A common surgery performed on female rabbits is a spay. The medical term is an ovariohysterectomy (removal of ovaries and uterus), abbreviated as an OVH. This page will show actual spay surgeries, on a normal rabbit, a rabbit with uterine cancer, and a rabbit with as fluid filled uterus. Like many females, rabbits are prone to cancer of the uterus, so removal of the uterus at a young age will prevent this problem.
The following page contain graphic pictures of OVH surgeries performed at the hospital.
These two pictures give examples of why we spay rabbits. The first picture of the uterus is a healthy one, the second one has cancer. The cancerous uterus was removed only when this rabbit became ill.
This is what a healthy rabbit uterus looks like during surgery
This is a necrotic uterus that has cancer
Pre-surgical preparation is a big part of our surgery. This includes a pre-anesthetic physical exam and blood panel. If we suspect a serious uterine problem we will also take a radiograph.
Before we perform any surgery our rabbit gets a thorough physical exam
We also check a blood panel prior to surgery to make sure there is no anemia and that the liver and kidneys are working normally
It is not easy to take a blood sample on a rabbit. We use a tiny needle since the vein is so small.
Once all of the pre-anestetic exams and diagnostic tests are complete we are ready for surgery.
We use a gas anesthetic that lets them fall asleep without any stress and is very safe. You can learn much more on how we anesthetize a wide variety of animal from our anesthesia page.
Once they are anesthetized we clip the hair After we clip the hair, the first step in preparation is the initial cleansing of the skin with a special surgical grade disinfectant
While our patient is being prepped our surgeon is doing the same thing
While all of this activity is going on our surgeon is busy getting ready for the surgery
Time is of the essence any time a pet is under anesthesia, so our surgeon gets all instruments ready while our anesthetist is prepping our patient
All of our surgeries are closely watched using our surgical monitor. These instruments detect a problem before it becomes detrimental to our patient.
Once our surgeon is comlfortable everything is in order our patient is draped and the procedure begins
After the skin incision is made a second incision is made in the abdominal muscles. There is a precise location for this incision, called the linea alba. Incisions here have minimal bleeding and sufficient strength to hold sutures when being closed at the end of the surgery.
Rabbits have minimal fat under the skin, so the skin incision is delicately made with a small scalpel blade
Once the skin has been incised our landmark is a tendinous attachment of the abdominal muscles called the linea alba. It is seen here as the while diagonal line. It is important that we make our abdominal incision here because there is negligible bleeding and this area gives the sutures holding power to prevent a hernia.
When our surgeon has this landmark properly exposed an incision is made into the abdomen
This incision is continued with a scissors until it is just big enough to remove the ovaries and uterus
Once the incision is large enough a special instrument is used to gently bring the ovaries out of the incision
Of all the different species we spay rabbits have the most delicate tissue. If we are not careful in how we handle the uterine tissue it could tear in our hands, so we are very gentle in our tissue handling
Older rabbits have a significant amount of fat around the ovaries (black arrows) and along the uterus (white arrows). Both ovaries will be removed, and the body of the uterus will be removed at the point of the white horizontal line. The head of the rabbit is towards the top on this view.
Younger rabbits do not have as much fat, although their tissue is more delicate and can tear easily. The head of the rabbit is towards the bottom right in this view, opposite of the view above.
The ovary is pulled out of the abdomen and clamped for removal. You can see the ovary as the small horizontal cream colored tissue in the center above the clamp. It is removed completely during the surgery.
Special care is taken to make sure there is no bleeding after the ovary is removed. Several clamps are used, and several sutures (called ligatures) are put on the vessels that supply blood to the ovary. The next 3 views show our surgeon in the process of accomplishing this before the ovary is removed.
The unseen ovary is buried in the fat at the top, the surgeon is putting ligatures on the blood supply to the ovary
The first ligature has been placed
The second one is in the process
Once both ovaries and uterine body are ligated and removed the incision in the linea alba is suture. A special non-reactive and strong suture is used, that will slowly dissolve over several month.
Our surgeon takes extra care to make sure they are put in properly. If not, we can get a hernia and intestinal organs can come out.
The final row of sutures in the linea
The final row of sutures in the skin. This will be removed at 10-14 days
Before our patient wakes up we use the companion laser to minimize post operative swelling and enhance the healing process. Any natural thing we can do to aid the healing process is part of our approach of treating our patients like we want to be treated if we are in a similar situation. This includes the pain injection we give before our patient wakes up, and continues to the pain medication used at home. Far too often people have the attitude that pets don’t have pain because we just don’t see it. We prefer to err on the side of more pain medication than less pain medication.
Our nursing staff closely monitors all patients immediately post operatively and keeps them warm until they are fully awake
Once they are on their foot they are given lots of TLC and closely monitored for pain