April 13th, 2023

John Chitty’s Top Tips On Approaching The Sick Rabbit!

Hi everyone, my name is John Chitty, and I’m an exotics practitioner in Hampshire. I’ve been working with exotic species, including rabbits, for about just over 30 years now and I’ve been asked to give you my five top tips about rabbits.

First of all, rabbits are prey species, unlike dogs or cats they are eaten in the wild. Which means they are very, very stressed creatures, so we need to be aware of that. Many of the problems we encounter with hospitalisation and anaesthesia, are linked into that stress. So we need to look after the rabbit, keep it happy, and we will get greater successes.

When they’re in pain they go very quiet, they can scream in acute pain, but they generally go very quiet and very still, and lot of things hurt them. So we have to pay a lot of attention to analgesia.  A big deal, and this is what will reduce my referral load quite a lot, is that the Meloxicam dose is one milligram per kilogram, once to twice a day.

The third thing is you don’t just look after a lesion. Just like all the other species we deal with, look after the whole rabbit, look at it all, see how things tie in with each other and see why things happen. So for example, like foot sores when paired with dermatitis, there are often some serious, important underlying causes going on there. Look at the whole animal.

Another thing when you’re investigating, is that clinical pathology can be quite unhelpful and vague, so it doesn’t always lead to places. Imaging is often much more successful, and I do a lot more imaging than I do clinical pathology.

The fifth one is engage with the owners, many rabbit owners are very, very bonded. They’re often very knowledgeable about rabbits, which you need to be aware of when you talk to them.  Engage with them, bring them into the treatments, let them understand where you’re looking at where you’re moving to, and what you’re planning.

And finally, I didn’t start as a rabbit vet, I actually started as a farm vet, I moved gradually towards small mammals and rabbits. They’re really cool animals. The more you work with them, the more cool they are. They do weird things and the great. Thank you.

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