Good things might come in small packages, but that doesn’t make them easy to operate on!
Today I was asked to spay two sister mini rabbits. Each weighed just over 1kg.
It is incredibly important to me that every patient of mine gets the same high level of care and the same rights to good health, whatever their species, size or attitude. But this time I had set myself a real challenge.
The clue is in the word ‘mini’. I am used to spaying teenage cats when they are around 6 months old. These usually weigh about 2.5kg and have very elastic, hard-to-tear blood vessels. Recently we have been working with the Cats Protection to neuter much younger kittens in an effort to control the vast numbers of unwanted adult cats overflowing all their facilities due to the number of unplanned pregnancies still occurring – so I am getting practice with even smaller felines.
I also have vast experience of neutering rescued chihuahuas, having worked with a local chihuahua rescue society for many years. They can weigh as little as 2kg in adulthood, and the youngsters we neuter are sometimes even lighter.
But these two rabbits were the smallest mini rabbits you can imagine!
You know that game children play called ‘Pick Up Sticks’, where you try to remove just one stick from a pile without disturbing any of the others? You need dexterity, patience and a really steady hand.
Neutering these two little individuals was just like that, only far worse, as a wrong move or sudden jerk of my finger could tear an important artery, causing the little bunny to bleed to death in minutes. Both my Nurse and I were barely breathing as we carried out the operations.
The Nurse was forbidden from even touching the table in case it moved 2mm, causing something to tear. I worked in super-slow motion, using the tiniest surgical instruments we have. Even the weight of a haemostat dropping an inch could have wrenched an organ out.
I felt completely washed out after all that work, but thrilled to see the two little girls both tucking into some healthy greens the same afternoon. They received supreme nursing care, including abdominal massage, to help their intestines keep going (rabbits are dangerously prone to the guts just stopping work after even a successful anaesthetic). I could have done with a massage myself!