There are literally thousands of unwanted litters of rabbits, yet bunnies crave company and a male/female pair is usually the best combination. Neutering enables rabbits to enjoy company while preventing breeding, but it also has less well known benefits. For males, it stops urine spraying (a nasty habit of many unneutered males) and also decreases mounting behaviour and can help with temperament issues. For females it prevents the development of uterine and associated cancers which is a common cause of death in unneutered females. It can also decrease aggression linked to the hormone cycle.
Rabbits can be safely castrated at any early age and helps to avoid the onset of problems with fighting or pair bonding. Males can be castrated as soon as their testicles descend, usually at around 10-12 weeks. Females can be spayed from 14-16 weeks as long as they are in good health and your vet is happy.
At The Littlest Lives Rescue we run a neutering programme, whereby every rescue bunny is neutered and vaccinated if needed. We see so many bunnies dumped or neglected, so have put this programme in place to try and prevent further suffering to the 67,000 rabbits that end up in rescues each year.
It is vital to vaccinate your rabbits, even if they are kept as house rabbits. Myxomatosis is carried by fleas and biting insects which can find their way into any inner-city home (fleas are readily transported by cats which most neighbourhoods have!). It is a horrific disease with a long drawn out painful death. For unvaccinated rabbits, there is no cure and vets will recommend euthanasia as soon as it is diagnosed. Vaccinated rabbits can still contract the disease, but it is usually milder, and rabbits usually survive given the correct supportive care. Having seen the disease first hand, I can honestly say that it is not something you ever want to see your pet go through, especially if they are a pet for your children.
VHD is another terrible, fatal disease. Vets rarely get to see infected rabbits as they die so quickly, usually within 24 hours. It is, however, still an incredibly painful death. It causes massive internal bleeding and often there is no outward sign of the disease. VHD can be transported on hay, blown on the wind or transported on objects or clothing. It can survive for months within the environment so can be easily transported without you ever realising that your rabbits are at risk. They can only be protected by vaccination.
A new vaccine was released in 2012 that vaccinates your rabbit for 12 months for both diseases (rather than the previous 2 injections 2 weeks apart with a myxi booster after 6 months). The vaccine has been proven to be highly effective and means only one trip to the vet for your rabbit which is useful if they are stressed by travelling. Your vaccination appointment is also a useful annual checkup for your rabbit to ensure that it is in good health.
There is now a new vaccine which covers vhd2, this is new strain of the original vhd. This vaccine can be given two weeks after your normal combined jab. As the above vaccine this can be administered every 6 months or yearly depending on how high risk your rabbits are. Please contact your vet for more information, if your vet does not stock this vaccine please get in touch with us and we can advise you on who does.
An excellent resource for all things rabbit can be found on the Rabbit Welfare website. Click here to visit directly: https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/