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Spaying female rabbits is very important for health reasons. The chance of uterine cancer in females over the age of 5 is approximately 80%...

Why spay?

Spaying female rabbits is very important for health reasons.  If left unspayed, the risk of uterine cancer is approximately 80% above the age of 5 years old, and this is usually fatal.  It can also affect females that have been bred.

Spaying is essential if you are keeping two rabbits together to prevent fighting and breeding.  Even two female rabbits will get on better if they are both spayed.  Spaying has several other benefits:-

- reduces or eliminates stress of phantom pregnancies, nest building and fur pulling
- reduces or eliminates territorial behaviour such as growling, lunging and nipping
- makes urine and faeces less smelly
- makes rabbit easier to litter train
- removes sexual frustration and resulting possible aggression

Spaying will not change your rabbit's essential personality i.e. she will still be as warm and loving towards you and other rabbits.  Some rabbits will continue to display some territorial behaviour; females in general tend to be more "bossy" than males.

It can take weeks or even months for the hormones to reduce so behaviour such as growling or nipping may take a while to disappear.  If you are introducing a spayed female to a neutered male, wait until this behaviour has significantly reduced before attempting an introduction (approx 4-6 weeks after neutering).

What happens?

Female rabbits can be spayed as soon as they reach sexual maturity, usually between 5 and 6 months old.  The procedure carries more risk than neutering a male rabbit but complications are still rare.  It is carried out under general anaesthetic; the rabbit's stomach is shaved, an incision made, and the whole uterus is removed, leaving approximately 6 to 8 stitches in the rabbit's stomach.  The stitches are usually removed between 1 and 2 weeks after the operation, or these days many vets use dissolving stitches.  If the rabbit recovers sufficiently from the operation, is eating and producing droppings, your vet may allow her home the same day; if not, she will be kept in overnight for observation.

How to take care of a newly spayed rabbit

When your rabbit comes home she will be stressed and very likely a bit sore.  Let her retreat to her safe place, put a bowl of water close to her and leave her for a couple of hours.  Ensure that she is warm enough; outdoor rabbits will need to be kept indoors until fully recovered.  Offer her some tempting food - fresh greens drenched in water or a small piece of apple or carrot; if she does not eat or produce droppings within 4 to 5 hours, contact your vet.  Female rabbits usually take longer than males to recover and it may be days before she is back to her usual self.  If she is not eating, consult your vet about pain medication and syringe feeding (see link to Nursing below).

Check the stitches twice a day for any signs of redness or swelling.  Most rabbits will lick their stitches but be careful that she doesn't tug on them and try to pull them out.  If you are at all worried, take her back to the vet without delay.

It is essential that newly spayed females are kept isolated from other rabbits until their stitches have been removed.  Any attempt by another rabbit to mount the female may result in internal bleeding.

Spayed rabbits need less food and tend to put on weight more easily so once she has recovered from the operation reduce your rabbit's dry food slightly and ensure she has plenty of hay.

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