Domestic rabbits live an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years, but how long do unspayed rabbits live?
The average domestic rabbit will have a lifespan of between 4 to 7 if remaining unspayed. Research shows that female bunnies left intact have an 80% chance of developing uterine cancer by the time they are four, significantly reducing their life expectancy.
As we all want our furry family members to live well into their golden years, spaying your rabbit can add many happy years to their life.
They also make better pets, becoming less aggressive and easier to manage.
But as a caring pet parent, you may have concerns about your bunny having this procedure,
Here I give you all the facts on how spaying your rabbit can help them live the best life possible.
What Is Spaying?
Spaying is a surgical procedure whereby the ovaries and uterus are entirely removed from a female animal so they can no longer breed. The technical term is ovariohysterectomy.
Why Should I Have My Female Rabbit Spayed?
Spaying your female rabbit increases their life expectancy and improves their general well-being and health.
The number one reason for spaying is reducing the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers and other uterine diseases, like pyometra (uterus infection), sadly seen in many unaltered rabbits. (Source)
Secondly, rabbits often show aggressive behavior towards other rabbits and their owners once they reach sexual maturity.
A once cute and cuddly baby bunny can suddenly become difficult to pick up and handle. Think of a child growing into a hormonal teenager, and you get the idea!
Spayed rabbits are far friendlier and more affectionate towards their pet parents and can live in harmony with other rabbits of either sex. They are also easier to litter train.
Another reason for spaying is the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. Bunnies are renowned for their ability to reproduce many times resulting in rabbit overpopulation.
Many rabbits end up in either an animal shelter or released into the wild, where they struggle to survive. Those sold to pet stores do not fare much better, with many sold as snake food.
Lastly, an intact bunny can experience a condition known as pseudopregnancy, where they produce milk, start nest building, hair pulling and displaying aggressive behaviors.
A spayed female can still experience a false pregnancy, but it is less likely to happen.
As you can probably see, there are many benefits to spaying your lady rabbit.
What Is The Best Age To Spay A Female Rabbit?
It is best to spay a female rabbit as soon as they reach sexual maturity, usually between four and six months old.
Much depends on their size and breed, but it is essential to have the procedure done before they are two years old to reduce cancer risk.
Talk to your rabbit savvy veterinarian who can examine your bunny and advise when she needs spaying.
Is It Safe To Have My Female Rabbit Spayed?
It is normal to feel scared and anxious before sending your beloved bunny for surgery. Who wouldn’t be?
But rabbit medicine has come a long way over the past few years.
Performing surgery on a rabbit is just as safe as performing it on any other animal, provided an experienced rabbit veterinarian carries it out.
Yes, there are more risks with rabbit anaesthesia than with cats and dogs, but a rabbit savvy vet with a highly skilled team will have plans in place to safeguard your pet bunny, and the procedure safely carried out. (Source)
Your vet will discuss what you need to do to prepare your bunny for surgery and ease any anxieties you may have.
What Does A Spay Procedure On Rabbits Involve?
Your rabbit’s spay procedure occurs under a general anaesthetic so that she will be asleep during the operation. (Source)
While anaesthetized, an experienced team will monitor your little lady’s heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature and blood pressure.
The procedure occurs through a small incision made in the abdomen wall with the hair in this area shaved beforehand. The blood vessels leading to the reproductive tract are tied, and the ovaries and uterus removed.
The vet then uses several sutures to close the bunny back up.
Usually, a bunny can go home within 48 hours after surgery.
How Do I Prepare My Rabbit For Spaying?
Before going ahead with the procedure, the vet should conduct a thorough physical examination of your rabbit and perform pre-anaesthetic blood tests to ensure they are healthy enough to have the surgery and have no pre-existing conditions.
Monitor your bunny leading up to the surgery and report any signs of illness to your vet.
Unlike other animals, your bunny does not need to fast the night before.
Rabbits cannot vomit and should have food and water right up until just before the procedure. Most pets would not eat before surgery, but rabbits are the exception. They have a high metabolism and always require something in their stomachs.
If the vet tells you not to feed your bunny before the surgery, this is a sure sign to go elsewhere.
But don’t make changes to their diet leading up to the surgery.
Some owners give their bunny acidophilus (a probiotic) a couple of days before the operation to ensure their digestive system is functioning normally.
Ensure you bring enough rabbit food to the surgery for your bunny as she will need feeding once she wakes up.
What Do I Need To Do When I Bring My Rabbit Home?
When you take your bunny for the operation, discuss your bunny’s aftercare needs with the veterinarian so you can prepare.
Find out what time you need to pick her up and the medication she will have.
Clean and disinfect your bunny’s cage thoroughly and sterilize any bowls and toys. Place a towel or newspaper on the cage floor instead of wood shavings.
That way, you can keep the wound clean and clear during the recovery period.
Your rabbit must be kept indoors by herself as she may get injured if with other rabbits.
Find a quiet place for her so she can recover peacefully. Do not try to pick her up for the first four days and not let her out of the cage.
Your little lady will probably hide in the corner of her cage, which is perfectly normal, for 24 hours after surgery. However, if this behavior continues for longer than a day, consult your vet.
How Do I Care For My Rabbit After Spay Surgery?
Your rabbit may be groggy but must start to at least nibble on some food after the surgery. Give your little lady her favorite treat and snacks to encourage her to eat.
As a last resort, give your bunny a mush of pellets.
Place one part pellet to two parts water and place in a blender. You can also add acidophilus. Use a syringe to feed her, giving pea-sized amounts at the side of her mouth, making sure she is sitting upright.
If your bunny is still not eating twelve hours after surgery, contact your vet immediately.
Closely monitor your bunny for any other signs that all is not well, like decreased water intake, abnormal feces, signs of infection and any unusual behavior. Remember, rabbits are hard-wired to hide any symptoms from predators.
Sometimes a bunny will pull out her stitches. If this happens, the vet will stitch her up again.
Afterwards, use a small folded up dish towel, placing it over the stitches. Keep the towel in place with an elastic bandage wrapped snuggly over it. Make sure that it isn’t too tight and your bunny can breathe normally.
Administer your bunny’s medication as prescribed by the vet, usually twice a day for three to five days after the procedure.
You should arrange a follow-up visit to the vet to have the stitches removed, and your rabbit checked to make sure the wound has healed. You usually have an appointment scheduled around ten days after the surgery.
Spaying your female rabbit certainly has many benefits and will increase their overall health and longevity.
Although every surgical procedure has risks, choosing an experienced and knowledgeable rabbit veterinarian is vital for success.