Providing advice and guidance for rabbit owners - Veterinary Practice
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Providing advice and guidance for rabbit owners

visits a practice which has taken steps to improve the standard of rabbit care – and knowledge of the species – among its clients

THERE is, it seems, a common
misconception that rabbits are easy
pets, giving an opportunity for
breeders to sell them onto eager pet
owners thinking they don’t require
much looking after.

Elands Veterinary Clinic in Kent
became aware that clients had bought
pet rabbits but had been given incorrect
advice about their needs and how to
look after them.

Georgie Wilkinson, a vet at the
Kemsing branch of the practice, had
found that pet owners were completely
unaware of the threat of myxomatosis
and RHD amongst rabbits and some
were even told that vaccinations weren’t

Commenting on her
experience with rabbit
owners, Georgie said, “At
our clinic, we were seeing
rabbits bought from pet
shops that were unused to
being picked up. This can often lead to
very nervous animals not suitable for
family ownership. We also found they
had not been started on a good diet
and had not been vaccinated.”

Education programme

As a result, the practice has been
instrumental in improving rabbit care
amongst pet owners by linking in with
local rabbit breeders to provide a
comprehensive education programme
for owners.

Elands has joined forces with two
local rabbit breeders in the Sevenoaks
area and helps out in educating them
about correct rabbit husbandry, so they
can in turn provide sound advice to
new rabbit owners.

They ensure the breeding stock
have regular health checks and annual
vaccines. The kits are started on an
appropriate diet from birth and handled
from a young age so they are used to
people. All young rabbits also all have a health check with a vet before being

Elands has produced literature for
the breeders to hand out and the
owners are actively encouraged to then
bring their rabbits into the practice for
their first health check and vaccination
at a reduced rate.

At their first appointment, the
rabbit is checked over, and owners can
talk to the vet about general rabbit
welfare and care and, above all, the
importance of regular vaccinations
against myxomatosis and RHD. Clients
are also given a welcome pack to take
away with a checklist of how to look
after their rabbit.

Once clients have made their first
visit to the practice, they become much
more engaged in the importance of
rabbit care and have really valued
Elands’ advice. Moreover, they have
learned about rabbit illnesses which can
be prevented.

Currently only about 15% of the
1.6 million pet rabbits in the UK are
protected by vaccination. Georgie
always encourages owners to ensure
that their rabbits are vaccinated, which
is now easier than previously, with an
annual single dose of the new
combined vaccine being all that is
required to protect against both
myxomatosis and RHD.

Increased demand

The practice reports that it required
42% more of the vaccine to meet the
additional demand during 2012.

In the leafy rural area of Sevenoaks,
locals and visitors are used to seeing
wild rabbits hopping around in the countryside; however, with
the wild rabbits comes an
increased threat of the
diseases. Georgie
continues: “People think
that myxomatosis only
infects wild rabbits but of
course pet rabbits can
become infected too. We
often find that people
don’t know much about
rabbits compared to cats
and dogs, and sadly rabbit
husbandry is not discussed
as much between friends
or in the media.

“However, it looks like
we are now turning a corner and owners are very keen to
learn about neutering, dentistry,
controlling parasites and many other
aspects of rabbit health.

“Many new rabbit owners
underestimate the level of veterinary
costs (as do many vets!), and a
knowledge of the broad health issues
helps understanding and justification of
the various steps needed in maintaining
good health and welfare.”

To support its on-going campaign,
Elands runs client evenings for rabbit
owners, stays in regular contact with
rabbit owners by e-mail, places posters
locally and in its reception, and also
features regularly in the local newsletter
and papers – a good example of how
veterinary practices can improve rabbit care amongst pet owners, grow their
client base and get lapsed owners back
into the surgeries again.

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