Neutering in Rabbits

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

What is neutering?

A neuter procedure is also referred to as orchidectomy or castration. It is a surgical procedure in which the testicles are removed in order to sterilize or render infertile, a male animal.

Why should I have my rabbit neutered?

There are many health and behavioral benefits associated with neutering your rabbit:

• The obvious benefit is the elimination of unwanted pregnancy if there is the possibility of contact with an intact female rabbit. Although raising baby rabbits might seem like a wonderful family experience, finding homes for the babies may prove more challenging than one might anticipate. A single female can produce up to 14 baby rabbits with each litter, and she could have a litter every month - up to 168 rabbits per year!
• Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancers. Reproductive cancers are relatively common in rabbits, although more frequent in female rabbits.
• Neutered rabbits are much less likely to display undesirable hormone-induced behaviors such as mounting, urine spraying (or territorial marking), and aggression.
• Litter box habits are more stable in neutered rabbits.
• Your rabbit may be calmer and easier to handle, as he is not experiencing the stresses of sexual frustration.

When should I have my rabbit neutered?

Male rabbits can be neutered as early as four to six months of age. Many veterinarians recommend neutering at six to eight months of age to allow for proper bone growth.

What does a neuter surgery involve?

This surgical procedure is done under general anesthesia. You must NOT fast your rabbit the night prior to surgery, as is done with dogs and cats. Your rabbit will be given a physical examination prior to the surgical procedure. To ensure your rabbit is healthy enough to have surgery, your veterinarian may recommend some pre-surgical blood tests to help identify any pre-existing problems that may compromise your rabbit’s capability of tolerating anesthesia and the surgical procedure. The operation is performed through a small incision in the scrotum or just in front of the penis at the base of the scrotum (pre-scrotal surgical incision). The hair in this area will be shaved and surgically prepared prior to the surgery. The testicles are removed. The surgical incision will be closed with sutures in the skin. Most veterinarians place dissolvable sutures under the skin so the patient will not be able to chew the sutures out.

Most rabbits go home within 24 hours after surgery. A general rule for most veterinary practices is to keep the patient overnight and to ensure he is defecating on his own before going home. In some cases, additional pain medications and syringe feeding with Oxbow Critical Care® will be administered to help keep the digestive tract moving and functional.

What post-operative care will my rabbit need?

Your rabbit will likely be given pain medication in the hospital and may be sent home with medication as deemed necessary by your veterinarian. Keep your rabbit in a clean, quiet environment and try to minimize excessive running, jumping, or hard play that may cause stress or strain on the surgical incision. Feed your rabbit normally. He should have normal eating and drinking habits at home. Inspect and assess your rabbit and the incision daily and report any concerns regarding behavior changes, appetite, drinking, urination, and defecation to your veterinarian immediately.

" any concerns regarding behavior changes, appetite, drinking, urination, and defecation to your veterinarian immediately."

Occasionally, rabbits will chew the sutures and open the surgical wound. This needs immediate veterinary attention. If sutures are placed on the surface of the skin, they will need to be removed at the hospital in seven to ten days. Sutures placed under the skin should dissolve in 14-21 days.

Are complications common with neutering?

Complications are rare with this surgery. However, as with any anesthetic or surgical procedure, in any species, there is always a small risk. To minimize risks, it is important to follow all pre-operative instructions and report any signs of illness or previous medical conditions to your veterinarian prior to the day of surgery. Potential complications may include:

Anesthetic reaction. Any animal may have an unexpected adverse reaction to any drug or anesthetic. These reactions cannot be foreseen, but are extremely rare.

Internal bleeding. This is very rare and is more likely to occur if your rabbit is too active in the days following the surgery. Signs to watch for include weakness, pale gums, listlessness, poor or absent appetite, or a distended abdomen.

Post-operative infection. Although rare, this may occur, internally or externally, around the incision site. Infection can be managed with antibiotics. Monitor the surgical site daily for swelling, redness, wound breakdown, pus, or other discharge.

Suture reaction. This condition is very rare but occurs when the rabbit’s body reacts to certain types of suture material used during the operation. This results in a draining wound or tract that may appear up to several weeks after the surgery was performed. Medication or additional surgery may be required to remove the suture material and correct the issue.

Address any concerns with your rabbit’s veterinarian ASAP.

Will neutering have any adverse effects on my rabbit?

The vast majority of rabbits will experience no adverse effects following neutering. There are many myths and beliefs about neutering that are not supported by facts or research. Always discuss any concerns you may have about the surgery with a veterinarian familiar with rabbits.

Related Articles