What does a 'Rabbit friendly veterinary practice' mean?


What is a Rabbit Friendly Practice? 

In the course of our mission to identify the best veterinary care for our animals, we asked the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund to explain their ‘Rabbit Friendly’ scheme.

Richard Saunders BSc BVSc CBiol MSB CertZooMed DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS explains what the term 'Rabbit friendly' means in practical terms for the pet owner.



What does 'Rabbit friendly' actually mean?

One of our charitable aims is to work with the Veterinary Industry to improve knowledge and keep vets up to date with the latest techniques and protocols. We have organised a Vet conference every year for over 10 years now which not only brings all hot topics to vets and VN's in lecture format, but also offers practical workshops for things such as airway management, dentistry, PMs and microbiology.

There are lots of brilliant rabbit vets out there, but as rabbits are still an 'exotic' we do not feel they get enough detail in the current training schedules at most vet schools. We therefore want to make sure that our members and supporters are going to be in good hands when they take their much loved rabbits to into a vet practice.

We can only give 'rabbit friendly status' to a practice that has demonstrated to us that they have a good anaesthetic protocol and proper pain management strategies, for example. We take the leg work out of looking for a 'rabbit friendly' vet for owners and give them a good place to start.




What criteria do you apply for a practice to comply with your standards?

The questionnaire that we ask all Practices to complete can be found on our website here:



We also asked for a named Vet and that vet will be listed on the 'rabbit friendly' list so that owners know which vet to ask for when they make an appointment.

We must stress that we do not, and cannot visit every vet on the list, but this is a great place to start to find a rabbit friendly vet in your area.



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Is this a voluntary scheme - or would you have to pay to be part of it?

You need to be a member of the RWAF to apply to be in the rabbit friendly list. We are investing a huge amount of our resources into developing and maintaining this vet list so we need vets to work with us so that we can do that.


You also get all the other benefits of membership:

• 75 free comprehensive rabbit care guides ‘On The Hop

• A £50 discount for all clinical practice members at our highly acclaimed annual conference

• A poster and sticker for your waiting room

• Free email advice service from RWAF Veterinary Expert Adviser, Richard Saunders BSc BVSc CBiol MSB CertZooMed DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS

• Quarterly update from Richard Saunders keeping your practice up to date with all the latest developments in rabbit health and medicine

• Quarterly e-newsletter written by Vet Nurse Claire King, that you can send to your clients

• Opportunity to apply for inclusion in the RWAF rabbit friendly vet list (see below)

• Quarterly issues of our flagship magazine, Rabbiting On, the magazinefor rabbit lovers.

• Membership is only £45 per annum


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Are there any other things that pet owners should look for in those practices that are not part of your scheme or network?

Yes, obviously we can not reach every rabbit friendly practice, or if there is not one registered near you, there are some questions that owners should be asking before they take their rabbits along.

Our advice is as follows (taken from our On The Hop booklet):

- Start with people you know who have companion rabbits. If they are on the ball then they should have a rabbit savvy vet.

- Whichever way you have come across a vet to consider, you should always ring them yourself and ask some questions to satisfy yourself that they’ll be able to care for your rabbits.


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The questions you need to ask

1. Do you have a separate kennelling area for rabbits?

Rabbits are prey animals and will find the experience of being hospitalised very stressful. The sound of dogs barking and cats yowling near them will be even more stressful and may hinder recovery from any treatment. If vets cannot offer a separate room, some have small animal days where dogs are not admitted for operations.

Vets should also be aware of the importance of hospitalising bonded pairs together if at all possible.


2. Do you routinely spay and castrate rabbits?

You need to be sure that they have good experience of routinely undertaking these procedures and that they have a good track record. Don’t be scared to ask about how safe it is (there is always a risk even with a very competent vet) and when they last lost a rabbit under anaesthetic.


3. What is your anaesthetic protocol?

The best protocol is one that the vet is most comfortable and experienced using, but some anaesthetic combinations are regarded as safer than others. Injectable anaesthetics are currently in vogue, but some rabbit-expert vets are happy using inhalational (gas) anaesthetics.

Vet practices that seem nervous about anaesthetising rabbits should be avoided because they may not have updated their anaesthetic protocol and peri-operative management in the light of recent findings, and this may ring an alarm bell.



You need to be happy that your chosen vet will:

• Consider pre-medication if appropriate.

• Take steps to keep rabbits warm during and after surgery.

• Intubate the rabbit if required (this may not be possible during some procedures such as some dentals, but is recommended as standard practice).

• Monitor your rabbits carefully during surgery, using modern equipment such as a pulse oximeter, blood pressure monitoring and capnography.




A Hutch is Not Enough

Find out how we’re challenging the Pet Retail Industry to do better and show how good welfare is good business

Find out more about our campaigning ➤


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We’re always keen to hear from our members, email us at info@rabbitwelfare.co.uk or:

Call our helpline 0844 324 6090 - Monday to Friday 11am to 3pm.

Calls charges are comprised of 3 parts:

• our charge, the lowest available amount, 7p per minute

• our service provider charges 3.9p per minute from landlines and 22p per minute from mobiles

• your own service provider’s charges

The RWAF does not make a profit from your call.


Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund
Enigma House
Culmhead Business Park

 Friday, 26 September 2014