Have you ever taken your rabbit in to the vet for a procedure or operation requiring anaesthetic? When you dropped them off, do you remember signing a release form and being told that "there is always a risk"? Ever wondered what the degree of that risk is?
Well I am the sort of person who has thought about it. I don't know why I hadn't found this before, perhaps I didn't know what I was looking for until now, but here's a study into exactly that from 2006:
If you haven't clicked the link above yet, you might want to make yourself a cup of tea first and find yourself a comfy chair. Sitting down is quite important. Because the statistical probability of your bunny dying purely as a result of the anaesthetic is...are you ready? 1.39 percent. That means for every 72 rabbits that go under for, say, just an x-ray, one isn't going to make it. 1 in 72. Wow.By comparison, the (much disputed) figure for people is more like 1 in 7000. Even dogs (1 in 588) and cats (1 in 417) do much better, though that will surprise no-one.
Do you feel as sick as I do right now?Well let me make you feel a little better - the representative sample no doubt includes vets with relatively poor small animal skills. If you are the sort of person reading this blog you are most likely also the sort of bunny parent that has sought out one of the good bunny vets, so the actual figure for their practise is probably nearer to 1 in 100.
So my thought for today is this:- What we might want to remember when we are at the vets and asked to choose between "try this first to see if it works" and "knock them out for an x-ray to find out for sure" is that we need to try our best to realistically balance the real risks and make a properly informed decision. If nothing else, it is worth discussing this figure with our vets and weighing up the options carefully.
As a Rescue with over a hundred rabbits, our experience of this kind of tragedy is almost inevitable. On top of this, I have my own very personal reasons for feeling anxious, even nauseous, when I drop a bunny at the vets and the nurse brings up the risk. It's why I had to consider if I could sit through a talk about it at the conference. I have only been bunny parent to five of my own rabbits, but during only about my third experience of one of them having anaesthetic, this is exactly how we lost dear Megan last year.