Updated: Mar 29
Both sexes should to be fixed, not only behavioral reasons, but also for health benefits. Females are at an 80% risk of contracting uterine cancer which goes up to 90% with age. Males go through other health and behavioral issues that can all be avoided by getting them neutered as well. Only fixed rabbits should be placed together. If there is a rabbit that isn’t fixed, the original rabbit who is in the home can smell the hormones coming off this new rabbit and can start to become aggressive/territorial. For this reason it is best to only introduce a new rabbit into your home if the original(s) are fixed or if you’re able to separate the rabbits by different floors of your home. This way your rabbit(s) will experience the least amount of stress when bringing in a new family member.
Why is fixing your rabbit so important?
REDUCES HEALTH RISKS It’s medically required for both sexes to avoid fatal illnesses as they age. Females are at an 80% risk of uterine cancer which increases to 90% with age. Typically by 3 years of age uterine cancer starts presenting itself. If a female is spayed after a hormonal period has already occurred, they are still at risk of uterine cancer however their risk has dramatically decreased. Males are at a small risk of testicular torsion, testicular cancer, and a prostatic cancer which a neuter can completely eliminate. HELPS WITH BEHAVIORAL ISSUES Spayed and neutered rabbits are much easier to litter train. They’re also far less aggressive and destructive with less attitude and sassiness. Altered rabbits are much more likely to bond and build relationships. In fact, it’s not recommended to even try to bond rabbits until they’re altered. One of the many benefits is that they are less territorial, which means no spraying. Spraying can be a huge problem in most environments. In fact, spaying and neutering even reduces the potency of their urine. Obviously the main purpose is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but spaying and neutering also eliminate stressful ‘false pregnancies’ which can be difficult for the rabbit and the owner.
What you should know about False Pregnancies
Rabbits are designed to mate and procreate after the first consummation. This means when they don’t procreate every time they enter a hormonal period, sometimes females mistakenly believe they are pregnant anyways. Although this is just in their head, it can cause an overwhelming drive to prepare. This is when you’ll notice them making a nest and pulling out fur, typically from their stomach, chest, and dewlap. They will also collect hay, and you may even see them trying to bring items inside the hidey/box such as a blanket or stuffed animal.
Nesting and pulling out fur can be signs of false pregnancy During a hormonal period you might notice that your female rabbit is more sassy than usual and she might hang out in the nest area more. Make sure to keep food and water nearby and don’t touch the nest until she is no longer interested in it. Time in between false pregnancies varies on the individual rabbit. It could be every two weeks or even 6 months or more. It’s important to keep in mind that these hormonal periods are very stressful for your rabbit.
What can trigger a false pregnancy:
Infertile mating, sexual excitement, and stress.
RISK The big risk is the anesthetic, which is a lot safer now than it used to be. A rabbit savvy vet has the experience and expertise necessary to safely perform surgeries on rabbit’s very complex anatomy. While unexpected complications can arise, it is a very small risk in the hands of someone knowledgeable. The benefits far outweigh the risks, especially since altering your rabbit will avoid many life-threatening medical conditions. PREP Rabbits do not have the ability to vomit, therefore they can continue to eat as usual and there is no prep. In fact, it is important that they continue to eat right up until surgery, as it will assist in their recovery. Be sure to encourage lots of eating prior! Bring your rabbit to the vet’s office with lettuce and their favorite side veggies. PRE-OP A physical health exam should be performed prior to the surgery by a certified rabbit savvy vet. If there are any health concerns it is important to have blood work done. If they’re healthy, a blood test is that extra assurance that your rabbit will make it through surgery. Your vet will do another brief exam prior to taking your rabbit in for surgery as well. POST OP The rabbit needs to be kept in a quiet area for the first 3 to 4 days after surgery. While movement is very good for GI motility, you want to be sure they are not jumping on anything or over exerting themselves. You want the rabbit to avoid anything that might pull on the sutures and cause one to break. If there are other fur friends in the home they should not be allowed to play together for 7 days.
INCOMPLETE SPAY It’s very important to make sure no uterine, cervical, or ovarian tissue remains. If anything is left, the rabbit will remain at a higher risk of cancer. Uterine cancer is malignant and can spread to other tissues in the body like the lungs, brain, and liver, therefore it is vital to have everything removed properly.
Post Op: Make sure your rabbit gets rest, food, and doesn’t play with their sutures It will be very important to make sure that they keep eating after surgery. If they don’t, they will need to be force-fed Critical Care. For the first night at least, they should wear an e-collar to ensure they don’t try to go after their incision(s), especially while you’re sleeping and/or not supervising.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR
The incision should be checked once daily. The sutures are located underneath the skin and should not be visible, they will dissolve and will not need removal. A mild amount of bruising, redness, or crust may be present around/over the incision area, but there shouldn’t be any bleeding. If you see bleeding, or excessive swelling, separation of the incision, or infection (redness, heat, inflammation/swelling, pus, etc.), you should seek out your rabbit savvy vet immediately. Fecal pellets may decrease and become smaller in size but should return to normal within 3 to 4 days after surgery. There might be some blood in the urine, however excessive bleeding would be considered abnormal and your rabbit savvy vet should be sought out. MEDICATION Medication should be given every 12 hours for more consistent pain management. Medication is typically started the next morning, however if they are experiencing more pain or are in a hormonal period, they may need additional pain medications such as Metacam and Gabapentin ifto make them more comfortable. If your rabbit appears to be experiencing unusual/added pain when you get home, be sure to contact your vet before they close. If your vet feels that additional medication is necessary, you should not wait until the morning. Remember you are your rabbits advocate. Be sure to monitor and communicate with your vet as needed. Females require 4-5 days of medication while males require 2-3 days of pain medication every 12 hours. Signs of pain – grinding of the teeth, sitting in a hunched position, or not active
Here is an example of a case where a testicle was bitten open because the rabbit wasn’t given enough pain meds.