If you have a pet rabbit and you are still deciding if you should sterilize it or not, this article will help you to make an educated decision based on what’s best for your rabbit.
To understand why we need to consider sterilization, we have to trace our domesticated rabbits back to their roots. In the wilderness, rabbits are meant to be prey animals to feed the predators such as lion, tigers, and even humans. Mother nature blessed them with an overactive reproductive system so they can procreate a litter of 5 to 10 every month and feed the others. These wild rabbits are never meant to live through their age and are usually consumed at a young age. When humans decided to domesticate them as pets, they took advantage of their overactive reproductive systems to multiply them for profit sake. But they never consider the type of damage that can do for a domesticated rabbit who are supposed to live beyond the age of their wild ancestors. Just like a mother who has just given birth, they need plenty of rest and nourishment to heal their body. If they don’t receive such after care, these rabbits will never get to live out their intended age.
Over the years, rabbit lovers and professional veterinarians have worked hard together to understand how to preserve the health of our companion rabbits. They realized that a balanced diet, a clean environment and proper mental simulation are very important to increase the quality of life of our companion rabbits. But one of the biggest game changer to prolonging their lifespan and ensuring their life-long happiness is to consider sterilization. While one might find it unnatural to take away the natural reproductive capability of our rabbits, it is wrong to assume their wild nature to breed is necessary in today’s context as domesticated pets. A pet rabbit is meant to be your companion, your friend, your family. Their happiness and their well-being should be key considerations in how you want to care for them.
A rabbit becomes sexually mature usually at around 4 months old. This is when their hormones takes over their body and transform them into a ‘sexually frustrated teenager’. All they have in their mind is to look for a breeding partner and their sexual urge will never calm down enough for them to truly enjoy your love. What’s fearful is their overactive reproductive system suddenly becomes a ticking time bomb. As the female rabbit progresses to adulthood, their chance of contracting gynaecological disease, such as tumors in the ovaries, uterus and breast, can be as high as 80% by the age of 5. For males, they also risk the chance to contract testicular diseases and the probability increase exponentially with age. It is never wise to just ‘wait for it to happen’ as your rabbit will end up suffering in pain. Hence, we strongly recommend all rabbit owners to consider sterilizing their rabbit as soon as they turn 6 months old.
As sterilization is a major surgery, the rabbit owner needs to consider all the risks involved and do what is best to reduce them. Based on our years of experience caring for rabbits, we will like to share some of our suggestions to help you minimize these risks:
1) Pick the right vet
We have come to realize that many vets, be it in Singapore or other parts of the world, are well-knowledge in dogs and cats but not always in rabbits. Of course, when they are sold for $10 a piece, not many rabbit owners will actually bring them to a vet. However, we know that rabbit owners now do care a lot more and want to provide the best care for their rabbits. As such, we strongly recommend that you do your research to identify a rabbit-savvy vet in your neighbourhood to ensure your rabbit is receiving the right treatment. They are herbivores which makes them very different from the carnivorous dogs and cats and hence require you to be extra caution in how to treat them right. For our recommendation of vets in Singapore, please consult HERE.
2) Is your rabbit ready?
We will always request for a full body check and blood test before the surgery. Not many vets will suggest the blood test as a pre-requisite but it is because not many of them sterilize rabbits as regular as our rabbit-savvy vets. Many dogs and cats vets fail to understand the sensitivity of our rabbits to the use of general anaesthesia. They are such small creatures that even administering the right dosage requires a very skilful anaesthesiologist. Hence, it is extremely important to ensure the rabbit has a healthy liver and kidney to help it overcome the effect and wake up from the surgery. We have cancelled many surgeries before based on reviewing blood test and we truly believe that this extra step has helped many of our rabbits survived their surgeries.
3) Are you ready?
As ready as the rabbit can be, the owner has to be prepared for the after care. We will recommend that you maintain a calm and peaceful attitude so your rabbit can feel your positive vibes. We will also recommend that you talk to the vet to ensure you are well stocked with all the medications (pain killer and appetite stimulant) and recovery aids (critical care, fiberplex and probiotics) to help your rabbit feel better. You should keep their space clean and neat and ensure fresh hay and pellets are within reach. The neutering for the male tends to be less painful and after the surgery, they will look for food and behave rather normally. However, the spaying for the female is more invasive and they may still be in pain and will not want to eat much for 24 hours. We will recommend that you stay calm and continue to tempt them with their favorite pellets and treats. The vet will also advise you to syringe feed to ensure they stay full and comfortable. Due to the amount of post-operative care required, we strongly suggest that you plan your time accordingly to be home as much as possible during recovery.
With the above tips in mind, Bunny Wonderland has sterilized over 300 rabbits to date. Most of them did well but we have encountered a few unfortunate cases when the rabbits didn’t make it through (1 in 50 per our experience). It’s difficult not to tear up thinking about them, but we have to brace ourselves to find out why and how to prevent. Our exchanges with the vets had help each other to be better. And we will continue to do so to improve our rabbit medical knowledge in Singapore.
Sterilization is not without risk. We hope with this information, you can make an educated decision for your rabbit. Consider sterilization. It is indeed the single most important decision you can make to drastically improve the health of your companion rabbit.