Annual Physical Exam
Our veterinarians recommend that rabbits undergo a thorough wellness exam once a year until they reach “middle age.” Older rabbits should see us more often, but we will give you an idea of how often based upon your rabbit’s health and behavior.
Your bunny’s wellness visit will start with one of our assistants asking you questions about diet, behavior, and past medical problems. This is also the time you will be asked if there are any new problems that have arisen, concerns, or questions you may have. All of this information will be entered into your pet’s digital medical record.
Soon after your vet will come in and talk with you concerning the issues you shared with the assistant. After all of your questions have been answered, the physical exam will start, which includes:
- Teeth—The incisors will be checked for malocclusion. Your doctor will also check the lips for any sores, abrasions, drooling, or swelling. Using an otoscope with a long speculum, the molars (back teeth) will be checked for sharp points called spurs.
- Eyes—Should be bright and without discharge. They will be checked for signs of swelling, infection, or tear duct obstruction.
- Ears—If there is ear debris, it will be checked for mites, yeast, or bacteria. The ear will be swabbed and the material examined under a microscope.
- Skin—The skin and fur will be examined for parasites, shedding, any signs that your rabbit is scratching or biting at his/her body, fur loss, and lesions. The back of the neck and around the tail area will be examined for fur mites.
- Body—Using a stethoscope, your rabbit’s heart and lungs will be listened to. The abdomen will be palpated to evaluate size and shape of internal organs.
Finally, if this is your bunny’s first visit to us, your doctor will check under the tail to make sure you really have a boy or a girl. Also, if you have not had your rabbit spayed or neutered, the doctor will discuss the benefits of this surgery with you.
We sometimes recommend laboratory testing because rabbits are masters at hiding diseases/illnesses even when the physical exam shows that everything appears normal. Blood tests, a urinalysis, and bacterial cultures are necessary in order to diagnose a problem. A routine chemistry and CBC for all rabbits aged two years and older is recommended once a year, as it will help us spot problems that could develop before obvious signs show up. If the lab work comes back normal, then we will have an excellent baseline to use in the future.
Many rabbit owners wonder why their fuzzy little one needs to be spayed or neutered, especially if they have no intentions of bringing home any more rabbits. The reasons may surprise you!
- Rabbits that are spayed or neutered are healthier and usually live longer than unaltered rabbits. Females are at risk of uterine cancer, ovarian disease, mammary disease, endometrial hyperplasia and uterine polyps, pyometra and endometritis, and false pregnancy. The testicles or the epididymis can become infected in male rabbits. This is often a result of injury caused by fighting. Neutered male rabbits are calmer and won’t be tempted to fight with other animals due to sexual aggression.
- Rabbits that are altered make better companions. They are happier, less agitated, and more affectionate once the instinctive urge to mate has been removed. When spayed/neutered at a young age, rabbits are less prone to destructive (chewing, digging) and aggressive (biting, lunging, circling, growling) behavior after surgery.
- Less displays of obnoxious behavior. Boys, when excited, will spray urine on you, your walls, on other pets—in other words, everywhere! Males, if neutered young enough, will stop spraying, stop humping everything that moves, stop being aggressive, and become more cuddly and mellow. Spayed females will be less aggressive, calmer, and more affectionate. Altering will also help with litter box training, as the need to mark territory is not as pronounced.
- Spayed/neutered rabbits can be bonded for life. Rabbits are social creatures and in many cases enjoy being with other bunnies. However, unless your rabbit is altered, he or she cannot have a friend, either of the opposite sex or the same sex, due to sexual and aggressive behaviors all triggered by raging hormones.
- No unwanted babies. While there are no statistics regarding the number of rabbits turned into shelters, we do know that more than 4 million shelter animals are euthanized due to overcrowding. Unwanted rabbits are often abandoned in fields, parks, college campuses, or on city streets to fend for themselves, where they suffer from starvation, sickness, and are easy prey for other animals or traffic accidents. Unfortunately, many rabbits end up on Craigslist, where the owners either give them away or charge $5 just to get the bunny out of the house. These rabbits either become a pet for a small child who will soon grow tired of the rabbit or become snake food.
At what age should rabbits be spayed or neutered?
We believe that females can be spayed as soon as they sexually mature, usually between 4–6 months of age. Males can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend, usually around 3-1/2 months of age.
Can you tell if female rabbit has already been spayed?
Sometimes her tummy can be shaved so that we can look for a scar. However, some veterinarians may have used stitching techniques where there is no scar so the only way to definitely know whether a spay has been performed is to proceed with the surgery.
What to Expect Before and After Surgery
It is important for rabbits to eat before surgery. We fast dogs and cats before surgery because they often experience post-anesthesia vomiting. Rabbits cannot vomit, so there is no need to remove food. Also, feeding your bunny before surgery helps the GI tract remain active, which will speed recovery.
Please schedule your surgery on a day where you know that you can spend time closely observing and caring for your rabbit for at least two days. Be aware that we are closed after noon on Saturdays and all day Sunday, so try to choose an appointment early in the week in case your rabbit has complications after surgery.
The receptionist will have given you a time to bring your bunny in for his or her surgery. The doctor will want to talk to you before you leave, so make sure that you have some morning time to spend here at Pet Care. Also, you will be asked to sign a surgery consent form. We encourage you to bring some of your rabbit’s favorite foods/treats so that we can feed him or her once he or she wakes up. You may also bring along some of your bunny’s hay. Put the hay in a plastic bag with your rabbit’s name on it. If your rabbit is bonded and you are concerned about the separation, please bring this up with the doctor.
The licensed veterinary technician assigned to the doctor performing your rabbit’s spay will give her a combination of injectable and gas anesthetics to induce sleep. Also, a combination of long-lasting analgesics will be given to prevent any pain. Once asleep, the hair will be shaved from the surgical site, and the area will be surgically prepared. Your doctor will make an incision through the skin and abdominal wall. The points where the ovaries and two uterine horns attach will be tied off, cut, and removed. After the incision has been closed, the technician will use our laser therapy machine to promote healing and minimize discomfort.
After Surgery Care at Home
Your little one probably will not want to have much to do with you after her surgery. As hard as it may be, try not to hover over her or attempt to pet or cuddle her. She needs rest and confinement for at least three to four days. If she is part of a pair or bonded group, it is fairly safe to return her to her normal environment. If you notice that her partner or friends are being too rough or playful, you may need to temporarily separate them for a while. Make sure they can still see, smell, hear, and touch each other or the bond may soon break down.
- Make sure to give the recommended amount of pain medication for the appropriate amount of days indicated on the bottle. If you have any questions about medications, call us at (757) 473-0111.
- Make sure your bunny is eating, drinking, and pooping. Her poops may be soft and small for one to two days. If she is not pooping normally, call us at (757) 473-0111.
- Check the incision daily. Make sure she has not pulled the incision open by chewing or scratching at it. You should see a small amount of redness and swelling; however, if you see drainage, bleeding, or a large amount of swelling, this is not normal. Call us at (757) 473-0111.