Spaying pet rabbits has medical and behavioral benefits [Ask the Vet] – Reading eagle

Question: Our children received two rabbits and they would like to know the sex of each rabbit before naming them. We parents would like to know too, so as not to end up with a house full of rabbits.
How do you know what sex each rabbit is? If one is a woman and the other is a man, can they be sterilized to avoid a household demographic explosion, or should we just try to separate them?

A: One way to determine their gender is to look at the groin of each rabbit. A male, called a male, has a penis with a circular opening and two cigar-shaped testicles. A female, or doe, has a slit-shaped vulva.
A much easier way to have sex with your new rabbits is to schedule a physical exam with a veterinarian. If your new rabbits are not yet sexually mature, it will be especially difficult to determine their sex without the help of your veterinarian.

In males, the testes descend around 10 to 12 weeks of age. Small and medium sized breeds are sexually mature between 4 and 6 months, while giant breeds do not reach sexual maturity until around 9 months.

Once you learn that both rabbits are healthy, request an appointment for sterilization surgery, even if they are both of the same sex. Spayed rabbits live longer and behave better than unsterilized rabbits. Rabbits are social creatures and neutering will help your two rabbits get along more harmoniously.

Females need to be spayed or neutered to prevent uterine cancer, which occurs in most unsterilized females and is fatal. In addition, sterilization surgery decreases urine sprays and aggressiveness.
Males are sterilized or neutered to prevent urine marking and aggression. Urine odor is also reduced after sterilization.

In addition, sterilization reduces overpopulation of pet rabbits. Rabbits are the third most common species living in animal shelters, forever waiting for homes.

To help you and your children give your new rabbits the best possible care, visit the House Rabbit Society website at You’ll learn about feeding, litter box training, finding an expert rabbit veterinarian, and more.

Question: The big box store has a sale on sago palms, and I’m thinking of buying one for my living room. However, we have a new puppy who occasionally chews outdoor plants. Will it be a problem if he chews the sago palm?

A: Yes, a deadly problem, so don’t buy this plant. The sago palm, also known as the cycad palm, resembles a pineapple with large, thick, dark green tipped fronds that grow from the top. These low-maintenance houseplants also thrive outdoors in warm climates.

All parts of the sago palm are poisonous, even if the dog just chews the plant but does not swallow. The seeds are particularly poisonous; eating a single seed proved fatal.

Two poisons are most responsible for the toxicity of sago palm: cycasin, which causes liver failure and other gastrointestinal toxicities, and an amino acid called beta-methylamino-L-alanine, which damages the central nervous system.

Toxic signs include vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, loss of coordination, tremors, convulsions, and coma. Death occurs in up to half of patients, so immediate veterinary care is essential for any pet exposed to a sago palm.

So say no to sago palms. Instead, choose pet-safe plants from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website at / toxic-and-non-toxic-plants.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices pet medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

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