Pet Talk
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Pet Talk

October 25, 2017

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka speaks about spaying rabbits and poisoning in dog.

By Maneka Gandhi

Why is spaying rabbits necessary?

There are many benefits to spaying or neutering a rabbit. First and foremost, a sterilised rabbit can live a longer, healthier life, as the risk of cancer and urinary tract infections are greatly reduced.

Uterine cancer: Rabbits of certain breeds have a high risk of uterine cancer, with 50-80% of them developing uterine adenocarcinoma after reaching 4 years of age. This is a slow-growing, but malignant, cancer which can spread to other organs including the lungs and bones.

Ovarian disease: Ovarian cancer and cystic ovaries can occur in unspayed females.

Mammary disease: Mammary glands can become cystic in unspayed females. Although these swellings are benign, they can be painful. Unspayed females over two years of age can develop mammary cancer, often associated with uterine cancer.

Endometrial hyperplasia and uterine polyps: As a rabbit ages, the uterus normally undergoes changes. The lining of the uterus may thicken (endometrial hyperplasia) and polypsorcysts may form. This may result in anaemia, blood in the urine, and a decrease in activity.

Pyometra and endometritis: The uterus of an intact (unspayed) doe may become infected or inflamed. In the case of pyometra, the uterus is actually filled with pus. This can be a life-threatening condition.

False pregnancy: As in dogs, rabbits can exhibit false pregnancies. This occurs when the hormone levels “trick” the rabbit’s body into believing the rabbit is pregnant. The rabbit will build a nest, become aggressive over territory, and even produce milk. This stressful condition can be eliminated through spaying.

Orchitis/ epididymitis: The testicles or the epididymis can become infected in male rabbits. This is often a result of injury caused by fighting among male rabbits. The rabbit will generally have a fever, be listless, and not eat.

The neutered male rabbit will live longer as well; given that he won’t be tempted to fight with other animals due to sexual aggression.

They are calmer, more loving, and dependable once the urge to mate has been removed. In addition, rabbits are less prone to destructive (chewing, digging) and aggressive (biting, lunging, circling, growling) behaviour after surgery.

Unneutered male rabbits spray, and both males and females are much easier to litter-train, and much more reliably trained, after they have been altered.

Spaying or neutering your rabbit improves litter-box habits, lessens chewing behaviour, decreases territorial aggression, and gives your rabbit a happier, longer life.


Neutered rabbits not only make better companions for people, they make better companions for other rabbits as well. Multiple rabbits can often be housed together very happily, if neutered, since there is less fighting over territory and mates.

The stronger smell of urine in uncastrated rabbits can be eliminated by neutering.

At what age should rabbits be spayed or neutered?

Females can be spayed as soon as they sexually mature, usually around four months of age, but many veterinarians prefer to wait until they are 6 months old, as surgery is riskier on a younger rabbit. Males can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend, usually around three-and-a-half months of age.

When is a rabbit too old to be spayed or neutered?

Veterinarians will have their own opinions on this but, in general, after a rabbit is six years old, anaesthetics and surgery become riskier, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Simply consult your veterinarian regarding your rabbit’s health and circumstances, and opt for pre-surgical blood work.

It is always a good idea in a rabbit, over two years of age, to have a very thorough health check done, including full blood work. It will help detect any condition that could make the surgery riskier. This is especially important if anaesthetics, other than isoflurane, are used.

What are the indications that a stray dog has been poisoned?

The severity of poisoning symptoms depends largely on the type of toxin involved and how much of it entered the dog’s body. Some toxins have a cumulative effect and take time to build up in a dog’s system after repeated exposures. This means the earliest signs of poisoning might go undetected, or attributed to a dog feeling “under the weather.” In other cases, the reaction could be immediate and violent with the dog presenting obvious signs of distress.

Symptoms of dog poisoning can include any combination of the following:

Loss of appetite: A change in a dog’s eating habits is usually the first signal for many illnesses.

Drooling: This is typically a sign of nausea.

Vomiting: This can occur with or without the presence of blood, since some toxins such as the rat poison Warfarin produce internal bleeding.

Diarrhoea: This can occur with or without bleeding for the same reason listed above.

Rash or irritation at the contact site: This typically occurs when a toxin has entered the bloodstream via the skin.

Lethargy: This can be due to the general ill-effects of the toxin, but it might also be a sign that the toxin is affecting the heart muscle.


Loss of coordination: This symptom is typically an indication that the brain has been affected.

Tremors/seizures: This can be a further sign of the brain’s involvement with the toxin.

Laboured breathing: Slowed heart function can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs that leads to breathing difficulty.

Sensitivity to light: Some poisons can make a dog photo-sensitive.

Onset of organ failure: Kidneys, liver, heart and other organs may begin to shut down as the toxin takes full effect.

Loss of consciousness: This is a fairly severe sign.

Non-responsive behaviour: The dog may remain conscious, yet not appear to see or hear anything going on around him.

Coma: This is a most serious sign that could signal death is imminent.

The many different types of dog poisoning have  various symptoms.

Irregular Heartbeats From Dog Poisoning: Dogs with irregular heart rhythms and cardiac symptoms have most likely gotten into a plant. This includes jimson weed, kalanchoe, milkweed, mountain laurel and oleander.

Kidney Failure From Poisoning: Antifreeze poisoning can cause your dog kidney failure and the inability to produce urine. Plants can also cause kidney damage. These types of plants include dieffenbachia, Easter lily, caladium, pigweed and philodendron.

Liver Damage From Dog Poisoning: Medications like acetaminophen and plants such as tansy ragwort or rattlebox can cause liver damage.

Loss of Blood From Dog Poisoning: If your dog has bruising, blood in the stool, nosebleeds or anaemia it has most likely gotten it from rat or mouse poison. However, if it has gotten into your garden or kitchen, and eaten too much onion, garlic, sweet clover or bracken fern, it could also suffer from anaemia and could even die.

Neurological Symptoms From Dog Poisoning: Dogs suffering from seizures and other neurological symptoms have possibly ingested one of many things. This list is long and includes the following: Antidepressants, alcohol, aspirin, drain cleaners, dishwasher soap, gasoline, marijuana, flea repellents, tobacco, furniture polish and strychnine. Exposure to, or bites from, poisonous animals can cause dogs to seize as well. These animals include certain breeds of snakes, spiders, toads and frogs. Plants can cause neurological symptoms as well.

Stomach Symptoms From Dog Poisoning: Garbage, lead paint, snake bites, chocolate, medications, poinsettia, iris, Chinaberry, daphne and pokeweed are all dangerous to dogs. Digesting these substances can result in gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, loss of appetite and vomiting.


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