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  • Writer's pictureGail Petersen

Vet Your Vet

We have a fantastic vet for our bunnies in Morris Plains. The best in the state of New Jersey, in my opinion. She has treated more bunnies than you see on the shelves in Hobby Lobby before Easter. Multiplied by 100. We are super lucky to have two super vets in the same practice who love rabbits and take a special interest in treating them, researching the current issues, and offering appropriate and modern medications.

Is it important for you to trust your pediatrician? Your cardiologist? Your internist? Likely it is very important to you. You should also trust your vet. Rabbits need regular veterinarian care just as dogs or cats do. But a little different.

When we moved from NJ to Pennsylvania, we are now an hour plus away from the NJ practice that we use. That is on a good day. Most of the time it is an hour and 15 minutes and at times it has been three hours due to traffic. I have difficulty driving because of a back injury, and with a sick bunny in the back who doesn’t do well with car rides, it turns into a difficult situation when we get home. My rabbits may stop eating, be scared or stressed. That is me and the bunny.

An Exotic Vet – Wait What?

I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find a vet for my rabbits in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Some vets say they will see rabbits, but they aren’t rabbit experts. They are cat and dog vets who see rabbits occasionally. If I was having brain surgery, I’d want a doctor who did hundreds of surgeries a year. It’s the same for my rabbits. I want them to have a vet who is completely familiar with rabbit anatomy, illnesses, behavior and medications.

When I first got a rabbit I didn’t know there was such a thing as an exotic vet or that rabbits were exotic. Honestly, I didn’t think they needed to see the vet much. Not sure why I was so naïve. I was raised with dogs and they went to the vet for vaccines, illnesses and after a fight with a cat. Why did I think rabbits would be any different? I didn’t THINK. That was the problem.

What does an exotic vet do? To become a veterinarian for exotic animals, they must complete a certified veterinary medicine program and become board certified. It is additional education and work. These people are dedicated to their exotic customers.

You should still vet your vet. Ask them questions like how many bunnies do they see a week? What is their philosophy on rabbit vaccination for RHDV? Do they have emergency services for stasis? Will they give you medications to give to your rabbit at home? What is your overall experience with exotics?

Does An Exotic or Rabbit-Experienced Vet Make a Difference?


It is the difference between your vet saving your rabbit’s life and letting it die of stasis. Exotic vets, or rabbit-savvy vets, can get your rabbit diagnosed immediately if it has stasis and can

help you battle it to save their lives. Stasis is a major killer of rabbits. It is so spooky. You don’t know when it happens. How it happens. Then you realize your rabbit is not eating or pooping and that they are laying gasping. It may be too late. A dog and cat vet would not be so familiar with the symptoms and it could mean the end of your bunny’s life in less than 24 hours.

Not quite as serious, but here’s an example. I took our foster bunnies to a vet the day of their arrival from the previous owner because we had noticed a lot of itching and bad skin. A vet unknown to us said they had dandruff. After a second opinion, it was determined to be fur mites. Big difference. Fur mites can spread to my other rabbits and cause skin pain and general health problems. Dandruff, not so much. Exotic vets know the difference.

Finding an Exotic or Experienced Rabbit Vet

The moral to the story is find a good exotic or experienced rabbit vet for your rabbits. Animal hospital websites should indicate an exotic vet on their staff, or a vet that specializes in pocket pets, small animals, companion animals, or birds, rabbits, lizards, snakes and rats. Make an appointment and get a basic examination. After that, the vet will have a knowledgeable start on any other problems your bun may develop.

It can be very difficult to find someone. It seems exotic vets have disappeared from the Lehigh Valley in PA and in much of NJ. If you find one, they are very busy and can’t find time for all their potential customers. Emergency visits are frustrating. Only a few hospitals in the area, Fairfield, NJ, Red Bank, NJ and Harmony, NJ and towns near Philadelphia have exotic vets on 24-hour notice. Sometimes you have to accept a cat/dog vet because no one else is available. It isn’t the best option, but in an emergency, it might be a life-saving solution.

Check out the House Rabbit Society for exotic vet listings. As well as BunSpace. You don’t have to be a member to look for vets.

If you find one that you like, share them with your bun friends.

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