Bonding and spaying (question)

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LolaE

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Hello everyone.

I'm currently bonding my two rabbits Onyx and Drusilla (each about a year old). They've been living side-by-side for several months now (since Onyx got neutered back in February), which I think helped the bonding process once I started--they're already spending hours at a time together (with supervision) sharing everything (litter boxes, hay, food, water, toys/hidey-holes) with no issues, lots of flopping, and the occasional snuggle together (when Drusilla allows it--she's not nearly as affectionate as he is).

However, due to health reasons, I have not spayed Drusilla yet. We tried once when she was about 5 months old or so, and the vet discovered during the surgery (to her surprise) that her reproductive organs were a little underdeveloped and hadn't grown enough yet--it was pretty rough for the poor girl, and for us to put her through that :( . She's already much bigger than she was at 5 months (and she's very healthy), and the vet said I could probably do it now that she's over a year old, but I don't want to risk her going through all that again and it being unsuccessful. I'm thinking I might spay her at the end of the year, when she's about a year and a half old, if it looks promising by then.

Since I wasn't sure when I was going to spay her, I didn't want to wait an indefinite amount of time before bonding the two bunnies, and it seems to be going well despite her being unfixed. But I wanted to check what to do if I spay Drusilla after they're together to keep the bond intact. I've read that I should take him to the vet with her so they can stay together and remain bonded, and maybe he can provide some comfort. Is that right? Is there anything else I should take into consideration to make sure they stay bonded after her surgery?

Thanks!
 

JBun

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If they're bonded when it's time for her surgery, they shouldn't be separated. They should both go to the vet in the same carrier, one large enough they can be comfortable together in. She should be put back with him after her surgery, and he should be with her at home while she recovers and is on restricted space(no running or hopping up on things) for the 10-14 days post recovery. If you were to separate them, this could be stressful to both of them, and could affect her recovery. Keeping a bonded pair together can help aid in post recovery. Though you will need to make sure neither rabbit messes with her incision site.

 

LolaE

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Well... Everything was going really well, but then on Thursday we moved them to the next bigger space. They've already been through three stages of different "sized" spaces, all with no issue, so this was the fourth. To do this, we had to move them from the hallway where we'd been bonding them, and set up an enclosed exercise pen in our living room instead. Onyx wasn't phased at all, but Drusilla was pretty on-edge. She and Onyx got into a couple tussles. Nothing too series, as I intervened quickly. I've now decreased their space back a step again, but still in the living room, not the hall. But now every time I put them together, they eat a little together, and then as soon as the food's gone, Drusilla goes for Onyx--it starts pretty slow, just a couple warning lunges, and he hops away to leave her alone, and then they start chasing and biting so I separate them again.

Today, I noticed she has a (very slightly) swollen eye. I can just see a little bit of unusual red if I gently lift her eyelid, and it's not as open as the other one. Looks like it will heal itself, and it doesn't seem to be causing her too much pain, but I'll keep an eye on it in case it gets worse/doesn't get better. So I wonder if he accidentally nipped her a few days ago, and if that would explain why she's suddenly so hostile towards him. She seems fine otherwise, but he's definitely getting on her nerves at the moment (unless it's unrelated and just the change of space? They're in an X-pen together, but they can still see the whole living room around them; is it just too big and scary for her?).

The main thing I wanted to check is this: if he did hurt her a little, do I keep going with the bonding or take a break? Do I wait a few days (and risk them "forgetting" the bonding progress) so she recovers and isn't holding this grudge at him anymore, or do I just keep going, even in these small bursts, so they don't lose contact until they get back on track?

Thank you!
 

JBun

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You could try blocking off the pen walls with cardboard, sheets, etc, so that it will feel more enclosed and safer to her. That might help. If this doesn't improve things at all and they both are on edge and going after each other, then yeah, they will probably need separating for a while until they calm down.
 

LolaE

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You could try blocking off the pen walls with cardboard, sheets, etc, so that it will feel more enclosed and safer to her. That might help. If this doesn't improve things at all and they both are on edge and going after each other, then yeah, they will probably need separating for a while until they calm down.
Okay, thank you! If her eye doesn't start to look a little better soon, I'll have to take her to the vet.
 

LolaE

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I went back to the hallway, and they re-acclimated to each other immediately. Did that for a few days just to make sure they were all right. Today I've put them back in the living room again, but with the sides covered. Drusilla (black otter) is very happy now that she can't see out!

Onyx (full black) has been jumping lots all around and overtop of her, very happy. It's gotten to the point now where he freaks out whenever he can't see her (like when I put them back home after their bonding session and have to take them one at a time). He's also been conditioned such that if he's eating celery, he only wants to eat it right next to her. He seems quite smitten!

Her eye's cleared up, but I'm planning on taking her for a checkup anyway later next week when I have more time.

Here she is lounging, and Onyx eating hay, before he settles into his little loaf.

(Pardon the wet spots; they are from Onyx's celery...)


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And some Onyx/hay action shots:

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JBun

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That's great it worked! Sometimes it's just the openness from a new area that creates the problem. It sounds like it was just making her feel insecure and scared.
 

LolaE

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Hello again.

Very sorry for the long explanation here (and thank you in advance for reading). Just have a couple behavioural/health concerns, and wanted to put down any relevant information. Thank you.

So, I ended up taking Dru to the vet on Wednesday for her runny eye. It was still leaky, and she also had been getting progressively grumpier, until finally she didn't want anyone (including Onyx, whom she usually adores) anywhere near her, so I wanted to get it checked out. The vet said her eyes weren't draining properly and gave me Maxitrol eye drops to use for her eye for a week. She also said that Drusilla's grumpiness didn't seem to be related to pain, but suggested it was probably because she's not spayed, so is going through a spike in her hormonal cycle and is just a bit grouchy.

Sine then, Drusilla has gotten progressively grumpier the last few days, and there have been a few skirmishes. They don't seem to be fighting, exactly. It's more like some weird mating/chasing ritual or something--but fur does go flying, so I keep a close eye and often have to intervene. Dru has become extremely territorial, doesn't want Onyx anywhere near whatever hay she decides to eat from. Onyx keeps trying to play with her, but eventually gets the message and eats on his own. She's also been doing this floppy thing now where she chases Onyx away from "her" hay, and then flops onto her back and rolls around in it, like a cat--"claiming" it, perhaps?

She's also been trying to mount Onyx. This is something I've never actually seen either one of them try yet, in the last several weeks of their bonding, although she seems to be the one in charge. The problem is, she keeps trying to mount his head. I know if they try to mount, I should let them so they can work out their own dynamic, but I've also heard head mounting can be really dangerous and should be stopped, so I keep interrupting it.

On top of all this, she's also become much more vocal about not wanting anyone touching her. She's not a super cuddly bunny anyway, and when she doesn't want me to touch her or invade her space, she usually gives me a little grunt. But today her grunts have turned into whimpers/whines. When Onyx comes near her, when I go near her, she just starts whining. It's not something I've heard before--at first, I was worried it sounded like pain, but she seems perfectly fine when she's left alone, and it still eating and relaxing plenty.

I don't want to completely separate the bunnies, since they were doing so well in their bonding (they were spending 14 hours a day together totally happily), so now I try to put them together a few times a day, and when they squabble I put an exercise pen wall between them (so they can still see/touch each other, but can't pounce on each other); I work from home with them all day, too, so I can keep an eye on them.

Is all this just because she's not spayed and is in a hormonal peak in her cycle? In that case, will it die down in another several days/week or so? Or is it because I took her to the vet without Onyx? (Onyx doesn't seem to have any issue with her, as far as I can tell; any aggression seems to be from her to him.) Should I just see keep doing what I'm doing and see if the behaviour passes in another several days?

Or, is it indicative that something might really be wrong with her health-wise? The vet gave her (what looked to me like) a pretty thorough checkup, and said she looks really healthy and has reached a good weight (I was worried she was too fat, she's gotten so round!). But I wonder if I should take her back, or trust the vet and wait it out another week or so (because she doesn't seem to be in pain and is still eating normally, etc.).

My main concern is if this behaviour is indicative of some kind of pain and I just ignore it because I think it's hormones.

Also, they're both about 13 months old and she weighs just over 1 kg.

Again, sorry for the long note, but she has been acting unusually grumpy, and the whining does concern me (but maybe that's normal for grumpy rabbits?).

Thank you so much.
 

Preitler

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It does sound like a real hormonal doe. It might get better, but quite likely will come back periodically. Some does get quite vocal when they are/ when they think they are pregnant, I would expect a false pregnancy soon, most times that's just carrying hay around and more or less nesting.
Spaying does get rid of those mood swings, and if you decide to have it done I would think the sooner the better, for different reasons.

For now I would give her mate places to hide, get under, and out of sight and reach for when she's in the mood, like a low table, a small shelf where only one rabbit fits, dividing walls as optical barrier. Rather that than always trying to meddle with the humping, you can't be around all the time.
Some of mine also dig a lot when in that mood, a digging box might occupy some of her time and energy.
 

LolaE

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Just following up here. I just took this video of her whining to show what I mean. I've been leaving her alone, trying not to bother her all day, but here I'm just barely touching her, for the sake of sharing what sounds she's been making. (Now that I've stopped touching her, she's back in her hay box eating.)
Thanks.
 

LolaE

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It does sound like a real hormonal doe. It might get better, but quite likely will come back periodically. Some does get quite vocal when they are/ when they think they are pregnant, I would expect a false pregnancy soon, most times that's just carrying hay around and more or less nesting.
Spaying does get rid of those mood swings, and if you decide to have it done I would think the sooner the better, for different reasons.

For now I would give her mate places to hide, get under, and out of sight and reach for when she's in the mood, like a low table, a small shelf where only one rabbit fits, dividing walls as optical barrier. Rather that than always trying to meddle with the humping, you can't be around all the time.
Some of mine also dig a lot when in that mood, a digging box might occupy some of her time and energy.

Okay, great, thank you! Before last week, I was just about to put them together 24/7, but right now the only time they're together is when I am watching and can intervene--but I was also thinking that of course I can't do that all the time.

I'm moving house at the beginning of August--the plan was to have them living together fully before the move and then fix her at the end of the year. But you suggest it'd be better to have her fixed sooner rather than later? I don't want her to have the stresses of recovery and moving, so I'd have to do it very soon. Will this jeopardise the bonding if they're not fully living together yet?

(Mostly, I am glad it doesn't sound like something really wrong health-wise! With the weepy eyes lately, I was getting worried...)
 

JBun

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It does seem like hormonal behavior, but it could possibly be due to pain. Rabbits in pain can have sudden and unexpected changes in behavior.

If it is hormones, I doubt at her young age and small size, a vet would be willing to spay her at this point. As long as your boy bun isn't reacting to her, they may still be ok to have time together, but if she's seeming upset or whining, that's probably a good time to give her a break, though in adjoining pens so to maintain a bond as much as possible with the separation. Definitely break up head mounting when you see it, for the obvious risks. If she's always acting distressed being around him now, you may just need to keep them separate until she's old enough and big enough to get spayed. Being with him, may just be too confusing to her with the onset of her hormones.

Head or eye pain could still be a possibility. Maybe ask the vet for some meloxicam to try and see if it makes a difference. If she is grumpy due to pain/inflammation, the meloxicam will help. If she's grumpy due to hormones, it won't make a difference. Just make sure it's a high enough dose. Too low of a dose won't be very helpful, and rabbits need higher dosing. I would want to start out at 0.5-0.6mg/kg, twice a day for 3 days at least, then if it helps, continue giving meloxicam, but dosing can be gradually reduced, until you find the right dose that still manages her pain while she has this eye problem.


If the eye drops help, you may want to ask your vet to extend the treatment. A week is rarely long enough to clear up infection in rabbits. I would want to do at least one more week, though longer may be needed. If the eye issue is something that keeps occurring, I would ask the vet to take a closer look. If it's clear eye discharge, there could be an eyelid or eyelash rubbing the eye, or there could be a dental problem and xrays may be needed. If it's sticky white discharge, she could have an infected tear duct that needs flushing and a longer antibiotic course, or possibly an abscess.
 

JBun

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Never mind. I read her age wrong :p She's old enough, so I would get her spayed. It'll solve all of these hormonal issues, provided this isn't due to pain, which it could be. Maybe try the meloxicam first, then if it doesn't change her behavior, book her spay.
 

JBun

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If you're concerned that she may not be developed enough still, you could always ask the vet to do an ultrasound first, to see if she's good to go.
 

LolaE

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Thanks, JBun. My boy bun doesn't seem bothered by her at all; he just wants to play with her! But he does seem to be giving her more space when she asks for it. He's pretty relaxed. 😛

Her eye does seem to be doing better as of the first few days of drops, but her other eye just started leaking yesterday. Also clear, no redness/whiteness/discolouration at all, and she doesn't seem to be paying much attention to it (she's not swiping at it or trying to clean it or anything). So I'm not sure what could be the cause? On the plus side, that means it's probably not a dental problem, since it's affecting both eyes, right?

I'm planning on calling the vet tomorrow (Monday) to ask if I should start using the drops in the other eye, too, now that it's started leaking. I have some meloxicam on hand. Should I ask the vet about using that tomorrow, too, before I start giving it to her, or just start giving it to her of my own accord? Last time I gave her meloxicam, I think the vet prescribed 0.2 mg and that was plenty for her (though she was probably closer to 900 gm than 1 kg). Should I still give her the higher dose, or try the smaller dose she had before? Don't know if rabbits can overdose on pain medication...

And thanks for the tip about the ultrasound. The vet thinks she should be good to go now, but it might be worth checking, especially if I end up doing it sooner than planned.
 

JBun

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It's a prescription med, so that's something you would need to decide. If you aren't sure if you should give it or how much to give, probably best to talk to your vet first. For a 1kg bunny, I would probably want to start with at least 0.3ml(of the 1.5mg/ml suspension), twice a day for up to 5 days. That would be 0.45mg of meloxicam, each dose. After that the dosage will usually need to be reduced a little, as the higher dosage is for short term use(up to 5 days). But this is all stuff you can talk over with your vet.

Both eyes being weepy, doesn't necessarily rule out dental. It's just a possibility if you keep having problems. Most common in young rabbits is debris in the eye, conjunctivitis(if white and sticky), a scratched cornea, and a blocked tear duct. Though usually a scratched cornea or blocked tear duct won't be in both eyes. Something not very common but also possible, is glaucoma. It could cause weepy eyes and eye pain. So just things to think about if this doesn't get resolved with eye drops.

 

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Just wanted to add in, even if her reproductive tract is still underdeveloped, at her age it isn’t going to develop any further so really needs to be removed whatever it looks like, especially as it seems the ovaries are working well enough to cause behavioural changes!
 

LolaE

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Okay, thanks! Going to call the vet this morning--seems like I should probably get her spayed sooner rather than later, as long as she seems big enough, and not wait until the end of the year like I was going to.

After reading a little more in-depth about false pregnancies, I wonder if that's what's going on--she's gotten very nippy (which she never is), and has been eating a lot, almost twice as much hay as he is, so she's gotten very round! If that is what's going on with her, though, is it possible to spay her while she's experiencing a false pregnancy, or is that traumatising for her?

In regards to the weepy eyes, they've only been weeping the last few weeks since moving the bunnies into the living room. We haven't been burning any candles or incense or things like that, but there are sometimes cooking smells and there are a lot of plants (all leafy, not too flowery, and all out of bunny reach!). Could something in here be causing a reaction in her?

Thanks. :)
 

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False pregnancys can be hard to watch, but it's not traumatising. It's normal rabbit behaviour, homones taking over, demanding to do what rabbits evolved to do. They can be like on remote control then. (My sweet, little Fury in that state: )
Haystache Schwarze 3 30-4-2017.jpg

Okay, great, thank you! Before last week, I was just about to put them together 24/7, but right now the only time they're together is when I am watching and can intervene--but I was also thinking that of course I can't do that all the time.

Others may differ, but to me that sounds like messing with their social instincts. They never can sort things out when you intervene, and with seperating everything starts from square one again, and imho it promots territorial issues. As I said, I would adjust their space with some cardboard boxes and stuff to give him places to retreat to, and give it a go and not seperate unless the boy gets really annoyed.

Rabbits are social animals, male-female bonds the most likely successful - I think you can go a step further.
 

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