Rabbit friendly veterinary practices: what does this mean?

While most veterinary practices are happy to see rabbits, not all veterinary practices have been awarded with an official rabbit-friendly status – but we have! Practices like ours go the extra mile for bunnies and are recognised by The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF). The RWAF assesses these practices and publishes them in a directory so that committed rabbit owners can easily find the care that they need.

But what does rabbit-friendly status really mean?

What things make a practice rabbit friendly?

We’ve used the term “rabbit-friendly”, but what does this actually mean in practical terms? Well, there are several things that first-opinion veterinary practices like ours can do to make themselves rabbit friendly including the following:

Knowledgeable staff

Vets and vet nurses who do extra training in rabbit medicine are key to making a practice rabbit friendly – all our vets have received extra training in rabbit care and are members of the Rabbit Welfare Association, and nurse Jess has a Small Animal Certificate. While most vets have a basic knowledge of rabbit health, looking for a practice where staff members are invested in expanding their knowledge is important. Our vets have a particular interest in rabbits and keep up to date with the latest recommendations through continued professional development (CPD) in this area. Some staff members may also study for additional post-graduate qualifications.

Separate waiting area

Rabbits are prey animals which means they can become easily stressed in a new environment. A rabbit-friendly practice will make efforts to reduce stress, by trying to provide a separate rabbit waiting area away from noisy dogs and cats.

Appropriate kennelling facilities

A separate ward is an important part of achieving rabbit-friendly status. We ensure rabbits are hospitalised in their own designated area, away from dogs, as being near to them could create unnecessary stress. They are provided with a hiding place within their kennel and access to hay and water. Like other rabbit-friendly practices, we also encourage bonded pairs to be hospitalised together unless there are specific medical reasons why they shouldn’t be.

Up-to-date anaesthetic and analgesia protocols

Using up-to-date anaesthetic and analgesia (pain relief) protocols is another way we stay rabbit friendly. Injectable anaesthetic regimes, on their own or with inhaled anaesthetic, are recommended nowadays for greater safety than inhalational (anaesthetic gas) alone. If your rabbit is receiving an anaesthetic then appropriate equipment and monitoring will be available, including the tools necessary to intubate your rabbit (pass a tube into its airways) to deliver anaesthetic gases and oxygen. Our vet team are of course familiar with appropriate pain relief options for rabbits, which are a little different from other species’ requirements.

Expert handling and care

Rabbits can be delicate creatures and need to be handled with expert care. Our rabbit-friendly vet and nurse team know the best ways of holding a rabbit without causing them undue stress or injury.

A good approach to rabbit health care

Our rabbit-friendly practice promotes preventative health treatments like routine checkups, vaccinations and flystrike treatments. We also have appropriate protocols to manage common conditions like gut stasis and dental treatments (using anaesthesia where appropriate).

How is rabbit-friendly status awarded?

If a veterinary practice meets the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) criteria, by covering the points listed above, it will be given an award. The difference between the levels may include things like the layout of the building, whether they provide their own out-of-hours service and whether a rabbit specialist works there (a vet with specific further qualifications), some of which can be beyond the control of the veterinary practice. So discerning rabbit owners shouldn’t be too concerned about the difference between these levels – being given any of these awards is a sign that your bunny will be in good hands.

The award is reviewed every 12 months which ensures that we must continue to keep standards up. Rabbit-friendly practices are also listed in the directory of the RWAF. It is important to recognise that not all practices that apply will be successful in passing all the strict criteria.

We are extremely proud to maintain our Silver Rabbit Friendly status with the RWAF.

Why should I use a rabbit-friendly vet?

A rabbit-friendly veterinary practice will give you the confidence that your rabbit will be well cared for. Hopefully, you won’t need our help beyond routine vaccinations and check-ups, but should something go wrong with your bunny, then you will be in a strong position. Your rabbit will have immediate access to an enthusiastic and knowledgeable team.

It is worth noting that just because a practice is rabbit-friendly, it doesn’t mean they have a ‘specialist’ working for them. There are actually very few legally recognised specialists in this field, and sometimes we may still need to refer your rabbit for more advanced care if he or she has complex health needs.


Rabbit-friendly practices like ours have been recognised by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) and meet their stringent criteria. We’re proud to provide an excellent level of first-opinion care, with particular attention paid to up-to-date rabbit veterinary care and reduced levels of stress.

Woolton Veterinary Centre are proud to have been awarded with rabbit-friendly status and we look forward to seeing you and your rabbit soon. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any specific questions or requirements around your rabbit’s care and we will be happy to help.

By Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS