Please everybody share this poster and message in your emails and on social media, and on any rabbit or pet group you might be on.
Rabbits need vaccination every year to protect them against RVHD2 as well as against Myxomatosis and RVHD1. Unfortunately that can’t be given in one jab. There are two. For Myxi/RVHD1 they need the Nobivac combined jab and then for RVHD2 there is a choice of either Filavac or Eravac. There should be at least 2 weeks between the jabs.
We have heard from several worried owners whose rabbits’ vaccinations are due now or soon.
We are sorry you are in this unfortunate position and we do understand your very valid concerns
The BVA/RCVS have advised veterinary practices not to carry out routine procedures, but only to be available for emergency medicine. This is to conserve essential supplies, protect the health of veterinary staff, and avoid further spread of the disease.
Please, in the first instance, check your practice website, to see what protocols they are following, and what they recommend that you do. Contact them by phone to discuss your specific situation if it is not totally clear. Whilst vaccination is not usually an urgent procedure, if they are overdue, or have not had first vaccines yet, they will be at higher risk of developing diseases. Discuss your individual situation with your vet to find the best option.
In the meantime you need to give your rabbits the best protection you can from disease.
If your rabbits live indoors:
• If you have open windows, have mosquito screens over them because biting insects are a known vector of both myxomatosis and RVHD1 and 2
• Practice barrier care – when you come into the house from outside change your shoes, remove outer clothing and thoroughly wash hands before handling your rabbits or any of their food, toys, etc.
• Have a footbath at the door as well, and dip outdoor shoes in that. Use Anigene HLD4V or Virkon disinfectant in the footbath
• Thoroughly wash and dry any wild or garden forage before feeding to your rabbits
If your rabbits live outdoors:
• Buy mosquito nets to completely cover windows and doors in sheds and also runs. These can be bought online and large nets are available.
• Only handle your rabbits and their toys or food after you have thoroughly washed your hands
• If you have walk-in accommodation for your rabbits, you should change footwear at the door in case you have picked up any virus on your shoes while walking across the garden.
• Thoroughly wash and dry any wild or garden forage you have picked for them
While these measures aren’t as effective as vaccination, in the current crisis, they are all we have. Full advice on appropriate disinfectants and how to clean effectively can be found here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/disinfectants/
Our very best wishes, we hope you and your rabbits stay well
We just wanted to let you all know that we are still here and still able to answer the helpline, reply to e-mails and process orders.
Ros and Rae both work from home, and all being well, will be able to keep things going as normal. Ros answers all the e-mails to email@example.com. Rae does all the admin and processes the shop orders, and between them they run the helpline, so as long as they both stay well things won’t change.
Update on orders – due to new lockdown restrictions we are no longer able to post out orders. Our last visit to the post office has taken place until the lockdown is over. You can still place orders which will be fulfilled where possible, either once the lockdown is ended, or where possible, electronically. Memberships can still be subscribed to and renewed, but books and back issues of Rabbiting On cannot be sent out under current restrictions.
Richard also works from home for us (not for his other roles) so we hope that he will be able to keep his side of things going, which includes the rabbit friendly vet list assessments, advice to vets, and all general health and welfare strategy.
Guen Bradbury who also advises us on veterinary matters works from home
In terms of Rabbiting On, Claire (our Editor) and Ian (our designer) work from home. Claire is currently self isolating for 12 weeks from her job as a Vet Nurse. The Summer issue is almost ready, and will be sent to the printer shortly as we intend to get this issue out a bit sooner, in April rather than early May. Work has already begun on the Autumn issue and currently we plan to continue with the issue as normal.
What we do plan to do in the mean time, to reduce the need to go to the post office, is to send the current Rabbiting On as a PDF instead of a printed copy to anyone that joins from April, until things return to normal. Once they do, we will send the membership pack out as normal. Existing members will receive their magazine in print as normal
With regard to the Conference at RDSVS in June, we are postponing this and have contacted everyone that has booked a place this morning. Once we have a new date confirmed we will let you know.
We are aware that, due to COVID-19, many people are understandably restricting where they go and what they do, to minimise the risk of spread. And that also many veterinary practices are, quite reasonably, trying to limit visits for non-urgent procedures, again to minimise spread, and also because of limited staff due to self-isolation or childcare commitments.
On the other hand, the health, and preventative health, or your pet is important, and so the risks and benefits of visiting the vets should be carefully considered. We have put together the following advice, but if in doubt, visit your vet’s website, or contact them to discuss individual animals.
Emergencies (see our poster): contact your vet on the phone or emergency out of hours phone, and discuss directly with your practice if you suspect an emergency condition, such as open mouth breathing, difficulty breathing, severe blood loss, collapse, loss of consciousness, paralysis, eye injury, refusing food, not passing faeces or urine, significant wounds, broken limb.
Urgent but not emergencies: Contact your practice for advice on when best to be seen, within the next 24-48 hours: respiratory or eye/ear discharge, altered food preferences, lameness, less serious wounds, etc.
Non-urgent and routine events: eg vaccination, neutering, regular scheduled health checks for ongoing conditions. Depending on the individual rabbit, and practices and owners own health status, some checks may be possible over the phone or via remote viewing, eg for medication refills and prescriptions. neutering may be delayed, but with young rabbits kept together, definitely contact the practice, or, if left too long, the result may be an unplanned litter, or fighting. Vaccinations are a particularly tricky one, as the duration of immunity is not as fully known for rabbits as dogs and cats, and may be only just 12 months. Again, its best to discuss your particular rabbit with your vet.
Richard Saunders BVSc DZooMed MRCVS European Veterinary Specialist in Zoo Health Management
We have been asked by owners whether our pets can be infected by COVID-19, so as always we turned to our Specialist Veterinary adviser Dr Richard Saunders for advice
This is his response
“At the moment, COVID-19 is too new, and not enough work has been done on it in a full range of species, for us to be able to give absolutely definitive advice, but from what we know about previous respiratory coronaviruses (https://jvi.asm.org/content/89/11/6131) it seems hopeful that rabbits and rodents are resistant to it, although its worth pointing out that they could carry it on their fur etc.
It would appear that rabbits are much much less at risk than pigs, ferrets and cats, and so our advice would be to be sensible, wash hands in soap and water before and after handling any animal, and contact your vet if you have any concerns”
We have been asked whether it is safe to keep rabbits in the same area as poultry, primarily chickens. We don’t advise this for several reasons
Dietary needs are different. Poultry birds need grain feeds. This is high calorie and low on fibre. It’s a completely unsuitable diet for rabbits, will cause obesity and doesn’t provide the dietary fibre they need to keep teeth worn correctly nor to keep the gut moving properly
Water is generally fouled by birds. Rabbits need to have a constant supply of fresh water and if they are sharing living quarters with chickens etc that will not be possible as it will become contaminated with faecal matter
Salmonella is a major problem with poultry. Whilst rabbits are reasonable resistant to it, it is nevertheless an unacceptable risk
Hens and particularly ducks turn grass into bare earth or mud quickly. This is removing a valuable food source from rabbits and turning the area they live on into something potentially harmful
There is potential for injury and there are anecdotal tales of this happening
For these reasons we recommend that rabbits are not housed with poultry species
There is further information on this topic in the BSAVA Rabbit Manual. It states that where birds and rabbits are housed together, large psittacines (parrot species) may cause trauma to rabbits, although in most cases where rabbits share an aviary with birds the birds are more commonly smaller members of the parrot group and also other perching birds.
It is not common for micro-organisms to be able to transfer directly between avian and mammalian species, but if it does happen in one bird or mammal, the others in the group should be suspected of being infected also. This is particularly the case with intestinal diseases and fungal skin conditions.
Where hens and rabbits are kept together, the coccidian affecting each animal are different and should not cause problems to the other species but the main health problems are as mentioned above.
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund – Animal Welfare Officer Update – June 2019 to December 2019
We are so very lucky to have Mark working with us. He has absolutely thrown himself into this role and is serious about improving rabbit welfare. He has undertaken training of his own accord, and turns up at locations to follow up leads. Initially this post was funded by Pets Corner, and we are very grateful to them for getting this project off the ground for us. We now fund this project ourselves, and we are always grateful for donations that can help keep this project going.
The software that Keith Hinde developed for us is now being used by many other organisations. Here is an update from him:
“Since our little project started collecting rabbit ads from a small selection of UK sites, things have expanded somewhat!
“In the UK and Ireland, we are now collecting ads for dogs, cats, fish, horses, reptiles and (of course!) rabbits from no fewer than 11 different sites. To date, we have collected 2.2m adverts in the UK and Ireland, of which 208,698 are for rabbits. 2020 should see us add additional sources, as well as engage with stakeholders and enforcement agencies to broaden the depth and availability of the data.
“In terms of international efforts, we have run pilot projects for the EU and have active projects in both the USA and Canada, with more planned for 2020”.
Mark Dron, RWAF Animal Welfare Officer, updates us on his work over the last six months:
“This has been a busy few months with plenty of reactive and proactive work to keep me occupied.
“I recently received training relating to intelligence research, which will enable me to further professionalise the intelligence-handling work of the role, and I have recently made in-roads into liaison and joint-working with several South-East Environmental Health and Trading Standards Departments, which should assist the dissemination of intelligence to the right areas quickly, which can only serve to improve how we action Animal-Welfare intelligence.
“In addition to proactive and reactive enquiries, and attempts to identify the physical locations of ‘breeders’ in and around the South East, I have also been maintaining my watch on internet sales platforms; in so doing I have continued to build up a picture of the size and scale of online sales and sellers, helped by Hindesight’s sales monitoring software and the use of open source research tools.
“As well as intelligence and complaints from the public and RWAF members, I have also received information identifying restaurants in two London boroughs from which it was alleged rabbit-meat of dubious origin was being used to create various dishes that were popular locally. This led to observations and surveillance, as well as considerable open-source research and ultimately referral of two businesses to environmental health food safety officers for further investigation.
“The last six months have seen a marked increase in the amount of sellers identified on internet platforms, which include Pets 4 Homes, Gumtree and Facebook; the amounts are so large in fact that I have had to adopt a triage system, cross-referring my records with the Hindesight trawl data and prioritising investigations based on more than three advertisements a month, otherwise it would be virtually impossible to keep track of the enquiries.
“Since June, I have started over thirty full investigations, many of which are still in hand or have resulted in referrals to the RSPCA, Local Authorities, and in many instances HMRC, where it is likely that the earnings potential represents a likelihood of income suppression and tax evasion.
“My open source enquiries have also brought me into contact with some emerging animal welfare and health issues, that I have been able to highlight to HQ, which includes the presence of unlicensed Cannabis- derived animal medicines in the UK market, many of which appear to be freely available on the internet, both domestically and as postal imports.
“My current workload includes a number of outstanding Freedom of Information enquiries relating to possible breeders in various South Eastern council areas, which is where I usually start my enquiries into possible online breeders. If someone holds a licence, there is little point in continuing enquiries other than where definite welfare or health concerns exist.
“2019, as a whole, has seen an increase, not only in work relating to unlicensed sales, but also the unlicensed use of rabbits and other small mammals for entertainment purposes. This has resulted in my first referrals to councils for this phenomenon. I suspect this sudden burst of activity relates to provisions within the revamped Animal Welfare regulations, that relates to the licensing of activities involving animals.
“My work continues to impinge upon other areas of potential criminality, and I have been involved in a referral to Action Fraud of an international fraudster offering dogs and monkeys for sale via local sales sites, which do not exist, resulting in considerable losses for some, as well as product counterfeiters, and what appears to be an illicit fuel supply site in the wilds of rural Kent, which came to light as a result of enquiries into a possible local rabbit breeder.
“It is important in this role to remember that crimes rarely happen in isolation, and that rabbit breeding could just be the tip of the iceberg.
“In other news, I have also been enlisted by HQ to assist with welfare enquiries in the ‘Ask the Expert’s’ section of Rabbiting On, which has given me a few opportunities to exercise my grey matter and legal knowledge in the last six months.
“In closing, please remember that I welcome referrals from RWAF members and the public, and any information you may have is always gratefully received and acted upon where possible. The information you hold could well be the missing part in a bigger jigsaw, so please never think that it is too trivial; please also remember, however, that if your information relates to a crime in progress then you should always call the Police on 999”.
Getting ‘On The Hop’ into libraries
In November we were contacted by one of our Bournemouth members, who had undertaken to get our ‘On The Hop’ booklet into her local libraries, to ensure members of the public could access accurate and correct rabbit information. She wrote to us initially, and then set about contacting Chief Librarians in the counties around where she lives, Bournemouth, Dorset, Wiltshire, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bristol. The results have been tremendous. Copies of our ‘On The Hop’ booklet, which we have provided free of charge, have been placed in every branch, in those areas, so they can have their own reference copy. Now, she has turned her attention to some other areas in the south too.
We are happy to extend this across the whole UK. If people are willing to write to the Chief Librarian in your area. Please copy us in if you email them (firstname.lastname@example.org), so we can keep up with progress. Let’s get good, up to date, accurate and kind information out there, so that rabbit owners care for their rabbits correctly.
We are kicking off the new decade with a few projects. Some we will be able to tell you about later this year, but there are two that we are delighted to tell you about now.
Firstly, we are shortly going to be launching a petition regarding rabbit housing. We have worked with Dr Laura Dixon on this (she was part of the team that conducted some research on rabbit housing for the RSPCA, and is a member of our ‘RWAF Expert Panel’), so we know the petition is based on the most up-to-date research and evidence. This is really important. We will be gathering signatures for this from vets and other professionals, and then asking retailers to remove anything below current welfare guidelines from sale.
Enclosures that are too small for rabbits lead to decreased activity, behavioural restriction and increased stress, and by association can also lead to an increased risk of obesity and skeletal problems. Rabbits will increase their activity levels, interact more with their environment and increase the height of rearing behaviours when provided with appropriate sized enclosures. Rabbits will also work for access to increased space, showing that larger space areas are important to them. As a result, being housed in enclosures that are too small will negatively impact a rabbit’s mental and physical well-being. A survey of rabbit housing retailers found that 60.5% of one-storey hutches available for purchase did not even meet the legal minimum requirements for meat rabbits and 91.5% of these hutches did not meet the RWAF size recommendations. There are currently no legally-binding guidelines on how pet rabbits should be housed. Therefore we are asking to have these inadequately sized one-storey hutches removed from commercial sales.
The other news is that we are hosting a ‘Rabbit Welfare day’ in June.
Rabbits are all too often bottom of the agenda, and we want to raise their profile and raise awareness of the many issues they face. Richard Saunders and Rae Todd have worked with our lovely Patron, Dr Emma Milne, who is well known and respected for her welfare work, to put a great agenda together, to cover as many issues as possible in one day. We have a great line up and we will be inviting delegates from other welfare organisations, the pet industry, breeders and DEFRA in the hope that we can put rabbits top of the agenda and come up with some solutions to improve their welfare.
A message from our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, Richard Saunders
We are aware of lots of comments regarding cardboard at the moment.
Cardboard toilet and paper towel roll inners can be very useful as an enrichment tool, and many many rabbit owners use boxes filled with hay and with holes cut inside, or toilet roll inners stuffed with hay etc without problem, and have done for years, because we didn’t have the vast array of toys to chose from that we have now. Cardboard boxes filled with bedding are useful for extra insulation in the winter. Cardboard boxes with 2 holes cut in them are useful as a bolt hole for the rabbits to feel safe.
Obviously as rabbit owners, if you see your rabbits eating a lot of the cardboard, rather than just enjoying destroying it, then remove any cardboard items, and consider seeking veterinary advice.
As a Specialist Vet, I see rabbits eating both appropriate and inappropriate fibrous and indigestible materials when they have GI problems, and this may be a sign of such issues. As with “hairballs” it’s often that the fur, hair, cardboard etc is in the gut in large amounts BECAUSE the GI tract is moving slowly, not causing the problem. What I am saying here is that when the rabbit starts to become ill, they often eat things that are not appropriate, and the cardboard or hairball is in the gut because of the gut slowdown, and is not the cause of it. Of course, there are certainly rabbits out there (as with dogs etc), who definitely eat things to excess, inappropriately, and in such cases, in any species, it’s sensible to prevent a problem by not allowing access to the material in question.
So let your rabbits enjoy their cardboard toys, but as with any toy, be sensible and monitor them. There are lots of things that you can give your rabbits to actually chew and eat that are safe such as apple branches, willow branches, hazel branches and forage trays.
Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc FRSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) DipECZM(ZHM) MRCVS; RCVS Specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine (Mammalian); European Specialist in Zoological Medicine (ZHM); RWAF Veterinary Specialist Adviser
We are sometimes asked about letting houserabbits play in the garden, especially in cold or wet weather.
Our Specialist Veterinary Adviser Dr Richard Saunders has provided this advice
“General: I would say that all rabbits outside in runs should have a hide box area with at least 2 exits, to retreat into if feeling insecure, as well as for protection from extremes of cold or wind.
Low temperatures: assuming they are healthy rabbits in social groups or pairings, with no significant areas of missing fur etc, if they are able to move around freely and are protected from rain and wind, they should be OK in runs down to about 5C. Below that, access to a well insulated indoor area, whether attached to or within the run, or both, must be provided. Rabbits in poor body condition, or with missing fur, or sole animals, must be provided with shelter before temperatures get down to 5C.
High temperatures: OK, assuming the rabbits are not obese, and do not have respiratory disease, and have shade and plenty of places to keep cool.”
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Animal Encounters, Petting Farms
Back in August we were sent this photo and asked for advice. Where do we start pointing out the problems with this set up? And why do these organisers not know better than this? If you go to any attractions or animal encounters please don’t turn a blind eye if you see something you are not happy about. Remember that rabbits kept on display for the general public should be setting good examples of welfare standards, housing and diet. Anyone using animals on display should be licenced by the relevant Local Authority. The licence means they are subject to animal welfare standards. Be polite, but speak up if you see something that needs to be improved, please don’t passively accept low welfare standards. Standards do need to be raised, and owners need to be educated, but breeding baby rabbits and allowing them to be inappropriately handled is not the way to do it. Setting good examples of companionship, housing, and diet are the way to do it. So please be rabbit ambassadors.
If you see something that concerns you:
• Bring it to the attention of the staff at the time
• When you get home, follow it up in writing with them, and include the Local Authority that issue their licence, and if you have taken any photos include them
• Sometimes they reply quicker via Facebook or Twitter so that is worth bearing in mind.
Some Local Authorities won’t follow up on complaints of poor welfare and will refer you to the RSPCA to make a complaint with them.
If you need help, then contact us and our Welfare Officer can assist with the referral on your behalf. In order for us to assist we will need details of the time and place, and photos if you have them.
Rabbit play date cancelled
We were alerted to a ‘rabbit play date’ that was to take place in a feed store, encouraging rabbit owners to take their rabbits along to play in grass pens. Obviously we were concerned about this, not only for the risk of RVHD2, and other diseases, but also because it would be stressful and potentially harmful to the rabbits involved. Thanks to everyone who contacted the feed merchant and shared their concerns, as the event was cancelled, and they plan to do something more welfare orientated in the near future.
Pet CV builder
We know it can be hard to find pet-friendly rental accommodation.
We hear frequently of people having to give up their much loved pets when moving into rented property. This is very distressing for owners and can also place huge burdens on animal rescues who very often have to try and accommodate pets when owners are faced with landlord ultimatums, time constraints for rehoming of their pets or the real possibility of having to give up their rental home.
The good news is things are gradually improving and one of the big reasons for this is the introduction of Pet CV’s.
A Pet CV can be a great help in providing Landlords with added information and the reassurance they need that you and your rabbits will make great tenants.
The RWAF has put together a brief thoughts list of areas for you to consider, together with an online Pet CV Builder which can either be completed online, or exported to PDF, or a download version which can be printed and completed manually.
If you rent and need help with finding somewhere that will accept your rabbits please check out our website: https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/home-sweet-home-renting-with-your-rabbit/
Our huge thanks to our lovely volunteer Elaine Line for putting this together for us.
We had a busy month in September!
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) study in to morbidity of rabbits generated a lot of media interest, and we were interviewed for The Sun and The Guardian, appearing in print and via their on line versions. It is always brilliant when the main stream press pick up on rabbit news items because they have such a huge reach. Thankfully, in both cases some really good messages were communicated. We hope to have further information from the study in the next issue of Rabbiting On.
We are using a PR company to post regular care and welfare advice and to grow our social media audiences so that we can get the messages out to as many people as possible. Please help us by sharing our messages if you can. This is a big investment for us, but we are really pleased with the results and the interactions so far, of course the cute bunny pictures are popular but so are the more hard hitting graphics that they have produced for us.
We are aware of the recall of Ranitidine. RWAF Veterinary Adviser, Richard Saunders had this to say:
“At this point it’s difficult to see exactly how long and how completely the Ranitidine recall will go on for and consist of. We obviously hope that stocks will continue to be available for our patients in both the short and long term, as it is a very useful therapeutic agent. We would suggest maintaining sensible stocks, without panic buying and stockpiling, and we will continue to monitor the situation”.
First Gold Rabbit Friendly Vet in Wales
Congratulations to Tariq at Valley Vets for being the first Gold Rabbit Friendly vet in Wales (see Round Up for more information). We now have over 160 vet practices listed on our website, and 14 of them are Gold. A general note – It is worth you checking if the veterinary practice that you use does their own out of hours or not. Generally speaking if it is a veterinary hospital the animals will stay there over night and will be monitored. However, some practices send their patients to another veterinary practice or ‘out of hours’ provider and so the practice that you usually use might not have your rabbit overnight. This means they will be monitored, but it also means they will have had a journey to the out of hours practice, so make sure you know what your veterinary practice does.
We were recently contacted by a supporter who was concerned about the welfare of a rabbit she had obtained from a breeder. Whilst we are in the process of giving advice she mentioned that she had a phone call from an RWAF representative and that we had visited the premises and everything was okay.
We wouldn’t make a phone call like this, so if you are told this please don’t take it at face value. Unless you receive an e-mail from one of our @rabbitwelfare.co.uk addresses please assume that it is not from RWAF. We are still in the process of investigating this breeder and Mark, our Welfare Officer will update us next time.
We are working on several other projects behind the scenes that we can’t wait to share with you, and hope that we can very soon. Watch this space for more information…
We are often asked about neutering and if it is worth paying a bit more for a rabbit friendly vet, or driving a bit further to get to one. Our answer is always yes. If your rabbit is ill, with something like a dental spur and you need to have dental surgery quickly, you don’t want to be ringing around for a savvy rabbit vet then, you already want a savvy rabbit vet on speed dial, know how to get there, where to park, and what to expect.
So we thought we would share this story and then you can make up your own mind!
“I use a rabbit savvy vet, travel a bit further to see her, but I don’t think she is more expensive than other vets. I know that my rabbits have the best care possible with her, with her nursing staff, and with her facilities, which include an ‘exotic’ ward so there are no barking dogs nearby.
About 11 years ago and before we used this vet, I took a mum and litter of babies into the rescue. I adopted 3 of the babies myself, 2 males and 1 female, Eric, Ernie and Erin, and took them all to a local vet to be neutered when they were 16 weeks old.
That morning I made sure they had eaten. I had everything ready for them at home to spend a few days indoors so that I could keep an eye on them, keep them warm, and make sure they were all eating. I drove them the short distance to the vet together in their carrier, with a picnic of their favourite foods for when they came round from the anaesthetic. I did everything right.
Ernie died very shortly after I dropped them off, before they even started to do any pre-meds with him. When I asked what had happened I was told there was a very noisy dog in the kennel next to him. So at 16 weeks old, and to the best of my knowledge fit and well, he died of stress shortly after he arrived. This was preventable, and something that still horrifies me now.
As far as I was aware however for Eric and Erin things went much more smoothly and I picked them up and brought them home. Kept them indoors, checked their wounds, made sure they were eating, took them for their post op checks and then returned them to their lovely shed and run outside a few days later.
Erin used to nest throughout her life, she was often carrying hay around in her mouth, but I took her to be sapayed, I saw the spay wound so I didn’t take too much notice.
When Erin was 11 years old I found her hiding in her enclosure; she didn’t approach me for food as she usually would, and refused the dandelion I placed in front of her. Oh dear. Obviously we rushed straight to our rabbit savvy vet, there was a lot of blood in her wee, so we started on antibiotics, pain medication, gut motility drugs and syringe feeding. I brought her and Vanilla (her new companion, as Eric had very sadly passed away the previous year) inside and administered the medications at regular intervals, provided her with all her favourite foods and it was a huge relief when she was eating and pooing normally again, and well enough to return to her enclosure. It was puzzling what might have caused this but at 11 she was becoming an old bunny. A few weeks later it happened again, but she had to be admitted, and after 2 days was not really improving. You know when you get a phone call at 7am from the night vet that it is not good news, and despite everyone’s valiant efforts she was struggling to breathe. I had to let her go.
Later that day, when our usual rabbit savvy vet was finished consulting she called me and we agreed that we would do a PM to see what had gone wrong for Erin. This is always a difficult decision, but I have found that it usually gives me peace of mind as there is nothing I could have done to prevent it. When my rabbit savvy vet called she told me that Erin had tumours and that they had spread to her lungs. The tumours were most likely because she was not spayed and the uterus had developed a suspected adenocarcinoma, and that had explained the blood in her wee previously and also her difficulty in breathing. “Hang on, what do you mean not spayed, she is spayed” I said. The rabbit savvy vet repeated her findings, she was not spayed!.
I remember taking them to be neutered, I remember Ernie dying, I remember nursing her spay wound so how could she not be spayed?
When we got the history from the practice that ‘spayed’ Erin, sure enough they could not find her uterus, decided she was a hermaphrodite, so stitched her up and sent her home. I presume because they had already had to break bad news to me about Ernie that they did not want to address the fact that they she had not been spayed, but I was totally unaware of this until I saw the history 11 years later. I can not explain how shocked I was, and in all honesty still am.
The uterus of a 16 week female will look quite different from that of a 6 month female, and had I known that she was not spayed I would have had this checked when she was older.
Erin lived a good long life and would have died of something, but she died of a disease that more than likely could have been prevented.
The vet that operated is no longer at that practice and so I am not going to raise it with them, I think this letter is more useful.
So, when I am asked, is it worth paying extra for a rabbit savvy vet, or travelling a bit further, the answer is always yes. And this is a really good example of why.”