Neutering or spaying, is also known as ovariohysterectomy in a female rabbit and castration in a male rabbit.
Male rabbits become sexually mature from 4 months of age, and female rabbits from 5 months of age. Entire male and female rabbits therefore need to be kept separately from 16 weeks old if you do not wish them to breed.
What is neutering?
In a female rabbit the operation, involves the removal of the entire womb (uterus) and both ovaries.
In a male rabbit the operation, castration, involves the complete removal of both testicles.
When should I neuter my rabbit?
We recommend neutering when your rabbit is 4 months old, although older rabbits can be neutered. If your rabbit is over 3 years of age we advise you to speak to a veterinary surgeon before arranging spaying or castration.
It is possible for castrated rabbits to remain fertile for a while after surgery, so we recommend keeping freshly castrated rabbits away from females for 6 weeks to avoid any surprise pregnancy.
What happens on the day of the operation?
Normally your rabbit is admitted for surgery between 8am and 9am. After a full general anaesthetic, and pain-relieving medication, your pet will be ready to go home later on the same day. The recovery from both procedures is quick. Your rabbit should be eating the same day and passing normal droppings that night. You’ll be given a postoperative assessment appointment, to check that the wound(s) are healing well and that your rabbit is well. This is done by a nurse 5-7 days after your pet’s operation.
Advantages of neutering a female rabbit
- Your rabbit will not be able to become pregnant.
- Up to 80% of unspayed females develop cancer of the womb by the age of 5 years. Other uterine problems, such as pyometra (pus in the womb) are also quite common in older rabbits. Removal of the womb and ovaries eliminates these risks.
- Un-neutered female rabbits often develop behavioural problems, such as aggression, territorial behaviour and inappropriate toileting. Spaying helps to prevent these problems from developing in young rabbits and to reduce them, if they have already developed, in older rabbits.
Advantages of neutering a male rabbit
- Your rabbit will not be able to father any unwanted rabbits.
Some entire male rabbits develop behavioural problems, similar to those of female rabbits. Castration can help to prevent these problems in young rabbits and to reduce them, if they have already developed, in older rabbits.
Disadvantages of neutering a rabbit
- Castration and spaying are major operations, and can have complications, even though they are routinely performed.
- There is always a slight risk involved in giving a rabbit a full general anaesthetic. The risk is lowest in young healthy rabbits.
- Once a rabbit has become aggressive to other rabbits, neutering will not completely eliminate the problem.
Neutering your rabbit is a safe and reliable way of avoiding unwanted pregnancies. The additional advantages, especially for female rabbits, are avoidance of cancer of the uterus and the prevention or reduction of some unwanted behaviours.