Halloween means pumpkin!!

When I was a child Halloween was all about carving the pumpkin and putting it outside to scare the goblins away.  As I got older it became more about carving the pumpkin and roasting the seeds.  And, oh yes, handing out candy to the kids.

Then I adopted bunnies.  Now Halloween is about roasting the seeds (for me) and giving the pumpkin to the bunnies.

Rabbits LOVE pumpkin and it’s a food that is actually good for them!  Pumpkin has loads of fiber and not too much sugar that, in moderation, won’t upset your bunny’s good gut bacteria.

I always have either a can of pure pumpkin purée or baby food pumpkin on hand for when one of my bunnies needs some incentive to eat.   But the best is always fresh.  So I buy a pumpkin, put it on the floor and let the buns go to town.  Once they get past the rind and into the flesh, I keep an eye out to make sure that they don’t eat it all up at once!

Since I love pumpkin seeds, I always get a pumpkin for myself.  After scooping out the seeds, I carve the pumpkin into pieces freezing some of it into small pieces for later use.  The rest I roast.  Once cooled, I mash it up and distribute it into ice-cube trays.  Freeze the trays and then empty the contents into plastic bags.  Now you have pumpkin treats for your bunny for any time of the year!

bunny sniffing pumpkin

Smells pretty good!

You can carve it and then let Bunny take nibbles

You can carve it and then let Bunny take nibbles

bunnies eating pumpkin


Alternative Therapies in Rabbit Care


Holistic or homeopathic treatments, also known as alternative therapies, can be safe options to incorporate into your rabbit’s nursing care plan, in addition to medications your veterinarian may recommend. They can also be a good alternative to harmful chemicals or medications with potential or known negative side effects.

Read more: San Diego Pets Magazine – Alternative

Your Healthy Happy Bunny


Little Truman is a happy, active boy, available for adoption through San Diego House Rabbit Society.

Here’s a great article on rabbit care and diet from a couple years ago.


Dear CeCe: Helping Bam Bam’s dry skin

“‘You can’t be a veterinarian if you can’t spell it!’”

Veterinarian Shannon Thomas owns Avian & Exotic Clinic of the Monterey Peninsula
By Robert Walch, Off 68, September 3, 2010 

Shannon Thomas carpools every day from her Watsonville home to work in Ryan Ranch. Unlike the other commuters whizzing along the highway into Monterey, Thomas shares her auto with her dog and, on some days, a pet parrot. 

Shannon Thomas owns the Avian & Exotic Clinic and sometimes carpools to work with her dog and parrot. (ROBERT WALCH)


The owner of the Avian & Exotic Clinic of the Monterey Peninsula at 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, the veterinarian not only cares for animals but also has quite a menagerie of them at her home. 

Besides a golden retriever, three blue-and-gold macaws, horses, four cats and a 75-pound African tortoise, Thomas, her husband and 7-year-old twin boys have a ball python, two donkeys, sundry chickens and a small green gecko. 

A 1989 graduate of Carmel High School, Thomas attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she received a degree in zoology. She then went on to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated as a doctor of veterinary medicine in 1997. 

Thomas said her interest in exotic animals dates back to her youth. Her mother was an elementary schoolteacher and, as a youngster, Thomas had plenty of opportunities to care for her mother’s classroom snakes, lizards and other critters during the summer. She had her own collection of animals as well. 

“I knew in the first grade that I wanted to do something with animals,” Thomas said. “In fact, I remember a teacher telling me once, ‘You can’t be a veterinarian if you can’t spell it!'” 

It didn’t take her long to master that word. 

During high school and summer vacations in college, Thomas worked at the Monterey Animal Hospital and while at UCSB, she spent time at the Santa Barbara Zoo. 

Because she wanted to focus on birds and exotic animals, when Thomas returned to the Monterey Peninsula, she went to work for Mike Murray at the Avian & Exotic Clinic of the Monterey Peninsula. Five years ago, she bought the practice so her boss could work full-time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

Thomas met her husband, Ben Wilson, while at Davis. The year they graduated, the couple was married and moved to the Central Coast. Also a vet, Wilson worked in Watsonville for a while, then switched over to the Monterey Animal Hospital. The same year as his wife became the owner of the Avian & Exotic Clinic, he purchased the Monterey Animal Hospital. 

Their first year of marriage was rather hectic; not only was she a new bride and starting her career, but Thomas had been diagnosed with lymphoma. 

“I was working a couple of days a week and then driving to Stanford for treatment,” she said. “Fortunately, that is all behind me now.” 

Along with two associate vets, Amy Wells and Hilary Stern, Thomas cares for a variety of animals. “The practice is about 65 percent birds, including chickens and ducks, and the rest ranges from rabbits, guinea pigs and reptiles to mice, potbelly pigs and some fish,” she said. 

Although these animals, like other pets, should have regular check-ups, Thomas said that, unfortunately, she usually only sees them when they are injured or ill. 

She encourages new bird owners to bring the bird in when it’s first acquired. Thomas likes to talk to the individual “at length” about starting out right. She discusses proper diet, caging, mental stimulation for the bird, grooming and a number of other issues. 

“Birds hide symptoms well, so I recommend some tests looking for any infections or other problems,” Thomas said. “We want to start off with a healthy bird. If the bird is older, this is especially a good idea.” 

The veterinarian guesses that she probably sees more cockatiels than any other type of bird. After birds, the clinic’s vets see a lot of rabbits and tortoises. 

On a cautionary note, Thomas warns rabbit owners that if their pets have gone more than 12 hours without “pooping,” they are looking at an emergency situation. 

“It’s not just a constipated rabbit,” she said. “The whole gut is stuffed, and we treat that situation seriously.” 

There is usually an underlying cause of this situation and, more often than not, it is the rabbit’s back teeth. The bunny can grow spurs on its back teeth, which result in it not chewing its food properly or, sometimes, it just stops eating. 

The situation can be fixed by trimming the back teeth. Short-nosed rabbits seem to be more prone to experience this and other dental problems, Thomas said, adding that problems with the teeth can lead to eye problems. 

It’s not a good idea to keep any pet but especially an “exotic” outdoors, Thomas said. She often has to deal with the damage that raccoons can do when they tangle with pets. 

Because many of her pets are rescue animals, Thomas encourages people to check with the SPCA and local rescue groups when they are thinking about getting a new animal. 

“The SPCA has many exotic animals and it is a good place to start,” she said. “We also do free post-adoption checkups for the SPCA, so that if a person gets a bird, rabbit or other exotic, we’ll check it out within a week of the adoption. This gets the pet and new owner off to a good start.” 

Thomas said she has the only practice in the tri-county area devoted exclusively to exotics. The clinic’s equipment is specially designed for the types of patients it sees. Because of this, the clinic draws clients from the Santa Cruz and San Jose areas as well as Monterey County. 

The clinic also provides boarding facilities for exotics when their owners go on vacation, provided the animals are in good health. 

With two vets in the household, one might think that there would be a rule of no shoptalk at the family table. 

Thomas laughed and said that’s not so in her home. “It’s more fun to share our day while we are eating,” she said. 

Thomas admits that she’s living “a little girl’s dream,” but it’s one that was realized because of a lot of determination and hard work. 

“I definitely feel very lucky to be doing what I do and what I love doing,” she said.

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

Is pet insurance worth the price? Not really, according to Consumer Reports. Their findings suggest that pet owners may save some money if they run into major health issues, but for the average pet, most vet visits will be for minor issues, many not covered by the insurance.

While living in the UK, we used Pet Plan, the only pet insurance company that covered rabbits. Our monthly premium was approximately 10.00 GBP per month, per rabbit (we had four rabbits). But over a couple of years we found that for every vet visit, we also had to meet a separate deductible (per health ‘incident’, and per rabbit), and pay an administrative fee for our vet to process our claims forms. In the end, we decided we weren’t really saving any money and canceled our policy altogether.

However, other households have benefited from having pet insurance coverage. Vet bills can add up quickly when you have multiple pets, disabled rabbits, or pets with chronic illnesses. But be sure to read the fine print before signing up for any policy, and be clear about what is and isn’t covered.

In the USA, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) is the only company currently issuing policies to rabbits under their “Avian & Exotic” plan. The premium is about $10 per month (less if you register multiple pets), and includes lab fees, treatments, prescriptions, x-rays, surgery, hospitalization, emergency care, and even cancer treatment. You can continue to use the rabbit-savvy veterinarian of your choice, too.

Read the entire Consumer Reports article here, consider your own situation, and decide for yourself if pet insurance is worth the cost for your household.

Speakers Series: Spotlight on Elder Buns

Speaker Series Spotlight on Elder Buns

This Saturday, August 14, join us for our regular Speaker Series as we welcome Linda Knox, DVM, of Palomar Animal Hospital, who will give a presentation on Health Issues of the Elder Bun.

With advances in medical care and better-educated caretakers, our rabbit companions are living longer lives. With longevity comes a host of other issues our buns may experience; arthritis and spinal degeneration, cataracts, chronic weight loss and potentially, even cancer.

Older rabbits can develop diseases related to higher levels of calcium. For example, did you know that pellets should contain no more than 0.6% calcium? Many popular feeds contain more than 0.6%, so to reduce calcium intake you must reduce the amount of pellets fed or make them a smaller portion of the diet. An excellent pellet for rabbits of all ages is Bunny Basics/T made by Oxbow Hay, and available at the San Diego HRS Bunny Store. BB/T is timothy-based rather than alfalfa-based, so it naturally contains fewer calories and less calcium.

Older rabbits generally need fewer pellets and more hay and vegetables. However, frail, older rabbits may need unrestricted pellets to keep weight up. Alfalfa can be given to underweight rabbits, only if calcium levels are normal. Annual blood workups are highly recommended for geriatric rabbits.

Dr. Knox will discuss the variety of health issues we may see, and how to manage them. She’ll give tips for keeping a closer eye on our older rabbit friends, and what to watch for and when to take them to be seen by their vet.

Health Issues of the Elder Bun

presented by Linda Knox, DVM

4 to 6 p.m.
4805 Mercury Street, Suite C (on the Ronson Road side of the complex)
Corner of Mercury & Ronson Road
See a map to our location
$5 Donation at door covers refreshments

Thanks to Alison Giese’s Photo Creations (www.alisongiese.com) for use of her image of Scooter with his cane!


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