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Elisabetta Mancinelli

Elisabetta Mancinelli – DVM CertZooMed ECZM Dipl (Small Mammal Medicine and Surgery) MRCVS

2018 VetCPD Congress Lectures

How to get the Grip on Rabbit Anaesthesia

Rabbits are prey species and masters at disguising signs of disease. They are often presented in advanced stage of illness. A recent study reported an overall peri-anaesthetic mortality rate of healthy pet rabbits much higher than in dogs and cats. The lecture will discuss how to face the challenges of rabbit anaesthesia, thus minimising the risks involved and decreasing mortality rates. Carefull pre-anaesthetic evaluation of the patient is essential, including a detailed history, complete physical examination and minimum laboratory database to provide useful information on the general health status. Factors, such as the presence of underlying disease, lack of confidence and expertise of staff involved, anatomical and physiological differences compared to more common species, drug dosages, adequate pain relief and post-anaesthetic care should also be taken into consideration. Whenever an anaesthetic is planned, it is always important to be prepared in advance. Patient monitoring during an anaesthetic is essential. An assistant must be available to constantly monitor anaesthesia level, response to painful stimuli, and vital parameters. The principles of anaesthesia monitoring are not different compared to those used in dogs and cats and the availability of more advanced equipment greatly enhances the chances of positive results.

The “snuffly” rabbit

Respiratory problems are commonly encountered in pet rabbits and one of the most common reason for presentation to a veterinary practice. This certainly represents a challenge to the veterinarian, as specific anatomic knowledge is required to be able to confidently and efficaciously handle these cases. Rabbits are almost obligate nasal breathers due to the position of the epiglottis engaged over the soft palate. This anatomical feature can result in often significant and debilitating respiratory compromise, when the upper respiratory tract is diseased, compared to other species. However, it is important to understand that “snuffles” is not a disease but rather a generic term frequently used to describe a group of upper respiratory symptoms, which commonly occur in rabbits. All these cases need to be adequately investigated to be able to determine the full extent of the problem and identify all factors involved. This would eventually allow establishing a more targeted treatment and increasing the chances of a positive outcome.


Elisabetta graduated from the University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy, in 2002. Her interest in exotics became clear shortly after her graduation, anticipating a career mainly based on non-conventional animal medicine and surgery. After a small animal focused internship, she’s been working solely with exotics since 2003. She undertook an externship in France, mainly based on reptile medicine and then completed an externship program at the “Angell Animal Memorial Hospital” in Boston (USA), focusing on exotic animal medicine and surgery. In 2007, she moved to UK where she initially worked in private practice and wildlife charities. In 2009, Elisabetta started the first European College of Zoological Medicine (ECZM) Residency in Small Mammal Medicine, which she completed at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh. From September 2010, she holds the RCVS Certificate in Zoological Medicine. In 2014, she obtained the ECZM Diploma, Specialty “Small Mammal Medicine and Surgery”. She currently leads the exotic department at Highcroft Veterinary Referrals, Bristol (UK).