If your rabbit is going to be neutered it is natural to wonder how safe the procedure really is. Most vets routinely perform surgery on rabbits just like they do for dogs and cats so if your pet rabbit is reasonably young and healthy the neutering procedure can generally be carried out quite safely.

What are the risks of rabbit neutering?

One of the main concerns around any surgery is the risk of complications due to an unexpected reaction to the general anaesthetic. Rabbit neutering must be carried out under general anaesthesia, so this obviously involves some risk to the patient. However, the good news is that modern drugs and anaesthetic techniques used in veterinary medicine mean that rabbit anaesthesia is much less risky than it was in the past. Although any rabbit could have an unforeseen reaction to an anaesthetic these reactions are now unusual.

General concerns around surgery that apply to any pet

Occasionally complications during the surgery itself may arise. Such complications often involve unexpected or excessive bleeding. The risk of this type of complication arising during a routine rabbit spay or castration is quite low. In most cases these types of complications are dealt with during the surgical procedure itself or noted promptly following the surgery by your vet and can usually be corrected quickly and successfully.

Post-operative infection or reactions are always a concern following any surgery 

Once again infection is unusual, but can often be caused if your rabbit interferes with their wound or if another animal is able to lick or nibble at your rabbits wound. It may also be caused if a rabbit is housed on damp or dirty bedding following the surgical procedure. Pain, redness, swelling or wound breakdown can indicate an infection is present. Wound infections can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics.

Rarely rabbits can have a reaction to the type of suture material used to stitch the surgical wound. If this occurs you may see oozing from the wound or an open tract around the wound itself. This may appear some time after the surgery and may need treatment to resolve the issue. Luckily these types of suture reactions are rare.

Hernias and wound break down are other uncommon problems which may arise following a rabbit spay or castration. Once again your vet should be contacted promptly if you see swelling around the area of the surgical site or if the wound does not appear to be healing well.

Rabbit specific issues

A problem which is common in rabbits compared to other animals is gut stasis following general anaesthesia and surgery. If this occurs your rabbit will have a reduced appetite (or will not eat at all) and will not produce faeces in normal quantities. Rabbits suffering from gut stasis may also appear to be generally unwell and lethargic. Gut stasis can be a serious problem after surgery so your vet should be contacted if you notice your rabbit is not eating well or not producing faeces as normal after their surgery.

How can the risks of rabbit neutering be reduced?

Your vet will check your rabbit to ensure that they are healthy prior to surgery. This may be done at a pre-operative appointment, when you drop your rabbit off on the day or just prior to the procedure itself. This health check will help to ensure that the risks of surgery are minimised.

Your rabbit should be allowed to eat  normally prior to the surgical procedure. This can help to prevent gut stasis and your vet will also want your pet to start eating again quickly after their surgery. It is a great idea to take in a small supply of your pet rabbits regular food, hay and perhaps a tasty treat as your vet will offer your rabbit something to eat as soon as possible after the surgery. If your pet does develop stasis of the gut following surgery this can usually be treated successfully.

Steps you can take when they come home after surgery

Once your rabbit is home they will need to be prevented from interfering with the surgical wound. Your vet will discuss any medical collars, shirts or other wound coverings they wish your rabbit to wear. It is really important to take care to prevent your rabbit or any of their companions nibbling at the wound. Your rabbit should also be kept fairly quiet for several days to enable the wound to heal. If you do notice any problems with the wound such as any discharge or parts which look as if they are open please contact your vet as soon as possible.

To help prevent post operative infection do ensure that your rabbit is kept on clean and dry bedding and check the wound regularly so that any problems can be noticed and treated promptly. Your vet may also ask you to bring your rabbit back for a check up a few days after surgery so that they can provide any necessary follow up care and check for any complications.

So is it worth it?

Generally, rabbit neutering is a safe procedure. Both male and female rabbits are neutered safely on a regular basis by vets in general practice. However, no procedure is ever totally risk free and occasionally things do go wrong. Speak to your own vet about neutering your pet rabbit and they will be able to help you make a decision about what is best for your pet.

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