Rabbits and guinea pigs are secretive prey species, and so they may hide signs of illness for a long period of time.  As such they often only show us they are sick when their illness is quite progressed, and as such appear to develop emergency situations very rapidly.

Inappetence, anorexia and dull and quiet behaviour are common signs of gut stasis, our most common emergency condition in rabbits and guinea pigs.  Early intervention can be critical to a good recovery and may prevent the need for very intensive care, and so it is important to take note of your pet’s behaviour and contact a vet quickly if you have any concerns.

Other common emergencies include (but are not limited to):
  • Attack by a dog, cat, other rabbit or guinea pig or other animal
  • Breathing difficulties (such as increased respiratory noises or open-mouth breathing)
  • Collapse
  • Head tilt +/- rolling
  • Fight wounds
  • Traumatic wounds (from a fall or being accidentally stepped on)
  • Seizures
  • Straining to urinate, blood in the urine
  • Swollen or squinting eyes
  • Parasites on the skin (such as maggots)


What to do in an emergency

  • Ensure that your pet is housed somewhere safe, stable and inside to ensure close monitoring
  • Contact your veterinarian or an emergency centre to book an appointment
  • Remain calm, offer normal food and do not stress your pet with excessive handling
  • Transport your pet in a carrier when it is time to travel to the clinic


Emergency appointments at Melbourne Rabbit Clinic

Melbourne Rabbit Clinic is a small clinic with limited staff, and we feel that it is important to ensure that our patients are able to receive time and treatment while in hospital.  As such we have a number of blocked emergency appointment or drop-off slots through each day which are saved for emergency patients calling within 24 hours of the day.  These will allow us enough time to undertake examination, testing, critical and supportive care, and to write up histories for your pet to ensure they can have consistent care either at home or at another clinic if required.  Unfortunately these emergency spots can book out quickly, so calling early in the day allows us to set aside one of these times to assess and provide care for your pet.  Depending on the situation you may be seen by one of our highly trained triage nurses for urgent treatment in consultation with a vet prior to you having a full consultation with one of our veterinarians.

Due to our size and the level of care we provide to our patients, we do not always have space to accept all emergencies to our clinic, and may have to refer you elsewhere for treatment if we are full.  In these cases we are always happy to take time out of our days in order to liaise with local clinics if they require assistance with treatment plans or second opinions on diagnostics, and we have a number of online resources for management and care of rabbits and guinea pigs which can be accessed by other clinicians.

Reasons we may refer you:
  • we may not have time/space for your pet – unfortunately Melbourne Rabbit Clinic is a small clinic, generally with one fully booked consulting veterinarian and one surgery veterinarian present each day, though there are some times where there may be no vets present on the premises.  If there is no time to assess and manage your pet’s case due to a full load of other patients we cannot provide adequate care, and may send you elsewhere for more intensive management
  • your pet is a contagion risk (suspicion of myxomatosis/calicivirus) – unfortunately Melbourne Rabbit Clinic does not currently have a quarantine room, and as we are our own freestanding clinic we do not have many features which can be used to contain the risk of contagious disease from other patients (such as parvovirus facilities common in general practice clinics and emergency centres).  For this reason and for the protection of our other patients we may be unable to treat your pet on site if there is a high level of suspicion that they have a viral disease.  In these cases we may refer you to a local clinic for supportive care (the treatment plan of choice in these cases) with our remote aid if required
  • you have called late in the day – Melbourne Rabbit Clinic have limited hours, and do not have staff to provide overnight care.  For cases presenting late in the day, who would require further management overnight (such as gut stasis bunnies requiring fluid therapy), it is more stressful to bring them to us for a few hours and then send them onwards rather than taking them straight to an emergency clinic for consistent care.  In these cases we may refer you as it is going to provide better health outcomes for your pet
  • we are concerned that long-distance travel may further harm your pet – sometimes rabbits and guinea pigs in emergency conditions may be suffering from respiratory distress or neurological abnormalities which can become worse if stressed by long-distance travel in the car.  These conditions are critical and life-threatening and in many cases going to the closest clinic for emergency stabilisation and care prior to any tests rather than undertaking a long drive can be the difference between life and death
  • you have arrived at the clinic without an appointment – Melbourne Rabbit Clinic runs by appointment, and arriving without contacting us risks us having no staff to help you, which could result in a dangerous situation for your pet.  Please contact us prior to coming down to ensure we can help you