Some rabbity nuggets from the London Vet Show

This year at the London Vet Show I was asked to attend a lecture stream sponsored by Supreme PetFoods and then write about what interested me and what I thought would interest the profession.

These little nuggets (if you will pardon the pun!) are from a brilliant lecture on rabbit anaesthetics and how to make them safer given by Wendy Bament RVN BSc (Hons) MSc from Marwell Zoo.

  • Take a respiration rate, heart rate and blood pressure (if possible), before giving your patient any drugs. The anaesthetic for a rabbit starts before induction and doesn’t end until the parameters you measured before they were medicated return to their original levels. They should be monitored post operatively until this happens.
  • Repeat these measurements as soon as they are anaesthetised and try to stick to close to those during the surgery. The numbers vary hugely between rabbits, especially blood pressure, so there is no ‘standard’ range to stick to. If your readings deviate from what your patient has been stable at, act fast to figure out if there is a problem or not.
  • Consider creating an anaesthetic chart specific to rabbits. Standard ones are often a challenge when recording their high heart rates.
  • Strap the dopper of your BP machine to the rabbits leg and let to swoosh during surgery. You should take regular blood pressure measurements but simply listening with half an ear to the rate and quality of the sound will give you a great deal of information about how your patient is doing. Wendy made the point that pulse oximeters will often lie to you but dopplers never will!
  • Keep your rabbits warm and monitor their temperature. Leave a rectal thermometer in place or buy a specific indwelling one. Big ears on some breeds represent a huge skin surface area and therefore are an easy place for them to lose heat. So wrap them up if you can.
  • The ears are also useful for monitoring! Think of them like two extra limbs. You can place the pulse ox on them, ideally on the central artery but if the ear is too large the marginal ear vein isn’t too bad, and you can find a pulse at the base.
  • Talking of pulse ox’s…… They aren’t that great in bunnies due to their high heart rates and the difficulty sometimes of finding an appropriate place to put them. However, do use them if you can. Just don’t put all your trust in them!
  • Keep the abdominal contents away from the chest to aid respiration. Angle the table slightly downwards or prop the rabbit up.
  • Tubing is not easy! The only way to learn is practice, the lecturer favoured putting a 3f catheter down the trachea with an otoscope and feeding over an ET tube but there is the rule of three. Three tries and you’re out! Otherwise you risk irritating the larynx and potentially causing a dangerous oedema.
  • If you do get the tube in (well done!), mark it level with the nose so you can monitor it’s position easily and therefore notice if it starts to slide out if the rabbit is moved around during the procedure.

Have you got any tips for rabbit anaesthetics?  If so, please leave them in the comments below!

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