'R' IS FOR RABBITS

I have a special love and respect for rabbits

I appreciate how delicate they are, and it is an honour to be able to work with these intelligent, charismatic, and loving pets. Unless you have owned a bunny, it is very difficult to imagine the uniquely special bond that develops between an owner and his/her bunny.

Working with bunnies is certainly challenging – especially when performing surgery. Bunnies are “prey species” and are programmed to release lots of stress hormones (catecholamines such as epinephrine), which trigger the “flight or fight response”. The result of the explosion of stress hormones is the development of cardiac arrhythmias which can induce a heart attack in bunnies when they perceive a threat.

General anesthesia is regarded by rabbits as an extremely threatening experience – which is why I use an unhurried, staged sedation plan prior to the induction of general anesthesia.  Relaxing sedation and pain medications are absolutely crucial – and multi-modal (different types) of pain medication work wonderfully with rabbits.  

The general statistic for anesthetic death in healthy rabbits is 1 in 137, whereas, in rabbits with underlying (possibly undetected) disease, the anesthetic death rate increases to 1 in 14. These are scary statistics considering that the same study found the rate for dogs to be 1 death in 1849 anesthetic procedures and 1 death in 895 anesthetic procedures for cats.

 

When bunnies are recovering from a major surgery such as a spay (ovariohysterectomy), bladder stone removal (cystotomy), eye removal (enucleation), or amputation, I prefer to take the bunny home to monitor him/her for a couple of days, at no additional charge. I will syringe-feed the bunny Critical Care at regular intervals, provide additional pain and motility medication, and ensure that the bunny is eating lots of hay and producing an abundance of fecal pellets before returning home.

 

The immediate post-operative period for a rabbit after major surgery is critical, and I enjoy being able to supervise and treat them directly, so I feel confident that they will do well when I send them home.

Rarely, there may be additional charges for injectable pain or motility medication – beyond what is expected. But my bunnies receive intensive veterinary care and monitoring, and an unlimited amount of hay is provided of several different types. Owners are asked to bring their rabbit’s favourite hay, pellets, and greens, and I tend to pick up some other types of leafy greens as well. Some bunnies who have never shown an interest in parsley before will suddenly dive into the fresh parsley as their first choice when starting to eat after surgery!

Here are some of my "shower bunnies"

I call the bunnies who come into my home for care my “shower bunnies” because I house them in my walk-in shower with glass doors so that they can be supervised without stress. The shower is disinfected thoroughly before and after each new bunny visit.

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