Posted: September 7, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT
Jerry Murray, DVM
Male rabbits cannot undergo an endoscopic neutering, so conventinal surgery is still used to neuter male rabbits.
At the recent Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians conference, more than eight different presentations were about rabbits. Some of the topics covered new treatment options for a few of the common rabbit problems, such as surgery for chronic rhinitis (snuffles), medications for Encephalitozoon cuniculi-induced glaucoma and torticollis (wry neck), and antibiotics and therapies for cases of pneumonia.
One of the presentations was by Dr. Stephen Divers from the University of Georgia on using an endoscope to do a laparoscopic spay. Endoscopic surgery may cause less pain than a traditional spay, and the rabbit might recover faster after endoscopic surgery. Either way it is very important to spay female rabbits (does) to prevent fatal cancer of the reproductive tract (uterine carcinoma) when females get older. It may also prevent mammary cancer, too. It is believed that breast cancer in rabbits is estrogen-related like it can be in dogs and humans.
Endoscopic surgery is not an option for neutering male rabbits. Male rabbits (bucks) are neutered the old-fashioned way, as are dogs and cats. It is important to neuter male rabbits to prevent testicular cancer, prostate problems and behavioral problems. Male rabbits that are not neutered will spray urine to mark their territory, mount just about everything, and can become aggressive; neutering bucks when they are young can prevent all of this bad behavior.
Some of the other presentations covered cancer in rabbits. Unfortunately, cancer is common in rabbits as they become older. A recent rabbit patient of mine had a large tumor on its chest. Based on the location, I was worried about it being a mammary tumor. Fortunately it was a benign tumor of the fat cells (lipoma). Lipomas are good news and simply removing them solves the problem. The rather large incision healed just fine, and the rabbit recovered quickly.
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