after being neutered.
If your only concern is recovery, then you can put your rabbits together sooner than that (check with your vet for exactly how long). But don’t assume that their bond will be intact. Watch your rabbits closely to prevent fighting and chasing, and take steps to rebond them if necessary.
Neutering Makes for Happy, Healthy Rabbits
Neutering your rabbits has numerous benefits for you and for your rabbits.
Neutered rabbits are healthier and less likely to develop certain serious illnesses like reproductive cancers and urinary tract infections.
Neutered rabbits are also happier. They get on better with other rabbits, and with people, as well. Neutering greatly reduces aggressive and territorial behaviours, and other behaviours that a rabbit owner may find troublesome.
There are risks to every surgery. However, in the case of spay and neuter surgery, the benefits almost always outweigh those risks.
When your bunny comes home from their surgery, keep them clean and warm, and don’t allow them too much activity. Don’t leave them unsupervised with other rabbits, however, they may find it very comforting to be able to see and smell their bonded companions through a barrier like the walls of a hutch.
It’s possible that your bunnies may need to be re-bonded after the surgery. But it’s highly likely that they will be able to rekindle their bond in time.
Have you spayed or neutered your rabbits recently? Do you have any advice for our readers? We’d love to hear it!