Rabbits have very powerful hind legs. If they kick out unrestrained, the result may be spinal, pelvic or limb fractures. This is more common in the case of hutch-housed rabbits that have poor bone quality and have very little exercise. Handlers should always remember the likelihood of this type of injury and guard against it.
Some rabbits are tame and well handled, but even these may panic when faced with a strange person and an unfamiliar environment.
Accidents also happen when pet rabbits leap from a consulting room table in an effort to escape. They may also panic on slippery surfaces or when the head or mouth is touched.
For the novice rabbit handler, it’s often safer to pick up the rabbit from the floor to prevent falls or leaps out of the arms at high levels until the rabbit is securely restrained.
You should speak softly and if the rabbit has been exposed to the smell of ferrets or the sound of barking dogs prior to the examination they may be nearly panicked by the time you pick them up. At this point some rabbits scream when touched. Cover them loosely with a towel and let them calm down.
The usual advice given for lifting rabbits is to lift it by the scruff, supporting the rump and hind limbs to avoid the animal kicking out. This method works well for all but the most nervous of rabbits. The preferred method for a difficult rabbit is a firm grip around lumbar area to prevent kicking.
However, many owners do not like to see their pet lifted in what they perceive as an undignified manner. In this case, smaller rabbits that are used to being handled may be lifted with a hand around the shoulders, again using the other hand to support the rump.
To find out more on this topic, watch out for the Webinar Vet’s latest webinar on Why don’t rabbits like being picked up? by Guen Bradbury on Thursday 27th February 2020 at 8.30 pm.
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