There are good reasons to have your bunny spayed or neutered. The 2 major reasons are related to their physical and behavioral well being.
Rabbits who are left intact are at an increased risk of uterine ( uterine adenocarcinoma is a malignant type of cancer that is unfortunately quite common in intact females ) and testicular cancers. It is easier to prevent these cancers from developing rather than trying to do surgery to remove tumors on an older bunny that may be quite sick.
Something that not a lot of people know is that both male and female rabbits will mark and spray with urine, females sometimes being worse than males! This can become worse as the bunny gets older and more hormonal. It is easier to curb this behavior if they are spayed and neutered before it has time to develop into a habit.
Spaying and neutering can help to decrease aggression between your rabbit and other rabbits or even people. It will make bonding between rabbits much easier as well as ensuring that female rabbits do not become pregnant if they are housed with male friends.Female rabbits that are not spayed will sometimes begin to pull their fur out due to nesting behaviors.
What happens during the day of surgery?
We ask that you drop your rabbit off with us between 8-9 am the morning of the procedure. Unlike other animals, we ask that you DO NOT fast your bunny. It is very important that rabbits eat continuously in order to keep their G.I. system moving. Please bring in your bunny’s food and favorite snacks so that they can start eating as soon as they wake up from the anesthesia.
We make sure that we house the bunnies in a separate area which is quiet and we keep the lights low to minimize the stress of being away from home. We often give bunnies an empty cardboard box to hide in if they prefer. Before surgery, the doctor will do a pre-anesthestic exam to make sure that the heart and lungs sound normal and to make sure everything is OK before going under anesthesia. We then give an injection with sedation under the skin to help them relax. It also includes a pain medication to help prevent pain before we start surgery. Once the rabbit is sedated we listen to their heart again to make sure it is a normal rate for anesthesia. If it is too slow, we give an injection of a drug to help speed it back up to an appropriate rhythm. We then place a mask over the rabbit’s nose and mouth and let them breathe in pure oxygen for a minute or 2 before adding the actual anesthetic gas (Isoflurane). The gas cause the rabbit to go into a deep enough plane of anesthesia that we are able to prep them and perform the surgery so that they are unconscious and not able to feel anything that is being done.
During the surgery, we have them attached to equipment that monitors their heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. We also have a designated vet tech with them the entire time to physically monitor their vitals.
In the case of neuters, 1 small incision is made above the scrotum. Both testicles are pushed through the incision and are clamped, tied off and removed. The incision is closed with suture material and tissue glue. For spays, the procedure is a little more invasive as the veterinarian has to go into the abdominal cavity. For most young female rabbits we only remove the ovaries rather than the uterus and ovaries ( Ovariectomy). This allows for a quicker procedure while still keeping all of the benefits or removing all of the reproductive parts. In the event that the doctor finds anything abnormal during the spay, he will remove the uterus to be on the safe side (ovariohysterectomy). There is just 1 incision made for the spay and once everything is clamped, tied off and removed, the incision is closed using suture material and tissue glue.
After the spay or neuter is finished, we keep the rabbit on oxygen while the doctor checks their teeth (something that can be difficult to do when they’re awake!) and does a deep ear exam. We give them an injection of a 24 hour pain medication which also helps with swelling. They are given subcutaneous fluids to help keep them hydrated since some bunnies do not start eating and drinking immediately upon recovery. It also helps to flush the anesthesia from their systems.
We keep your bunny for a few hours after they wake up to make sure they are safe and sound before they go home later in the afternoon.Typically, we do not send rabbits home with an e-collar after spays and neuters as the stress of wearing them can cause them to not want to eat and drink. It is very uncommon for them to try and lick and chew at their incisions, however, if they are doing that we encourage owners to come back in to pick up an e-collar.
After you take your rabbit home we ask that you keep them in a safe enclosed area for a few days afterwards to restrict their activity. They will go home with 3 days of pain medications which is a liquid in a syringe given once a day. Most bunnies actually enjoy the taste of this medication. About 3-5 days after surgery we ask that you bring your rabbit in for a quick recheck of the incision to make sure everything is healing well.
The most important thing to monitor after surgery is that your bunny is eating and drinking as not doing so can lead to very serious and even life-threatening complications. On occasion, we have had our surgery patients come back in for more subcutaneous fluids to keep them hydrated. We also have a product called Critical Care which is a powder that is mixed with water and used to syringe feed your bunny in the event that they refuse to eat.