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Rabbit health
Neutering of pet rabbits
  1. Martin L. Whitehead
  1. Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital, Banbury Road, Chipping Norton, Oxon OX7 5SY; e-mail: martincnvets@gmail.com

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BRADBURY and Dickens (VR, December 24/31, 2016, vol 179, pp 654-655) question whether vets should advocate neutering all pet rabbits and conclude that that recommendation may not be optimal for the welfare of single-housed rabbits. Saunders and Stidworthy of the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) and British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), disagree (VR, January 21, 2017, vol 180, p 77). For does, a large part of Saunders and Stidworthy's argument is that, although uterine adenocarcinomas may not be as common in pet rabbits as historically believed (Whitehead 2015), they are nevertheless not rare, and spaying females prevents these tumours. Here, I argue that these tumours may be sufficiently uncommon that it is not clear that the health and welfare costs associated with spaying the number of rabbits needed to prevent a single case of uterine adenocarcinoma are justified.

Three retrospective studies provide information on age of occurrence of uterine adenocarcinomas in pet rabbits. Saito and others (2002) reported on 47 rabbit laparotomies for uterine disease over 2.5 years, finding 10 adenocarcinomas and …

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