ISSN 2398-2969      

Anesthesia: emergencies



  • Monitoring the anesthetized rabbit and recording the parameters is the basis of appropriate care. As a consequence, complications (deterioration in patient condition, inadequate anesthetic level for the procedure or anesthetic overdose) can be recognized and dealt with early.
  • The appropriate dose for all emergency drugs for the specific rabbit should be calculated in advance to avoid miscalculations in a stress situation leading to overdose. If a critical patient is to be anesthetized, it is prudent to draw drugs into syringes before starting the procedure.
  • Circulatory and respiratory failure are treated as in other species.
  • It can be difficult to establish venous access in small rabbits or collapsed patients, thus it is advisable to place an IV catheter Intravenous catheter placement prior to, or immediately after, induction of anesthesia.
  • In an emergency situation alternatives are the introduction of an intraosseous catheter Intraosseous catheter placement into the femur or any other long and sturdy bone or a surgical cut-down to a vein.
  • When access to the central circulation is established, resuscitation can be proceeded with as in other species.
  • Although it is advantageous to have a suspicion why the complications occur, corrective measures should be started without delay.
  • Depending on the severity the order of the treatment steps might vary.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Huynh M, Boyeaux A & Pignon C (2016) Assessment and care of the critically ill rabbit. Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract​ 19 (2), 379-409 PubMed.
  • Lichtenberger M (2007) Shock and cardiopulmonary-cerebral resuscitation in small mammals and birds. Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract 10 (2), 275-291 PubMed.
  • Paul-Murphy J (2007) Critical care of the rabbit. Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract 10 (2), 437-461 PubMed.
  • Reusch B (2005) Investigation and stabilizing critically ill rabbits. In Pract 27, 418-425. 
  • Briscoe J A & Syring R (2004) Techniques for emergency airway and vascular access in special species. Semin Avian & Exotic Pet Med 13 (3), 118-131 VetMedResource.
  • Ramer J C, Paul-Murphy J, Benson K G (1999) Evaluating and stabilizing critically ill rabbits - Part II. Comp Contin Educ Pract Vet 21 (2), 116-125 VetMedResource.
  • Aeschbacher G (1995) Rabbit anesthesia. Comp Contin Educ Pract Vet 17 (8), 1003-1010 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Flecknell P (2016) Managing and monitoring anesthesia. In: Laboratory Animal Anaesthesia. 4th edn.  London: Academic Press, Elsevier. pp 77-108.
  • Varga M (2014) Anesthesia and Analgesia. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. 2nd edn. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. pp 178-202.
  • Grint N (2013) Anesthesia. In: Manual of rabbit surgery, dentistry and imaging. Eds. Harcourt-Brown F Chitty J. BSAVA. pp 1-25.
  • Girling S (2011) Emergency and critical care of Rabbits. In: Proceedings of The London Vet Show. London. 2011.

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