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Neutering rabbits – when and why?

19 Oct 2020 by Vetsmiths
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If you’re soon to be the proud owner of a new pair of cute baby rabbits, firstly congratulations, but secondly the one thing pet shops or hobby breeders seem to be very bad about advising, is the importance of neutering your new fluffy bundles.

Rabbits are highly sociable animals and should always be kept in pairs whenever possible. The question is do you chose two males, two females or a mix of both?

Funnily enough, there’s a reason why people talk about ‘breeding like rabbits’ and a mixed sex pair will waste no time in getting down to business!  Even for same sex pairs, there are good reasons for considering neutering.

Females

Female rabbits are very prone to developing uterine (womb) and ovarian cancer later in life.  Some studies show the risk in un-neutered females over the age of five can be as high as 80%!

Fortunately, neutering (spaying) your young female early will take this risk away.  Female rabbits are also very prone to breeding cycle hormonal surges in the spring and summer, often making them more ‘moody’ and less friendly than in the winter months.

It goes without saying, that if you have them paired with a male, then neutering is must – unless you want to rapidly increase the number of your bunnies!

The Op

The operation for girl buns is a little more involved than the boys, but we would normally look to do this at around 12 weeks of age.  If they have a buddy, we recommend doing this at the same time if possible, so they can give each other moral support on their big day.

The op is performed under a general anaesthetic and both boys and girls will have small wounds with normally buried, dissolvable stitches.

They’ll need to be kept somewhere clean, warm and dry for the first night at home and it’s especially important to make sure they are eating and drinking.  In most cases they bounce back to normal very quickly – literally in most cases!

If you have two females, this is the one occasion where you could consider leaving them until they are little more grown up (around six months old), but we can discuss this with you.

Males

Boy rabbits will mature surprisingly early and will often start to show sexualised behaviour from as early as 12-14 weeks of age.

If you have two males, the hormones can soon lead to fighting and aggression between the pair, so whether you have a male and female or two males, we always recommend neutering (castration for boys) and doing so as early as possible.

We would normally look to have them in for the op around 12 weeks of age.  Some vets advise separating them for a while and then neutering them at closer to six months of age, but we think this is both unnecessary, as well as potentially problematic when trying to reintroduce them after neutering.  Sometimes they will unfortunately start to fight – and we don’t want that.

Two neutered males can often make great life-long companions and it also stops any chance of them developing testicular cancer later in life, which is surprisingly common.

The op

Castration is performed under a general anaesthetic with normally two tiny wounds in the groin area.  Recovery is normally exceptionally quick and they’ll be hopping around as good as new in no time at all.

As with the girls, keep an eye on them over the first night to ensure they are eating and drinking and make sure they are kept nice and warm

Summary

Rabbits used to have a reputation for not being good under anaesthetics, but this is no longer the case.

With modern anaesthetics and monitoring and most importantly in the hands of vets and nurses who are experienced with rabbits (as we are here at Vetsmiths), there should be no more of a risk than with dogs and cats in having the operation done.

Choose your rabbit vet and practice carefully – the excellent Rabbit Welfare Fund www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk have a list of rabbit friendly vets where you can search for one in your area.

With modern techniques and rabbit friendly vet practices, there’s no reason why all pet bunnies can’t be neutered early in life and, in fact, there are few reasons not to do so.