Safely transporting your rabbit to the vet

rabbit-in-grassSometimes you will have to take your rabbit to the vet, for neutering, dental checks or because he or she has fallen ill. Since rabbits are prey animals they are easily frightened so it’s important to make the visit to the vet as comfortable as possible.

Most rabbits are not very well traveled and may have never been in a car. Ideally you should always take your rabbit to the vet by car. If you have to take a bus, make sure you sit in a quiet place and hold the carrier firmly on your lap. In a car, tether the carrier to a seat belt or place it in a foot well. If the kids are also travelling, don’t let them pester your rabbit – they may be kindly trying to reassure him or her but it’s best to just let your rabbit be.

Rabbits don’t tolerate heat well so make sure the carrier is kept out of direct sunlight and have the windows open to ensure good ventilation. It can also be a good idea to try and book an appointment at cooler and quieter times of the day.

The carrier is an unfamiliar environment for the rabbit, so it’s important to take steps to make it as comfortable as possible. It’s a good idea to put in some hay from your rabbit’s hutch, their favourite toy and some used bedding, to provide familiar smells and reassurance. Supply some water in the way they are familiar with (e.g. a bottle or bowl). Even if your rabbit is coming to the vet for an operation, it’s vital not to starve them as they have sensitive digestive systems that can be upset from lack of food. There should always be some food or hay in the carrier.

Although rabbits are normally put in cardboard carriers from pet shops, cardboard is never recommended– it is easily chewed and becomes damp and unsafe if the rabbit urinates or during in the rain.

The ideal rabbit carrier

  • It should be solid, non-collapsible, well ventilated and secure to ensure rabbits cannot chew or escape (never use a cardboard box!)
  • Ensure it is of suitable size and shape so that the rabbit is comfortable enough to lie and move around as freely as possible. But it should be small enough to provide feelings of security and to stop them sliding around during travel
  • Sometimes a top opening is helpful to easily take out a nervous rabbit once at the vet
  • Line the carrier with a blanket or towel but not newspaper (if consumed it can be harmful to rabbits, and can get damp easily)
  • Make the carrier as familiar as possible, so place inside hay from home, a favourite toy and some used bedding

Unsuitable rabbit carriers include wire pet carriers, fabric carriers, wicker baskets and cardboard boxes.

If you have more than one rabbit at home, it’s sensible to take them both to the vet in the same carrier, even if only one needs to be checked. There is “safety in numbers” and the companionship will help reduce their stress levels. When out and about the rabbits will absorb the same smells – if only one rabbit is taken, at home it can mean rejection from the companion rabbit if they smell different.

We hope you found this blog post useful and look forward to meeting your rabbit soon!

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Ian Stroud

Ian Stroud

Veterinary Surgeon at Vet4life
Ian Stroud is a highly experienced small animal veterinary surgeon with over 15 years working in practice. He has particular interests in several areas including minimally-invasive surgery, orthopaedics and oncology (cancer treatment). He currently practices in Teddington, Shepperton and Surbiton where he is the director of Vet4life.
Ian Stroud

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