Rabbit Savvy Vets: The Catch 22 Situation

For the vast majority of us raising pets, these animals tend to be “infused” into our lives and they become a part of the family. We as pet owners care for them and want the best for them. The slightest sign of sickness would throw our day’s routine upside down and our hearts/minds become burdened and worrisome until we know for sure our beloved pets are well on the way to recovery.

Up until today, throughout the world, rabbit owners are still struggling to find rabbit “savvy” veterinarians. Rabbit savvy veterinarians are very rare due to the nature of veterinarian practice and how much opportunities they are given or exposed to. I have written about the main reason why not many vets are well-versed with rabbits and it still remains the same today. The main reason most people do not send their sick rabbits to vets is because the cost of treatment can be higher than replacing the sick rabbits. Sadly, that is the attitude of many pet owners in general. But that has changed over time. We now have rabbit owners that are willing to seek the best healthcare for their rabbit but unfortunately, we do not have many vets who are good with rabbits which are considered as exotic animals.

Because of how precious our pet rabbits are to us, it is impossible for us to subject them as experimental or learning subjects for vets that are willing to “try” treat them. At the same time, without practice, they will never learn and we will never have vets that can treat rabbits. A catch 22 situation.

We all know how vulnerable rabbits are and being animal of prey, the moment they show signs of sickness like curling up at the corner of the cage or have stopped eating, most of the time it could mean that they are in dire need to medical attention. More often than not we are down to a 50:50 chance battle.

I often think about emergency situations while raising Holland Lops for the past 7 years and to be very honest, I found that there are not many choices. Treatments are usually either invasive or non-invasive. Invasive may be in the form of surgery and placing a sick rabbit under surgery would be similar to euthanasia. Most of the time it would be non-invasive and treatment with careful doses of drugs. We depend a lot on the expertise of veterinarians to diagnose and prescribe the best combination of drugs.

Again, we might only have about 50% chance to bring bunny back to recovery mode. What if we are faced with the other 50% and lose our bunny after giving our best shot?

While mourning the death of a beloved pet, it is only normal that we question how and why, the should and could haves will play constantly on our minds. But I must say that there are many variables that can cause death in animals under treatment. Like humans, it also depends on how the body reacts to treatment. There is also the element of the type of drug used. The potency of the drug down to the chemical content of the drug. It is very difficult to pin point the real reason unless a post-mortem is done. What good is a post-mortem when our beloved pet has already passed on? Unless we want to learn so that we can avoid a repetition of such situation, a post-mortem would be a reasonable decision.

I felt that veterinarians have taken a lot of blame under many different circumstances. Not only here in Malaysia but many places throughout the world especially with Internet and how much information is on our fingertips. Then there are the forums as well. We really have to understand that a cry for help on cyberspace will most probably be responded by numerous advices from a vast number of different experiences, each unique to a its own scenario (variable). We have to analyse all the responses very carefully before concluding which should be the best solution. A vet on the other hand, have to face a situation real-time and react the best he/she can not under a virtual environment but real life scenario. The reason why they do what they do as vets is because they are trained under such circumstances and we as pet owners must trust their decision which is made with their vast experiences and knowledge.

If a treatment fails and we lose our beloved pet, I believe that as pet owners, it is our responsibility to be open and share our thoughts with the veterinarian who have treated our pet. I feel that it is very important firstly for our closure of losing a pet and secondly, there will be something that everyone can learn from our experience. By sharing with the vet openly and honestly, it will help the vet understand the situation better, and if it was a mistake, to learn from it and be a better vet. Most often than not, we tend to shun our vets and the only thing they will learn is that they are getting less customers coming to their practice after words of their (one) alleged mistake spread in cyberspace. I believe that is very unfair and counter productive. We should seek clarification to dispel our own assumptions. We should also respect vets who are willing to learn, admit their mistake and never afraid to face any situation head on. The least we can do is tell them of our concerns and hope they will be receive them in good faith. I always believe that there is an opportunity to learn from every situation and unless we share the knowledge, we will never grow. I might lose a pet under certain circumstances today, but if I share the situation and learn from it together with my vet, somewhere down the road, the knowledge can be used to save more lives.

Let us not keep our grieves to ourselves but turn it into something positive while we find closure for losing our beloved pets.

I am not asking you to volunteer your pet rabbit as an experimental subject for vets but if you have chosen a good vet for your pet, please follow through and have an open communication policy with them. A good vet will and should always be open to discussion and willing to clear any doubts that you have.


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