Pain and analgesia in pet rabbits: a survey of the veterinary nurse’s attitude

Livia Benato*, Jo C Murrell, Emily-Jayne Blackwell, Richard A Saunders, Nicola J Rooney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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Veterinary nurses share the responsibility of peri-operative pain assessment with veterinary surgeons. An understanding of their knowledge of pain recognition and control in rabbits is important.

A survey-based approach was used to establish current attitudes amongst veterinary nurses towards pain management in pet rabbits, and factors which affect this. The survey was advertised at national and international veterinary conferences, in veterinary publications and on social media such as Facebook®.

A total of 284 questionnaires (94.8% from UK, and 5.2 % from outside the UK) were completed and analysed. The majority of the respondents (77.5%) nursed 1-10 rabbits per month, and 5.6 % of the respondents reported regularly running a rabbit clinic. The respondents were regularly involved in nursing during common procedures such as castration (89.4%) and ovariohysterectomy (82.0%). The responsibility for post-operative pain assessment was reported to be by ‘nurses only’ (49.7%), ‘nurses and vets’ (42.2%) and occasionally by ‘vets only’ (3.2 %). The majority of the respondents reported that they did not use a pain scale (71.1%) but often relied on behavioural indicators (22.6%), while 20.5% used the Rabbit Grimace Scale (RbtGS). The majority of the respondents (62.5%) reported being ‘fairly confident’ at recognising pain in rabbits.

Clinical Importance
This study provides information on the attitudes and clinical practice of veterinary nurses during rabbit treatment. Veterinary nurses are involved in many aspects of rabbit care, and they are generally confident at nursing this species.
This survey also suggests areas that may need further consideration such as the use of pain assessment tools in this species and the importance of teamwork between nurses and veterinarians.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Small Animal Practice
Early online date25 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Aug 2020


  • rabbits
  • veterinary nurses
  • pain
  • analgesia
  • pain scale

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