Choosing a Rabbit-Savvy Vet

One of the most important things you can do for your pet rabbit is to choose a rabbit-savvy vet. Especially if you already have a vet for your cat or dog, don't just assume your rabbit will be fine seeing him, too. "But my vet SAYS he sees rabbits!" you say? Still, be cautious, and take my story as a warning ...

I spoiled my first bunny Loki like you wouldn't believe. He actually refused to eat veggies, since he was so used to getting crackers as treats almost every day (the equivalent of a Big Mac for a bunny!). He was seriously overweight (okay, obese). Then one day he stopped eating. He droppings were tiny, and he didn't want to come out of his cage at night. Since I didn't have a vet already, I took him to the vet that my brother-in-law used for his cat. I told the vet that he'd lost a LOT of weight, probably half his body weight, and wouldn't eat. She said that it was probably just because he was lonely because I'd been gone for a few weeks for summer school. He died in less than a week, from the most common killer of pet rabbits: GI Stasis.

A rabbit-savvy vet would have recognized the symptoms immediately. But your typical cat or dog vet wouldn't necessarily, because rabbits are "exotics" with a very different metabolism. Be sure the vet you choose specializes in rabbits.

So, how do you find a specialist rabbit vet? Don't wait until you have an emergency; instead, call around to a variety of vets and ask who they refer their clients to for serious rabbit cases. Then, don't just ask if they'll see rabbits since many will say "yes," meaning "yes, I'd like to have your business" rather than "yes, I'm specially trained in rabbit care." Ask the "trick" rabbit questions ...
  • Ask how many rabbit clients they currently have.

  • How many rabbits has the vet has spayed/neutered and the success rate (the loss rate should be almost none ... 99.5% is average success rate for specialists).

  • Does the vet withhold food and water prior to surgery in rabbits? (The right answer is no. Rabbits can't vomit, so there's no risk of that during surgery, and rabbits should never be allowed to have empty digestive tracts because of the risk of GI Stasis.)

  • Ask if they know which antibiotics are dangerous for rabbits (amoxicillin and most of the "...cillin" drugs like penicillin).

  • What's the best way to prevent hairballs? (Answer: Provide your rabbit with hay every day, preferably 24 hours a day. Provide daily exercise and brush frequently.)

  • You might also want to ask which conferences they've attended lately that had talks about rabbit medicine and what journals they read. You want your vet to be up on the latest in rabbit treatment.
You can find these and other questions on the House Rabbit Society's FAQ on finding a good vet and questions to ask before spaying/neutering . The HRS also keeps a recommended vets list that might be helpful, and your local rabbit rescue group likely keeps a similar list.

Finding a rabbit-savvy vet is worth the effort. I drive an hour across the city to get to mine, but I rest easy knowing that my bunnies get the best care possible. After all, paying a vet who doesn't specialize in rabbits is just throwing your money away, and can cost the life of your pet.

1 comment:

  1. Me and my wife just got a bunny for our little daughter, and have no idea what kind of veterinarian to take it to for shots and things like that. Good to know that we need to look for a veterinarian that specializes in rabbits. I would have never guessed that rabbits are classified as exotic animals because of their metabolism. Thank you for all of the very useful information. http://www.arkvethosp.com

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