Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A few things I learned about rabbit desexing

Animal cakes at the AVA conference. I made sure I had my blood glucose checked at the wellness stand before sampling these carb-tastic beauties.
Have you ever desexed a rabbit? In some States in this country where rabbits are illegal to keep as pets (such as Queensland), it’s unlikely. But interestingly, between 150 and 200 vets rocked up to a session on rabbit desexing. It felt like everyone in the conference flocked to one room (which is a semi-accurate estimate, it was about 20 per cent). Some had over forty years’ experience. Which gives you an indication of how challenging it can be.

Exotics veterinarian Dr Brendan Carmel shared his techniques with the eager crowd. For males he recommends an open technique via a pre-scrotal incision. He doesn’t worry about subcutaneous sutures as there is barely any subcutaneous tissue, and uses tissue glue to close the wound.

He does advocate speying female rabbits because of the high incidence of uterine neoplasia. Depending on the study you read it’s between 40 and 80 per cent in rabbits over 3 years. Ovariectomy can be considered in rabbits at 2-3 months old.

Reassuringly, Dr Carmel advised that the mesometrium is a major fat storage area in rabbits. Thus speying an adult female rabbit who is a bit on the plus-size side is the lagomorph equivalent of desexing a bit fat Labrador. He advocates sending off any uterus that looks hyperaemic, lumpy or bumpy in case there is uterine neoplasia. Often in females with uterine adenocarcinoma, the fat has atrophied somewhat. If he palpates a very large uterus in an adult rabbit, run some bloods and do chest radiographs before you do surgery.

The risk of anaesthetic mortality remains high in rabbits (0.7-7.4% compared with 0.1-1.4% in cats and 0.05-1.3% in dogs). Owners need to be informed about this.

Airway control is challenging to achieve in rabbits but Dr Carmel uses a supraglottid device or V-gel, or uses a rigid endoscope to intubate. These are very nifty, I popped along to the V-gel stand to check them out and they’re really easy to place.

A V-gel used to maintain airway in a rabbit (nb this is a model).
A close up of the V-gel. You can autoclave and reuse these 40 times.
Dr Carmel advocates plenty of analgesia and higher than standard doses of non-steroidals in rabbits, up to twice per day. He does not discharge rabbits until they are eating. If they don’t eat, he assist-feeds them Critical Care formula. The details of course are in the proceedings, but it was an excellent talk.