Is Your Vet Rabbit Savvy?
Really??? Are you 100% sure???
You may be shocked to find out that not all Vets are well trained in rabbits 🙁 Many can have as little as a 2 week slot for exotics as a whole (including reptiles, birds and small furries). This means that the majority of Vets out there have very little knowledge of rabbits needs, behaviours, ailments and how to treat them correctly.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) released a statement for Rabbit Awareness Week 2014 which briefly explains how vets can be accredited (but this is not species specific). A student Vets training changes depending on which University they attend. Some, Like The Royal Dick in Edinburgh and Bristol University have some VERY rabbit savvy lecturers (Like Anna Meridith, Kevin Eatwell, Brigitte Lord, Emma Keeble, Jenna Richardson and Richard Saunders. This means the graduates have a higher level of rabbit knowledge.
Of course, there are a host of fabulous Veterinary textbooks that are written by top rabbit specialists but not all Veterinary Practices have these in their library.
So…what can you do?
Well – a rabbit savvy Vet is worth their weight in gold and it is VITAL that you find one before you need them. For those of you in the UK you can contact the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) as they hold a list of good rabbit vets located across the whole of the UK.
For those in the USA then you can contact the House Rabbit Association as they hold a USA wide list. This forum, Bunny Lovers Unite, has a list of good rabbit vets worldwide that has been complied by its members experiences.
It is important that you as an owner, understand what makes a good rabbit vet. This will help you to find out if your current vet knows as much as they should to help treat your pet.
1) The most important aspect in my opinion is pain relief. Rabbits are prey species and hide their pain very well. Many, un savvy vets will believe that rabbits do not routinely need pain relief. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!! In most cases a sick rabbit will be experiencing pain and will need a good non steriodal anti inflammatory drug to help control this (Meloxicam is the drug of choice for pain control in rabbits and can be found under the brand names of Metacam, Loxicom, Meloxidyl and others). Although it is not technically licesnsed for rabbits – it can be used under the cascade system and the vet may ask you to sign an ‘off license’ agreement form. Bear in mind that there are hardly any drugs licensed for rabbits (even though almost all of our human and Veterinary medicines have been tested on rabbits at some point). Adequate pain relief should be given routinely after rabbit neutering as well for at least 3 days post op.
2) Never starve your rabbit before an operation. Walk away from any Vet who recommends this! Generally, mammals are starved before an operation (humans included). This is to reduce the risk of the patient vomiting whilst under general anaesthetic. Rabbits cannot vomit so do not have this risk. Also, a rabbits metabolism is high and their guts are sensitive – it is imperative they continue to eat frequently (up to approx 1 hour) before their operation. Also, the Vet should not discharge the rabbit after an operation until it is eating and passing faeces.
3) All rabbits (that are not being used for breeding) should be neutered. Any Vet that disagrees with this fact (especially for female rabbits) is questionable. Female rabbits have an 80% risk of uterine cancer. This is the main reason to neuter (more so than accidental litters). Add to this the fact that un neutered rabbits can display unwanted behaviour changes such as becoming more aggressive and territorial, spraying urine, humping and generally being more stressed. So always spey the females and castrate the males to give them the best chance at a happy healthy life.
Lastly, if you really like your current vet and do not want to change – you can always ask them to contact rabbit specialists if ever your rabbit gets sick. The RWAF offer a Veterinary Membership which practices can sign up to. This give them lots of benefits – one of which is direct access to Richard Saunders who is one of the UK’s top rabbit specialists. Even if your Vet will not sign up to this scheme, many rabbit specialists will offer advice to other Veterinarians for a small fee.
For more info on finding a good UK rabbit savvy vet click here.
For more info on finding a good USA rabbit savvy vet see this article here.