View Full Version : The RWAF Conference

05-10-2014, 04:40 PM

Just want to put up some thoughts and highlights on the RWAF conference yesterday so I can inspire everyone to go next year and get some feedback on some thoughts... NB this is my interpretation of what was said so anything wrong is me. Also not sure if the RWAF would approve of my sharing stuff as you should have all done to the conference so if anything in here is useful please consider donating to them or a rescue and going to th conference next time, but also few enough people know much about bunnies so the more anyone knows the better.

The first part of the day was workshops. It was really hard to get round them all, as some of them were really interesting, but the awesome parsnipbun was answering lots and lots of questions about foraging and had samples of pretty much everything to have a look at. There was a session on syringe feeding, so I'm going to practice that on Waffles ready for next time. There was a session on health checking your bunny - which I half do but I don't look at their teeth or check scent glands so that was really really useful and both OH and I are going to be better at it. Also injecting your bunny - I don't want to do this and it seemed scary - nebulising the bunny - this seemed easier, and the modern nebulisers seem so much easier (and more expensive) than the old fashioned ones so I'd be ok with doing this but hopefully won't ever need to. I needed about another half hour for this so didn't get round everything but it was really useful - hearing other people asking about their bunnies was fascinating as I learned loads.

An interesting part of this was that one of the vets mentioned she'd only recently graduated, and as I'd read that in the 90s vets only got 5 days of bunny training, I asked how it was these days. She said her course had included 17 hours of training on rabbits (I heard rabbits, OH reckons she said exotics) so it's still very much learning on the job

Elisabetta Manicelli (amazing bunny vet) did a talk on diet related health problems. I suspect everyone on here is pretty good on that - but if not read this http://www.therabbithouse.com/diet/http://www.therabbithouse.com/diet/ it's always good revision though.

Interesting fact was that there was a study in a vet journal which had shown that feeding two or more types of hay better meets the bunnies nutritional needs more so than say feeding two or more veggies. Waffles and DP currently have four on the go, so feeling good about that.

She also said to not feed any of the commercial treats or pizza or bread etc - i think she basically said if it doesn't contain the nutrients rabbits require for the health of the gut and teeth, it doesn't need to be part of the rabbit's diet. And not to feed veggies straight out of the fridge (oops) as they're cold and can upset their delicate tummies.

I also got really confused as she said herbs could be given as treats, max 1-2 springs per week. But they're also include in the list of suitable veggies she had - so I'm not sure if they should be restricted or not? Mine currently get a whole packet to destroy.

Also there and in a later talk there was discussion of stasis... as in stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which reduces gut motility. And it seems to then get into a vicious circle where the reduced gut motility stops them eating and the resulting dehydration and anorexia continues to reduce the gut motility. so from my interpretation are two reasons why it's mega important to get them to the vet immediately
1) without gut stimulant and syringe feeding they can't start eating again BUT you can't syringe feed until they've seen a vet in case it's not stasis but bloat or a blockage
2) their super fast metabolic rate means their liver is continuing to try to convert sugar to energy and they can die from resulting liver failure within 24-48 hours as his process turns their liver to mush

There was also lots of information about different diseases, keeping the bunny health and active and so on.

Kevin Eatwell (amazing bunny vet) then spoke about EC, and that 52% of bunnies have been exposed to it, but it's mostly fine (i.e. they fight it off and have no symptoms). As it's spread by urine contaminated food and water, this got me wondering (controversially) if this meant that bunnies from breeders have less chance of getting it, IF the breeder's colony is uncontaminated. Just cos petshops and rescues have lots of bunnies from all over the place sharing enclosures or lawn time. There;s still a risk of contamination at a boarding place but I think this gives a small number of breeders a point in their favour (against the many many points against them!!)

Therefore, when a bunny then gets EC-like symptoms, and is tested for EC, there's a 52% chance of it coming back as positive, even if the symptoms are caused by something completely different so a lot of ear infections/abcesses are being diagnosed/treated as EC. So if your bunny has head tilt, it would be better to get blood tests and CT scans to rule out inner ear disease than to assume it's EC due to a positive EC est. However, CT scans are expensive, and the EC test can be useful to rule out EC if it comes back negative.

Also it sounded like most things like EC, pasturella, mites only become a problem if something is wring with the bunny and it has a lowered immune system e.g. it's stressed or has tooth problems etc.

Nicola Rooney (Clinical behaviourist) spoke about research into welfare which should be published soon and was funded by the RSPCA to determine what rabbit welfare campaigns they should focus on, and what issues had the most impact on bunnies at the moment. These included not having a bunny companion or the bunny companion being unsuitable (i.e. not friends), unpredictable routine, lack of opportunity to dig, graze, exercise at dusk and dawn or have human contact on a daily basis.

I have to admit that I've always tried to make waffles and DP's lives slightly unpredictable - moving things round, putting them back in different parts of the enclosure as I heard bunnies liked routine, so my plan was to help them get less stressed about small changes by getting them used to them. I don't know if it's right or not but they seem ok.

parsnipbun spoke about bunny housing - how it had evolved historically which was really interesting, and then about how there is a lot of compromise between what is important to a human and what is important to a bunny. This actually worked really well with a lot of things discussed throughout the day - the compromise between being able to easily locate your bunny when he needs to go to the vet and letting him create a vast tunnelling network, that everyone would do anything within their power to stop their bunny getting EC - except he's probably already beed exposed, and if not, that would involve him never going on grass. So it's kind of about balance and i guess lots of people will have varying opinions about exactly where that balance lies, and lots of differing personal factors affecting it. It was good that quite a lot of the factors discussed were ones I'd considered in designing their enclosure, and things I'd compromised on and things I'd already thought I'd do differently when we get more bunnies... but it also gave me another way of thinking about it, and some more ideas, and I've already made one small change to Waffles/DP's home by making the opening between their indoor/outdoor area smaller. Hopefully this change to their routine won't stress them... She was the only speaker to refer to her own bunnies and it was really good to get this contrast to the vets (whose slides were full of internal bunny organs) and hear from someone who really understood and enjoyed her bunnies' personalities. OH loved that the presentation was done in keynote not powerpoint, and we were both very very excited to see Waffles and DP feature in the presentation and look very cute :)

Richard Saunders (amazing bunny vet) talked about vet stuff. But my mind was kinda gone by this stage, so hmm. He made stasis vs blockage make a bit more sense and talked about studies into bunny anaesthesia (they're 5-10x more likely to die from GA than cats/dogs) and more about stasis and pain relief and how bunnies metabolise things really fast so pain relief doesn't last as long. And I think that if a ver doesn't know how to treat bunnies, they shouldn't accept them as patients. If they choose to accept them at patients, they should learn about them and treat them properly.

I also did lots of shopping - so can report that the RWAF/parsnipbun guide to foraging is really beautifully produced and has some very cute bunny pictures in it. I need to read it properly but there's a lot of plants covered with good pictures and advice so I will be comparing them to the plants in my garden and a seeing what I can let them destroy! We're trying Waffles on pet remedy next time she goes to the vets as she's a stress monkey and I like trying new things on them, and they're happily eating fresh hay and plantain (and very confused by blackberry leaves as they're not sure about the thorns!)

Also burgess were giving away free syringes as they are releasing a new critical care type food which is pellets which can be softened in water so that when a bunny is recovering from syringe feeding they don't suddenly change food. There was a leaflet explaining it with a number you could phone for a sample but I've lost the leaflet. oops.

I got back to two very entertaining and happy bunnies - you know how sometimes they just want to eat hay and flop, and other times they're interested in everything and throwing stuff about and climbing all over you and licking you. They were pretty awesome.

05-10-2014, 06:51 PM
This is amazing, thank you :thumb: The bit about feeding them cold veg is something I am definitely guilty of :oops:

I'm going to try and go next year!

05-10-2014, 06:56 PM
Thanks for the round up - it sounds like there was a lot to learn.

I got an email from the RWA to say the foraging book would be in their online shop Monday, so I'll be ordering a copy of that :)

05-10-2014, 07:26 PM
Dumblepaws you are awesome :wave:

This is a great summary, thank you so much for taking the time and trouble! x

mini lop1
05-10-2014, 07:30 PM
sounds like it was very good, lots of information, thanks for the feedback :wave:

05-10-2014, 08:19 PM
Thank you DP :D

............and I certainly agree with this !!

if a vet doesn't know how to treat bunnies, they shouldn't accept them as patients. If they choose to accept them at patients, they should learn about them and treat them properly.

05-10-2014, 09:30 PM
Great summary! I had an amazing time too and learned loads.

Here's a pic of the conference pack and bits I bought.

Ummmm can anyone who also went tell me what the white flip out thing with the blue roller inside is???


05-10-2014, 09:55 PM
Ummmm can anyone who also went tell me what the white flip out thing with the blue roller inside is???

Handbag sized lint roller for removal of bunny fluff from clothes

Oh - you didn't lose your Excel dual care leaflet! (unlike me who's a muppet) What was the email address/number on it to get the free sample?

05-10-2014, 10:04 PM
Thank you for the summary DP it was brilliant and informative, I really want to go next year :thumb:

05-10-2014, 10:37 PM
Great summary thank you. :D
I'd love to go but have no one to look after the bunnies. :(
I'd like to hear more about scent glands as my very rabbit savvy vet says there is rarely a need to clean them but I keep seeing posts on here from people who do :?
Also I have been using Pet Remedy for the past year and can recommend it for animals and people alike :wave:

13-10-2014, 01:44 PM
Thanks for the round up - it sounds like there was a lot to learn.

I got an email from the RWA to say the foraging book would be in their online shop Monday, so I'll be ordering a copy of that :)

It's on sale Tamsin. I released it on Saturday while the conference was in progress. Here's the link http://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product/foraging-for-rabbits-by-twigs-way/

Dumblepaws, thanks for your kind words and your great synopsis of the day. :D