How to Find a Good Rabbit Veterinarian

Feb 10, 2013

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The following may seem like a lot of work to go through to find a veterinarian, but your rabbit’s well being depends upon finding the most experienced veterinary care available. We hope that within another few years, veterinarian schools will begin to understand rabbits well enough so that veterinarians can be properly trained before they run across a rabbit in their practice. The other problem is that veterinarians not trained in rabbit medicine should be responsible enough to refer you to another veterinarian. Instead many just see the green of your money and say to themselves, “sure I’m a vet, I can see your pet, after all it’s only a rabbit.” When you find a veterinarian who is honest enough to refer you to someone else, be sure to refer people to him/her and if you have cats or dogs, give him that business. It’s really great to work with an honest vet!

How do I start the search?

Start the search before you have an emergency!

  • Check the House Rabbit Society’s recommended veterinarian list first to see if there are any recommended rabbit veterinarians listed in your area. Next check Google for veterinarians who advertise as “exotic” (includes, rabbits & rodents). Then randomly select 5 veterinarians who do NOT advertise as avian or exotic.
  • Phone these veterinarians and ask who they refer their clients to if they have a serious rabbit case. If all 5 veterinarians give you the name of the same veterinarian, ok. If not, then randomly select another 5 veterinarians and continue the process until you have a clear “winner.”
  • Phone several (start with 3) veterinarians in cities within 50 miles of you and ask the same question: who do they refer their clients to if they have a serious rabbit case. (One House Rabbit Society volunteer passes by at least 15 clinics to get to her veterinarian who is 35 miles away.)
  • At this point you should have either a clear “winner” or several veterinarians to choose from. The next step is to phone the vet. Let the front office person know that you are concerned with finding the very best veterinarian to care for your rabbit and that you would like to speak directly to the doctor at his/her convenience. Leave both your work and home phone number and specific times that the veterinarian can get hold of you (and be there) or ask what would be a good time for you to call back (when the veterinarian is between appointments).

What screening questions should I ask?

  • Ask how many rabbits are seen at the clinic each week.Ask how many rabbits are spayed or neutered each week.
  • Ask whether most of the rabbits are show animals, “stock” animals, or companion animals.
  • Ask what kind of a diet the veterinarian advises their clients to feed to their rabbits.
  • Ask if they know which antibiotics are dangerous for rabbits (amoxicillin and most of the “…cillin” drugs like oral penicillin.).
  • Ask what they recommend to their clients to prevent GI stasis.
  • Ask what is the recommended treatment for GI stasis.
  • Ask what are the most commonly prescribed antibiotics for rabbits.
  • Ask what is their recommended treatment for head tilt.
  • Ask what is their recommended treatment for flea infestation (ask for product name).
  • Ask whether they routinely give analgesics after surgical procedures. If yes, what do they routinely use?
  • Ask if food has to be removed the night before surgery.
  • Ask if they are a member of House Rabbit Society.
  • Ask what continuing education seminars they have attended that have included information on rabbits.

What shouldn’t I do?

  • Do not make your choice based on how close the veterinarian is to your home (unless that veterinarian is the clear “winner”). Paying money to a veterinarian who does not know anything (or very little) about rabbits is just throwing your money away and can cost the life of your companion.
  • Don’t assume that just because a veterinarian works with breeders or local 4-H clubs, that they are experienced with house rabbits or the medical needs of older rabbits. Unfortunately, such veterinarians often tend to approach rabbits as stock animals rather than as beloved companions. They may never have done a spay or neuter and “treatment” of any difficulty may amount to euthanasia (when dealing with stock or show animals, the financial bottom line may be the primary consideration).
  • Antibiotics that should never be given to rabbits. Even one dose of the following can be deadly: Amoxicillin, lincomycin, clindamycin.

Primary Author(s): Kathleen Wilsbach and Sandi Ackerman
Sources: HRH, various articles from the HRJ, RHN

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