Handling – Rabbit and Guinea Pigs

Handling of an exotic pet can make or break (their spine) and your consult!

As most people learn early on, rabbits impressively (and scarily) can break their lumbosacral vertebrae and paralyze themselves by kicking out with their hindlimbs.

Scary stuff!

So it’s important to correctly handle, manage and pick up exotics when in your veterinary hospital. As for Guinea pigs, I’d handle a little pig much like a rabbit, but with much less fear of hind limb paralysis! Quality handling is important to improve your confidence in examining small mammals, in addition to reducing stress in your patient (and client!).

Quick Take Away Points

  • Never leave a rabbit unattended on a table, they move QUICKLY! And you don’t want rabbits jumping from examination tables (consider once more the mighty powerful rabbit hindlimbs). The main consideration is to support the hindlimbs at all times, with a table or with your arms.
  • Use a towel! If your rabbit jumps out of a hat, you will not gain points in the eye of a client. Well, probably not. So use a towel instead to secure them during your consult.
  • Covering a rabbit’s eyes can calm them, covering a guinea pigs eyes will freak them out
  • Warn your client that guinea pigs like to vocalize, no matter what. So a loud guinea pig can mean a good consult!

Your Guide to Handling Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

(Thanks to our volunteer guinea pig, who for privacy reasons will be referred to as Glinda)

Method 1

Place your right hand under the hind paws, and your left hand under the fore paws and ventral thorax. Flip the front of your rabbit with your left hand so that the dorsal thorax is against you, with the hind paws supported by the right hand, with the bunny facing away from you.

Plus, if you coach your client, this is a great way to examine a patients ventral abdomen and thorax!

  1. Place one hand under hind paws

Lift 1

  1. Place your second (of two) hands under the front paws and chest.

Method 1

  1. Use your second hand to flip the bunny or pig so that their back is toward you

Method 1 Hold

  1. Voila!

Method 2

Scoop the rabbit up by placing your left hand under the hind paws, with the rabbits’ head toward or under your elbow. Hug the bunny to you and keep your right hand on her back.

This is a great way to carry patients over short distances!

  1. Place arm around patient with their head toward your elbow

Lift 1

Yes, i reused that image 🙂

  1. LIFT!!!

Method 2 Hold

The towel wrap
As discussed previously, towels are versatile, and a great tool to use minimal restraint to examine your bunny or guinea pig. Especially, for eye examinations and temperature measurements.

Place your bunny in the centre of a square towel
Fold the right edge over to the left, pass the rear corner toward the head, then pass the left corner over to the right…

Clear as mud, look below!

  1. Centre your patient on the towel

Lift 1

And again…

  1. Fold right corner over patient

Towel 1

  1. Fold rear toward head of patient

Towel 2

  1. Fold left over patient

Towel 3

  1. Fold front over???? No you dont!

Towel 4

Furr-real Summary Facts

  • Towels are great
  • Support the hindlimbs
  • Use quality handling techniques to minimize stress for your patient, yourself and your client!

If in doubt, secure your patient with a towel!!!! I go into more detail about this in the Rabbit Examination Guide,  https://exoticsvets.com/page/rabbitexam/
If you have any comments or your own techniques for handling rabbits and guinea pigs, let us and the community know, on facebook or via email at exoticsvets@gmail.com!