How risky is a general anaesthetic?
Overall, the risk of general anaesthesia is low, but rabbits have a higher risk than other pets like cats and dogs. The results of a 2 year study (CEPSAF), showed that in the UK the fatality rate from anaesthesia is 0.73% for healthy rabbits and 7.37% for sick rabbits. This is improving all the time with more experienced vets and safer drugs and procedures. The need for an anaesthetic needs to be weighed against the benefits of the procedure. For example, if your rabbit has severe respiratory disease it may be considered too unsafe or they may need to be stabilised prior to the anaesthetic. Other times, the risk of not performing the procedure is greater than the anaesthetic risk, for example in obstructive gut stasis (bloat) or routine neutering.
Top anaesthetic risks:
How can it be made safer?
We will never be able to completely eliminate the risk of anaesthesia, however there are multiple ways we can make it substantially safer. The more information we have about your rabbit’s current health status, the better we can recognise, prevent and treat any potential anesthetic complications. Furthermore, rabbits need to continually eat and defecate or they risk experiencing gut stasis, so any stress which stops them eating can become fatal. Pain from a surgical procedure, a visit to the hospital and separation from companions, combined with the residual sedative effect of an anesthetic, are all potentially stressful. Here at Orchard we aim to minimise the stress of their visit and prevent this occurring.
Below are steps that we take to minimise anesthetic risk:
Veterinary nurse or animal technician: A trained member of staff will be assigned to your pet. Their sole job is to continuously monitor your pet’s vital signs throughout anaesthesia, from induction to recovery, alerting the vet to any changes and making adjustments quickly.
Pre-anaesthetic assessment: Your vet will take into account your rabbit’s history, current conditions and medications, lifestyle and other relevant history. Every rabbit will undergo a thorough veterinary exam prior to the anaesthetic to identify any underlying conditions that may need to be addressed.
Intravenous catheter placement: Every rabbit has an intravenous (IV) catheter placed prior to the procedure. The catheter can be used to provide anaesthetics and fluids to keep your pet hydrated; additionally, if needed, it would serve as a pathway to directly administer life-saving medications should a crisis arise.
Intubation: Here at Orchard we have species-specific rabbit V-Gels which are devices that slot into the mouth to open and protect the airway. During anaesthesia this allows careful adjustment of anaesthetic gases and the ability to easily provide ventilation should your rabbit stop breathing.
Intravenous fluid therapy: Fluids are administered during the procedure via the IV catheter to maintain or correct hydration and blood pressure. This keeps sensitive organs like the kidneys functioning optimally and aids recovery by helping the liver and kidneys clear the body of anaesthetic agents. This also ensures your rabbit’s gut contents do not become dehydrated and risk gut stasis.
Pain relief: Pain relief is an essential part of all of our rabbit procedures. We are very aware that pain and stress can cause a rabbit to stop eating and risk gut stasis. Our vets are experienced at using multiple different methods of pain relief to give your rabbit the most comfortable experience possible. Many rabbits will go home with pain relief prescribed by their vet to continue at home, depending on the procedure being carried out.
Housing away from predator species and with their companion: We make sure that your rabbit is housed away from other predator species in the hospital. Removing this source of stress allows them a peaceful recovery and encourages them to start eating quickly. We encourage any companions to stay for the day too, to provide moral support and further reduce stress.
Assisted feeding, if required: We aim to see our rabbit patients eating independently before they travel home after their procedure. Some rabbits can take longer to regain their appeitite, so we make sure that these individuals get special syringe feeding to stimulate their gut and prevent gut stasis. Lots of rabbits will go home with this food too.
Other diagnostic tests may be recommended on an individual basis.
How is my rabbit monitored throughout the anesthetic?
There are many ways in which your rabbit will be monitored, enabling quick action to rectify any changes. They include:
If you have any other questions about anaesthesia or specific questions relating to your pet, don’t hesitate to speak to one of our vets.
If your pet has a specific procedure booked in over the coming days please click here.