There comes a time in the life of almost every pet owner when they have to decide whether they want their pet to reproduce. If not, then they may opt to get their pet spayed or neutered. What exactly is this procedure?
Spaying or neutering are two reproductive surgeries for female and male rabbits respectively. The procedures will prevent rabbits from reproducing and can also curb unwanted behaviors.
You might be thinking of getting your bunny spayed or neutered, but you have a lot of questions. Is it safe? Does it cost anything? Will your rabbit be okay? In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about spaying or neutering your rabbit.
What Is Spaying and Neutering?
As we mentioned in the intro, spaying and neutering are two reproductive surgeries for rabbits. Female bunnies are spayed. The procedure is also known as ovariohysterectomy. During the surgery, the rabbit’s uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are taken out. Sometimes only some reproductive organs leave the body via surgery.
For males, they’re neutered. This is called an orchiectomy. The surgeon will take out the rabbit’s testes.
After both procedures, rabbits can no longer reproduce. For females in particular, after an ovariohysterectomy, they will stop going into heat. Many pets have a heat cycle, rabbits included. These are the times the bunny is most receptive to reproducing.
Are These Procedures Painful or Dangerous?
A spay or neuter surgery may hurt, but any good veterinarian won’t let a rabbit or any other animal suffer during or after the procedure. Before the surgery is set to begin, the rabbit will receive a form of treatment to minimize pain. This may be a painkiller, or they may be put under anesthesia. For rabbits specifically, isoflurane is the anesthetic that is used.
A painkiller should dull if not erase pain, at least during and right after the procedure. If a rabbit is unconscious, they won’t be in any discomfort.
Post-op, there’s often some discomfort and soreness. We will discuss this more later.
If you find a trusted veterinarian to perform the spay or neuter surgery on your rabbit, then there’s little to no risk of danger. There are sometimes complications that arise, but most of these are rare.
The complications to be on the lookout for include:
- Anesthesia sensitivity
- Infection, which is typically characterized by pus, redness, and inflammation at the incision
- Breathing issues, including labored breathing
- Urinary issues and/or diarrhea
If your rabbit exhibits any of the symptoms above, they need emergency care from your veterinarian. Urine leakage in some female rabbits is not considered a complication, even though it can be problematic.
Above all else, for the safety of your rabbit, make sure your vet has experience spaying/neutering rabbits specifically.
How Much Does It Cost to Spay or Neuter Pet Rabbits?
One factor that’s quite important in deciding whether to spay/neuter your rabbit is cost. How much will you have to pay for this procedure?
Spaying and neutering pets are incredibly common surgeries. That means you shouldn’t pay nearly as much money as you might be thinking you would. For many rabbit owners in the United States, the fees for surgery average out to $250. In some instances, if you go to a clinic that specializes in spaying and neutering, prices might be slightly different. You could even pay as little as $50 to $75 for these procedures. Well, there are also free options to spay or neuter your rabbit.
You should always contact your local veterinarian and ask about specific prices before booking your bunny’s surgery. Some vets may charge more than $250. You don’t want to find out post-op when you get billed that the surgery was pricier than you were expecting.
If the costs of a spay or neuter from your local vet is too high, don’t be afraid to look at other vets in the area.
Is There Insurance That Covers the Cost of Surgery?
If you contacted veterinarian’s offices in your area and the costs of spay/neuter surgery are too high, you’ll find yourself at an impasse. You’re strongly leaning towards getting your rabbit the surgery. However, you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for it.
What can you do in such an instance? You can always look into pet insurance. Yes, such a thing exists. Pet insurance is used to take some of the financial load off you if your pet has a serious injury or illness and needs expensive treatment.
If you have any form of insurance, then surely you’re familiar with waiting periods, premiums, maximum payouts, copays, and deductibles. The same concepts are all applicable with pet insurance. Some options you may consider are Figo Pet Insurance, Trupanion, Embrace Pet Insurance, Pets Best, Petplan, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, or Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation.
You can use a site like Pet Insurance Quotes to get pricing from these and other pet insurance providers. Do make sure that coverage for spaying/neutering is part of your plan, because it isn’t always included by all pet insurance companies.
How Long Does the Procedure Last?
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, spaying or neutering your pets is incredibly common. This includes surgery for rabbits. For that reason, most vets who perform the procedure have it down to a science.
If your rabbit is healthy enough for spay/neuter surgery, then the procedure shouldn’t take more than several minutes. That doesn’t mean this isn’t considered a major surgery, because it absolutely is. It’s just faster than you may have anticipated.
Pet recovery time is often longer. If you’re curious about what post-op care looks like for a rabbit, continue reading this guide. We’ll discuss it later.
Why Should You Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit?
Now that you’re aware that spaying and neutering are both relatively fast procedures, you might be seriously thinking about the surgery for your bunny. What are the benefits of spaying/neutering? Are there any downsides?
In this section, we’ll explore all the reasons for and against this surgery.
There are countless reasons to get your female bunnies spayed and your males neutered. These include the following:
- Lower rate of developing cancer: Like many pets, rabbits can sadly get cancer. Some types of cancer tend to manifest later in a female rabbit’s life, such as uterine, mammary, and ovarian cancers. By spaying your female, it’s possible she can avoid developing these cancers. Males can benefit from a reduced chance of getting prostate and testicular cancers.
- More space in shelters: When a cat or a dog has a baby, they go through a lengthy gestation period. Not so much with rabbits. They can reproduce frequently. When a rabbit owner can’t care for all the babies, they go to a shelter, which can often be overrun by other abandoned pets. Spaying/neutering your bunny opens up much-needed shelter space.
- Fewer euthanized rabbits: As we said, shelters don’t have all the room in the world. If a shelter near you is full, the rabbits who are sent there may be euthanized. By spaying/neutering your rabbit, you can prevent them from reproducing. Fewer baby rabbits means less euthanasia.
- You have to care for the pregnant mother: Your female rabbit got pregnant. Now her care falls on you. During this time, your bunny will require more frequent vet trips and lots of special attention. That’s not only a lot of time you lose then, but money, too.
- More affordable rabbit costs for you: When your rabbit has babies, you are now the owner of those babies. If you can’t give them away to friends or family, you have to take care of them. This too is expensive. After being at the vet constantly to care for your pregnant rabbit, paying for vet care for babies can be a huge financial drain. If the bunny has any complications or the babies have health issues, you’re kissing even more money goodbye.
- Better-behaved rabbits: If your male rabbit exhibits behaviors like boxing, spraying, mounting, or lunging, they’re driven by their sexual urges. By neutering your rabbit, they should stop these behaviors.
- Room for two: If you want to bring another rabbit into the fold, they can be the same gender or opposite genders if your first bunny is spayed or neutered. Your rabbit won’t get pregnant.
- Longer lifespan: Finally, what we think is the biggest benefit to spaying and neutering your rabbits is they get to enjoy a longer, happier life. Male rabbits, especially sexually aggressive ones, can get violent with others. If your bunny is seriously injured, that could cut his lifespan. Once he’s neutered, his sexual aggression should disappear.
To provide you balanced information, here are the cons or downsides of spaying/neutering your rabbit:
- Inexperienced vets abound: Dogs and cats are neutered every day, but vets may not necessarily know how to safely perform the surgery on rabbits. You have to make sure you’re working with a vet who has years of experience spaying and neutering bunnies.
- Prices can vary: While we said you shouldn’t spend more than $250 on spaying or neutering your rabbit, some vets may charge more. Even though some pet insurances can cover this surgery, not all do. The high price might make you nervous about getting the procedure done on your bunny.
- Concerns about pre-op and post-op care: If this is the first pet you’ve owned that’s getting surgery, you’re going to be worried. That’s fair, but don’t let pre-op and post-op care scare you too much. Later in this guide, we’ll tell you exactly how to take care of your rabbit in this delicate time.
- Health risk for older rabbits: Rabbits should not be spayed or neutered once they’re six years of age. It’s a risky procedure to do at that point. If you don’t know how old your rabbit is, you could have concerns about them receiving this procedure.
- There’s no going back: If you ever change your mind and decide you want your rabbit to reproduce, too bad. There’s no way to reverse a spay or neuter. Your vet can’t exactly put the missing parts back. If you really wanted your rabbit to reproduce, you’d have to buy another one that hadn’t been spayed or neutered yet.
When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit?
By this point, you’re convinced that spaying or neutering your rabbit is what’s best for them. Now you’re curious when the best time for the surgery is. It’s probably a lot younger than you would have imagined.
For males, it’s recommended they’re neutered about eight weeks after birth. For other males, it might be 12 weeks. Once the testes drop, a male can undergo this reproductive procedure.
Female rabbits can be spayed once they’re four months old, but this is uncommon. At that age, they’re almost too young. There’s a higher chance of complications during the procedure. For the sake and safety of your rabbit, it’s better to wait until they’re at the six-month point.
If you by chance missed those milestones, we recommend you get in touch with your veterinarian. Ask them what your options are for older rabbits you want to spay or neuter.
Does the Age of the Rabbit Matter?
The reason we recommend you talk to your vet first is because the age of a rabbit absolutely matters for spay/neuter surgery. There is a certain age in which it becomes too risky to do this surgery on a rabbit. If they’re six or older, most vets will probably opt not to perform the procedure.
Even once your rabbit celebrates its second birthday, there’s a slight risk with a spay/neuter surgery. Most vets will call for blood work and a complete health check ahead of time. If your bunny doesn’t get a good bill of health, then the vet may elect not to do the surgery.
Do keep in mind that most blood work and other testing will cost you money. If you have pet insurance, this may be covered, but not always.
How Can You Tell Your Rabbit Was Already Spayed or Neutered?
Perhaps your rabbit once had another owner before they came into your life. What if their previous owner got them spayed or neutered? How can you be sure?
The best way to do it is to grab a razor and remove the fur from your bunny’s stomach. If they’ve gotten the surgery, there may be tattoo indicating that it’s happened. In some instances, you may be able to spot a scar. This isn’t always as clear since no surgeon wants to scar a rabbit and many of them are carefully with suture placement.
If you’re still not sure, try getting in touch with the previous owner and asking them.
Which Pre-Surgery Care Steps Should You Follow?
You’ve just scheduled a spay or neuter surgery for your rabbit. What can you do ahead of the procedure to make sure your rabbit is as safe and comfortable as possible? Here are some tips and advice:
- Set up the procedure if you can so your rabbit can come home later that day. This prevents them from sitting disoriented and potentially scared in a strange building all night.
- Make sure your
rabbit eats the night before the procedure.
- This helps maintain the health of their gastrointestinal tract. That can aide in your rabbit’s recovery since they’ll already be eating regularly. When a rabbit doesn’t eat for too long, they could have liver damage and enter a gastrointestinal tract stasis, neither of which are good.
- Also, rabbits may get upset stomachs if they’re put under anesthesia. By having some food in their belly, the nausea may not be as bad.
How Should You Care for Your Rabbit After the Surgery?
Your rabbit just went in for their spay/neuter surgery and it was a success. Congratulations! Now you have to administer post-surgery care for your rabbit. Here’s what you can do to make the post-op recovery period a smooth and successful one:
- Make sure you get your rabbit eating as soon as they’re able post-surgery. Typically, once they’re no longer under the effects of anesthesia, they can do at least some light eating. Try herbs, hay, and food pellets at this time.
- Besides keeping them somewhat full, your rabbit should stay warm, too. You can use a warm water bottle and cover it with a towel. Put this near your rabbit. They will likely snuggle up to it. Keep any heat source directly off your rabbit. Avoid using electric blankets as well.
- Do not pick up the rabbit in the days after surgery. They’re going to be uncomfortable and even in pain. Handling them may make it worse.
- Get into a regular habit of inspecting your rabbit’s sutures. Your bunny may try to nibble on these, which is no good.
- Look for pus, swelling, redness, and lots of bleeding, too. The first three symptoms are indicative of an infection. Too much bleeding necessitates veterinary care.
- Make sure your rabbit is getting enough water. A sipper bottle or other convenient means of drinking is best right after the procedure.
- Keep your rabbit eating in the hours and days after surgery. Herbs and other treats may incentivize them to nibble if they’re reluctant to.
- If you have another rabbit and they act calm and don’t bumrush the post-op bunny, they can stay together. If the other rabbit begins exhibiting aggression or even strongly playful behavior, the rabbits may have to be separated.
- When your rabbit defecates, the feces may have a layer of mucus over it. This is not abnormal unless it persists for more than 48 hours. Then you should call your vet.
- Be aware of ileus. This is a complication of spay/neuter surgery that affects defecation. The rabbit may stop pooping for 24 to 36 hours. This requires vet care, as ileus can be fatal.
How Do Rabbits Behave After Surgery?
When you first get to see your bunny after their spay/neuter procedure, they’ll probably be under the influence of a pain medication. Most vets will give the rabbit tramadol, buprenorphine, flunixin meglumine or Banamine, meloxicam or Metacam, or some other type of analgesic.
Even once those painkillers wear off, don’t be surprise if your rabbit seems sleepy and groggy. They may also be moody because of the pain.
What Is the Recovery Time Post-Surgery?
If your rabbit is of the right age and healthy when they receive their spay/neuter, recovery doesn’t take long. In about two days, your bunny should start to come around. This is because a rabbit’s body will begin repairing tissue in a 24-hour timeframe post-surgery.
Males typically bounce back first, in 48 or 72 hours on average. If your female takes a few days longer, this is nothing to worry about. Regardless of gender, if your rabbit seems sluggish and confused a week after their surgery, call your vet.
Can Anyone Perform This Procedure?
No, not just anyone should perform a spay or neuter. This is considered a veterinary medical procedure, and thus a veterinarian should do it. Not every vet is suitable, as we’ve touched on several times in this article. One who specializes in exotic pets should have experience performing surgery on rabbits. They’re the ones you should go to.
Never entrust a vet with blind faith. Ask questions of their background and experience. If you feel uncomfortable with any of the answers, search for another vet.
How to Find a Veterinarian for a Spay/Neuter
We recommend you start with your rabbit’s current vet. Call or visit them and ask if they perform spay/neuter surgeries on rabbits. If they say yes, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found your surgeon. You want to ask about the cost and the procedure itself.
You might have to find another vet to do the surgery, as we’ve mentioned. Be sure to ask all the above questions of them as well. While it may take some time, it’s worth it to put the work in and ensure your rabbit gets a safe surgery.
Do All Shelters Spay and Neuter Rabbits?
While some shelters may offer spay/neuter surgeries, it’s best to go to your veterinarian for this procedure. This way, you can ensure the rabbit is anesthetized before the procedure. The surgery can also go safely. The rabbit will receive painkillers and the right post-op care before you can come by to pick them up and take them home.
Are Wild Rabbits Spayed or Neutered?
Wild rabbits are rarely spayed or neutered because they don’t have owners. If these rabbits reproduce and one gets pregnant, the natural order of life will ensure some babies survive. If you by chance end up in possession of a wild rabbit, it’s very unlikely they will have been spayed or neutered. This typically only happens to domestic pets.
What about Other Animals?
Cats and dogs are spayed/neutered just about as often as rabbits are. This can be to lower their risks of certain cancers, curb unwanted sexual behaviors, and of course, to prevent these pets from getting pregnant.
That said, we want to reiterate this one more time: just because a vet has experience spaying/neutering a cat or dog doesn’t mean they should do the procedure on your rabbit. You want a vet who specializes in spaying/neutering bunnies.
Spaying/neutering are surgeries that prevent females and males respectively from reproducing. The procedure isn’t typically very expensive. If done on a younger rabbit, the recovery time is quite short.
If you care about keeping rabbits out of shelters and cutting down on euthanasia rates, then you should consider spaying/neutering your rabbit if you haven’t already. It can save you money, too, since you don’t have to care for a pregnant rabbit or her offspring.