I was at a pet shop when a mother and her pre-teen daughter came in with a 3-month-old rabbit with no more hairs on the neck between the shoulders.
"The rabbit keeps scratching the back of the neck non-stop," the mother had bought the rabbit recently. Agnes, the pet shop owner whom I knew for some years and had excellent working relationships introduced me as a vet. "Do you have a name card?" the mother asked. Before I could take one out, the guinea pig owner whom I treated her guinea pig for loose front teeth and had driven her to this pet shop where she bought the guinea pig, handed my namecard to the lady. I was surprised.
"It is best to bathe the rabbit," I advised Agnes. "But rabbits at 3 months of age should not be bathed or they will die."
"They will not die," I told Agnes who had applied a spot-on insecticide on the neck between the ears behind the neck and between the shoulders. "You need to wash off the spot-on insecticide as it is irritating the rabbit. Use very warm water."
"The owner can bathe the rabbit at home," Agnes was reluctant to do it. I asked her to do it as there was an opportunity to rectify what went wrong. The mother and daughter were first-time rabbit owners and would not be able to bathe it. "The rabbit may fracture its legs too, if the owner does it". I could take over the bathing but that would not be the right thing to do as Agnes could easily do it.
"Why don't you bathe the rabbit and if the rabbit still scratches the neck with its hind legs, I will treat it," I said to Agnes. Veterinary costs are much higher and I know most Singapore owners have this culture of "seeking the groomer first." Groomers are more affordable.
Later in the day, the mother and daughter came to see me. "Is there less scratching now after bathing?" I asked. "Yes," the mother said. "I paid $30 for the bath which took half an hour. But the rabbit is still using the hind legs to scratch the neck."
I gave an anti-inflammatory injection subcutaneous and tried to provide the least veterinary cost to the owner. "Let me know if the rabbit still scratches," I advised the stressed mother. No complaints for the last 2 days. I presumed all are back to normal.
Hypersensitivity to spot on insecticides may occur in animals. The rabbit had been bathed with an insecticide powder but since it was still shaking its head, Agnes applied a spot-on insecticide.