Spaying or neutering your house rabbit is essential if you want to keep your bunny happy and healthy.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about spaying or neutering your rabbit, including the health benefits, the age the procedure should be done, pre- and post-operative care, and how to choose the right vet for the surgery.
Do Rabbits Need to Be Spayed or Neutered?
Most experts and veterinarians would agree that rabbits make much better pets after they’ve been spayed or neutered. The procedure also has a number of health benefits for rabbits. Major benefits include:
- Rabbits reproduce often and if you have a male and female together, they will almost surely produce offspring unless neutered or spayed. Rabbit overpopulation is a growing problem, with many rabbits abandoned by their owners and sold in pet stores that don’t care what kind of home they go to.
- Neutering in male rabbits reduces the risk of testicular cancer. Reproductive cancers in both male and female rabbits are common, and one study showed that 85% of female rabbits will contract uterine cancer if not spayed before age 3.
- Neutered and spayed rabbits don’t have hormone-related behavior problems. For male rabbits, this would be mounting, urine spraying, or aggression. Rabbits who aren’t going through sexual frustration may also be calmer and easier for you to handle. After being spayed or neutered, rabbits are less prone to destructive behaviors like chewing and digging as well.
- Your neutered rabbit will have more regular litter box habits, making cleaning up easier and more predictable for you.
- It’s much easier for multiple rabbits to live together if they’ve all been spayed or neutered.
- Neutering tends to eliminate the strong smell that comes from male rabbits’ urine.
Myths About Spaying and Neutering Rabbits
Some pet owners refrain from altering their rabbits because they’re convinced by some myth that the procedure is bad for them. Below are two falsehoods about spaying and neutering rabbits, along with why they’re not true.
Rabbits become fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered.
Rabbits grow overweight as a result of too much food and lack of exercise, not after surgery. They get “lazy” when they aren’t stimulated, and boredom causes them not to be as active. This can happen with any rabbit, whether altered or not.
The rabbit’s personality will change too much after being altered.
While some behaviors driven by sexual frustration or hormones will disappear, your rabbit’s fundamental personality won’t change. Behaviors such as circling, humping, or biting are usually related to hormones, not personality.
How Early Can You Spay a Rabbit?
Rabbits should be spayed or neutered as soon as they reach sexual maturity, which differs for male and female rabbits:
- Male rabbits: testicles descend around four months of age
- Female rabbits: sexually mature around five months of age
Some male rabbits may have their testicles descend before four months of age, as early as 10-12 weeks old. However, sperm doesn’t appear in their ejaculate until four months. Although abdominal surgery is usually not necessary for neutering male rabbits, it might be if the rabbit is too young. Your vet might ask you to wait until your male rabbit is about five months old before neutering him.
Most experts advise spaying female bunnies after puberty but before they reach full maturity, otherwise too much abdominal fat will hinder the surgery. A rabbit that’s not quite mature enough will have underdeveloped organs, which makes the surgery more complicated. Your vet might advise you to wait until about six months to spay your female rabbit.
Certain types of rabbits may also have special considerations when it comes to the spaying or neutering surgery:
- Older rabbits: Rabbits six years or older should have their blood tested before surgery to ensure they won’t have a bad reaction to anesthesia.
- Small rabbits: Even though they’ve reached sexual maturity, smaller breeds of rabbit may have to wait until they’ve grown a little bigger before getting an anesthetic for surgery.
- Giant rabbits: Giant breeds of rabbits tend to reach maturity later than other breeds. For this reason, they might have to have their surgery later.
Preparing Your Pet Rabbit for Surgery
Before your rabbit undergoes surgery, your veterinarian might order some blood tests. These tests will check your rabbit’s reaction to anesthesia or other issues that might complicate or prevent surgery. Vets usually give rabbits a physical examination before the alteration operation as well.
Many cat and dog owners are advised to have their pet fast the night before the surgery to prevent vomiting. This vomiting won’t happen with rabbits, so there’s no need to have them fast. In fact, preventing them from eating could throw off their delegate digestion system and make post-operative recovery more troublesome.
Don’t give your rabbit anything to eat about an hour before the surgery, though, to make sure there’s no food in their mouth that could obstruct the airway. Some experts recommend giving your bunny a probiotic on the days leading up to the surgery so their intestine contains all the proper bacteria. Other than a probiotic, however, you shouldn’t change your bunny’s diet before or after the operation.
Considerations prior to surgery
- Your rabbit will need to be shaved in the area where the vet operates. The vet usually does this, so don’t worry about shaving your bunny beforehand.
- Rabbits are prone to hypothermia, so the surgery is often done with the rabbit lying on a pad that circulates warm water. The vet usually places the rabbit in an incubator after the surgery to stay warm during recovery.
- Rabbits usually don’t tolerate commonly used anesthetics, so your vet may use a combination of pre-medications and gas anesthesia instead.
How Much Does a Spay or Neuter Procedure for a Rabbit Cost?
The cost of the surgery depends greatly on the clinic you choose. Some low-cost spay/neuter clinics will complete the alteration procedure for about USD $50. Other veterinarians may charge USD $300 or more. In most cases, a neuter will be cheaper than a spay.
How to Care for Your Neutered Pet Rabbit
Once the surgery is over, you will need to take a few post-operative precautions with your rabbit.
- Immediate recovery: Your rabbit should rest in a warm and quiet environment directly following the surgery.
- Pain management: Rabbits get anxious when they’re in pain, and they’ll be in some pain following the surgery. Give analgesics (painkillers) to your rabbit during recovery. Common analgesics rabbits can take include meloxicam, buprenorphine, and tramadol.
- Food and water: Once your rabbit wakes up post-surgery, offer some of its usual food and some water. Don’t change your rabbit’s diet after surgery, except to give probiotics as directed by your vet.
- Eating habits: Male rabbits tend to resume eating the same day as the surgery, female rabbits take about 24 hours. Your rabbit will also have soft stool or irregularly shaped stool for several days after the surgery.
- Incision site: Check the surgery incision site often to make sure there’s no swelling, drainage, or redness. After a male rabbit is neutered, it’s normal for his scrotum to remain swollen for up to 14 days. After 10-14 days, your vet will remove the sutures. Some rabbits may need a bandage around the incision site to prevent them from chewing at the sutures. Elizabethan collars aren’t the best idea with rabbits as this type of collar makes them anxious.
- At home: Your rabbit should recover in a warm, dry, quiet environment. They also shouldn’t recover with other rabbits in their cage, and you should clean their cage frequently. Male rabbits in particular should not live with other rabbits during recovery, as their testosterone levels will still be high for almost two months post-surgery.
When to contact your vet
If you notice any abnormalities during rabbit’s recovery after a spay or neuter surgery, contact your vet right away. Some issues might be:
- Your rabbit chews consistently at the incision site
- The incision reopens and becomes red, swollen, or painful
- There’s discharge from the incision site
- Your rabbit has diarrhea
- Your rabbit hasn’t resumed eating after 24-48 hours
- Your rabbit seems depressed, isolated, or weak
How Long Should You Keep Rabbits Separated After Neutering?
Male rabbits shouldn’t be placed together in a cage again until at least two months after neutering. Their sexual hormones are still a little high during this period, and associated sexual behaviors, such as growling, territorial biting, aggressive lunging, or excessively destructive chewing, may still occur. Until these behaviors come to a complete halt, male rabbits shouldn’t be placed in the same cage.
How to Choose a Clinic for a Rabbit Spay or Neuter Procedure
When your rabbit needs this surgery, you want to be sure you choose a reputable clinic and veterinarian who will take good care of your furry friend. To find the right vet for the job, ask these questions:
- Does this vet spay or neuter rabbits often?
- How many spays and neuters has the vet done in the past year?
- Does the vet use rabbit-safe anesthetics (examples would isoflurane or sevoflurane)
- Does the vet remove the ovaries and uterus (both should be removed to prevent uterine cancer in female rabbits)
- Does the vet ask you to withhold food before the surgery (rabbits should never fast before a spay/neuter surgery)
- Does the vet do “open” or “closed” procedures? (closed is preferable)
Spaying or neutering is an important procedure for your bunny and should be carried out properly. Once you’ve found a reliable vet, ask them as many questions as necessary to ensure you care for your pet properly during this time. Your house rabbit should make a full recovery and will be much healthier afterward!