Aiming to improve the treatment of rabbits - Veterinary Practice
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Aiming to improve the treatment of rabbits

Veterinary Practice talks to exotics specialist Dr Charley Pignon who will be speaking about rabbits at the London Vet Show.

DR Charly Pignon, head of the exotics medicine service at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vétérinaire d’Alfort in France, has had a highly successful and colorful career so far, having studied and worked all over the world.

VP. How did you become interested in exotic medicine?

CP. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a vet. At first I wanted to work abroad with wildlife so I did multiple externships in zoos and completed my vet thesis on native wildlife conservation in Cambodia. However, towards the end of my studies I spent time in an emergency clinic where I saw lots of exotic patients, which I just loved. I felt that there was so much that we could improve and the fact that they are much easier to hospitalise than many wild animals means that it’s easier to give them just as high a standard of care as cats and dogs, which I find really satisfying.

VP. Are rabbits popular pets in France?

CP. Rabbits have only very recently become popular but are now the third most common companion animal in France. In fact, we are seeing a decline in the number of canine pets. This is especially true in Paris, where people don’t have time or the space for a dog; larger breeds are almost never seen there these days. I suppose you could say rabbits are becoming trendy.

VP. What are the most common rabbit conditions that you see in France?

CP. Dental disease, dental disease, dental disease! Second would be gastrointestinal stasis.

VP. Do the feeding practices and housing of rabbits differ between France and the UK?

CP. In general, UK pet owners are better informed although the two countries are very similar in respect of where the correct advice is received. In France a lot of people purchase their rabbits from garden centres that offer no specialist advice and hence we sometimes see poor feeding as a result.

VP. Is there a big interest for vets in France to learn about exotics?

CP. There is huge interest but few specialists to satisfy the demand. Exotics lecturing was only really introduced around six years ago so many mature vets are still developing this aspect of their knowledge and skills too. We are gradually progressing to more technologically advanced CPD modalities such as webinars, although I think we are behind the UK on this front.

VP. Do you have any equipment in your practice that is specifically designed for exotic pets and small mammals?

CP. We have a specialised dentistry table, dental trimming motor and tailored housing for exotics which are extremely useful. However, we usually have to adapt the canine and feline equipment to meet the small mammal and exotics needs. Hopefully this will change in the future.

VP. Are there any new treatments or surgical procedures on the rise?

CP. I really want to improve caecal surgery of rabbits as we don’t yet have a good technique. The caecum wall is so thin that placing sutures is not a successful option so I would like to develop some tissue glue. Thoracotomy techniques, to remove an abscess for example, are also challenging and performed infrequently which is another area we could definitely improve.

VP. What do you think the future holds for exotics vets in France?

CP. We are definitely moving in the right direction with our knowledge and techniques improving very quickly – a lot more French vets already attend European and American conferences.

I think we will see our standard of care levelling with that of the UK within the next few years.

VP. You are taking part in the Supreme Petfoods rabbit sessions at the London Vet Show, speaking on anaesthesia in rabbits. If you could give vets one piece of advice on the topic, what would it be?

CP. Rabbits don’t tolerate haste or approximation during anaesthesia so taking the time to prepare the best protocol is key. This should include making sure that pain is correctly managed and that the patient is closely monitored during the whole procedure. The goal of my presentation is to develop the practical aspect of how to succeed in rabbit anaesthesia using the equipment and drugs available in most veterinary practices.

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