by Claire Millington, Communications Officer, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
If you are a rabbit owner then hopefully you’ve already got a vet that you are happy with. However, if you have a new pet, are moving or just thinking about changing vets, there are over 4,000 different practices across the UK, ranging from small clinics, to veterinary hospitals stuffed full of the latest technology. So how do you pick the right one for you and your rabbit?
If you’ve already a practice in mind, you might just want to check out that the vet is bona fide. Anybody wanting to work as a veterinary surgeon in the UK must qualify and be registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – they can’t call themselves a vet if they are not.
Although it is extremely rare, it is not completely unknown for someone to try to pass themselves off as a vet. You can check the RCVS Register of Veterinary Surgeons or Nurses online at www.rcvs.org.uk/checkregister and find out from us if they are registered.
Similarly, you may want to check whether a ‘veterinary nurse’ at a practice is ‘Listed’ or ‘Registered’ – as only Listed/Registered veterinary nurses can undertake certain veterinary procedures under the direction of a vet. Listed veterinary nurses can use the letters ‘VN’ after their name, and those that are also Registered, ‘RVN.’
If you are just starting to look for a practice, though, the free RCVS Find-a-Vet search tool (www.findavet.org.uk) can also be useful. Not only can you search by town or postcode to find vets near to you, but, using the advanced search function, you can make sure that the practice that treats rabbits – they are sometimes classed as ‘exotics’ so try searching for that as well as ‘small animals’ to be sure – find out if it’s a charity clinic, and get an idea of how many vets and Listed/Registered veterinary nurses work there.
We update this information on a weekly basis, however details about who practices employ and what species they treat is provided on a voluntary basis by practices themselves so, if something is particularly important to you, it’s worth double-checking with the practice concerned.
The search can also be used to find practices that are RCVS Practice Standards Scheme accredited. This is a voluntary initiative we developed to promote and maintain the highest standards of veterinary care through setting benchmarks and carrying out regular inspections.
To be accredited, veterinary practices must pass rigorous inspections, which are repeated every four years. They can also be spot-checked between inspections.
There are three kinds of accreditation which a practice may have.
1. Core Standards. These practices will have met a range of minimum standards, including hygiene, 24-hour emergency cover, staff training, certain types of equipment and cost-estimation procedures.
2. General Practice. These practices can be species or discipline specific. They must meet all the requirements of Core Standards, as well as extra requirements such as ongoing staff training, clean and well maintained premises, and access to laboratory facilities for diagnostic testing.
3. Veterinary Hospital. These practices will either be for Small Animal or Equine patients and must meet all the requirements of Core Standards and General Practices. On top of this are extra requirements including having nursing staff on the premises around the clock, and a vet available 24-hours a day if needed by in-patients. The hygiene and cleanliness of premises is rigorously examined, and the range and quality of equipment checked. Veterinary Hospitals must also monitor their performance to maintain and improve clinical standards.
Once you have narrowed down your options, get in touch with the practices. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, for example, about the arrangements for emergencies that occur when the practice is closed and how they handle home visits.
Some vets provide their own 24-hour emergency help; others link up with other practices in the area or use a dedicated out-of-hours provider. In an emergency you will usually be asked to bring your rabbit into the clinic for treatment as it is likely to need facilities that may not available in your home. So do make sure where you need to get to in an emergency as it might not be your usual practice or closest branch.
You could also ask about the different costs for services such as consultations, prescriptions, neutering and vaccinations; veterinary practices other than charity clinics are businesses, so their charges do vary according to location, practice type, and costs etc.
More information about our work and how to get in touch with us, the Practice Standards Scheme, how veterinary surgeons and Listed/Registered veterinary nurses are regulated, and what qualifications they may hold, can be found on our website: www.rcvs.org.uk.