By Vanessa Vandersande DVM
Rabbits make lovely pets! They are affectionate, pleasant animals who enjoy human companionship. During vet school one of my best friends had a house rabbit that would often be found lounging on the living room sofa or chasing her cats.
Although most people are quick to neuter cats and dogs, often neutering a rabbit is not so quickly considered. (The word neuter actually refers to both sexes, though the term spay is also correct in the female) There are many significant benefits to neutering rabbits. Clearly, pregnancy prevention is one of the primary advantages. Male and female rabbits housed together will mate very early in life, so neutering group housed rabbits is important.
Disease prevention in the rabbit is an excellent second reason for neutering. In males, testicular issues such as certain cancers can be avoided. Unwanted behaviors such as urine spraying in sexually mature males can be a very smelly problem and difficult to stop once they start. Prevention of aggressive striking, biting, and chasing is also a benefit of neutering.
In the female rabbit, the argument for neutering is particularly compelling. Uterine adenocarcinoma is an aggressive malignant cancer that starts in the uterus. Uterine adenocarcinoma can spread rapidly to other organs of the body such as the liver, lungs and even the skin and it is not treatable once it metastasizes outside of the uterus. The staggering reality of this cancer is that it seems to arise in as much as 80 percent of the rabbit population at some point anytime after the second year of life.
While anesthesia in the rabbit can be challenging, the benefits, particularly in the female rabbit far outweigh the risks! At Copper Hill Animal Clinic, we recommend neutering your rabbit between 4 and 6 months of age, so you and your bunny can spend many happy and healthy years together!