Many people get a rabbit for a pet, thinking they can just put it in a cage. They take it out on the rare occasions they feel like it. But that isn’t very beneficial for the rabbit and provides the pet owner with more problems in the long run. Rabbits are not mechanical toys. They require care.
One area where owners will often short that care is in seeking the services of an experienced veterinarian, one with a knowledge of rabbits. Many vets are excellent with dogs and cats but have few opportunities to treat rabbits, so their skills are limited. Many owners will throw up their hands and simply let the rabbit die when it’s ill then get another. A regrettable situation.
But for those who are concerned about the proper care of their pet, there are guidelines to help them.
A few common sense questions to ask of a potential vet are the first order of business. Most vets are not offended by honest, respectful questions. Simply ask how much experience they have treating rabbits, if any. Ask them which breeds. Most of the knowledge of one breed is applicable to another, but it helps to get particular. You’ll find out more that way.
Spaying or neutering a rabbit is a commonly recommended practice, for example. Spaying is for females, neutering is for males. But, while similar, the sex organs of rabbits differ from dogs and cats. Here again, it’s helpful to look for particular experience. Ask the candidate how many surgical procedures they’ve performed. You may decide in the end to use their services even if the answer is ‘none’. But an informed decision leads to a calculated risk, not a blind hope.
Vets who treat rabbits should have a knowledge of which vaccines are required or recommended. Vaccines sometimes use live (but modified) viruses to stimulate a more substantial immune response. But if quality control is lacking, that also substantially increases the risk of reaction. Vets should be able to convey in clear language the risks associated with using them, just as they would for a dog or cat.
Rabbits are prone to a number of diseases and conditions that are more common in them than other animals. Fly strike, Gastrointestinal stasis and other afflictions occur. These are serious but treatable and your vet candidate should be familiar with them.
Once you find one, it’s important to be prepared to seek their services from time to time. Early vaccinations and spaying or neutering are obvious times. But being alert to signs of intestinal problems and other issues may also warrant a visit.
If you don’t value your rabbit as you would a cat or dog, and budget time and money for vet care accordingly, think twice about getting one. Consider a stuffed rabbit doll instead.