Extremely distraught after normal procedure resulted in my rabbits death. No compassion from the vet who told me on arrival they may not be able to fit us in as they’ve been far too busy. No warmth. Little care on ringing to let us know the our pet had died. And they would not charge us for the procedure as a gesture of goodwill. Felt like it was too much trouble in the first place and had a bad feeling on leaving him there. I was told that this procedural death hadn’t happened in a while. No other explanation given.
The unexpected death of a pet under anaesthesia for elective surgery is one of he worst things that can happen in a veterinary surgery but it is unimaginable how much worse it must be for the owner of the beloved pet. I would therefore like to re-iterate how sorry all of the staff involved with Toast are, that this happened to him and you while he was under our care.
Furthermore, as the vet who you dealt with on the day, I am also deeply sorry that you feel the explanation of his death was not handled sensitively. It is very difficult to break these news to an unexpecting owner and I would like to apologise unreservedly if you feel it was done without warmth or sympathy. This was most certainly not my intention.
I also appreciate that it very difficult to take in any explanation at a time of such a shock and it is difficult to know how much or how little information is required and I would therefore like to re-iterate some of the information I tried to convey on the day.
During Toast's admission in the morning I was asked at what time he could be picked up and I explained that due to emergencies that might arise during the day (and staff shortages due to Covid 19) I was unable to give an exact discharge time but we were aiming for between 3pm and 4pm and an exact time would be given once the operation had been performed. I am sorry if you felt this meant it was too much trouble to deal with your rabbit. He had been booked in for his operation and that means a time slot and staff members had been allocated for him. Unfortunately it is the nature of veterinary work (and this is exacerbated during the current situation) that unexpected or urgent cases can sometimes have a knock-on effect on our time schedule and we try to manage expectations accordingly.
Unexpected anaesthetic deaths are extremely upsetting and traumatic and it is even worse when this happens to a young and healthy pet that has its full life ahead of it. Unfortunately, they are still a recognised complication of anaesthesia, although fortunately this happens very rarely nowadays, but I do understand that this is absolutely no consolation for the affected pet owner in an individual case. You did ask me on the day when this had last happened at our surgery and I did not recall at the time, I have since looked it up and it was in 2013.
However, every case is one too many and we do strive to prevent it happening at all. As a practice that sees a lot of rabbit patients we ensure all our rabbits undergoing anaesthesia have an intravenous catheter placed. This allows for quick access with drugs if complications arise and it also means that the anaesthetic can be given to effect, a safer way than giving injections by other routes. We use an anaesthetic gas called sevoflurane rather than the more commonly used isoflurane because it is safer for exotics, including rabbits. All our rabbit patients receive fluids and gut stimulating drugs prior to anaesthesia as a further attempt to reduce the anaesthetic risk and they are all kept on supplementary oxygen during anaesthesia. All our veterinary nurses, who supervise anaesthetics, are fully qualified registered veterinary nurses with several years (in Toast's case over 20 years) experience.
All patients are examined on the day of surgery to try to pick up any conditions that might make anaesthesia unsafe, in fact, another rabbit patient booked in for castration on the same day was sent home, because he was showing signs of increased risk of anaesthetic complications, but Toast appeared healthy on examination.
Despite our best efforts, anaesthesia is sadly never 100 % safe and it is unfortunately also impossible to be certain what exactly caused the death in many individual cases, making it even more frustrating.
I am terribly sorry this happened to a clearly much loved pet and I would like to assure you that if it had been in our power to prevent this happening we would have done whatever was needed to do so.