Information on the recomended early neutering of pet rabbits

It is highly recommended to neuter female rabbits to prevent the occurance of malignant uterine tumours (uterine adenocarcinoma). Some studies have found that almost 80% of rabbits will develop malignant changes in their uterus by 6 years of age. Female rabbits deposit fat in the suspensory ligaments of the uterus as they age, so early neutering not only has the benifit of preventing these tumours developing, but also means the operation is smaller, quicker, and less traumatic than neutering a female rabbit later in life. Early neutering is also highly recomended to help with social behaviours in rabbits. These are gregarious animals, and are best kept in pairs or small groups, but if not neutered this can lead to unwanted pregnancy, and sometimes severe fighting and injuries. While castrating single males is not essential from a health point of view, it does help prevent antisocial behaviours such as urine spraying. Rabbits mature sexually before 6 months of age.

As general guidance female rabbits can be safely neutered (spayed) from 16 weeks of age as long as they are over 1kg in body weight. Males can be castrated when their testicles have descended into the scrotum, usually by about 12 weeks of age.

Sadly, not all veterinary surgeons are equally knowledgable or experienced with rabbit surgery and these patients specific needs. While all anaesthesia and surgery (even in humans) carries a risk, the risk to a young rabbit under safe and competently performed anaesthesia for a routine (elective) surgery such as neutering is no more than for a dog or a cat. To find a Recognised Specialist veterinary surgeon in your region of the United Kingdom, contact the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Female rabbits can also be neutered (ovariohysterectomy) by so called "keyhole surgery" techniques, also referred to as laparoscopy. This is unfortunately quiet technically demanding, and much more difficult than similar operations in dogs, due to the small size of pet rabbits, and the need for specific costly paediatric instruments. There are currently few practices able to offer this procedure in the UK, and it need to be performed on on young rabbits. For more information on keyhole surgery in rabbits and other animals, visit: www.veterinarylaparoscopy.com