Do you want to build a snowman?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Frozen reference. But today’s post is all about Olaf, whose namesake is the sun-loving snowman of Disney fame, so it’s completely appropriate.

Olaf actually began life as “Elsa”, until his owners moved house and could no longer keep him. They gave him to a forest education centre where my boyfriend’s mum works. They have a group of female rabbits living in a big outdoor enclosure and Elsa was to join them. Thankfully the staff realised that Elsa was in fact Olaf and had him neutered before any baby Olafs came along!

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Tom and I sometimes help out at the centre and Olaf was the best rabbit for the children to meet by far. He didn’t mind being petted, stroked, occasionally prodded and of course his name made for a wonderful introduction “Who do you know who likes warm hugs?”. Compared to other rabbits I’ve known and owned his patience and tolerance was off the charts and he had a lovely group of bunny friends to go back to once the children went home.

Unfortunately, last month Olaf was found in the enclosure with his back legs not moving. I wasn’t involved in his vet visits but it seems the centre have a great “rabbit savvy” vet because several times he was taken “probably to be put to sleep…” and the vet tried something else. He or she settled on a diagnosis of E. cuniculi, a parasite carried by many rabbits which can sometimes affect the brain, eyes and kidneys. The effect on the brain can cause the limp hind limbs as in Olaf’s case. He began a 28-day course of Pancur to kill the parasite.

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During his treatment Tom’s mum went away and left Olaf with us. As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a flat so Olaf had to become a house rabbit. Luckily he has adapted very well. He likes to sit under our desk and I think our shiny floors help him slide along. He also has a tatty old rug and a selection of towels for when he wants a firmer surface and is starting to become litter trained. With the exception of one phone charger (oops) he doesn’t seem to be a big chew-er either!

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Olaf likes to sit under the sofa.

Before I go any further I want to say I’ve given really careful thought to whether Olaf should be put to sleep. He doesn’t understand what’s happened to him and his movement is definitely limited compared to a healthy rabbit. Although he can control his bladder, when he pees he does sometimes get wet and I have had to try and get him used to mini baths. However, on every other quality of life indicator I’ve ever used for my pets, Olaf scores well. He eats and drinks properly; he shuffles all over our living room; he likes to be petted and scratched; he goes to the toilet properly. If he were to get worse then yes, euthanasia might be the kindest option. But for the moment it seems unnecessary as he seems happy and mostly healthy. From my reading online rabbits can recover given time and care, so whilst he seems to be doing OK, I see every reason to give him a chance.

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Olaf’s new shuffling way of getting around sadly won’t work in that lovely outdoor home at the education centre, so he’s here to stay for a while. If he doesn’t recover, we’ll probably try to find him a home with a rabbit lover who understands his needs and has other rabbit friends for him. For now he makes a hopping motion as he shuffles but his skinny back legs can’t support his weight yet. I’ll keep you updated!

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The BVA Animal Welfare Strategy

Earlier this month the British Veterinary Association published their animal welfare strategy: “Vets speaking up for animal welfare.” The strategy focusses on the primacy of animal welfare amongst the many concerns of veterinary surgeons. From the start they draw on the wording of the RCVS declaration made by all vets: “ABOVE ALL, my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care.”

That vets care for animal welfare might seem obvious. However, the BVA describe the purpose of their document as providing consistent terms of engagement for vets considering issues of animal welfare, science, ethics and law (AWSEL). They begin by describing how the last fifty years has seen a revolution in our scientific understanding of how animals think and feel. As a result, society has re-evaluated many issues of animal welfare and vets must play a role in turning these new values into policy and practice. They also describe leadership on welfare issues, which vets are expertly placed to provide, as a key component of the future of the veterinary profession. And failure to take up this role is described as a risk to the integrity of the profession.

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Pregnancy diagnosis in sheep

When I started talking about going back to university one of my friends from school got in touch and asked if I wanted to do some “work experience” on his dad’s farm. I was very grateful for the suggestion and even more so when we went along to the farm and his family turned out to be lovely, friendly people and willing to take me on during lambing!

I’ve booked my time off work and agreed to stay with my family in the next village. However their lambing won’t start until late March/early April, which seemed a long way off. So when they called me up and said they were doing pregnancy diagnosis on some of the sheep this weekend I jumped at the chance to go and start learning about sheep farming and try and make myself useful.

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