Male rabbit castration consists of surgically removing the testicles or testes of the animals while it is under a general anaesthetic. The operation is irreversible and as a result is a one-off procedure. It must be noted that, unlike most other mammals, male rabbits are able to retract their testes into their abdomen. The average age of castration is between four and five months though it can be done later on in its life. Male rabbits or bucks are usually castrated in order to prevent them from fathering kittens or to significantly reduce aggressive and sexual behaviour. Most cases of rabbit castration are when the owners have two or more male rabbits living in the same area with other males or females.
At what age should a male rabbit be castrated?
The usual age that a buck is castrated by a veterinary surgeon is between four and five months old. The operation can be performed after this age although the majority of unwanted behaviour, such as mounting and aggression, will not be reduced as extensively as if the operation had been carried out beforehand. The procedure requires a general anaesthetic and so this will be taken into account when castrating elderly rabbits. Anaesthetising rabbits becomes more difficult after three years of age especially if it is overweight. If this is the case, the risks should be discussed with a veterinary surgeon.
The buck is placed on its back following its sedation with a general anaesthetic and monitored using a respiratory monitor and a pulse oximeter. The surgical site is clipped and this area is then scrubbed with a disinfectant soap by the veterinary nurses in order to prevent infection. Particular care must be taken due to the fragility of the rabbits’ skin which is more easily torn in comparison to other animals such as cats and dogs.
The more simple method for this operation involves an incision half an inch long above the scrotum with a sharp scalpel. The following step involves the incision of the fibrous layer with the intention to obtain access to the testes and the connecting blood vessels. The testicle is pulled out of the incision and the vessels clamped and sutured along with the entire structure, closing the inguinal ring. This is to prevent a hernia. These are then cut very carefully as well as the spermatic cord and the epididymis ligament, thus removing the testicle. The remaining structures are replaced and the incision is closed using dissolvable sutures in the subcutaneous layer and in the skin.
Post op care
For up to two days it is normal for there to be blood in the urine though after this a call to the vets is advisable. The veterinary practice should also be called if there are any signs of redness, swelling, diarrhoea or if it appears sore. The castrate must be kept in a clean environment and away from any unspayed females for up to six weeks after the procedure. Food should be made available as soon as the rabbit is awake so as not to disrupt the complex digestive system of the rabbit.
Putting my rabbit under a general anaesthetic is too dangerous
It is a known fact that anaesthetising rabbits used to be very difficult. However, over recent years this is no longer the case since the risks of rabbit castration are now nearly as low as those for cats. Although there is a risk, due to unforeseen complications or problems, these are very unlikely and uncommon in most practices.
I should fatten my rabbit up so it survives the operation
Overweight rabbits are much more difficult to anaesthetise and so “fattening them up” increases any risk rather than actually lowering it. Despite this, it is not safe if the rabbit is severely underweight. The rabbit should not be starved before the operation. It should be offered food and water up to the surgery and straight after.
The rabbit will be upset if it is sexually deprived
This will most definitely not occur. Without the production and secretion of testosterone the castrate will have no desire to involve itself in sexual intercourse after four weeks following the operation. This will actually reduce any stress since it will not be as aggressive, wanting to fight or trying to escape and find a mate.