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Rabbits

Why do we recommend neutering?

Rabbits are very social animals and ideally should be kept in pairs or small social groups. Unfortunately, this can lead to a number of problems. Un-neutered rabbits are more likely to be aggressive. Same sex pairs (either male or female) are prone to aggression and fighting with each other. Female rabbits in particular can be very grumpy if left un-neutered. They will often be difficult to handle and not the cuddly companion you would hope for. Some are even actively aggressive towards their owners. Male rabbits are also better pets once neutered. It reduces aggression towards owners and makes them less likely to spray urine.

It goes without saying that, entire male and female rabbits kept together will ‘breed like rabbits’!

Finally, with better husbandry and veterinary understanding, our pet rabbits are living longer. In older rabbits we are seeing health problems which could be prevented by early neutering. In females these include uterine infections (pyometra) and uterine tumours. Both of these conditions are very tricky to treat once they have occurred and sadly usually result in the death or euthanasia of the rabbit.

When do we recommend neutering?

We recommend rabbits are neutered  at around 6 months of age. We strongly recommend that all young rabbits have an adolescent / six month check, prior to neutering, with one of our vets. If your rabbit has been vaccinated with us and is a member of Woodcroft Vets’ Pet Club, this check is free of charge. This is an ideal opportunity to examine your rabbit and to discuss any concerns you may have. We may identify additional problems that could be corrected under the same anaesthetic as the neutering procedure e.g. correction of an umbilical hernia. We can also discuss a range of preventative health care options. Membership of our Pet Club also entitles your rabbit to a 20% early neutering discount (ask us for more details).

What should I do next?

Please call your nearest branch for further details. Briefly, we recommend the process starts with your rabbit having a consultation with one of our vets. This allows us to make sure that your rabbit is healthy enough to undergo general anaesthesia and the operation. We will also start planning the anaesthetic protocol, based on any special requirements your rabbit may have. This consultation is usually combined with our free adolescent health check, if your rabbit has had his or her primary vaccination course with us. If you are new to our practice, or we have not examined your rabbit recently, we will ask you to arrange a pre-op appointment to perform a general health check.

How are female rabbits spayed?

The spay procedure is performed under a general anaesthetic (see later). After your rabbit has her tummy clipped, a small incision is made so that we can remove the ovaries and uterus. The wound is then sutured (stitched). We will usually use absorbable sutures which are hidden under the skin so that she will not be able to chew them.

How are male rabbit's castrated?

Castration is also carried out general anaesthesia. Two small incisions are made on or just in front of your rabbits scrotum. The testicles are removed and the skin wounds stitched with absorbable sutures. Male rabbits may still be able to make female companions pregnant during the post-operative period as they can store semen in their 'tubes' for up to three weeks after castration.

Is there a risk with the anaesthetic?

There is always a risk with any general anaesthetic and this risk is slightly higher with rabbits. However, the risk are low and are outweighed by the benefits. We routinely anaesthetise & neuter rabbits and it is very rarely that any problems are encountered. To make general anaesthesia as safe as possible we have adopted various working practices

  • we routinely intubate our rabbit patients. Intubation involves passing a small sterile tube into your rabbit’s trachea (wind pipe). The tube ensures that the airway is always open allowing oxygen to reach the lungs.
  • a catheter is placed in the rabbit's vein to allow delivery of emergency drugs or fluids if necessary.
  • great care is taken to ensure that the patient does not become cold during the procedure.
  • pain killers are always administered. This, not only ensures your rabbit is pain free, but also encourages your rabbit to start eating after the surgery, reducing the risk of ileus. Ileus,  is when the gut stops moving and a painful build up of gas occurs and can occur after any anaesthetic or stressful situation. An injection to stimulate the gut is also administered.

You do not need to starve your rabbit prior to the anaesthetic as rabbits cannot vomit. In dogs and cats we routinely starve them to reduce the risk of vomiting during the anaesthetic.  We encourage you to bring your rabbit's usual food along with it to the surgery so that they continue to eat right up until they have their procedure. They also have something familiar to tuck into as soon as they have woken up from the anaesthetic.

What happens on the day?

We will ask you to bring your rabbit to one of our clinics on the day of the operation between 8am and 9am (depending on the specific clinic opening times). It is not necessary to starve your rabbit. Free access to water should be allowed until the time you leave your house. 

Once admitted to the clinic, your rabbit will be re-examined and housed in a warm, comfortable kennel. 

During the anaesthetic process we use the most advanced anaesthetic agents. These agents are short acting and so recovery times are usually short. Unfortunately, there are no safe anaesthetic drugs, only safe anaesthetists. All anaesthetic drugs depress the performance of the cardiovascular and breathing systems: monitoring and patient support are key for successful veterinary anaesthesia.

To this aim Woodcroft Vets staff have various tools to help monitor anaesthesia. A recent survey of general practice anaesthesia (CEPSAF study) concluded that many veterinary practices do not use monitoring devices. See our Anaesthetic Brochure for more details of our gold standard anaesthetic service.

After the procedure is completed, your rabbit will start to recover from anaesthesia soon after the anaesthetic is stopped. Your rabbit will be returned to his or her warm, comfortable bed in the recovery area where the monitoring process is continued.

A recent survey identified the recovery time as an ‘at risk period’. We, at Woodcroft Vets, are fully aware of the risks associated with the recovery period: diligent anaesthetic monitoring is continued until your rabbit is fit enough to be moved to our hospital wards. 

Usually your rabbit will be discharged on the same day as the procedure.We ask for rabbits to be kept somewhere warm and quiet for the first night back at home. You should keep an eye on how much your rabbit eats and drinks. High-fibre food, such as good quality hay and grass will stimulate the gut. If your rabbit's bed is clean, you  will be able to see if your rabbit has passed faeces in the first few hours after surgery. If your rabbit is not eating or does not produce normal quantities of faeces he or she may have 'ileus' or discomfort from the surgery. In this event, please contact us. 

It is not common for rabbits to interfere with  their surgical wounds. A buster collar can be provided, if too much attention is paid to this area. Again contact us in this eventuality. Buster collars are not ideal as they increase stress and may cause ileus. We will normally re-examine your rabbit 2 – 3 days after surgery and occasionally a week later. These examinations are included in the cost of the procedure.  If you are unsure about anything before or after theese appointments, please feel free to contact us for advice. 

If you would like to discuss or arrange neutering of your rabbit, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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