Spaying or Neutering Your Rabbit

It's a procedure for your rabbit's health and your sanity.

Rabbits reach sexual maturity between 3 and 6 months of age. Then whammo! Your cute little bunny becomes a furry mass of raging hormones. But you can nip behavior and medical problems in the bud if you spay or neuter your pet.

Spaying or neutering does more than protect your home from a proliferation of baby bunnies. The procedure also reduces your pet's risk of reproductive-related health conditions and helps curb irritating behaviors that can send the most patient owners screaming.

She's a Maniac on the Floor
Although it's commonly referred to as a spay, this surgery is actually a complete ovariohysterectomy, or the removal of both ovaries and the uterus. Spaying your female bunny helps prevent uterine and ovarian cancers and pyometra, a life-threatening uterine infection.

Unspayed female rabbits, called does, tend to act aloof, aggressive, and territorial when they reach sexual maturity. They may dig at carpeting and litter, urinate where they shouldn't, bite or lunge at their owners, and stubbornly struggle when you pick them up. Does are especially aggressive and ill-tempered when they're in heat which is often.

He's Hot-blooded
Neutering is the removal of both testicles. It sounds worse than it is and no, he won't miss them! Neutered males are less susceptible to testicular cancer and other reproductive-organ diseases.

Once intact male rabbits, or bucks, reach sexually maturity, little else occupies their minds. Bucks may attack other male rabbits or household pets, dig and chew more, and use your couch for a urinal. Many raise their tails high in the air just before they hose down your love seat with a pungent spray of urine. Bucks also nudge, lick, groom, and mount anything that stands still even you!

Nip It in the Bud
Most veterinarians recommend spaying or neutering rabbits at 4 to 6 months before medical and behavioral changes kick in. But it's never too late, especially with females, whose risk of uterine or ovarian cancer increases 50 percent to 80 percent between the ages of 2 and 4 years. So guard against health problems with a spay or neuter procedure.

Not Convinced? Consider This.
Animal shelters and Internet adoption sites advertise homeless bunnies who are abandoned at shelters or dumped in the wild. The grim reality is that many are euthanized. You can't save them all, but you can help prevent rabbit overpopulation by spaying or neutering your bunny.

What to Expect
There is some risk with any anesthetic procedure or surgery. That's why your veterinarian will make sure your bunny's in perfect health going into the procedure and healing well afterward.

He will examine your rabbit and may recommend lab tests before the surgery to make sure your pet's organs are working well. The tests may also reveal otherwise undetectable medical conditions that could cause complications during anesthesia, surgery, or recovery.

During the procedure your pet will receive gas anesthesia, just as in human surgery. Your veterinarian will perform the procedure in the surgical suite of the veterinary hospital and monitor your rabbit's breathing and circulation. Sterile instruments, drapes, and surgical gloves reduce the risk of infection.

After the surgery, your veterinarian will give your rabbit pain medication to keep her as comfortable as possible. Your pet will need to stay overnight at the hospital so the veterinary team can monitor her recovery.

For the first few days at home, limit your rabbit's activity a bit easier said than done, because surgery doesn't slow most pets down much. Also, keep the incision clean and make sure your bunny doesn't lick it excessively. (Call your veterinarian if she does and find out how to make her stop usually bitter apple applied to the incision site does the trick.)

If your veterinarian uses skin sutures, you'll return to the hospital in about a week to have them removed.