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.”