Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vet's pets: Lynette Chave and Chocolate Bunny

Chocolate Bunny leads a charmed life.
This week we introduce the second veterinarian in our Vet’s Pets series. Dr Lynette Chave is a veterinarian with the Animal Welfare Unit in the NSW Department of Primary Industries. It’s a position that enables her to work with animal welfare on a broad scale.

By day she deals with animal welfare legislation, and her main area of work is the regulation of the use of animals in research and teaching.

Like many vets, Lynette met her companion - Chocolate Bunny - at work. Not only is she a brilliant colleague (speaking from previous experience), she is a fantastic writer.

You can read her blog here or follow on facebook here.

How did you meet Chocolate Bunny?

Chocolate Bunny hopped into my life, and straight into my heart, during a time when my office was located in the middle of the Cumberland State Forest. A friend in the information centre rang me to say she had a chocolate bunny. At first I thought it strange she should want to tell me about her afternoon tea, until I realised she meant not a sweet imitation but the real thing. He had apparently been spotted around the forest nursery for about a week before being rescued. I went over to meet him and as soon as I held his soft bunny body in my arms I knew there was no place he was going except home to stay with me.

Working from home.
Does he have any conditions that require treatment? What was involved in treatment?

There’s a long list…so I suggest sitting down and grabbing a cup of coffee…
The first was malocclusion – totally missed by Yours Truly. I thought Choccy just didn’t like eating greens, until a friend, who happened to be a rabbit judge [not the courtroom style judge but one who judges rabbit shows], paid him a visit. The first thing he did (much to my bunny’s chagrin), was to tip him on his back to examine him…the way you apparently do if you have a background in rabbit judging. Gasps from my friend and me followed with the sight of the curling incisors that greeted us. Thus began my association with the wonderful David Vella, Rabbit Veterinarian Extraordinaire. David operated to remove the incisors (better than regular tooth clipping which runs the risk of  fractures and subsequent infections). And lo and behold, Chocolate Bunny began eating greens with a vengeance (albeit chopped up to accommodate his incisor deficiency).

Then there was the gut stasis – new to me but a common rabbity emergency. Again managed by David, and I became familiar with Critical Care formula and force feeding a reluctant bunny into the wee small hours.

A couple of years ago (I’m assuming you want me to go on!) rapid breathing again saw me and Choccy making the trek to Crows Nest for a diagnosis of a condition akin to asthma and the start of long-term treatment with a bronchodilator twice daily. For this, my bunny is very grateful to his rabbit vet, because it means he gets the tablets inside sultanas – which he LOVES.

In recent times this condition has sadly progressed to what appears to be inflammatory airway disease. What I thought was sneezing David advised was coughing (yes I learnt rabbits are obligate nose-breathers). After X-rays and some trial and error treatment, during which my little fellow became very unwell, we have come up with a therapy that seems at least to be keeping him comfortable and somewhat back to his happy, binkying self. 

He’s now on a daily inhalation of corticosteroids…initially started with some trepidation, as apparently the rabbit immune system and corticosteroids are not a good combination, but so far so good.  Chocolate Bunny is less impressed with his rabbit vet for this treatment, which requires restraint and is thus a serious challenge to his ego.  He’s also a little put out by the rampant Oryctolagus cuniculus discrimination which sees the ready availability of Aero-Dawg and Aero-Kat inhalers, but nary an Aero-Bun inhaler to be found.

Chocolate Bunny is a house bunny so makes himself at home.
How would you describe their relationship?

I am totally in love with this tiny creature with a personality the size of a small planet, and he appears completely bonded to me, for which I am very grateful (rabbits can be quite fussy about the company they keep).

What do you do to spend time together?

Choccy is a house rabbit. He lives inside with me and has free run of the house (yes he uses a litter tray). So he tends to be wherever I am. When I greet him in the morning, he is in the habit of running around and around my feet in a display of rabbit love – and it melts my heart every time.

Has caring for Choccy taught you anything you didn’t already know?

Yes…see all of his conditions above – it appears I knew almost zero about rabbits….this includes:
  • That their incisor tooth roots are extremely long – which makes removal quite difficult.
  • Rabbits go bananas for banana (carrots are a long way down the list of favourite foods).
  • Rabbits have no idea that they are roughly the size of a sawn-off ugg boot. Their attitude indicates they think they are somewhere around the dimensions of a polar bear.
  • Rabbits are officially the cutest creatures in the world, be it leaping in the air for the sheer joy of it (binkying), flopping on their sides in bunny bliss, or just cleaning their ears. It is doubtless annoying for them when their housemates oooh and aaaah over their every move, but a source of constant joy for the housemates.

There is an entire online community of people equally as obsessed with their rabbits, for whom behaviours such as posting endless cute bunny pictures and talking in “bunny speak” (think “buntastic”, “bunderful” and “OMB” ) is perfectly normal and acceptable.

Chocolate Bunny shares a secret.
How has Choccy changed your approach to veterinary work?

I don’t work in practice, but it has reinforced how active rabbits are and that confining them to small cages or hutches cannot possibly meet their physical and behavioural needs.

Any parting words of wisdom?

I have learnt that my home would not be complete without a house rabbit.
I also share my life with two horses (one a 30 year old retired paddock ornament the other a somewhat reluctant dressage partner), 4 chickens, 2 budgies and plethora of wild visitors to my home at Joyfallee. They feature in The Chicken Diaries, which began on Facebook and has continued more recently in my blog – The Joyfallee Chronicles

For those with an arty bent, The Chicken Diaries is to be the subject of an exhibition by Fresh Arts in Dubbo, with opening night on 7 August 2015 – in a sort of art-meets-social-media-meets–the residents of Joyfallee - ...All are welcome…and it’s free!

OMB, Lynette! Thanks for sharing your story and hopefully a lot of people will make it to the exhibition.