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Thread: Would you have your Doe spayed? The discussion continues .. 26 May 2017

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    Wise Old Thumper MightyMax's Avatar
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    Default Would you have your Doe spayed? The discussion continues .. 26 May 2017

    A vet has gone on record as stating that spaying of female rabbits is not necessarily a wise move any more. This could turn upside down a lot of what most of us think about female rabbits, uterine cancer, anaesthetic risk etc... His own experience has shown that only 10 - 13% of entire does over 5 years old had tumours at the time of death, as against the 'up to 80%' always quoted by RWAF.

    Details below - what do you think?


    Frances Harcourt Brown has recently written this on her Facebook:

    "There is a letter from Martin Whitehead (vet) in last weeks Vet Record saying that he has decided to discourage spaying of does, whether kept singly, with other females or with neutered males unless there is a specific indication to do so. His decision is based on an analysis of his case records. He found 61 entire does older than six months in his records that were examined at, or within a few days, before death. Only 3 had definite evidence of tumours and a further two had suspicious abdominal masses. His analysis of his figures concluded that 'only' 10-13% of entire does over 5years old had a clinically detectable tumour at the time of death, so he would have to spay 16-20 does to prevent a tumour and he concludes that this risk of a tumour is not high enough to perform surgery.

    Mr Whitehead's decision to discourage neutering females is also influenced by a (his) perception of a high anaesthetic risk and the risk of complications because their practice had lost a rabbit with an adhesion strangulating the colon. He also included cost and the published opinion (in Vet Rec Dec '16) of Guen Bradbury and Greg Dickens that taking a rabbit to the vets is an aversive experience that should be avoided."



    The Rabbit Welfare and Fund says:

    Spayed females are likely to live longer then their unspayed sisters. Up to 80% of unspayed
    female rabbits develop uterine cancer by 5 years of age.

    http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/pdfs/neutering28807.pdf
    Last edited by MightyMax; 26-05-2017 at 06:19 PM.

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    Wise Old Thumper William's Avatar
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    I've wondered about this for a long time because I've seen breeders insist that uterine cancer isn't common in their experience and I thought 80% seemed like a very high number.

    What about keeping them with other rabbits though? We used to keep unspayed females and didn't have problems keeping them together but I thought we were just lucky. Judging from this forum anyway - apparently breeders often keep unspayed females together too.

    I'd be pleased not to have to have females spayed because it's more invasive than with males. I've never had a female rabbit spayed so I'd be very worried my first time, but I'm not sure how much of an issue I would have keeping pairs/trios/groups with unspayed females if I didn't.

    Plus, just because it's not super common doesn't mean it won't happen to you. My 6 year old male rabbit Izzy had a tumor in his testicles and that's not extremely common. It seems to me that there's more of a chance they'll die of uterine cancer than there is that they'll die while being spayed. And spaying reduces the risk of mammary gland tumors too I think (although I'm not sure how common those are).

    Really I think I'm more concerned about stasis after the surgery than I am with the actual surgery. My boys didn't want to eat much for a few days afterward, I had a particularly difficult time with Timmy for like 5-7 days afterward (although he did have some dental spurs at the time which probably didn't help matters) and with Izzy who ended up dying. Izzy was in stasis and also had an infection and then an unqualified vet stressed him too much and he went into shock. If that hadn't happened he might have come out of stasis (he'd just been eating veg before the vet visit) and gotten over the infection...who knows.

    Anyway, it's interesting to read about - I never want to neuter/spay an animal without knowing all the facts, I always advocate that people research and make an informed decision before neutering/spaying/vaccinating their cat or dog!

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    Mama Doe weedug's Avatar
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    I've lost a 6 year old bun to uterine cancer, that had spread to her bones. It broke my heart.

    The females I've had since were spayed and all but 1 lived longer, but that could well have been through RU's help, better management and luck.

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    Wise Old Thumper halfpenny's Avatar
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    I have had lots of older does with uterine tumours when spayed, I've lost 2 to confirmed uterine tumours ( confirmed by pm, one rabbit was only 3.5 years old and the other was 5), I've lost 2 to mammary cancer (one was 9 and the other was a recent addition aged about 5-6). I don't see how the vet can state they are not that common if he doesn't do a pm on the animals that die, how many people will take them in when they die and pay for a post mortem. He is unlikely to see uterine tumours in young rabbits, which are often the ones he will neuter and in any case, in my vet, we are lucky to see about one rabbit a week to be neutered.
    The anaesthetic risk is very small as well these days, I've lost 2 rabbits while under, neither were neutering ops and both were ill at the time, I can't even begin to guess how many rabbits have been under over the years, maybe between 50- 100?
    The worst thing about this, is it means there will be even more unwanted rabbit due to 'accidental' litters, folk getting rid because the rabbits have started fighting or because they have become aggressive.
    It's very irresponsible, I think.
    What I do know is that my rabbits lifespan has increased from about 5-6 to nearer 8-10, the last 3 rabbits I lost were 11 ( who had a uterine tumour when spayed at the age of 7), 12 and 12.5, i believe better knowledge on my part, better knowledge on my vet's part and neutering have all been responsible for this and I take in rescues.
    Last edited by halfpenny; 04-03-2017 at 08:42 AM.
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    Wise Old Thumper Santa's Avatar
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    I think the saving grace is that your average pet owner won't read vet journals or FHB and therefore won't even know that this debate is going on, so I don't think it will change things for a lot of people. His sample size is ridiculous too - 61 does over 6 months old...what if 50 of those 61 does were 7 months old? Even if the 10-13% is accurate, which I don't think it is (not least for the reason I've just mentioned), that's still a one in ten chance. Given how low risk anaesthetics are in a healthy rabbit at the hands of a good vet, I think it's absolutely good reason to spay for more than a one in ten chance of getting a tumour!! Better to do it while young and healthy than as an emergency for a tumour/pyometra etc when older. He's also completely overlooked other good reasons such as reduction in stress and being calmer. I'm feeling an onslaught of letters from much more experienced vets replying to this!
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    Mama Doe
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    Yes, I would definitely still spay. The benefits far outweigh the risks and I don't think he has looked at the whole picture. Overall, I would suggest that spayed rabbits have a better life - owners that are more likely to go to a vet if there are problems, more likely to live with another rabbit, no hormonal behaviour...and no offspring. Imagine what would happen if we stopped spaying girl rabbits and the heartbreak of young deaths of those rabbits (whether it's 10% or 80% from uterine cancer), litter after litter to rehome (or deal with sadder consequences of them not being cared for), grumpy hormonal rabbits biting, etc....

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    Mama Doe tlcwrites's Avatar
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    Yes, of course I would. And I would politely disagree with those who had been counselled not to spay by this vet. (And tell them to get it done by a more rabbit-savvy vet, one who has more confidence with rabbit anaesthesia.)

    Having seen first-hand the behavioural wirings of a rabbit displaying hormonal aggression and the complete disappearance of it days later (literally in the case of dear Nessarose) shows how important it can be to me. It also removes the stress of phantom pregnancy and makes sustained happy bonds with rabbits much, much more likely to remain a success. Also prevents pregnancy from oops litters whether it be due to your doe having a rendezvous with a wildie or because a recently neutered buck has been placed in too soon.

    ...and it still removes the risk of uterine/mammary cancers and pyrometria. It also allows you to time the surgery when the rabbit is healthy instead of using it as an emergency treatment.
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    Tabitha Rabbit had reached the point where I was considering having her pts because she was so aggressive. She also had phantom pregnancies, tearing out her hair and nest building, which were pitiful to see. After the spay, she was much more peaceful. The operation did not go well and she was ill for a couple of weeks afterwards, during which time we also formed a bond. She was two and a half years old when spayed and I'd had her from ten weeks.

    eta: I think vets will continue to offer spays. I think they see rabbits as nice little earners - you can spay/neuter, trim teeth and nails every six weeks, vaccinate once or twice a year and every time the rabbit is off his food for a couple of hours the owners rush them in... yes, I think vets love to treat rabbits! Excuse me, I'm cynical. It was the teeth - there was a sudden burst of rabbits with teeth problems a couple of years ago. When my vet suggested that one of mine had this, I demanded to see the evidence (rabbit had been x-rayed) and there wasn't any. It was a 'just in case'. Right. It was just because there'd been an epidemic of longish teeth bursting out all over the country at sixty pounds plus a time.
    Last edited by happybun; 04-03-2017 at 12:40 PM.

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    Warren Veteran DemiS's Avatar
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    Absolutely would still spay. When this guy says he saw 60 unspayed does just before/after death does that mean he's just externally examining them or doing a full post mortem? My rabbit had uterine cancer at 3 and they didn't know until they opened her up for her spay. Even if he was right (which i doubt), it still seems like not spaying is more risky than GA. Not to mention it makes them much easier to bond, better litter trained. I might be wrong but I think i read somewhere that does who are spayed when young don't develop a big dewlap, so will be able to clean themselves more easily
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    Mama Doe Scrappy's Little Helper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DemiS View Post
    Absolutely would still spay. When this guy says he saw 60 unspayed does just before/after death does that mean he's just externally examining them or doing a full post mortem? My rabbit had uterine cancer at 3 and they didn't know until they opened her up for her spay. Even if he was right (which i doubt), it still seems like not spaying is more risky than GA. Not to mention it makes them much easier to bond, better litter trained. I might be wrong but I think i read somewhere that does who are spayed when young don't develop a big dewlap, so will be able to clean themselves more easily
    That tallies with my experience. I adopted my bridge bun Scrappy just before she turned four and she was unspayed. She did have quite a large dewlap and did struggle to keep herself clean. When I had her spayed I asked the vet to check for tumours during the op as I was so worried that she was being spayed late.
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