Any surgery, including spays and neuters, will make a bunny sore for a couple of days to a week. Pain management in post-operative rabbits is crucial to their quick recovery. An uncomfortable rabbit is a stressed rabbit, and a stressed rabbit is not going to eat (or eat properly). Not eating properly will set up a very negative chain of events in a rabbit, one that can be potentially fatal.
You need to give the pain medications your veterinarian prescribes. Period. As a prey animal, a rabbit’s instinct is to hide their pain (the first rabbit that looks ill is the first one to be eaten, in the wild). Often a rabbit will display no symptoms of pain or very subtle symptoms: a ‘bunched up’ posture, subtle teeth grinding, and/or lack of appetite. Most bunny vets will give bunny some pain medication just before or just after surgery so the bunny is more comfortable when waking up. The veterinarian will usually prescribe metacam, buprenorphine or tramadol to be given at home – make sure your veterinarian provides for pain management at home for when the initial dose (given by the vet) has worn off.
Keep bunny warm - after surgery, keep your bunny warm and in a quiet location. A 2 litre bottle of warm water will do – you can wrap it in a soft towel for bunny to snuggle up to (or not) at his preference. Snuggle Safe warming discs are convenient and safe for bunny. Whatever you use, make sure it does NOT use electricity (bunny could be electrocuted if he chews on a cord) and make sure it will not leak, burn bunny or otherwise cause injury.
Your house rabbit likely just wants to be left alone after surgery. S/he is going to be groggy (which would logically make a prey animal anxious) and in no mood to be fiddled with. Unless you have the rare rabbit that you know wants to be sitting with you, just let bunny have a quiet, private spot to recover in, and only interrupt bunny to check on her well-being,
Keep an eye on the incision for a few days after surgery to make sure your rabbit is not chewing on the stitches and to monitor for any redness or drainage from the incision site. Many vets use a layer of sutures under the skin that cannot be chewed out, with a line of surgical glue over that for added strength. Observe the surgical site for any excessive bleeding, excessive redness, swelling or draining (pus). A tiny bit (smears) of blood is not abnormal but actual bleeding is cause to call the vet. If you see anything that gives you concern, contact the vet immediately for further instructions.
Other things to be aware of:
Normally, rabbits do not require post-surgical antibiotics to prevent infection, and antibiotics generally upset the normal bacteria flora of the gut and can set bunny up for a whole slew of problems.
Plastic cones “Elizabethan collars’ that go around the neck to prevent suture chewing are not normally needed for rabbits (there are exceptions, notes the author!) and they will stress out your bunny. The author wishes to note that some bunnies manage to wear the collars and STILL reach their incisions! If your bunny does end up wearing an E-collar for a day or two (or more, notes the author), you will have to hand-feed cecotropes (and possibly hand-feed her greens to get her started eating when the collar is first placed on her). S/he won’t be able to reach the cecotropes and some bunnies are initially perplexed as to how to eat their pellets and greens with the collar on. These bunnies usually figure out within a day or so how to eat with the collar on (and how to get to their sutures, notes the author).
There is no reason to separate bonded pairs or groups of bunnies as long as the bunnies are calm and behaving normally with each other. You do want to keep the post-op rabbit quiet for a few days after surgery, so if s/he is in with a group of rabbits who insist on romping and roughhousing or mounting your surgical patient, you may need to allow for supervised play periods for a few days, separating the post-op bunny while still allowing his companion/s to see and smell him (just put the NIC pens or xpens right next to each other).Your recovering patient needs the emotional support of his/her companion(s) to promote a speedy recovery, and allowing them to remain in contact reduces the chances for any untoward behavior upon their complete re-introduction .
If everything goes well, your bunny will start to perk up by the second day after surgery. Recovery time will depends on the type of surgery, the surgeon's techniques, the age and condition of the bunny pre-operatively, and any complications.
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