What is neutering?
Neutering male rabbits is called ‘castration’. This is a routine surgical procedure under general anaesthetic to surgically remove the testicles via two incisions in the scrotum. It is usually done at 5 months old but can be done from 3 months if the testicles have descended sufficiently and the rabbit is big enough. Aggressive and scent marking behaviour develops from 5 months old so we recommend not waiting longer. Male rabbits are not sterile until 6 weeks after surgery, so keep a buck away from any females during this time.
Why should I neuter my rabbit?
There are lots of important reasons to neuter your buck. The most important are listed below:
- Helping to reduce hormone-related behaviours like aggression, scent marking and mounting. Rabbit courtship behaviour involves male rabbits running past a prospective mate (including owners’ feet) and squirting a jet of urine over them! Behavioural problems are the most common reason for rabbit abandonment and can prevent you bonding with your rabbit.
- Preventing unwanted pregnancies. The RSPCA estimates that 35,000 bunnies are sadly abandoned each year, so by neutering your rabbit you are helping prevent this problem.
- Allowing both sexes to be kept together in companion pairs. Rabbits are highly social animals and studies have shown that they are permanently stressed when kept alone. Neutering allows your buck to find their forever friend! Unneutered pairings rarely work well at home due to aggressive, hormonal behaviours. An unneutered male rabbit will sexually harass a neutered female and cause fighting.
- Removing the testicles prevents testicular and prostate cancer. The risk of this is low but neutering removes it completely.
What can I expect on the day?
Your rabbit will be admitted to the practice in the morning by our nurses and will normally go home the same afternoon. After the operation is complete and your rabbit is recovering, our nurses will call you to arrange a collection time. Rabbits don’t normally need a collar/cone. He will have a shaved patch around his scrotum and any stitches are hidden and dissolvable. Sometimes a rabbit may need an overnight stay if the vet thinks they require a longer period of close monitoring. Our vets and nurses will discuss with you how to monitor your rabbit and his surgical site at home, but it is important to see that they are eating and defaecating the same day. Some rabbits will need special recovery food that is syringe fed into the mouth at home. Your rabbit should cage rest for at least 2 days.
Before bringing you rabbit in for a visit, please make sure you read a copy of our “Bringing Your Bunny to Orchard Vets” checklist so that you can help make your rabbit’s stay as stress-free as possible.
Are there risks of neutering?
As an accredited Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) Rabbit Friendly Practice, we are experienced at carrying out these surgeries; monitoring your rabbits and providing excellent post operative care and pain relief. The small risk of a general anaesthetic and surgery is outweighed by the benefits of neutering for most rabbits: ultimately this decision is made on an individual rabbit basis and is something you will discuss with your vet. The main risks are outlined below:
- The general anaesthetic is considered the main risk of this procedure for rabbits. Overall, the risk of general anaesthesia is low, but rabbits have a higher risk than other pets like cats and dogs. The results of a 2 year study (CEPSAF), showed that in the UK the fatality rate from anaesthesia is 0.73% for healthy rabbits and 7.37% for sick rabbits. Please see our “General Anaesthesia For Your Bunny” factsheet that explains how we minimise the risk of general anaesthesia for our rabbits at Orchard.
- Surgery and a hospital visit have the potential to trigger gut stasis, which can in extreme cases be fatal. Post operative care and ongoing pain relief is therefore our top priority after surgeries. It is important that your buck starts eating after surgery and faeces are seen within 12 hours: if we aren’t happy that your rabbit is eating properly before his discharge, this is when we might recommend an overnight stay for further care.
- Post operative fluid swelling of the scrotum. This swelling can fill the scrotum and make it large and uncomfortable for the buck. Time and pain relief usually resolve the situation; delicate massage of the scrotum at home may also help.
- Herniation of abdominal contents from the operation site is a very rare complication and requires immediate treatment. This is normally noticed as a swelling in the groin region. Our experienced surgeons and careful monitoring significantly reduces this risk.