There are a number of different health and behavioural conditions that entire buck (male) and doe (female) rabbits suffer from that can be avoided (or at least minimised) by neutering. In general, a neutered rabbit is actually a happier rabbit… and there are less of them too!
(1) Population control. Rabbits breed like, well rabbits! In an ideal situation (unlimited food, no predators), in just seven years, a pair of rabbits could produce as many as 184 billion descendants! Of course, such a situation cannot exist in nature – so most of those bunnies would die of starvation or disease. Not only is a neutered rabbit unable to breed, but they lack the desire to – and as a result, it isn’t necessary to separate them.
(2) Increasing wellbeing. If you keep a buck with a doe, they’ll breed incessantly (see above…). However, if you keep a pair of does together, they’ll usually fight; and a pair of bucks will fight so much they’ll often kill each other. You may be able to keep two sisters or two brothers in the same pen, but not always. However, if you separate them, they usually pine – rabbits are social animals who need to live in groups. A neutered pair, however, of either sex, usually get along just fine, as the hormones that drive aggression are lost along with their ovaries or testicles.
(3) Avoiding behavioural problems. Aggressive does and bucks are known to attack people; bucks may also attempt to mount any animal that comes their way (including guinea pigs and even cats). Additionally, entire rabbits tend to urine-spray. These are all generally undesirable behaviours that can be minimised or eliminated with neutering.
(4) Preventing disease. This is really the clinching factor. While entire bucks tend to have a shorter lifespan than their neutered brothers, it’s the does where this is a MASSIVE issue. Approximately 80% of entire does will develop uterine cancer by 5 years of age; this can be a fatal condition as it is usually malignant. Once neutered, this risk disappears; and the risk of mammary (breast) cancer is also dramatically reduced.
Well, it is true that surgery in rabbits is a bit more tricky than surgery in dogs or cats. However, the “Bad Old Days” when an operation on a rabbit was dicing with death are well and truly behind us. Almost all modern practices are experienced with rabbit surgery and anaesthesia, and have very high safety standards – so while there is always a surgical risk, it’s a lot lower than it used to be, and definitely is not a reason to avoid surgery.
OK, so that’s WHY we recommend neutering. Now let’s look at HOW we do it:
In does, the procedure is called a “”spay””, or an “”ovariohysterectomy””. It involves the surgical removal of both ovaries and the uterus; and isn usually carried out ata bout 5-6 months old. We usually clip a patch on the belly, and make an incision along the midline; this is, again, closed with glue to minimise nibbling!
If you want to be kept up to date after dropping your rabbit in with us, please feel free to call us! However, we would always try and keep you informed, so you should give us a mobile or daytime number so we can call you to let you know how your bunny’s doing.
Complications are very rare, usually just some local bruising and swelling. Occasionally, there may be wound breakdown or infection that needs management, but in most cases this can be done on an outpatient basis with antibiotics and perhaps dressing changes in the practice.
A neutered rabbit lives a longer, happier and healthier life. As a result, we STRONGLY advise neutering on humane and population grounds, unless you specifically want to keep a rabbit for breeding purposes.
Vaccination is a way of teaching the immune system how to fight a disease. It is a vital component in keeping your rabbit safe, happy and healthy. Vaccination gives excellent protection and is very, very safe.
The two major infectious diseases of rabbits are both nasty, and both are killers. Unvaccinated rabbits have virtually no chance agaisnt Myxi or VHD – if infected (by virus brought in on hay, or caught from wild rabbits and their fleas, or even carried on your shoes), they will almost certainly die.
Vaccination is a very, very safe procedure for rabbits, and side effects are almost always very minor (usually developing a local swelling, or being a bit “off colour” for a day or so). Very occasionally, rabbits may develop an allergic-type reaction, but this is really rare.
Without vaccination, the rabbit has to actually contract the disease before they can learn how to fight it – and for most, that’s too late. A vaccine contains a weakened form of the disease (either dead, weakened through the way it’s processed, or genetically modified not to cause disease) that the immune system can recognise, but that is very, very unlikely to cause the full-blown and fatal disease. However, the protection that a vaccine gives doesn’t last indefinitely – after a while, the “memory” (carried by T-memory cells) declines, so a booster is needed to “top up” their cover. In most cases, this is required annually. While a vaccinated rabbit may occasionally contract disease (especially with Myxomatosis), the disease will be less severe, and treatment will have a chance of saving them, unlike the situation in a vaccinated bunny.
Sadly, we have to assume that all UK rabbits are potentially at risk from Myxi and VHD – so yes, it really is necessary if you want to give them the best chance of a long and healthy life.
There are three rabbit vaccinations currently available in the UK:
(1) Myxomatosis. This virus attacks the skin and the mucous membranes causing swelling and disharge of the eyes, mouth, nose, anus and genitals. It is almost invariably fatal in unvaccinated rabbits, which often take several weeks to die.
(2) Rabbit Viral Heamorrhagic Disease. This virus breaks down the blood vessels, so affected bunnies rapidly bleed to death. There is no effective treatment and death is almost completely certain once symptoms appear. There is a vaccine for VHD Type 1 in the UK; the Type 2 virus vaccine is also available now although it can occasionally be hard to get hold of. We are hoping for a licensed 1 & 2 vaccine in the UK in the near future!
A vaccinated rabbit is safer and healthier than an unvaccinated one – full stop! So make sure you get your bunnies jabbed – give us a ring to make an appointment, and we’ll get them protected.