Category: Health Info

Is Your Vet Rabbit Savvy?

RWAF Vet Membership

RWAF Vet Membership

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.

After graduation, Vets are required to undertake a minimum of 105 hours of training / learning over a rolling 3 year period. There are lots of rabbit courses available and even some FREE ones!

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.

 

 

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Trancing Rabbits: DONT DO IT!

Rabbit Trancing

Rabbit Trancing

NOT cute.

NOT fun.

Trancing / hypnotising / tonic immobility are all terms used for this act. Tonic immobility (TI) is a transitory and reversible state of profound motor inhibition that can be induced in susceptible species (Klemm 1976).

Unfortunately the internet is full of ‘cute’ photos of rabbits being made to lay on their backs. Many people in the showing and exhibiting world will also do this. Sometimes people will do this to groom a rabbit. Some people think the rabbit enjoys it and is relaxed…This just is not true 🙁

The rabbit is actually extremely scared and pretending to be dead. They are a prey species and will naturally act dead if threatened. Their heart rate increases along with their stress hormone levels (corticosterone). This has been scientifically researched and one recent study was undertaken by Dr Anne McBride and Vet Anna Meredith.

Please check out this very important blog post from The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund:

http://rabbitwelfare.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/tonic-immobility.html

 

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UK NEWS: New Rabbit Clinic

Roll out the red carpet and put out the bunting – a fabulous rabbit clinic has opened in Scotland!

Image courtesy of Rabbits Require Rights Scotland

Image courtesy of Rabbits Require Rights Scotland

Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital, at Glasgow University Vet School, has opened a Rabbit Wellness Clinic set up by Veterinarian Livia Benato. She aims to raise awareness of rabbit welfare both before and after a pet has been purchased. She will also be working with student Vets in their final year – educating them on the real needs of rabbits and how to examine, house and treat them.

This is a great leap forward for rabbit healthcare. The clinic will be offering plenty of up to date advice including husbandry, diet and training as well as running regular appointments for preventative healthcare and other veterinary needs.

Unfortunately, not all vets are rabbit savvy. The ‘exotics’ training they receive can differ greatly depending on which university they attend. Often, many vets get taught a very brief and basic overview of the rabbit and have to undertake extra learning after graduation if they choose to learn more about lagomorphs – but this is not mandatory. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund hold a list of vets which have answered a questionnaire about their rabbit services and experience. This is available to the public at no cost. Just contact the RWAF for more info.

I sincerely hope this model of rabbit clinics will spread throughout the whole of the UK.

To read the full Evening Times article, click here: Whats up Doc?

Oh and if you like the above picture…check out Rabbits Require Rights!

 

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Australia News: Rabbit Meat Problems

Good news for Australian bunnies!

Apparently, rabbit meat farms in Oz are struggling to cope with the rising costs of vaccinating their livestock. Quite ironic really considering they regularly release the Calicivirus into the wild to ‘control’ wild rabbit populations.

Just 4 rabbit meat farms now remain out of the 80+ that used to be across the country and it would seem that people attitudes to eating the meat is also changing for the better.

A vaccination can be obtained for pet rabbits in some areas of Australia. Calicivirus is known as Rabbit VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease) in the UK. A simple injection once a year will protect UK pet rabbits from both Myxomatosis and VHD.

Read the full article in ABC News, by Alyse Edwards, here:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-21/rabbit-meat-disappearing-from-australian-tables/5400586

 

 

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Whats in a pellet food?

So…firstly its important to NEVER feed a muesli mix style of food as this has been scientifically proven to cause selective feeding, dental and digestive issues. It is also chocked full of sugary stuff and grains that rabbits don’t need in their diet.

But this then leaves us in the sometimes bewildering world of pellets. Which brand? Do I choose the cheapest? Are they all the same anyway?

In general, as with the rest of life, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, Supreme Science Selective are the best extruded pellet available in the UK (Oxbow pellets for people in the USA). They have the highest crude fibre content and no added sugar – along with the correct ratios and percentages of other vitamins and nutrients. A close second is Burgess Excel Adult LIGHT. I specify the light version as this has no added sugar (unlike the regular adult version). The other great thing about these two brands is they offer a life stage option. Basically, rabbits over 4 years old should be fed a ‘mature’ version of the diet which has the percentages and ratios changed to better suit an ageing rabbits needs.

Oh and beware of the term ‘beneficial fibre’…this is a marketing term that makes the fibre content look higher than it is! Its always the crude fibre content that’s important.

At the lower end of the market (and diets I would not recommend) we have Allen & Page and Dodson & Horrell. These were born out of ‘breeder pellets’ and are generally low quality. They are lacking in essential vitamins and the pellet itself does not work the teeth as well as an ‘extruded’ pellet (like the above 2 examples).

For a more detailed comparison – check out this brilliant pellet food comparison table.

As always, the pellet part of a rabbits diet should be minimal – no more than 5% of its daily ration. 80% should be a choice of different good quality hays and 10-15% can be fresh food such as lovely herbs (basil, mint, coriander (cilantro) and parsley) or non root vegetables such as cabbage and kale (be aware that gassy veg for us can also be gassy veg for bunnies).

Lastly, all dietary changes should be made gradually over a 10 day period to minimise the risk of dietary upset.

More rabbit diet info can be found at RWAF, Bunny Lovers Unite, Camp Nibble (courtesy of Save a Fluff) and House Rabbit Society for anyone in USA.

 

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