Neutering: why your bunny needs it!
There are several benefits to neutering your rabbits, both from a behavioural and a health point of view. We strongly recommend that all rabbits that are not intended for breeding should be neutered.
Neutering a female rabbit (Doe) is called ‘spaying’ and involves removing the ovaries and womb, whereas neutering a male rabbit (Buck) is called ‘castration’ and involves removing the testicles. Most female rabbits can be neutered from around five months old, but giant breeds take longer to mature, so may be as late as eight months. Male rabbits can be neutered as early as ten weeks.
Rabbits can get pregnant at around three months old, so males and females must be kept separate from this age (ideally a bit before), until after they have been neutered. Females are sterile immediately following the procedure.
Male rabbits can remain fertile for up to six weeks after they have been castrated, so must be kept separate from any un-neutered females in this time.
Reasons to have your rabbit neutered
If you neuter your rabbits, you not only prevent the risk of unwanted litters, but you also reduce the risk of some tumours in females and may reduce territorial aggression and undesired sexual behaviours in both sexes. Here are some of the main benefits:
- Pregnancy – The most obvious risk of being unneutered is pregnancy, and most rabbits can get pregnant at around three months old, even if they are related!
- Illness – By neutering your rabbits you decrease/eliminate the risk of certain cancers, for example uterine and testicular cancer. Sadly, female rabbits are very likely to develop uterine (womb) cancers relatively early in life. They can also develop womb infections, or other cancers such as mammary (breast tissue) cancer.
- Fighting – Rabbits are sociable animals so should always be kept in friendly pairs or groups – the ideal pairing is usually a neutered male and neutered female. Neutering reduces the likelihood of fighting in both male and female rabbits and also means they are less likely to show aggression towards you too.
- Urine spraying – neutered rabbits are less likely to spray urine to mark their territory.
- Better house training – neutered rabbits are much less likely to exhibit marking behaviours, making it much easier for them to live happily indoors.
What does neutering involve?
Neutering is a surgical procedure, involving a general anaesthetic. Your rabbit will come into the surgery in the morning, stay for the day to have the operation, and in most cases will be reunited with you the same day. Although all surgical procedures come with some risk, neutering is one of the most common procedures undertaken by our vets, and the techniques are very safe.
In males the testicles are removed – this is the main source of the hormone testosterone, so levels of this hormone fall after the surgery. In females the ovaries and the womb (uterus) are removed as standard – this means that your rabbit will no longer be able to fall pregnant.
Whilst all surgical procedures can be uncomfortable, recovery from neutering is usually very rapid. In most cases rabbits are on their feet within a few hours of the procedure and will be given pain-relief drugs for the procedure itself, and throughout recovery. Some rabbits may be subdued for a day or so and may appear drowsy or a little wobbly that evening, but most rabbits are back to their normal selves within a few days.
If you are booking your rabbit in to be neutered by one of our experienced vets, then you will be given full pre and post-operation care instructions.