You may have noticed that I have not updated my blog in a few weeks, due to the fact that I have been suffering from a serious medical condition the past few months.
While I have managed to keep up all my HRS and shelter volunteering obligations, I have been simply worn out after that and have not had the energy and time to do any writing for my site. Now that I am feeling much better, I think that this important topic needs to be discussed.
Last week when I went for my usual day at the shelter, I noticed right away that my favorite bunny who was awaiting spay surgery was not in her abode. I knew instantly that something was not right and went about trying to find out what had happened to her.
I was told that she had passed away during her spay surgery. I did not ask them the gruesome details as to what had happened, but it brought to mind for me the importance of having a very experienced and rabbit saavy vet for your pet bunny.
Rabbits are extremely fragile critters whom are nothing like dogs and cats. To be able to successfully work with them medically, you need lots of knowledge and even more important, experience with their many health issues.
Even for surgeries as routine as spay and neuter, you want only the best veterinarians working on your pet. When it comes to anesthesia, bunnies have the unfortunate tendency to not do well with it. It takes years of experience, to learn exactly how to anesthestize a rabbit without any complications.
Also, common rabbit issues such as stasis, head tilt or infections take special knowledge and experience not gained from treating dogs and cats. You can only become a good rabbit vet by actually working on lots of rabbits, not reading info off the internet or seeing three or four bunnies a year.
Last month a new friend adopted a rabbit from the shelter I work at. She was one of the happiest most friendly buns we have had in a while and this person bonded her with her little Netherland Dwarf boy. She brought them both to the beach in early July and it was then that I mentioned to her that she needed to locate a better vet than the one she had for her two buns. I made this comment in light of the fact that I had lost a couple of buns at the exact vet that she was currently using and I felt it was due to the fact that they were mainly dog and cat vets. They were simply not good at diagnosing or treating rabbits.
Ironically, a week later her newly adopted girl developed a case of head tilt. The poor bunny was rolling from being off-balance. To this inexperienced rabbit owner, she was having a seizure.
When she rushed her rabbit into the vet that I had tried to talk her out of using, the vet told her that her rabbit was doomed to a life of suffering and pressured her to have the bunny put to sleep.
Not knowing that the bunny was not having seizures, she made the tough decision to save her girl from suffering needlessly and had her put down. Little did she know that most head tilts are caused by ear infections or possibly E. Cunniculi, both which can often be cured with proper medication and care.
I was quite angry with the vet for not referring her and her rabbit to a more saavy and knowledgeable vet. This girl thought that she was doing the right thing, especially in light of the vet’s insistence that she follow his advice.
It was a couple weeks before I decided to tell this girl that her bunny could have possibly been saved and that I felt she had been too hasty in putting her to sleep. I knew it would be devastating news for her to digest, but sometimes the best lessons in life come after a significant emotional event, as psychologists call it.
You can easily see in hindsight what the importance of having of having the proper veterinarian in this situation, but in reality it applies to virtually all vet visits because as my first story illustrates, even routine procedures such as a spay and neuter can have a deadly outcome if an inexperienced or unknowledgeable vet is utilized.
I know we are lucky that here in San Diego we have about a dozen very good rabbit specialists. In many areas, you may have to travel hundreds of miles to reach one, but do not underestimate the importance of locating and becoming familiar with an expert.
Many people in many areas of the USA have the mentality that rabbits are disposable pets and because they can be had for $20 or less are easily replaced if one passes away. For this reason, in many areas the vets will rarely see bunnies brought in, because the people who own them would not consider spending $500-600 to medically care for a rabbit that they bought for just $20. If the rabbit has a serious illness, the owners do not spend money to treat it and opt to simply purchase another new bunny. I have been told this first hand by vets who live in other parts of the country.
I recommend that everyone use the resources provided by the National House Rabbit Society website and your local HRS chapter or rabbit rescue. An important task of the HRS and any rabbit rescue is to communicate to the public who the best vets are for treating their sick bunnies. This knowledge is hard to come by and usually must be learned through trial and error. When your bunny is sick or dying, it is not the time to start interviewing or trying out a new veterinarian for your pet.
All experienced rabbit lovers know that it is critical to develop a relationship with a rabbit specialist vet while your rabbit IS HEALTHY… NOT WHEN HE BECOMES ILL. I will say this again, if you want the best chance of your rabbit surviving a serious illness or injury, you must have an experienced rabbit vet waiting in the wings to see and help your bunny. Frantically searching for a vet for your rabbit while he is suffering and hours make a difference, is not the way to do it and it drastically reduces the chances of your rabbit surviving his problem.
It is highly recommended to have a rabbit specialist see your bunny when he is healthy and not sick, so that a blood panel can be run to provide a baseline from which your vet can more efficiently and quickly diagnose future problems.
The reason for this is that a rabbit’s blood test values can vary widely from rabbit to rabbit. In order to not have your vet wasting precious time trying to diagnose a problem, it helps a lot to already know what the normal values for the tests are, for your particular rabbit. Yes, it costs a couple hundred dollars to run these tests on a healthy rabbit, but it can be the difference between life and death when your bunny is sick.
I am not going to say that either one of the bunnies I wrote about would have survived or not, had a better vet been used, but I do know that GOOD rabbit vets have a much lower mortality rate when working with sick rabbits. When it comes to treating rabbits, experience is everything.
I have learned this lesson the hard way and I try and coach every bunny lover that I know of the consequences of not having the best possible vet for their buns.
Nothing is more heart wrenching, than to lose a bunny with whom you were very close and bonded with. Nothing replaces the kisses and nose bonks that we get from a beloved rabbit buddy. Naturally, we all want our “special friends” to be with us on this earth, as long as possible.
I have personally made these same awful mistakes and so this is why I so adamant that every bunny owner should have a good relationship with a rabbit specialist vet in their area.
Having problems locating such a vet? A simple phone call or email to a local rabbit rescue or your local HRS chapter should provide you with a short list of all the vets whom can help you in your area. Please do not wait until your rabbit is desperately ill to start your search, because at that time it is probably too late.
The Bunny Guy