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Info About Rabbit Breeding Plus A Health Warning

The age rabbits are sexually mature and other key points about rabbit breeding are mentioned, along with a summary of dystocia (difficult birth).

Leticia Materi, PhD, DVM
Posted: July 7, 2015, 4:10 p.m. EDT

X-ray of pregnant rabbit
Courtesy of Leticia Materi, PhD, DVM  
This rabbit's life was saved when she was taken to surgery to remove a large, stillborn kit.

In an earlier article, I discussed the merits of spaying and neutering rabbits. These merits included population control, disease prevention and the avoidance of behavioral problems. However, some people may elect to breed their rabbit because that pet has a favorable personality or physical trait, or because the owner wants their own children to witness that part of the "circle of life.” 

The Basics Of Rabbit Reproduction
The age at which a rabbit reaches sexual maturity varies slightly by breed. Small breed rabbits tend to mature at 4 to 5 months while large breed rabbits are considered sexually mature at 5 to 8 months of age. In general, females experience sexual maturity sooner than males. 

Unlike many other mammals, rabbits do not have a regular estrus cycle. Instead, they are induced ovulators, which means that females release eggs from the ovaries when they are bred. This usually happens 9 to 13 hours after breeding. Pregnancy detection may be possible by two weeks post breeding. Detection can be done by gentle palpation of the abdomen, ultrasound or radiographs. Normally, the length of pregnancy for rabbits is about 30 to 32 days. 

Baby rabbits are known as kits. Litter sizes can vary depending on the breed of rabbit with smaller breeds have 4 or 5 kits and larger breeds have 8 to 12 kits on average. Breeding can occur as early as 4 months of age. 

Does will build a nest a few days or hours prior to giving birth using straw, hay and fur plucked from her own body. The kits are usually born at night, and delivery of all of the young generally occurs within 30 minutes.

One complication that owners need to be aware of when breeding rabbits is dystocia.

Facts About Rabbit Dystocia 
Dystocia is a very slow or difficult birth. This can occur for a variety of reasons including:
  • A large or abnormally positioned fetus
  • A narrow maternal pelvis
  • Failure of the uterine horns to contract properly
  • A physical blockage to the reproductive tract, such as a tumor
  • Maternal obesity
Failure to give birth is life-threatening for both the mother rabbit and the offspring. Clinical signs of dystocia include:
  • Straining or persistent contractions
  • Vaginal discharge that may be bloody or have a green or white color
  • Sick rabbit signs, such as lethargy and lack of appetite
Radiographs may be taken to determine if the fetus is malformed, positioned abnormally or if the pelvis is too small. Treatment is aimed at stabilizing the mother rabbit and extracting the kits. Medical management includes fluid support and providing calcium and oxytocin to help the uterine horns contract. If the female is unresponsive to medical management, surgery is the best option. 

Dystocia is considered a medical emergency. Please contact a veterinarian right away if you are concerned that your pet is experiencing this condition.

Note: All articles by Dr. Materi are meant for educational purposes only and in no way represent any particular individual or case. They are not for diagnostic purposes. If your pet is sick, please take him or her to a veterinarian.

Posted: July 7, 2015, 4:10 p.m. EDT


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Info About Rabbit Breeding Plus A Health Warning

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Breeding is a huge responsibility, especially if you want healthy babies. Kudos to those who choose such a tough job! :)
Autum, Caldwell, ID
Posted: 7/8/2015 5:32:00 AM
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