What is castration?
This operation involves surgical removal of both testes via an incision over or in front of your rabbit’s scrotum. It is a straightforward operation performed under general anaesthesia. Your rabbit will be admitted as a ‘day patient’ and following a pre-operative check by your veterinary surgeon, he will be given an injection of a combination of sedative and analgesic (pain killing) drugs to induce anaesthesia. After surgery and following recovery from the anaesthetic he will be ready to go home later the same day. You will be given full discharge instructions on how best to care for your rabbit after surgery and he will be checked by your veterinary nurse 3 days later to ensure the wound is healing. There are generally not any sutures that require removal 10 days later as we usually use intradermal (under the skin) sutures in rabbits as they have a tendency to gnaw on them! We will however request a post operative check 10 days following surgery to ensure that their wound has completely healed. While the wound is healing we recommended only using newspaper as bedding as hay or sawdust can get caught in the wound and be a tract for infection. Hay should still be provided in the diet but not used as bedding. Your rabbit may go home with some pain relief medication for a few days.
What are the advantages of castration?
- No unwanted kittens (baby rabbits) if housed with an entire female
- To help prevent behavioural problems such as aggression
- No testicular tumours
Are there any disadvantages?
Any surgical procedure involving general anaesthesia carries a small risk but unfortunately rabbits do have an increased risk of death under anaesthesia. This is quite a complex issue but it is mainly due to them being prey animals which makes them respond to stress differently than cats or dogs. The physical and psychological effects of stress can unfortunately result in a fatality during surgery or in their recovery period. Luckily anaesthetic complications are relatively rare in rabbits and every care is taken to ensure this does not happen. Many advances have been made in regards to the anaesthetic agents used for rabbits. If you have any concerns relating to the anaesthetic please speak to your veterinary surgeon for more advice.
Following a stressful procedure like surgery, rabbits can often suffer from reduced gut motility or gut stasis. This is when their digestive system slows down. It is vitally important that your rabbit continues to eat normally following surgery and any changes in their appetite should be reported to your veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse. Supportive care may be needed to increase your rabbit’s appetite. It is also helpful to monitor the faecal output of your rabbit following surgery and any reduction in droppings should also be reported.
Following neutering it is not uncommon for your rabbit to gain weight. This is due to their energy requirements decreasing due to the reduction in hormone production. Careful monitoring of their diet and an increase in exercise will help to ensure this doesn’t happen. Your veterinary nurse will be able to advise you further.
If you have 2 rabbits of a different sex living together you must ensure that they are kept separate for at least 6 weeks following surgery as they may still be capable of reproducing.
When to castrate?
Rabbits can be castrated from 4 months of age (as long as their testicles have descended) or later in life if required. The anaesthetic risk increases in older rabbits so the surgery is best performed when your rabbit is still young to provide the optimum benefits.
Neutering Your Female Rabbit