Over the last few years rabbits have become firm favourites with pet owners. Bunnies are in the top three when it comes to the most popular pets to keep whether as house rabbits or outside pets. This has had a positive impact on the veterinary care of these lovely creatures. More research has been carried out into both a rabbits' nutritional needs and their medical ones too. Today, it is a lot easier to find a vet willing to treat rabbits – although it is still always worth checking whether your vet local does treat bunnies before you decide to buy or adopt one.
The most obvious reason to spay or neuter a pet rabbit is so that you can keep other rabbits together should you want to without them fighting or mating. Rabbits love to have company, they are very social creatures but there are other very good reasons why you should have female rabbits spayed and why male rabbits should be neutered.
The majority of female rabbits reach sexual maturity when they are 4 to 6 months old when they become territorial – which means they can become aggressive too. Unfortunately, some does can also have many repeated false pregnancies and this can also affect their behaviour. They start to growl and have a tendency to bite and scratch – even their owners have to suffer a change in their pets characters which can often be rather upsetting both for the owner and the rabbit. Even if you try to keep two does together whether they are sisters or not, can make matters worse. The only real solution is to spay the females which can reduce the problem and occasionally eliminate it altogether. Spayed does also tend to live longer than their unspayed counterparts with around 80% of unspayed female rabbits developing cancer of the uterus by the time they are 5 years old. If your pet rabbit does develop the condition, you would need to seek the advice of your vet and your female rabbit might have to undergo an operation to remove the cancerous tissue which can prove to be very expensive if you don't have rabbit insurance.
Bucks are normally braver than does, they are perfect pets being very responsive and friendly. However, they are territorial and therefore mark their ground by spraying urine around. Because they are territorial, males become aggressive and this leads to all sorts of problems. Males when they are neutered, turn into much happier and more relaxed little creatures. In short, male rabbits have a much better quality of life because they don't have to constantly search for a mate and they lose their need to spray. They are also much friendlier creatures to have around.
Neutered males can be kept with spayed females, but you have to introduce them slowly and carefully. If you decide to buy or adopt another neutered male, the same applies, never put two neutered males together without having introduced them gradually and carefully first. Even if males are neutered later on in their lives, they will stop spraying urine.
Spaying females is a more complex operation than neutering males. Vets like to perform this operation when the does are at least 6 months old when they remove the uterus and both of the ovaries. Castrating males is a much simpler operation and can be performed as soon as the bucks testicles have dropped which is around 10-12 weeks old. However, vets like to perform the operation when rabbits are between 4 to 5 months old. Both bucks and does need anything from 2 weeks to 2 months for all their hormones to settle down after they've gone through the operation which means you should not put a newly neutered buck with any females until their hormones have all settled down.
For many years rabbits were notoriously difficult to anaesthetise but with these lovely creatures becoming such popular pets, a lot more research has gone into the veterinary side of things. Modern techniques have made things a lot easier which means operations on rabbits are a lot safer than ever before. However, low risk does not mean 'no risk' and there are occasions when any animal can experience unexpected complications during surgery. This includes rabbits when they are being spayed or neutered. With this said the advantages and benefits of neutering males and spaying does, far outweighs the risk involved in the operations. Should you own an older rabbit, one that is 3 years old and over, or if there have been any health problems in the past, which could include obesity, snuffles or some sort of dental disease, then you need to discuss all the risks with your vet and then choose the right course of action to take.
Before you buy or adopt a rabbit, you should check whether your local vet is a 'rabbit friendly' one. Some vets are more specialised than others which means their expertise in rabbit treatments and medicines can vary quite a lot. The questions to ask are as follows:
Many veterinary clinics do neuter male rabbits but may not spay females as regularly which means you may find they refer you to a veterinary clinic that performs spaying operations on rabbits on a more regular basis.
The cost of neutering rabbits is normally around the same price as equivalent operations performed on cats – but it is worth checking this out with your vet as to how much they charge for male neutering and female spaying.
When you pick your rabbit up from the veterinary clinic after their operation, you need to check whether or not they have been given any post operative pain killers. You also need to ask your vet if there are any instructions on how to treat the wound and if there are any problems, who to contact. Other questions you need to ask your vet is whether you have to go back for a check-up and if you should leave your pet in a cage for a while. Many vets recommend neutered males be kept for a couple of days in cages whilst females should be kept in cages a little longer – 5 to 6 days as it gives them more time to recover from the more complicated and invasive operation. Make sure the rabbit cage is well disinfected with comfortable bedding in it, Vetbed is an ideal choice. You should keep the cage indoors too so you can keep an eye on your pet whilst they recover. You will also need to place a clean litter tray in the cage or alternatively you could place some newspapers in it, making sure you clean them out constantly. These days the majority of vets use special sutures which rabbits cannot chew through – but you still need to check them every day to make sure there are no issues which may lead to an infection. Males recover from their operation pretty quickly, within a day. However, females take a little longer, they need to be kept quiet for a day or two, sometimes longer. As long as your rabbit is eating and drinking, there is nothing going on that you need to worry about. As long as your vet has given your pet rabbit enough pain relief, things usually go smoothly. If your rabbit refuses to eat, offer them some of their favourite food and if they still refuse you may need to take your pet back to the vets to seek advice and you should do this as soon as you can.
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