So your new fluffy companion is settling in to their new home and you’ve already called all of your friends and family to tell them the exciting news – you are the proud owner of a rabbit! But….what next?!
If you haven’t already started searching for a rabbit savvy vet this is a great time to start calling the clinics in your area to find the right one. Not all vets are qualified to treat exotic animals. Rabbit’s are fragile creatures with complex digestive systems and require specialized care. A vet who specializes in ‘small pets’ has gone through different levels of education in order to understand their particular needs and anatomy. Fortunately, we are seeing more vets qualified with these exotic animals as they become a more common household pet. Unfortunately there are vets out there who will see your small pet but not actually be educated in exotics. This can be life threatening to your rabbit, especially if they are prescribed any medications or to undergo surgery so it is very important to find a vet who is properly qualified.
It is best to find a vet you can trust early on. You never know when an emergency situation is going to pop up and can leave you feeling panicked. Knowing you have a qualified vet to turn to assures your rabbit will get the best care as quickly as possible.
So how do you find the right vet for your rabbit? Begin by calling all of the veterinary offices in your area, even those you think only see cats and dogs, and ask them if they have a vet that specializes in rabbits. You may be surprised to find out that one of these locations does have an exotic vet on staff! Even if you find a vet that does deal with exotics early on in your search, it is always a good idea to call a number of clinics to get an idea of the exotic vets in your area. This also gives you some options so you can feel out multiple vets and choose the right one for you and your rabbit. For those clinics who don’t deal with exotics ask them if they know of any local exotic vets that they would recommend. Hopefully a few of these will direct you to the same exotic clinic which should mean that particular one has a good reputation.
Now that you have a list of veterinary clinics that will see your rabbit, you will want to follow up with them and see how knowledgeable they are. When you call, ask to speak to the vet that sees rabbits or leave a message for him/her to contact you in between appointments as the receptionist answering the phone may not be educated about rabbits.
Here is a list of some great questions to ask the rabbit savvy vet on staff:
How many rabbits do you see in a week?
How many rabbits have you successfully neutered or spayed? How many have not survived the procedure?
How long have you been practicing as an exotic vet? Have you won any awards or recognitions for your work?
What is the pre-op process for a rabbit? The answer you should be given is that your rabbit is to continue eating and drinking until they enter surgery. Unlike a cat or dog which is required to fast prior to a surgery, doing so to a rabbit could cause their digestive system to shut down and go in to life threatening stasis. Rabbits also lack the ability to throw up so fasting before a surgery can only damage their health.
What is the post-op process for a rabbit? The most important thing is that your rabbit gets eating right away. Again this differs from dogs and cats who are to have a period of fasting post-surgery to let the medication wear off. Some vets may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection or some pain medication. Rabbits who are not eating may also be force fed critical care. Your vet may also tell you to restrict your rabbit’s exercise area and keep their pen to one level to prevent stitches from opening up.
Where are rabbits recovering from surgery kept? The answer should be in appropriate housing (such as an x-pen) that is in a quiet and safe area away from other predatory animals like cats and dogs.
What kind of antibiotics do you prescribe for rabbits? Unsafe medications include penicillin and amoxicillin. Safe medications include bactrim and baytril.
Here are some general questions you can ask about your rabbit’s health:
What kind of food do you recommend? The answer should be a straight pelleted formula. Muesli and seed mixes are detrimental to your rabbits health.
How much hay should I be feeding to my rabbit and what type? You should be told to offer hay in unlimited amounts and that a rabbit over 6 months of age should not be given alfalfa. Most likely they will recommend timothy hay.
Do you have any suggestions for housing my rabbit? A vet knowledgeable in rabbits and concerned about their overall well-being should tell you that your rabbit is to be housed in nothing smaller then an x-pen and that they require 2-3+ hours of free range floor time daily.
You may also want to do a quick internet search on the clinic to see what kind of reviews others have posted about the facility.
At this point if you are satisfied with the answers the vet has given and the research you’ve done on the clinic, it is a good idea to book a general exam. This will allow you to meet the vet, talk to them one on one and see how he/she interacts with your rabbit. This will also allow you to check out the facility’s cleanliness and ensure the staff are friendly and care about the animals they are helping. The vet should treat your rabbit gently and like its a beloved member of your family. During a regular checkup the vet should be checking your rabbit’s weight, heart rate, eyes and ears, stomach and bunny bum. This is also a great time to talk with your vet, have them answer any more questions you may have and get an overall feel for them.
Remember that you are the one responsible for your rabbit’s health and overall well-being. If you don’t get a good feeling about the facility or the vet then you have every right to walk away. You may also find that the right vet requires travelling further then you originally anticipated, but in the end it will be well worth it if it means your rabbit gets the proper care and treatment it requires.
For the HRS listing of Rabbit Savvy vets click here.
We have also had followers contribute to our Rabbit Savvy list here.
If you have a rabbit savvy vet you would like to add to our list please e-mail their information to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a brief sentence or two on why you recommend them. All entries remain anonymous but could help another rabbit owner in your area!
Thank you to Todd for allowing us to use his photo of Dumbo at the vets for this article. You can subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well as join Beautiful Buns on Facebook and follow NYCBuns on Instagram.