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Rabbit Health:
Surgery

Basics

Some vets give Ketamine and Valium as pre-operative medications. These drugs must be metabolized out of the body by the liver and/or the kidneys. If you have an older rabbit or one who has been ill, it might be a good idea to get blood drawn for laboratory tests to make sure that the liver and kidneys are in good working order. Many vets choose not to medicate pre-op.
MEDICAL NOTE: the liver function variable in rabbits is billiverdin, which is analogous to billirubin in humans.

If your rabbit is facing surgery, read ⇒"Pre- and Post-operative care of Rabbits" by Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

The anesthesia of choice for rabbits is isoflurane. Rabbits are rarely intubated. Instead, they are placed in a box where the isoflurane is gradually increased until they lose consciousness. The rabbit is then removed from the box so that the surgery can be performed. Unconsciousness is maintained by the isoflurane being administered via facial mask. Servoflurane is newer but more expensive and is similar enough to isoflurane to not merit the extra expense. Rabbits who are older and/or been anesthetized multiple times may become immune to isoflurane as they age.

Sutures should be non-exposed, non-reactive, and absorbable. PDS synthetic is a good choice of suture material. Make sure your vet will be using a suture pattern that keeps stitches buried beneath the skin (intra-dermal suture pattern) because rabbits tend to chew their sutures. Elizabethan collars are best avoided in rabbits because they interfere with caecotrophy and grooming. Also, as prey animals, they may feel trapped, desperate, and depressed. Rabbits frequently stop eating because of these reactions.

If the rabbit is chewing out the stitches

To keep them from chewing out their stitches, make a body stocking out of a sweatshirt sleeve, the top of panty hose, or saran wrap, which will stick to their fur to keep the bandage in place. Make sure that the wrap is loose enough for your rabbit to breathe normally. Small wounds can be covered with surgical adhesive. Remove the body stocking every three to four hours so that your rabbit can move around and eliminate normally for a time while you are supervising him/her. Check your rabbit's bottom to make sure that fecal pellets are not accumulating there.

Pain management is essential. For abdominal surgeries like spays, some vets will give Meloxicam by injection pre-operatively so that the rabbit wakes up without pain. After a spay, most vets will keep the rabbit 2-3 days so that they can monitor her condition. Pain medication, such as Meloxicam, is given 12-24 hours post-op.

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