How to Find a Good Rabbit Veterinarian
It is very important that you find and use a veterinarian skilled in working specifically with rabbits. Rabbits are considered “exotic” in the medical world because it takes different medical knowledge as well as special techniques and knowledge of rabbit-safe drugs to deal with their specific needs. Using a vet that does not specialize in working with rabbits can seriously endanger your rabbit’s life, even with something as routine as a spay or neuter operation. It is important to find a vet BEFORE an emergency arises, to save yourself the panic and possibly vital time when an urgent situation occurs.
- Check the veterinary listings at the House Rabbit Society to see there is a recommended vet in your area
- Check the yellow pages or internet listings for vets who advertise as exotics vets. Write down the names and numbers of several (3-5) vets that seem close enough to get to in an urgent or emergency situation.
- Also write down also the names of several vets that are NOT advertised as exotics vets and call them and ask whom they recommend for rabbit care. If you have your own trusted dog or cat vet, ask him or her for a recommendation.
- Hopefully the vets you ASK will refer you to two or more of the vets on your list. Call these vets and ask their receptionists if you could come by and talk to the vet for just a few moments or if s/he would be willing to give you a call at an appointed time (with leeway for vet emergencies!) so that you could ask a few questions, as you are trying to locate the proper vet for your pet bunny.
Most vets are very pleased to have clients that care about their animal’s health and will be glad to answer a few questions for you. Following are some good questions to ask and the answers to expect from a vet who knows rabbits:
Q How many rabbits do you see per month?
A Should be at least 15, better if 20-30; depends on size of practice.
Q How many spay/neuter procedures do you perform per month?
A Number depends of size of practice. Should be at least 5-10.
Q What anesthesia do you use on rabbits?
A Isofluorane is still the preferred anesthesia for rabbits, although some are now using sevofluane with spectacular results.
Q What do you recommend as a healthy rabbit diet for adult rabbits?
A Limited plain, high fiber, low protein pellets AND unlimited timothy, oat and other grass hays, plus a daily vegetable assortment (amount based upon buns weight), and of course plenty of fresh water at all times. Salt licks are unnecessary for healthy rabbits on healthy diets.
Q What antibiotics are NOT for use on bunnies (dangerous)?
A Lincomycin, clindamycin, amoxicillin and most of the ‘cillin’ drugs can be fatal to rabbits, even just one dose! Should they mention proper drugs, some of the common names you would hear are Baytril, Trimethaprin Sulfa (Bactrim) and Maxaquin.
Q What do you advise owners to do to prevent rabbits from getting “hairballs”?
A It is important that a rabbit has access to timothy, oat or other grass hays 24 hours a day, because the process of digesting this long, dry, indigestible fiber is what keeps their gut functioning properly. Exercise and consistent grooming/brushing, especially during a shed, are also very important. Vet may also mention that “hairballs” are a secondary symptom of problems in the gi tract/gut.
Q Do you advise rabbit owners to remove food from their rabbits the night before surgery?
A NO. Period. Rabbits should not ever be fasted; it can cause stomach ulcers, as well as inhibit recovery time.
Q Have you ever treated GI Stasis, Pasteurella, e. cuniculi or abscesses in rabbits?
A If your vet answers NO to all of these, I would think twice about using him or her. The above problems occur with some frequency in rabbits and a vet that has not treated any of the above, either hasn’t had enough rabbit experience, or may not be properly diagnosing.
Don’t let ignorance kill your rabbit: A vet who works specifically with rabbit breeders or 4H clubs may not be the vet that you want. Our House Rabbits are pets and many breeders and their vets will consider the financial bottom line over any sort of extended health care. What does this mean to you? It means that if your rabbit gets ill or if there is an emergency situation the vet may not have the experience to recognize or handle the problem; or s/he may suggest that you euthanize rather than treat a medical situation that could be easily diagnosed and taken care of by an experienced House Rabbit vet.
Once you have found the right vet: Make an appointment for a check up so that all of you can get acquainted and you and your new vet can discuss any outstanding or on-going medical concerns, as well as a long-term health plan (diet, spay or neuter, etc.). If you and your rabbit have recently moved, be sure to provide your new vet with your rabbit’s past medical records.
At this point it may also be a good idea to ask your new vet where you should take your rabbit for after-hours emergencies. If this is a new area you may even want to do a drive-by so that when an emergency does arise, you don’t panic and get lost.