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How To Choose A Rabbit Savy Vet - Rabbit Welfare Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund

It's essential that you find and register with a rabbit savvy vet even if you have no immediate use for one: you can never predict when an emergency will arise.

Vets in training tend to spend less time learning about rabbits than they do cats or dogs. Rabbit medicine is often taught alongside "exotic species", as they are also very different from cats and dogs both physiologically, behaviourally and anatomically. So, it is important to choose a vet who has a specific knowledge of rabbits. Vets who have qualified in recent years from Bristol or Edinburgh vet schools should have an excellent grounding in rabbits thanks to the RWAF Veterinary Resident schemes.

So how do I find a rabbit savvy vet?

  • Start with people you know who have companion rabbits. If they are on the ball then they should have a rabbit savvy vet.
  • The RWAF holds a 'vet list'. We send out a questionnaire to vets on the list and check that they do the basics correctly. This is a good guide but can never be 100% accurate or up to date as we cannot visit the vets on the list, and individual vets move between practices.
  • You can email or call our Helpline for a list of vets in your area. Or if you are a member of a good online rabbit forum you could ask for recommendations.
  • Otherwise, it's a case of going through the yellow pages or the RCVS Find A Vet website http://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/home/ and finding all vets local to you.
  • Whichever way you have come across a vet to consider, you should always ring them yourself and ask some questions to satisfy yourself that they'll be able to care for your rabbits.

The questions you need to ask

  • Do you have a separate kennelling area for rabbits?
    Rabbits are prey animals and will find the experience of being hospitalised very stressful. The sound of dogs barking and cats yowling near them will be even more stressful and may hinder recovery from any treatment. If vets cannot offer a separate room, some have small animal days where dogs are not admitted for operations.
    Vets should also be aware of the importance of hospitalising bonded pairs together if at all possible.
  • Do you routinely spay and castrate rabbits?
    You need to be sure that they have good experience of routinely undertaking these procedures and that they have a good track record. Don't be scared to ask about how safe it is (there is always a risk even with a very competent vet) and when they last lost a rabbit under anaesthetic.
  • What is your anaesthetic protocol?
    The best protocol is one that the vet is most comfortable and experienced using, but some anaesthetic combinations are regarded as safer than others. Injectable anaesthetics are currently in vogue, but some rabbit-expert vets are happy using inhalational (gas) anaesthetics. Vet practices that seem nervous about anaesthetising rabbits should be avoided because they may not have updated their anaesthetic protocol and peri-operative management in the light of recent findings, and this may ring an alarm bell.

You need to be happy that your chosen vet will:

  • Consider pre-medication if appropriate.
  • Take steps to keep rabbits warm during and after surgery.
  • Intubate the rabbit if required (this may not be possible during some procedures such as dentals, but is recommended as standard practice).
  • Monitor your rabbits carefully during surgery, using modern equipment such as a pulse oximeter.
Strenght in numbers

Strength in numbers
If only one of your rabbits needs to visit the vet, you should still take them both (or all if you have a group). This prevents problems with reintroducing back at home (a rabbit returning to the vet will smell different from other rabbits). It also benefits the poorly rabbit, his mate will aid his recovery. The exception to this is something contagious like myxi, or if you need to keep an eye on diet or monitor their poops.

 

  • Do any of the vets at this practice particularly like seeing rabbits? If the receptionist says 'all of them' this is likely to mean that no vet takes a special interest in rabbits and so this may not be a good sign. Often, there is one vet who is very keen on rabbits and this benefits the practice because they can all learn from him/her. Make sure you get a named vet, and see that vet whenever possible.
    Rabbit pair Very often the vets will be pleased to speak to new or potential clients and this is a good sign, ask them if they have completed any rabbit CPD (Continuing Professional Development – extra studying!) recently. The RWAF holds an annual vet conference, and there are other CPD events such as BSAVA and London Vet Show that do rabbit lectures and workshops. Many practices also have bunny-mad vet nurses, which is particularly good - it is often the nurses that intubate the rabbits, and see to their after-care.

  • Do you recommend vaccinations? The answer should be yes, against both Myxomatosis and RHD. Be wary of any advice against vaccinating as 'not necessary' because they are not aware of myxi or RHD in the area (both can strike at any time) or if rabbits are house rabbits (because they can still catch both).

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