Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Rabbit doctor in first for Europe

Brigitte Reusch with a rabbit
Brigitte Reusch will run a clinic as well as lecture

A special rabbit doctor has been appointed in Edinburgh following a surge in popularity of the furry pet.

Brigitte Reusch has taken up the role as lecturer in rabbit medicine and surgery at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

Ms Reusch, who has several years of experience in treating rabbits, will also run a dedicated rabbit clinic.

Edinburgh University said it was the first post in Europe for a lecturer in rabbit medicine and surgery.

It is estimated that there are more than 1.4 million pet rabbits in the UK, which are either kept indoors as house pets or outside.

Ms Reusch said: "An increasing number of people are buying rabbits as pets, with what is very much becoming a lifestyle decision. Many people, for instance, are deciding to have rabbits as house pets as this fits in better with their busy working lives than having other pets.

There is a lot of misinformation around about the best way to keep rabbits in optimum health

Brigitte Reusch
Rabbit vet

"There is a lot of misinformation around about the best way to keep rabbits in optimum health.

"Common things that we see include dental, urinary tract and digestive diseases, all of which could potentially be fatal."

One of the most common problems relating to rabbit welfare is poor diet, as owners may not realise that simply feeding them breakfast and dinner is not good for wearing the rabbits' teeth down as they need to eat hay or grass throughout the day. This also prevents them from becoming bored.

It is also important to ensure that pet rabbits, which have evolved from the European wild rabbit, are not kept too warm to avoid them becoming over heated.

Caroline Adam, 42, of Aberdeenshire, bought her rabbit Humphrey three years ago.

Ms Adam said: "I got Humphrey as looking after a rabbit is easier than say, for instance, looking after a dog or a cat.

"He has his own run outside attached to inside and also likes having the run of the house.

"He does have problems with his teeth but has had scans and all sorts to help with this.

"The good treatment that he receives means that, although his dental disease is something that will persist, he is a happy chap."

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