Posted: September 8, 2014, 3:15 pm. EDT
For years, veterinarians have strongly urged owners of dogs and cats to spay and neuter their pets. This recommendation also holds true for exotic pets. The most common elective surgery by far that we perform at our clinic is to spay/neuter rabbits. These procedures are strongly encouraged by most veterinarians for a variety of reasons.
First, spaying and neutering animals helps to prevent pet overpopulation. The sad truth is that more pets need loving homes than the homes that are currently available. Many exotic mammals breed at an alarming rate, which is best summed up by the saying: They breed like rabbits! It has been reported that rabbits are the third most commonly euthanized animals at pet shelters. While some animals are euthanized due to serious health problems, many animals are simply unwanted and pet shelters are just unable to house and feed them.
Rabbits left intact are at risk for the development of diseases of the reproductive tract. Studies suggest that, depending on the breed, the risk of an intact female rabbit over the age of 4 developing cancer of the uterus can be as high as 80 percent! Owners may not even be aware of any trouble until their pet starts passing bloody discharge or showing other signs of illness, such as lethargy, lack of appetite or difficulty breathing (this occurs if the cancer has spread to the lungs). Another common problem reported in older, intact does is the development of aneurysms in the uterus. An aneurysm is a large balloonlike dilation of a vein that fills with blood. Should a large aneurysm burst, a chance exists that the doe could pass away from fatal blood loss.
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Both female and male rabbits can avoid some health and behavior problems if spayed or neutered.
Even male rabbits that are left intact can develop serious health problems. I have seen several older bucks develop testicular cancer. In my experience, these males tend to be very advanced in years, thus making surgery and anesthesia a much more risky procedure than in younger, healthier bucks.
Finally, rabbits that are not spayed or neutered can develop a number of problem behaviors. Female rabbits often become very aggressive. They often lunge, grunt or even nip at owners. Male rabbits become overly "loving” toward objects and spray urine to mark territory. Spaying and neutering can often reduce the frequency of these unwanted behaviors.
Spaying or neutering your rabbit is incredibly important and the cost of the procedure should be factored into your budget when you consider obtaining this kind of pet. But there are many other factors to consider when researching clinics to perform this procedure. Be sure to ask your veterinarian a lot of questions, including: How many rabbit surgeries do you perform a week? How will my pet be monitored during anesthesia? How familiar are the technicians with handling rabbits? How do I take care of my rabbit at home after surgery? I appreciate these types of questions from my clients, because it allows me a chance to alleviate many fears that they may have.
© Leticia Materi, PhD, DVM
This unneutered, male rabbit developed testicular cancer.
Just like dogs and cats, exotic pets also benefit from being spayed and neutered. In many cases, their life may be longer due to the procedure. Ask your veterinarian for more information about spaying or neutering your pet.
Note: This article is meant for educational purposes only and in no way represents any particular individual or case. It is not for diagnostic purposes. If your pet is sick, please take him or her to a veterinarian.
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