Rabbit veterinary medicine is some distance behind that of the more popular companion animals. Some very basic things, like simple oral pain relief not being licensed for use in rabbits - I wonder how many bunnies are suffering across the country right now, sat in their tiny hutches in agony because their vet doesn't automatically prescribe it where perhaps they should? And how many of those suffering bunnies will have died a few days from now because of it, perhaps because the pain they are in will stop them eating and they will go into GI stasis, or suffer an unnecessary post-op complication because they missed out on anti-inflammatory medicine?
Like most things, at least in the largely free-market economies that we inhabit in the west, it all comes down to money. Drug companies are businesses. Bringing a drug to market costs a significant amount of money and if the potential revenue is less than the cost of producing it then that means a loss. That's not a business any company wants to be in. Similarly with veterinary training and research, if it is not going to translate into a return in investment then who is going to pay for teaching courses and treatments to be developed?
Rabbits are the third most popular pet in this country, and we are one of the most rabbit-frendly countries in the world, so one would hope that accounted for something. But the sad truth is that for many owners their rabbit is considered a disposable child's toy. They perhaps even bought it as a cheap way to teach their offspring about responsibility and death - they certainly don't care enough about him/her to spend any amount of money on veterinary bills keeping them alive. They may not even notice when their rabbit has a problem or if they do may not bother to take them to the vet. Those of us that do take responsibility for our little fluffy adopted children are in a minority, so demand for proper rabbit veterinary care remains relatively low.
There is a silver lining to this cloud though. Thanks to the efforts of organisations like the Rabbit Welfare Association and the pioneering research being carried out by the University of Edinburgh things are starting to change. (Though that change is slow and even then our own vets aren't necessarily keeping up.)
This is not new information of course, but having listened to talks over the weekend from the very people that are pushing back the boundaries of rabbit medicine it has really brought it back to the forefront of my mind. So today I would ask you to consider this:
Next time you take your little fluffy ones to the vet, that vet may have seen half a dozen other rabbits that day whose owners don't care about them very much and have treated them accordingly. So before they decide what course of action to take with your rabbit, make sure they know just how much YOU care.