"Trixie" - Rabbit with Gut Stasis
To treat or not to treat that is the question. Predicting the eventual outcome and forecasting the future is never easy. When faced with a critically ill patient it becomes important to establish the probable outcome to allow the owner to make a decision about whether to proceed with expensive potentially life saving treatment or to contemplate euthanasia. Despite my many years experience I still struggle at times to decide the likely probability of success when faced with certain situations and in particular certain species. This burdening dilemma is highlighted when trying to forecast the clinical outcome of rabbits with suspected intestinal stasis or obstruction. The emotional drain on the Fairfield staff as well as the owners is considerable especially when the patient dies despite the fact the treatment went exactly as planned.
"Trixie" a young rabbit belonging to one of my nursing colleagues was presented to me recently when her appetite was reduced during the particularly warm spell of weather. A clinical examination demonstrated gut stasis with a possible obstruction. I referred "Trixie" to my colleague "Aga" who has repeatedly worked her magic on this particular species. Together with her owner no stone was left unturned with regard to the level of treatment she received and initially she seemed to respond. Then unexepectedly she passed away.
It is sadly a fact of life that death occurs but it would, perhaps, make it a little easier to accept if the timing were more predictable. Recent work involving the indirect measurement of stress that a rabbit is experiencing may in the future allow us to predict more accurately the likelihood of successful treatment. It is to be hoped that "Aga's" expertise with this new knowledge may allow us to stop polishing our crystal ball and rely on something a little more scientific.
My sincere sympathies go to Trixie's owner, Sarah. Sadly, the emotional drain of unsuccessful treatment of any patient does not diminish even after 28 years.