Tuesday, April 10, 2018


I've decided to share some of my experiences as rabbit owner (with 2 neuters & 3 spays).  It's not a lot, but probably one of the most you'll get from a non-vet.   Plus, I've supplemented my experience with a lot of reading and exchanging thoughts in international rabbit owner forums.

My objective here is to arm you, as rabbit owner, so that you know what to look for, what to expect and how to prepare when it comes to rabbit neutering / spaying in the Philippine setting.  This is not meant to be vet advice.  It is meant to arm you with the questions you need to ask.

1. Finding / engaging the vet

Easily one of the most challenging parts, there are not a lot of known rabbit vets in the Philippines.  Unless your vet is an experienced rabbit surgeon, don't have him perform the operation.

Once you've found a rabbit vet, have a discussion with him on what will happen, what drugs will be used, success rate, tests, among other things.  Discuss with him the contents of the succeeding numbers.  It will help you determine whether you will be comfortable with him doing the surgery.

For example, if his success rate is in the low 90s, you should have second thoughts.  For example, if he prescribes amoxicilin, you should have second thoughts. For example, if he doesn't display empathy to your rabbit, you shoud have second thoughts.  Clear enough?   Great.

2. Blood Test

Personally, I find this as a very telling step.  If the rabbit vet can't handle your rabbit well enough to extract blood efficiently, think again.

If he attempts to lift your rabbit by the ears, the scruff or some other disturbing way, find another vet.

Granted, extracting blood is not easy.  But if it takes 4-5 attempts, I woud just leave.

The blood test would generally check platelets, liver and kidney, among others.  The results should be available within an hour.

The blood test can cost you up to P3K

3. Pre-Operation Prep

Personally the first step for me is to bond with your rabbit.  Tell him that you love him and that he needs to be brave and strong.

Make sure your rabbit eats a lot before your vet trip.  If your vet tells you that your rabbit's tummy needs to be empty before a surgery, that's a red flag.  Rabbits should never fast.  In fact, before a surgery, I feed really good hay, lots and lots of pellets and bowls of veggies.  You'll see why in the post-op section.

In BSF, there are three injections given before the surgery: one that minimizes surgery side effects, and two that effectively knocks out your rabbit for the duration of the surgery.  Unfortunately, I don't have the names and dosages of those drugs.

Alternatively, your rabbit may get very minimal injected anesthetic but will be gassed during the surgery.

If your vet's plan is to gas the rabbit to sleep from the start, I personally won't be as comfortable since it takes time to work.

Once your rabbit is asleep, your vet will shave the fur around the surgery area.

4. Surgery

Neutering takes about 15-25 minutes.  Spaying takes about 30-40 minutes.

5. Post-Operation Care

Make sure you can be with your rabbit after the surgery.  There's usually a small recovery area with other pets.  Expect your rabbit to wake up as fast as 10 minutes after surgery.  Macky, however, took over an hour to wake up.  For about 1-2 hours after waking up, your rabbit will be extremely groggy.  He'll fall down, lie down in the most uncomfotable poses, and will keep trying and failing.

My rabbits are just in their carrier while recovering.  I make sure to put in a towel to cover the ears as these will be cold after a surgery. Just make sure they don't cover the face since your rabbit is still unable to move properly.

After about two hours, you should be able to go home.  There are a couple of drugs that you should expect to be prescribed after the surgery:

a) Oral Liquid Antibiotics -- Doxycycline and Baytril are okay.  Amoxicilin is not.  Could be for 7-14 days, twice a day.

b) Oral Liquid Pain Killers - Meloxicam for at least 5 days.  For a 2-kilo rabbit, expect something like 0.4-0.7 ml (1.5 ml / mg strength) twice a day.  Vets in the Philippines typically under dose so be wary about this.  Remember, a rabbit in pain won't eat.

c) Topical Antibiotics - This could be Hibiclens (chlorhexidine).  Better if sprayed rather than rubbed.  This is probably for 14 days

d) e-collar - I alway get prescribed, but I personally don't use.  There are rabbits that may tend to fiddle with their stitches.  That is extremely bad.  That's why the e-collars are recommended.  In my case, I just watch my rabbits non-stop and guide their face away from the surgery spot when they groom.

e) Benebac (probiotics) - I find this rarely prescribed, but it's a given that you should have this everytime you use antibiotics on your rabbits.

All in, with the blood test, medicine, and surgery a neuter might cost you P5K-P7K and a spay might cost your P8K-P10K.  However, this largely depends on which clinic you use.  I'm giving you the high-end estimate.

Once you get home, place your rabbit in his cage.  In my case, I remove completely cover the flooring with mats. I even remove the litter tray.  You want stuff soft to prevent your rabbit from hurting himself.  Keep the room quiet since your rabbit will be feeling awful.

You probably won't see your rabbit eat for many, many hours -- long enough that you'll get worried it's GI.  A female will react worse than a male.   In most cases, your rabbit will just be catatonic for hours in a chicken pose or likewise look uncomfortable.  Make sure he doesn't groom the surgery area by covering the part with your hard when he tries to groom and then gently turning his head away.

For the next couple of hours (next 24-48), you should also regularly try to feed him all his favorites.  In my case, I try kang kong, kamote leaves, basil, dill, oregano, mint, banana, pineapple and Oxbow Critical Care.   In the past surgeries, my rabbits have eaten almost exclusively dill on the first few days.  That's why for Macky & Violet's surgeries, I spent a month heavily watering my dill plants to make sure I have enough when surgery day came.

If you're like me, you may suck at giving medication too.  Instead of syringe feeding the medicine, I just place the medicine over dill in a bowl (yes, the dose won't be super precise, but at least you got your rabbit to drink).  Obviously the hardest will be the first 3 doses since your rabbit will probably not eat even veggies.  The only solution there is to keep trying (yes, I also try syringe medication -- sometimes it works).  This is also why for the first 2 days, I have heavy doses of pain killers.

Time the probiotics about 5-8 hours after the last antibiotic dose.

By the third day, you should see a dramatic improvement -- eating, flopping, etc.    Throughout the recovery period though, your pimary concern is that your rabbit eats and drinks.  In my case, it's about 95% veggies on day 1, 95% veggies on day 2, 60% veggies, 20% pellets, 20% hay on day 3 -- so on and so forth until your rabbit's diet normalizes.

Spraying the stitches on a daily basis is also a challenge.  For me, this is a two-man job.  You will keep your rabbit caged the entire week (yes, he will get so bored).  But to spray Hibiclens, I get him out on a tray.  I lift the tray and then my bunny's forelegs.  My wife will then spray generously.  To make sure you rabbit doesn't lick the medicine, I feed two bowls of veggies and a ton of pellets right after spaying to keep him preoccupied.  So you many want to time your feeding with the spray.

6. Post Operation Check-Up

After a week, you bring back your bunny to the vet so he can check the stitches and will give you continuing advice (I.e. continue or discontinue medication).

That's it! Hopefully this little piece helped you.  Just keep in mind, this is for your rabbit's health and love life (can't bond without fixing).


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