Getting your rabbit spayed (female) or neutered (male) is a responsible decision. It prevents a number or dangerous health conditions that could develop later in life, and it can solve a number of aggressive behavioral problems. However, it’s completely understandable that you would be anxious about the surgery and want to know what to expect.
To care for your rabbit after a spay or neuter surgery, you need to keep your rabbit warm and comfortable. Make sure they have easy access to food and water, and avoid handling your rabbit whenever possible. You will also need to administer pain medication and monitor for infection around the surgical incision.
In most cases, the spay or neuter surgery goes completely smoothly. Your rabbit will be groggy for a couple days afterward, but little extra care will be necessary. It’s still best to be prepared and keep a close eye on your rabbit.This way you can help your rabbit recover quickly and know when to contact your vet as soon as you notice anything concerning.
Finding a veterinarian for your rabbit
Rabbits and their medical needs are much different than cats or dogs. You don’t want to go to just any vet when getting your rabbit fixed. You’ll need to find one that specializes with rabbits and small animals. Most of the time these doctors will be called small mammal or exotic animal veterinarians.
As much as you can, try to find a vet that has a lot of experience performing surgery on rabbits specifically. Many exotic vets may specialize with birds or other small animals instead. The House Rabbit Society has a helpful list of small animal veterinarians across the United States. And they even have some international listings. If you are living in the UK, you can find a rabbit veterinarian using this list by the Rabbit Welfare Association.
If you can’t find any nearby veterinarians through the HRS, you can try calling some of your local veterinarian or animal shelter offices and ask if they have a rabbit specialist on staff. They may also be able to give you recommendations for veterinarians in the area that work with rabbits.
Preparations before a spay or neuter surgery
Some veterinary offices will require you to bring your rabbit in for an initial appointment before they’ll schedule the spay or neuter surgery with you. This will give them a chance to assess the health of your rabbit and give you any information that you need prior to the surgery. This is also a great opportunity for you to ask any questions or address any concerns you have.
Your veterinarian may also advise that they perform a blood test prior to scheduling a surgery. This is more likely if your rabbit is a little older (2+ years) and is a way to be sure the rabbit has no underlying conditions that would make the surgery more dangerous.
The expected cost for a rabbit neutering or spaying procedure will generally be anywhere from $200-$500. The price will vary significantly depending on where you live and the specific fees of the veterinary office. Most offices are not transparent with their fee structure, so you will have to call to find out the actual price. The cost for neutering a male rabbit is often a little less than for spaying a female. It’s an easier surgery and takes less time to perform than the female one, so the prices will reflect that.
Likely you will have to pay an additional $50-$100 for the pain medication your vet will send home with you, and it may cost extra if your vet wants to keep your rabbit for observation overnight after the surgery. It’s best to ask about any other potential fees that may arise so that you aren’t surprised by the final bill.
Low cost spay and neuter options
The price for getting your rabbit fixed can add up pretty quickly, but you might qualify for a low cost option for your rabbit’s surgery. Some animal shelters offer a sliding scale for people with lower incomes (incomes lower than $55,000 at the shelter I volunteer at) who need medical care for their animals. The wait time for appointments is often long, but you can get the necessary surgery for a cheaper price.
You can also try contacting a local animal shelter or humane society near you that offers a medical clinic. They may be able to accommodate your needs or help you find a reduced price surgery. You can also check to see if there is a House Rabbit Society (HRS) chapter in your state (website here). The HRS specializes in rabbits and may be able to give you more specific information about where you can find good, low-cost vets in your area.
Feeding your rabbit
Leading up to the surgery, you should feed your rabbit the same as you normally would. You should never fast your rabbit. Rabbits cannot vomit and their health depends on having food constantly moving through the system. If you were to fast them, it would make recovery after surgery a lot less certain.
If you are asked to fast your rabbit before the surgery, then it’s likely that this veterinarian does not have much experience with rabbits. Many exotic animal veterinarians specialize with different kinds of animals. You should find a different veterinarian with more relevant experience.
Occasionally the hospital staff or receptionist may tell you to withhold food before the surgery because it’s standard procedure for most other pets. But ask the staff member to clarify with the veterinarian for specific instructions about rabbits. However, if it’s the vet that is telling you to fast your rabbit prior to surgery, that is a sign that this doctor is not experienced with rabbits and you should consider finding a new veterinarian.
What to expect from the spay or neuter surgery
When it comes time to bring your rabbit in for the spay or neuter surgery, you will probably be asked to come in and drop your rabbit off at the office in the morning. Then you’ll receive a call after your rabbit wakes up to let you know how the surgery went and when you can pick up your rabbit.
When you pick up your rabbit, they will likely still be groggy from the anesthesia and feeling a little sore. The veterinary office should send you home with pain medication for your rabbit and instructions for how to administer it. Usually it will be a liquid, syringe-fed medication.
If you are worried about giving your rabbit their medication check out how to syringe feed a rabbit.
Plan for a single day surgery
As best you can, try to schedule a surgery in the morning so that your rabbit will be ready to come home with you that evening. This is ideal because you can monitor your rabbit overnight to make sure they are eating and recovering. Most veterinary offices do not have staff available to closely monitor rabbits overnight. Some vets do and will not release the rabbit until they see them start to eat and show signs of recovery, but others will send the rabbits home with instructions to call if the rabbit is eating anything by morning.
If you have a typical 9-5 workday, you may want to schedule your surgery just before a weekend also. This will give you time when you will be able to stay home and keep an eye on your rabbit in the days after they come home. Your rabbit won’t be acting quite up to normal and you’ll want to watch them to make sure your bunny is on the road to recovery.
Bring some of your rabbit’s regular pellets
When it is time to bring your rabbit in for their surgery, it’s a good idea to provide the veterinarian with some of your rabbit’s regular pellets. The sooner they start to eat the better, and it’s best for a rabbit’s digestion if they eat food that is familiar to them.
The risk of surgery
Spaying and neutering are fairly standard procedures. If you find an experienced rabbit veterinarian, the risk of surgery is very low (less than 1%). This doesn’t, however, mean that there is no risk at all. Any time a rabbit is put under anesthesia for a surgery there is a chance they will not recover.
However, it’s important to weigh this very small chance against the probability that your rabbit will develop dangerous health conditions later in life. Female rabbits, in particular, have about an 80% chance of developing uterine cancer by the time they are 6 years old if they have not been spayed.
Neutering a male rabbit is even less dangerous than a spaying surgery. This is a simple procedure that takes very little time and will usually heal quickly. Since spaying a female is more invasive and takes more time to heal, both the surgery and recovery can be a little more dangerous. However the risk far outweighs the potential consequences later in life.
The risk of surgery does increase with the age of the rabbit. Young rabbits, less than 2 years old, are usually able to recover much more easily than older rabbits. If you have adopted an older rabbit who has not yet been fixed, you may want to discuss the potential risk with your veterinarian before deciding to go for the surgery.
A follow-up visit
Many veterinarians will recommend a follow up visit the week after a surgery. This will give your vet a chance to take a look at your rabbit and make sure the incision site is healing correctly. You can also use this as an opportunity to ask your veterinarian any questions about behaviors that are a little bit concerning to you.
Some veterinarians still use actual stitches that will need to be removed, but many use dissolvable stitches or a body glue instead. This is safer, since the animals can’t pick at the stitches and they don’t need to be removed later on. Consult your vet about what kind of follow up procedures, if any, will be necessary.
Care after a spay and neuter surgery
For the most part, after the surgery you just need to let your rabbit recover on their own. Other than monitoring their health and making sure they have fresh food and water, you’ll want to give your rabbit some space to let them get better.
You may want to keep your rabbit in a smaller enclosure than usual for the next few days to discourage excessive acrobatics. Most rabbits will not need a cone like many cats or dogs do. But consult your vet if you notice your rabbit is damaging the wound.
Before sending the bunny back home with you, the vet should give you instructions on how to monitor your rabbit and make sure they are making a quick recovery. If the vet is concerned about anything and wants to be extra sure your rabbit is recovering properly, they might keep the rabbit in their care overnight for observation. You’ll want to watch your rabbit to make sure they start to eat and poop again within the next 12 hours after you bring your rabbit home.
Keep your rabbit warm and comfortable
Once you bring your rabbit home, you want to keep them warm and comfortable to help them recover. You can cover them with a blanket or towel to help them retain their body heat. Also try placing a heating pad or hot water bottle next to your rabbit so they can lean against it. Wrap the heating device in a towel to prevent your rabbit from getting overheated and make sure any cords are covered.
You’ll also want to make sure your rabbit is recovering in a clean environment to prevent any infections. Wipe down or wash any surfaces your rabbit will be laying against and make sure they have a clean litter box. It’s a good idea to spend time completely cleaning out their enclosure so it’s safe and comfortable when your rabbit returns.
Behavior expectations after surgery
Don’t expect your rabbit to be bouncing off the walls as soon as you bring them home. In fact, it may take a few days to a few weeks before your rabbit is back to their usual activity levels.
The first night, your rabbit will still be groggy from the anesthesia. They’ll mostly be sitting in one place looking sad, but they may also wobble around a bit. You want to avoid letting them move around too much so their surgical sites have time to heal, but a little movement is a sign that they are starting to recover.
Male rabbits will often start to recover within a day or two. Keep an eye on them to make sure they are eating properly. After the first day, there is little need to confine your rabbit to a smaller area or limit their movement unless you notice inflammation or redness around the area of the incision.
Female rabbits take longer to recover. Usually they’ll start to move around more within a couple of days, but it may take a week or two for them to get back to their usual energy levels. They are usually more reluctant to eat following the surgery, so make sure to watch their behavior closely to make sure they start eating and pooping the day after. If not, contact your vet. You may have to hand feed them with a syringe.
You’ll need to administer pain medication to your rabbit for a few days following their surgery. This will help keep them comfortable while they are still healing. Female rabbits will need medication for a longer period of time because the spaying surgery is more invasive than neutering a male.
Your rabbit-savvy veterinarian will be able to give you more detailed instructions. Make sure you pay very close attention so you can give your rabbit medicine on schedule and help make sure they have a pain-free recovery. In my experience, veterinary offices will also send you home with a written flyer of post-care instructions, so don’t worry if you can’t remember everything as they’re telling you.
Feeding your rabbit after surgery
Whether male or female, your rabbit will need to start eating (and pooping) as soon as possible. Some veterinary hospitals will not allow the rabbit to be sent home if they aren’t eating yet. If they haven’t started eating within 10-12 hours of coming home, call your vet immediately. You may need to hand feed your rabbit some Critical Care, to help get them on the right track.
Give your rabbit ready access to all of their needs so they don’t need to move around too much. Make sure they have a bowl of water, rather than a bottle, since that’s easier for them to drink from. You’ll also want to have pellets, hay, and fresh leafy greens in piles nearby. The greens are especially important at first since these are more tempting. Your rabbit will be more willing to eat these, which can help them get their digestive system going again.
Some rabbits, especially males, will be feeling okay and ready to get back to their normal diet right away after surgery. But if not, you’ll want to try to get your rabbit to eat something as soon as possible. Make sure they have hay, water, and pellets available. Fresh leafy greens can also be very enticing for a rabbit and will encourage them to eat after surgery.
Avoid excessive handling
Since your rabbit is still sore from the surgery, you’ll want to handle them as little as possible. Too much handling can end up irritating the incision and causing infection. Your rabbit may also try to struggle out of your arms and end up re-opening the incision. It will be necessary to pick them up to check on the incision site and make sure it’s healing properly, but otherwise it is best to leave your rabbit alone and let them recover on their own.
What to expect after a female rabbit is spayed
Spaying is a little more complicated than neutering, since it involves internal surgery to remove the uterus. Most female rabbits will take a least a couple days to recover, and sometimes as long as 1-2 weeks. When she first comes home, try to keep her warm and comfortable. But avoid handling her as much as you can, to avoid irritating the incision. You can allow any bonded pets to interact with and comfort her. Just make sure they’re calm and not trying to over-groom the wound.
As you get your rabbit settled in, make sure she has easy access to food, water, and some fresh greens. You want to try to get her eating what she can now, but it may take a couple days before she is back on her normal diet. Her poops over the first couple of days may be smaller or deformed. But as long as your rabbit is eating and moving back to her normal diet, her poops should also return to normal after a few days.
Otherwise, just make sure you’re monitoring your rabbit closely and listening to any advice your vet gives. Your rabbit will be back to normal soon, and will be much better for it in the long run.
What to expect after a male rabbit is neutered
Neuter surgery for male rabbits is much easier. They will usually start to recover relatively quickly compared to female rabbits. Sometimes they will appear almost back to normal as soon as you take them home. But they will still probably be a little sore and less active over the next few days. Continue to give him pain medication as instructed by your vet, even if his behavior seems like it’s back to normal.
The neutering process leaves a few stitches where the incision is made to remove the testicles. You may have a follow up appointment with the vet to have them removed in a couple of weeks. More and more often, vets are using stitches that will dissolve on their own though. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions on whether to make a follow up appointment. Otherwise just check the incision to be sure it’s not infected and your rabbit isn’t licking it so much that he reopens the wound.
Neutered rabbits don’t become infertile until a few weeks after surgery. You should not him together with any un-spayed female rabbit to avoid any unexpected babies.
The hormones are still running through the rabbit’s body and will slowly start to die down. Avoid introducing him to another rabbit for about a month, so the hormones have time to settle down. If he is already bonded with another rabbit, then you should allow the rabbits to stay together as long as they are interacting calmly. They can comfort each other after surgery.
While most spay and neuter surgeries go smoothly and the rabbits recover with no problems, there are some signs you want to keep an eye on afterwards. They may require extra care at home, or another visit to the vet to make sure nothing becomes infected and your rabbit recovers.
How long does it take for rabbits to recover from anesthesia?
It should only take a day or less for your rabbit to recover from anesthesia. They should be showing more signs of awareness by the following day, and react to you when you touch or pet them. However, your rabbit may remain mostly still or off balance for a few days due to the discomfort of the incision and surgical procedure.
What if your rabbit isn’t eating or pooping?
If your rabbit isn’t eating or pooping within 12 hours of being brought home, it’s important to call your vet and let them know. They may ask you to bring the rabbit back into the office for in-patient care or they can recommend that you try hand feeding your rabbit with Critical Care to get their digestion going again.
Critical care is a powder based formula that can be mixed with water and administered to your rabbit via a syringe in emergency situations. Find out more about Critical Care and how to syringe feed your rabbit.
Check on the surgery incision
It’s important to monitor the incision site of your rabbit for the first week after the surgery. This will help to make sure the wound does not get infected or start to re-open. To check the incision, gently lift your rabbit and look for the cut on their abdomen (the fur around the area should be shaved). If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian for advice.
How to check for infection:
- Redness. If the skin around the incision looks redder than the rest of your rabbit’s skin.
- Swelling. If the area looks at all inflamed around the wound.
- Abscesses. If you notice little bumps around the area of the incision.
- Check for a reopening of the wound. If you notice any blood or what appears to be an open wound.
When to use and e-collar
Most of the time rabbits will not try to chew on their stitches. They may lick themselves as a normal cleaning routine, but usually this does not pose any problems and your rabbit will be able to heal just fine. An e-collar (the cones used for cats and dogs) would cause more distress than it’s worth.
In the unlikely event that your rabbit is chewing on their stitches or the wound has reopened, then an e-collar might be necessary. This should be avoided if possible though, because the rabbit will not be able to clean themselves or eat their cecotropes (the soft poops that a rabbit needs to redigest).
Other options, such as a temporary stomach bandage, are available as well, so talk to your vet to choose what works best.
Preventing surprise baby bunnies
Male rabbits are still viable for a couple of weeks after their surgery. If you immediately place them with an unspayed female, he can still get her pregnant. To prevent unwanted baby bunnies, you should keep your newly neutered male separated from female rabbits who are still intact for a month after surgery.
Should you separate a bonded partner?
If you have a bonded pair where only one needs to fixed, it’s best if you can keep the two more-or-less together during the process. This can be a comfort to the rabbit who is having surgery and it can prevent the two from having a fall-out and needing to be rebonded after the surgery.
Ask the veterinary office if you can bring your second bunny along to be boarded with the rabbit getting surgery. Some offices will allow this and some will not have the capacity, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you cannot let the partner stay during the surgery, bring them along in the car to pick up the rabbit and let them ride home together. Once they are home, it’s okay to allow them to stay together. As long as the bonded partner is not trying to play rough and over excite the rabbit after surgery, they can stay together.
Do rabbits change after being spayed or neutered?
Usually a rabbit’s personality will not change too much after being fixed. However, spaying and neutering can often help a rabbit to become less grumpy and less aggressive. If they were lovable and enjoyed licking you and cuddling with you before, they’ll continue to enjoy doing that. This can even cause a rabbit to become more lovable than they were before, now that they’re not sexually frustrated.
Behavior changes to expect
After your rabbit has been fixed, aggressive behaviors should start to decrease or even completely stop. They should start using their litter box more regularly and the territorial behavior will be a thing of the past.
Most rabbits, both male and female, will start to develop some aggressive and obnoxious behavior once they reach sexual maturity. They will spray in areas around the house to mark their scent, even if they have been litter trained, and they are more likely to exhibit destructive behaviors like chewing or digging. Getting your rabbit fixed may even help their pee to smell less and prevent stress from phantom pregnancies in female rabbits.
Unaltered rabbits are also much more likely to display aggressive territorial behavior toward you or any other rabbit they share a space with. They will bite, swat, lunge, and growl at you. You’ll start to wonder where that sweet little rabbit you brought home went.
It may take some time for these behaviors to completely stop. The aggression and territorial tendencies should slowly calm down over the next one to two months as the hormones in your rabbit’s body slowly start to decline.
- Krempels, Dana Ph.D. “Pre- and Post-operative care of Rabbits.” University of Miami Department of Biology. January 2011. http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/opcare.html.
- “Post-Surgical Aftercare.” House Rabbit Society. March 8, 2017. https://rabbit.org/post-surgical-aftercare/
- “Spay & Neuter Post-Op Care.” Georgia House Rabbit Society. https://www.houserabbitga.com/spay-neuter-rabbit-post-opp.
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