Spaying or neutering your bunny can be a scary thought. Having your little fur baby go in for surgery and not knowing if they will be okay during or afterward can have us researching if we should even go through with this procedure. But the temporary discomfort far outweighs the long term benefits.
Spaying a bunny refers to female bunnies and removing their ovaries while neutering refers to removing a male’s testicles. Having these procedures performed is important for increasing the life spans of your bunnies and keeping them healthy.
But there is even more to consider when spaying or neutering your bunny such as the cost of the procedure and how to care for your bunny afterward. We can often be concerned about our bunny’s safety but picking a bunny-savvy vet will keep your bunny in good hands. So what can we do to make sure our bunnies have the smoothest possible procedure?
Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Bunny
- Vastly reduce the chance of reproductive cancer – 50-80% of females are likely to get uterine, ovarian, or mammarian cancer as they get older. Spaying a bunny virtually eliminates this risk. While cancer is less prevalent in males, it is still important to neuter him to curb the temptation to fight with other animals due to sexual aggression.
- Extend their life span – by reducing or completely eliminating cancer risks, our bunny’s will have longer, healthier lives regardless of being male or female.
- Prevent unwanted litters – bunnies can have babies every 30 days! This is because they don’t go into heat like many other animals and rather, when mated with, release eggs to be fertilised. A female can get pregnant again within hours of giving birth.
- These litters range for 4-8 baby bunnies. Finding good homes for these bunnies is very difficult. Further, these baby bunnies will eventually have their own babies in the near future leaving you with a crazy number of bunnies you won’t be able to handle.
- Bunnies are known for being horrible first-time parents. They often abandon their first litter and can chew off ears or legs of the young bunnies mistaking them for umbilical cords.
- Prevent overpopulation – there are already animal shelters and pet shops full of bunnies. Sadly, thousands of bunnies in animal shelters are put down every year because of it. Furthermore, pet shops can’t guarantee a bunny is going to go to a good home. Anyone can buy a bunny with no check of how the bunny will be raised. Often, they can be bought as food for other animals.
- Reduce aggression between bunnies – this will help with stopping fights between bunnies and will help with the bonding process. It will also make them calmer and more loving towards their human.
- Helps with litter training – As mentioned in our “How to Litter Train Your Bunny,” litter training your bunny becomes easier once they have been fixed. This is mainly because the urge to mark their territory has been dampened. Now, they will more happily use their litter box.
- Prevent fake pregnancies – this is where a bunny starts to pull their fur out and create a nest, start milk production and becomes very aggressive over their territory. They can be difficult to handle during this situation and can have their appetite diminish causing gastrointestinal problems.
- Minimise destructive behaviour – bunnies will always partly destroy things because of their teeth that grow throughout their lives. They do this to keep them short as if they get too long, it can cause them pain. Fixing your bunny can help minimise this behaviour though so no more worries about if your table leg will still be standing!
It’s important to note that spaying or neutering isn’t a 100% safe procedure. However, mortality rates are very low for this procedure (<0.5%) from bunny expert vets and it is usually caused by the anaesthetic .
So the success rate from an experienced vet is likely around 99.5% which is great for your bunny’s safety.
Myths Surrounding Spaying or Neutering
Your bunny will change their personality – bunny owners may think their bunny’s personality has changed from the procedure. However, a noticeable change in behaviour or the way your bunny acts is likely due to the transition from being a teenager to an adult.
Your bunny will become lazy and fat after being fixed – this is not caused by the procedure, but rather lack of exercise, too much food, and boredom. Keep the healthy habits you have created with your bunny and they will be perfectly fine after the procedure.
Your bunny will be bonded with you after the procedure – your bunny will be calmer, but this doesn’t mean that they will suddenly trust you or be comfortable with you if they weren’t beforehand. It will likely help the process however by removing some hormone-driven behaviours such as humping or biting.
Questions To Ask Your Vet
It’s important to find a vet that is well versed in bunny surgeries. An inexperienced bunny vet could lead to unwanted complications. But how do you know if your vet is experienced with bunnies? Here are some questions you can ask.
- How many bunny clients do they see each year?
- How many spay or neuters have they performed this year?
- What has been their success rate? (90% is too low)
- What was the cause of the unsuccessful procedures?
- Do they require withholding food prior to the procedure? (The answer should be no)
- Do they remove both the uterus and ovaries? (Should be yes)
- Do they do “open” or “closed” neuters? (Should explain the differences to you)
- How will they support your bunny after the procedure?
- What will they do pre-op to find any potential problems?
- Is your bunny kept overnight after the procedure?
Make sure you review the procedure with your vet so you know exactly what is happening and when. You don’t want to be left in the dark about anything when it comes to your lovely bunny.
How Much Does It Cost?
Costs can vary depending on your location. The procedure is generally a little more expensive than when you neuter a cat or a dog because the operation is a little more specialised.
Spaying a bunny ranges from $50-$60 USD on the low end up to $300 USD on the high end while neutering a bunny ranges from $50-$60 USD on the low end up to $200 USD on the high end.
You may be wondering why neutering is cheaper than spaying. This is because neutering is a less invasive procedure than spaying. If you need help finding a cheaper vet that is also specialised with bunnies, contact your local animal shelter and they should have their preferred vet they use for their animals.
What Age Should You Get Your Bunny Spayed or Neutered?
The older the bunny, the higher the surgical risk will be. Bunnies usually reach sexual maturity between 3-8 months of age . Females can be spayed as soon as they become sexually mature which is around 5 months. Some veterinarians may want to wait until the bunny is older at 6 months.
Males can be neutered as soon as their testicles drop, usually around 4 months old. Some veterinarians may want to wait until the bunny is older at 5 months.
Giant bunnies may reach sexual maturity later so fixing them may only be safe at 7-8 months old. Older bunnies (6+ years) should have full blood work done beforehand to make sure they can handle the anesthetic.
Considerations for Pre Surgical Care
This is one of the most stressful situations your bunny will encounter. Here are some ways to help prepare your bunny and yourself for the upcoming procedure so everything runs as smooth as possible.
- Continue to feed your bunny as normal – if your vet tells you to have your bunny fast before the procedure, find a new vet. It is common practise before surgery for cats and dogs as they can vomit under anesthesia. Bunnies cannot vomit so withholding food is unnecessary . Further, it is dangerous for a bunny to stop eating as food helps keep their digestive tract moving otherwise blockages can occur.
- It is advised to remove food up to an hour before surgery to ensure the stomach isn’t overloaded and there’s no food in the oral cavity. Since surgery is usually in the morning, feeding pellets the night before and then giving hay and vegetables in the morning of surgery is good practise.
- Bring your bunny’s normal food in a zip lock bag with some of their favourite herbs that the vet can offer your bun as soon as the anesthetic has worn off.
- Schedule the procedure earlier in the week and when you have a day off the following day – having the procedure performed on a Monday or Tuesday gives you extra time throughout the week if there are any complications since some vets are closed on the weekend. If your vet is open on the weekend, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
- It’s important to make sure you have a day off the following day. You will need to monitor your bunny, give them pain medication and keep them company.
- If you have bonded bunnies, bring them to the vet together – let your bunnies offer each other support while waiting for surgery and afterward while recovering. This also prevents the un-bonding phenomenon that can happen when one bunny in the bonded pair comes home smelling like a hospital vet. In this case, their bunny mate may reject them when they come home.
- Bring something that smells like you – bring a piece of clothing or blanket that has your smell on it. This will help comfort your bunny during the process as they will be able to smell you close by.
What To Expect On The Day
This is usually an all-day affair. You will take your bunny into the clinic early in the morning when they open. Your bunny will stay there until the evening when you pick them up.
Usually, bunnies aren’t kept overnight as most clinics are not 24/7 so it is much better for them to be monitored by their owners at home.
If you have the option of keeping them at the vet overnight or taking them home, take them home so they aren’t in an unfamiliar environment filled with predatory noises and unnecessary stress.
For females, the stomach is shaved and an incision is made to remove the whole uterus. This leaves approximately 6-8 stitches on the area which get removed at around 1-2 weeks after the procedure unless they are dissolving stitches.
For males, the testicles are removed completely which only leaves a few stitches which are removed 1-2 weeks after the procedure.
Considerations For After the Surgery
Your bunny will be very stressed and very sore. Be aware that your bunny will be very lethargic due to the anesthetic still wearing off. Here is a short checklist you can use before taking your bunny home:
- Has your bunny been given any pain medication? If not, request some.
- If something goes wrong, who should you contact?
- Ask for emergency vets in your area as most vets are not 24/7.
- Do you need to book in advance to get stitches removed?
- Do you need to book a check-up? (Usually, you will come for a check-up within 7 days).
- How long should you let your bunny rest in their enclosure?
This way you are prepared for any issues going ahead. Now, what can you expect once you bring your bunny home?
- Inspect your bunny’s stitches – check these at least twice a day. Make sure there is no unusual swelling or red soreness around the wound and see if your bunny has been chewing at them. If there is, call your vet so your bunny can be seen as soon as possible.
- Take the day off – you need to be able to monitor your bunny and give them pain medication as prescribed by the vet. They need love during this stressful time.
- Female and male bunnies will recover at different rates – male bunnies recovery relatively quickly and will be normal in about 2 days after their operation. They will often come home ready to eat and drink so make sure you have fresh water, hay and pellets ready for them.
- Female bunnies, however, take much longer due to the more invasive surgery. They can take 5-6 days of rest before returning to normal. Try not to pick her up or bother her too much during these recovery days as female bunnies generally like being left alone at this time.
- Don’t be afraid if they are more quiet than usual.
- You may need to hand feed your bunny – often they won’t feel like eating. You may need to hand feed your bunny so they can consistently have food going through their digestive tract. It doesn’t have to be much, it just has to be something. This is where your bunny’s favourite treats will come in handy. Bunnies often prefer fresh greens and hay post-surgery rather than starchy treats.
- The same goes for water – You may need to syringe water for your bunny to drink if they are not drinking. Using electrolyte drinks mixed with water may help your bunny drink. If your bunny isn’t eating the next morning even with you trying to hand feed them, call your vet.
- Your bunny may not be eating because they are in pain.
- Make sure the vet trains you to administer pain medication by syringe – an oral syringe is likely how you will be giving your bunny pain medication throughout the day. It is a good skill to learn as you may also need to use it to “force-feed” your bunny water if they aren’t drinking while recovering. When feeding with the syringe, squirt the food or water into the mouth sideways, behind the teeth not straight back.
- At the last resort, you may have to “force-feed” your bunny food as well through the syringe. Check with your vet what to feed your bunny when doing this. If you don’t have access to the product, you can create a bunny pellet mush recipe. This consists of 1 part pellets, 2 parts water, and blended.
- If you want a more flavourful slush, you can pour chamomile tea over a ¼ cup of pellets in a bowl. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and add some additional tea or water so it can be mixed into a slush for the syringe.
How To Set Up Your Bunny Recovery Area
Your bunny recovery area should be filled with familiar toys and items. The best place to set it up is by your bed so you can check on your bunny in the night if necessary. It should be a dark and quiet area.
It’s important that the floor isn’t slippery as pain and grogginess from the anesthetic can make these surfaces even more dangerous. We’ve all seen our bunny’s ice skate on slippery surfaces in our houses. If you usually keep your bunny outdoors, you should keep them indoors for the first day or 2.
Place a warm water bottle wrapped in a blanket in your bunny’s recovery area for them to lean against as they wish. This is important as anesthetic lowers the core body temperature.
Another option is this Snuggle Safe Microwave Pet Pad (link to Amazon) which your bunny can snuggle. Make sure the heat source is nothing they can chew on that could cause injury like an electrical heater.
If you wish to place a blanket over your bunny, a lighter blanket will be tolerated better than a heavy one. If your bunny is okay with human contact during the recovery, then your body heat is also a perfect way to keep your bun warm.
Their litter box should be there but it must have a very low lid. For example, this litter tray on Amazon. A bunny trying to climb or jump into a high litter box may cause the wound to tear open and cause a lot of pain.
Make sure they have hay, water, and food readily available for them to eat and drink at any time. Hay should be placed on ground level as your bunny will be nervous to stretch after the procedure.
Water should be given in a bowl, not a bottle. If they have to work to drink water during this recovery period, they won’t drink. Entice them with their favourite treats as a reward and to encourage them to eat. A well-hydrated bunny recovers quicker and feels better .
Provide a soft bed such as a folded blanket to prevent abrasive bedding from pulling at the wound. Straw and hay type beddings shouldn’t be used. Make sure they are warm enough.
Comfort your bunny but don’t hover around them too much as they may just want some space. Female bunnies generally want to be left alone so don’t take it personally.
Enclose the area to prevent any excessive movement or exercise. Even if they feel better which may seem after a couple of days, the wound hasn’t fully healed and the stitches could come loose with running and jumping.
Other Considerations To Be Aware Of
If your bunny’s eating returns to normal then they start eating less again, this could be a sign of infection. Call your vet immediately. If you are force-feeding your bunny, make sure not to feed too much. Let your bunny chew and swallow before giving them more.
The syringe should be a wide-bore syringe so larger bits don’t get stuck which can shoot out too quickly causing your bunny to choke.
If your bunny doesn’t like their medication through the syringe, you can hide the pain medication in something tasty like a mashed banana. Just be careful not to give too much sugar especially if they aren’t eating as this can cause painful gas resulting in not eating.
Monitor your bunny’s poops throughout the day. In the beginning, it is normal to see mucus-covered poops after the procedure. This should return back to normal after a couple of days when normal eating habits have resumed. If the poops don’t return back to normal or your bunny stops pooping, call your vet immediately.
Your bunny may need to wear a cone to stop them from irritating their wound. Most won’t but it would be good to have one on hand from your vet.
The cone may bug them so much that they won’t eat or drink so taking the cone off to eat and drink will likely be necessary. Just monitor your bunny and make sure they aren’t pulling at the stitches.
For bonded bunnies, you can keep them together as long as they interact calmly. If your bonded pair continues to mount or play rough, then it may be necessary to separate them for a couple of days.
However, this is very rare. If you do have to separate them, make sure they can see, smell, and touch each other even if they don’t have full physical contact.
Bunnies need the full emotional support of their mate during recovery and keeping them in contact during this time reduces the chance they will fight once they are back to normal.
If you are planning to bond two bunnies after they have been spayed or neutered (new pair), it is recommended to wait 2 weeks post-procedure to allow for healing before attempting to bond.
Be aware that males have viable sperm for several weeks post neutering so don’t put them in contact with another female bunny that hasn’t been spayed during this time.
Males may also have swelling around the testes so don’t be alarmed thinking his bits are still there. The swelling should decrease in a few days.
Taking your bunny to get spayed or neutered is just as stressful for you as it is for your bunny. Make sure you are aware of everything you must know before, during and after the procedure so you can have the smoothest surgery possible. This way you are able to provide the most comfortable, stress-free recovery for your bunny so they can be back to their loving, cute selves as soon as possible.