Choosing a rabbit veterinarian
It is important that you go to a rabbit-knowledgeable veterinarian for any medical issues with your rabbit. While many veterinarians may be very good at treating cats and dogs, they may not be knowledgeable in exotic care as rabbits are not usually among the species covered in veterinary medical school. Rabbit physiology and tolerance to medications is very different than cats and dogs and cannot be treated in the same manner. Incorrect treatment can easily be fatal.
If you cannot find a rabbit-savvy veterinarian within a reasonable distance, find a dog/cat veterinarian that will be willing to consult a specialist over the phone to properly diagnose and treat your rabbit. Otherwise, it may be wise to reconsider pet rabbit ownership if no acceptable nearby resources are available.
Questions to ask
The following are some questions you can ask your potential veterinarian to see if they are well-qualified to treat rabbits:
- Do you treat rabbits?
- Approximately how many rabbits do you see a year?
- What percentage of the rabbits you see are indoor companions? Outdoor pets? Show/livestock animals? Veterinarians that often see rabbits as livestock will usually recommend euthanasia for any ill rabbit. If you see this type of veterinarian, you will most likely have to do a lot of educating about your rabbit’s role in your family and the lengths to which you are willing to go to keep him healthy.
- What is the best way to prevent GI stasis? The answer is to provide unlimited hay, brush often, and give plenty of exercise.
- What diagnostic tools and treatments do you usually use for GI slowdowns? What is your success rate? Surgery should be a last resort. X-rays should be taken if an obstruction is suspected. Motility drugs such as Reglan and Propulsid should only be prescribed if no obstructions are found. A good veterinarian will suggest supportive measures such as subcutaneous fluids, abdominal massage, and keeping the rabbit warm. Rabbits that need to syringe-fed should be given Critical Care, canned pumpkin (100% pumpkin only, not pie filling), a softened pellet mixture, baby foods, or some combination of these. The vet may also suggest oral fluids including Pedialyte or Gatorade. Pain medication such as Metacam and Banamine can also be appropriate.
- What types of surgery have you performed on rabbits? What is your success rate? What type of anesthetic do you use for rabbits?
- Should rabbits be fasted before surgery? The answer is no; rabbits should never be fasted as they cannot vomit.
- Are you available for after-hours emergencies?
Special Needs Older Rabbits Sanctuary (SNORS) "red flag" list for vets. "If you hear any of these from your vet it’s time to find a rabbit vet!" - SNORS
🚩 “There is no need to neuter your rabbit, if it’s a female then it can live happily with another female. No need to neuter, it’s too high risk.”
🚩 “If your rabbit lives indoors, you don’t need to vaccinate. Only vaccinate if they go outside.”
🚩 “Your rabbit doesn’t need a friend, they can be perfectly happy alone.”
🚩 “Fast your rabbit before surgery.”
🚩 “They don’t need pain relief.”
NOTE: Some owners & vets will debate some of the above points. While each rabbit is different you and your rabbit-savvy vet should discuss the pros and cons of each topic so that you can make a informed educated decision.
Questions to Ask Before Leaving with Medications
Once you've found a rabbit-experienced veterinarian, the following are helpful questions to ask at the end of a visit to ensure you are informed as you walk out the door:
- What's the best way to store the medication?
- Is the provided syringe an appropriate size for the prescribed dose and is the dose amount clearly visible (or marked)?
- Did the rabbit receive a dose during this visit already?
- Would giving the first dose today at _____ be OK?
- Is there recommendations on whether food should be given before or after administering the medication?
- How long can we expect to see a change/improvment?
- What are common side effects and how long do they last?
- What side effects or what situations would merit calling in?
- What should be done if a dose is missed?
- If this medication will be taken for a longer period of time, should a call be placed ahead of time for a refill so there's no gap in medicated days?
Rabbit veterinarian listings
- House Rabbit Society. Rabbit Vets Near Me
- Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians. Find a Vet
- American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Find an ABVP Specialist - Look for either Avian or Exotic Diplomates.
- Hedgehog Welfare Society. HWS Veterinarian List - Many vets that will see other exotic animals will see rabbits.
- RabbitVet.net. World Rabbit Veterinarians
- BunSpace.com. Search for a Vet or Animal Hospital
- Rabbit References. (2007). PetBunny Veterinarian List
- Bunny Lovers Unite. (2007). JoJo's Guide to Bunny Rabbit Savvy Vets around the world!
- Our internal United States category
- Rabbit Hole Hay. Vet Locator
- Rabbitors. US veterinary clinics for rabbits
- House Rabbit Society. Rabbit Veterinarians: Non-Chapter Listings
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund. Rabbit Friendly Vet List
- Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
- Happy Hoppers Rabbit Forum. (2008). Finding A Rabbit Savvy Vet & Member Recommendations
If you are unable to afford large sudden bills, we would recommend looking into obtaining pet insurance for your rabbit. If you have decent credit, you can also look into interest-free or low-interest veterinary bill financing companies such as ScratchPay and Care Credit in the United States, Petcard in Canada, Carefree Credit in the UK, and VetPay in Australia.
In the case that you are unable to obtain enough money due to extenuating circumstances, can provide a proof of income, and are still willing to take your pet to the veterinarian, explain your financial situation to the veterinarians that you contact and see if you can mutually work something out. Often, veterinarians may have some sort of charitable account or will be able to work out a payment plan for you. Otherwise, contact local shelters and rescues to see if they can help subsidize your bill or direct you to a fund that will.
The following are groups that may help with emergency rabbit vet bills:
- Facebook, Bunny Vet Bill Help (Private)
- Facebook, Vet Corner Angels: Emergency Funding (Private - requires membership in the main Vet Corner groups for at least 30 days)
See the links below for more information about organizations that can help with medical costs.
- House Rabbit Society. (2011). Resources to Help Pay Veterinary Bills
- The Humane Society of the United States. Having Trouble Affording Veterinary Care?
- Midcoast Humane. (2019). Financial Assistance for Pet Owners
- ASPCA. FAQ > I need financial help with my vet bills.
- For the Love of Alex, Inc.
In the case that you have no local rabbit-savvy vets available, an amenable local non-rabbit-savvy vet can instead call one of the listed veterinarians below for a consultation to help diagnose your sick rabbit.
Some of these professionals charge a fee for consultations, and others do not. It will be up to your veterinarian to ask in advance. In addition to paying any consultation fees, remember to offer to pay your vet for the time they spend consulting for you as well as any long-distance charges.
- Carolynn Harvey, DVM – Northern California – (510) 654-8375
- Jeff Jenkins, DVM – Southern California – (800) 379-6842
- Teresa Bradley, DVM – MO – (816) 331-3120
- Bronwyn Dawson, DVM – CA – (626) 798-5901
- Kenneth Dazen, DVM or David Kupersmith, DVM – NJ – (856) 751-2122
- Sari Kanfer, DVM – CA – (626) 827-2936
- Susan Kelleher, DVM – FL – (954) 968-7171
- Diane Mitchell, DVM – WA – (425) 868-8008
Do not try to contact these veterinarians yourself. These veterinarians will only speak to another veterinary professional as a professional courtesy.
- American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). Look Up a License - Licensing Boards for Veterinary Medicine. North America only.
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund. Rabbit Friendly Vets
- San Diego House Rabbit Society. How to Choose a Rabbit-experienced Vet
- House Rabbit Resource Network, How To Find A Good Rabbit Vet
- Astrid M. Kruse, DVM. (2008). How to Find a Rabbit Vet
- PetravelR. (2014). Finding a Rabbit Vet
Below are some experiences showing why it is important to find a rabbit-savvy vet.
- RabbitRescue & Rehab, Thump, February 2010, Jane O’Wyatt, Robert’s Near-Spay Experience (page 8)