The importance of spaying a bunny
This story begins on Jan 8th, 2000 when I drove to Michigan to pick up a bunny named Thunder from Michigan Rabbit Rescue. When I got there, there was this beautiful black bunny and a huge Flemish Giant in a pen that had arrived there about 30 minutes before me. There wasn't much known about this "couple" except that they were in someones backyard and were no longer wanted. We named the Flemish Clyde and he was definitely not neutered. We knew Onyx was a female but they had been together and Clyde would not stop mounting Onyx. We separated them but I assumed she was pregnant. The day we got back from Michigan, I took her directly to the vet and said she needed to be spayed right away. The vet took a look at her stomach and we found what appeared to be a spay scar and decided to do nothing so I took her home. She never had a litter and the assumption was that she must have been spayed.
Moving ahead to the reason for this story...
On the Evening of June 19th, 2000, I went to feed my bunnies and noticed that Onyx seemed to be having a hard time standing properly and was walking with her back legs instead of hopping. The next morning, I got up and took care of the bunnies and things seemed to be fine. Later that day when I went in to look after the bunnies again, I noticed many piles of mushy poops all over the floor in the room that Onyx shares with several other bunnies. I took all of them outside to my fenced in yard so I could clean up the room. At this point, I wasn't sure which bunny had made the mess.
Once I finished cleaning the room, I went to sit outside and relax with my bunny friend Becky Houck who was in town and visiting with me. She looked over at Onyx and asked me if I thought her ears looked yellow and I didn't think so but really wasn't sure. I then went to collect up the bunnies to bring them inside and when I went to get Onyx, she tried to hop away but did more of a walk-skip thing than a hop and then I noticed that her backside slipped over to the side and it took a moment for her to stand back up.
Off to the vet we went! The vet said her ears and eyes were jaundiced and that she was seriously malnourished even though she ate like a pig everyday. Since I adopted her, she always had a "sleek" looking body and that had not changed. He put her on tetracycline and told me to bring her back in 2 days so he could do some blood work.
June 22nd, 2000 we were back at the vets. He drew blood and said he would have results later that day and the rest would be in the following day. By this time, Onyx's back legs seemed to be shifting from under her body and moving more towards her butt in a somewhat extended position. The initial blood results were all over the board. Her glucose was high, her liver appeared to be shutting down but nothing fell together to give any clue as to the actual problem. He was thinking liver cancer, hemobartonella, diabetes but there was no way to know for sure at this time.
June 24th, 2000 we went on a camping trip with many other petbunny people and took Onyx with us so we could keep an eye on her and giver her the meds. Several times that day, I noticed that there was blood in her urine. She was still eating well but was barely moving around. I had her laying on a towel all the time and there was no doubt it was blood.
June 25th, 2000 we went back to the vet. She seemed to be getting worse although the jaundice was getting better. The vet decided to catheterize her to verify if it was actually blood in her urine. He stuck the catheter in and as soon as he got in far enough, blood came spurting out and he stopped immediately and knew for sure that is was blood I had seen. The vet said he would call around the next day since it was now Sunday evening and see if he could find another vet that would be able to do an ultrasound on Onyx and see for sure what was going on. He asked me to call him the next morning.
June 26th, 2000 I called the vet and said that Onyx could no longer stand and her hind legs were completely extended behind her body and she had lost complete use of her body from the waist area down. He decided he couldn't wait any longer and he would need to do exploratory surgery to see what was going on. We scheduled surgery for 2:15 that day and he invited me to stand in on the surgery so I could see for myself what was going on. I hesitantly said yes since I really wanted to be there for Onyx but wasn't sure if I would really be able to handle it or not.
Once the vet opened her up, he made the most astonishing and shocking discovery. Onyx had a uterus and it was HUGE, she also had a tumor that was a bit bigger than a golf ball and it was right inside the vaginal area but she had NO ovaries. Whoever spayed her, removed her ovaries but left her uterus. The uterus was 4 - 5 times its normal size and filled with fluid. Considering how small and thin Onyx was, I couldn't believe it came out of her.
These pictures show the size of her uterus and the tumor once removed. You can click on any of the pictures if you would like to see a larger image.
After the surgery and while the vet was closing Onyx up, her blood pressure became very high and while he was trying to put fluids in her, her blood starting going back up the tube instead of the fluids going in. For the next 15 minutes, the vet used an additional syringe in the IV to force the fluids into her. Her breathing became very fast and worrisome to him and she stared blankly into space although she should have been coming out of the anesthesia. I began to pet her and stroke her head and her side and was talking to her and saying her name and telling her how much I loved her. She suddenly picked up her head and looked right at me and then her breathing began to slow and she appeared to be out of imminent danger. I am so glad I was there for her and wonder what might have been if I had not been petting her and talking to her during all this!
This next picture shows you Onyx while she was in the incubator recovering from the surgery.
I brought Onyx home from the vets the day of her surgery since nobody would be there to keep an eye on her and I felt I could keep a closer eye on her at home. I needed to go to work the next day so the vet said to bring her back and he would check on her throughout the day.
June 27th, 2000 I went to the vets after work to pick up Onyx and as soon as I reached in to get her, I noticed that something was hanging out through her incision and I ran and got the vet. He said it was fat tissue and she had managed to pull a staple and some stitches out. His office would be closing in about 30 minutes and he said he would have to fix her back up and I said I would wait since I would want to take her home with me. I stayed with her while we waited for the vet and she sipped some water and munched on a little bit of hay that I fed her. Once all the vets patients were gone, we took her back in the operating room and he cleaned up the fat, trimmed some off, tucked the rest back inside and then used heavier stitching to close her up again. Since everyone else in the office had left other than him, I had to put the mask on Onyx and turn the oxygen and gas up and down as the doctor advised.
I brought Onyx home that same night and decided I needed to prevent her from chewing her stitches. I didn't want to use a C-collar because I was afraid of making her more uncomfortable or preventing her from being able to eat. I took one of my husbands tube socks and cut off the foot and slipped the rest of it down over her head and around her body so she couldn't get to the incision.
These pictures below shows her in her little tube sock while resting. You can click on the picture to see a larger image.
June 28th, 2000 Onyx is hanging tough. She is still unable to use her hind legs and all and she just drags around her lower body. The vet doesn't know if permanent damage was done from the tumor and enormous uterus or if she will regain her strength and be able to get her legs back under her body and walk properly. She is trying really hard and is such a fighter. She is nibbling some food but I would be much happier if I saw her eating lots more. She is like a skeleton with skin right now and needs to put on several pounds in order to be healthy.
June 29th, 2000 Onyx does not want to eat. She is refusing everything including her craisins which she usually inhales. We went back to the vet and he gave her another shot of B-12 to stimulate her appetite, gave her probiocin and gave me the rest of the tube to take him to give her twice a day. He also said her ears and eyes looked like the jaundice was coming back and told me to start her back on tetracycline 3x per day. I ordered Oxbow Critical Care today after learning about it from people on Petbunny and Etherbun. I am having it overnighted to me with Saturday delivery because I don't want to wait any longer than I absolutely have to. Onyx actually seems to be getting somewhat stronger and is trying to get back up on her hind legs. She is also getting feisty and fights with me when I try to give her the medicine. This is actually a good thing.
These are picture of Onyx on 6/29/00. You can see a front view of the way she holds herself up with her front paws and then the back view that shows how her feet are turned. You can click on the picture to see a larger image.
July 1st, 2000 started off as a very good day. Onyx is eating and seems to be moving around better than ever. 11:00pm, disaster struck. I asked my daughter to go get Onyx for me so I could give her the night time medicine and the first thing I noticed was a buldge of tissue hanging out from the incision area. I called the vet at home and he said to meet him at his clinic in 20 minutes. I took her down there and by the time he started to put her under, there was lots of stuff hanging out. I was devastated. He opened her up and the area he had re-stitched was still tightly closed but the other area had opened up. Onyx was just not healing! She hung in there during the surgery but shortly after he finished and was putting in the iv line to give her fluids, she began to twitch and then she arched and straightened out and had what appeared to me as a seizure. The vet said is was hypo-volimic shock (unsure of the spelling). Her body began to twist like a horse shoe and her head turned in a very strange position. I thought for sure I was about to lose her. The vet got her stabilized and I decided to take her home with me. The vet said she could stay there in the incubator but I knew there would be no one there to monitor her and since I wasn't sure she would make it through the night, I didn't want her to be alone, I thought it would be better for her to be home with me where she wouldn't be scared and alone.
Onyx spent the entire night in bed with me and never moved at all. Each time I looked at her, she was just staring into space. In the pictures below, you can see how I kept her warm in a towel and under my blankets with her head propped up on the pillow. She stayed in bed with me all night. You can click on the picture to see a larger image.
July 2nd, 2000 was not looking any better. Onyx just laid there and seemed to have lost her will to fight. After advice from friends on Petbunny and Etherbun, I decided that something more needed to be done and she needed some more intensive care. At the urging of Mary Cotter on Etherbun, I contacted Kristi Cole from the Buckeye HRS to see if she had any suggestions or knew of a bunny knowledgeable vet that might be in on this holiday weekend. She gave me the number for the Metropolitan Vet Hospital that has 24 hour care and they work with Dr. Riggs who specializes in bunnies and is a vet Kristi regularly uses.
I called out there and let them know the situation and that I was coming with Onyx. My husband and I put the 6 kids in the car and made the 45 minute drive to this clinic. After accessing her, the vet said she really needed to stay overnight to get stabilized and that Dr. Riggs would be in the next morning to access her overall situation. I agreed to allow her to stay and it broke my heart to leave her there. They gave her sub-q fluids, pain medication, syringe fed her some food, changed her antibiotic, kept her in a warmer to stabilize her temperature and monitored her through out the night.
July 3rd, 2000 I spoke to Dr. Riggs and he told me the tests he would like to do and that he would like to take Onyx over to his clinic where he could get the tests started and I agreed. The radiographs showed that her hips and spine appeared to be ok and there was no additional damage. Her white blood count was elevated, there was swelling in the incision area, the fecal smear showed that the level of bacteria in her stomach was lower than it should be but that overall, there were no other major problems found. Later, Dr. Riggs called back and said we could take Onyx home that night and he would be giving me several medications to give her.
We packed the kids in the car and headed out to pick Onyx up, I was feeling very excited and much more optimistic than I had in several days. Dr. Riggs sent me home with benebac, Cipro, Rimadyl, Oxbow critical care and lots of syringes for feeding.
July 4th, 2000 has been a good day so far. Onyx is eating, had the strength to fight with me to not take her medicine and is starting to get her hind legs under her body. She can stand with her legs under her body in the right position but then falls if she tries to walk and can't seem to stay in that position to eat but she is showing improvement. The pictures below show how she is looking today. By the way, I do have her back in the tube sock and made some holes in it for her front paws to go through and added a little tie through holes I put in the back so it won't slide around on her. I am still very worried that she could open the incision again! You can click on the picture to see a larger image.
Onyx is not out of the woods yet and we are waiting for pathology to come back on the tumor and uterus and in the mean time we pray and hope for the best for our brave little girl. I will update this page as I get more information.
UPDATE: Onyx's pathology came back and its not looking to good. The report shows the following.
I am no medical expert but what I do know and what people have explained to me as that this is basically the standard cancer that un-spayed bunnies get. Here is a breakdown of the individual words:
tubular=tube-shaped (think spaghetti) papillary=tumors spreading out in all different directions ademo-carcinoma=malignant tumor in or composed of glandular cells differentiated=several different types (of either cell or tumors) neoplastic=abnormal tissue (tumor) myometrium=having to do with the uterus mytosis=process of the division of cells (cell division, growing)
What does this all mean for Onyx? It is hard to say right now. The vet believes he got all the cancer but it could possibly be farther in her system and spread. She will be going for a chest x-ray on 7/23 to see if it has spread to her lungs.
How is Onyx doing overall? As of right now she is eating well but still incredibly thin. She is able to get up on her hind legs and hop but is not real strong. When she grooms herself, she keeps a front paw on the ground and only uses the other one to clean. When she tries to groom her backside or her sides or belly, she loses her balance and falls over.
Onyx's story continues, to read more, click here.
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Last Updated: September 30, 2002 09:44 PM