A furious rabbit owner has slammed Pets at Home for almost “starving her bunny to death” after staff dismissed him as being a “picky eater”.
Alexandra Whittle later took her bunny Biscuit to the vet and discovered the poor creature had hideously overgrown teeth which stopped him being able to eat.
Alexandra Whittle adopted two-year-old Netherland dwarf Biscuit from the Bishops Stortford store, in Hertfordshire, on April 6 and she claims staff warned her that the rescued bunny was a “picky eater”.
But the 29-year-old became concerned when little Biscuit didn’t eat any hay – the staple of a rabbit’s diet – for 48 hours after she took him home.
A Google search flagged the potential cause of dental issues and a quick lift of the rabbit’s lip revealed his teeth were massively overgrown and curling under meaning he was unable to chew properly.
The horrified owner rushed Biscuit to the vet the following day where he underwent emergency surgery to trim his teeth as the vet warned he would “starve to death” otherwise.
The tiny 2lb bunny almost didn’t survive, with the vet forced to give CPR to revive him after he “died” on the operating table.
Kennedy News and Media)
Kennedy News and Media)
Now Alexandra is speaking out to highlight what Biscuit went through in the hope it doesn’t happen to any other pet.
Pets at Home have apologized for “falling below their high standards of pet welfare”.
The firm has also agreed to pay for all of Biscuit’s treatment, including further dental issues that were revealed during the surgery.
Alexandra, from Saffron Walden, Essex, said: “They said he was a ‘picky eater’ and I would have to try various foods, which was fine because I have dogs and one of them is a picky eater as well.
“I took him home and he wasn’t eating anything except the pellets and they’re only really supposed to make up between 10% to 20% of their diet.
Kennedy News and Media)
“The vast majority of their diet is meant to be hay but he just wasn’t touching it at all.
“I did a quick Google search and the first thing that came up was to check for dental problems.
“Netherland Dwarfs are quite skittish so I could only lift his lip for a split second and instantly I could see that his teeth were well too long and I was really worried.
“I took him to the vet the next day and he looked at his teeth and said ‘we need to get him in for emergency surgery’.
“He explained to me that the smaller the animal the harder it is to operate on them and the risks are higher.”
The desperate owner said she was reduced to tears out of concern for Biscuit.
She said: “I just started crying because I was so worried for him.
“The vet said ‘you either take the risk and go for the surgery or he’s going to starve to death.
“Starving to death is the worst way to go and he needs every chance to live’, so he went for surgery straight away.
Kennedy News/Google Maps)
“All we could see at first was the front teeth but when he went for surgery they did a full mouth inspection and they found that some of his molars were overgrown as well.
“His incisors had grown into the right side of his mouth and caused an abscess.”
The social media executive adopted Biscuit from the chain where staff said he had been for five days after being rescued from a previous owner who needed to rehome him.
Alexandra claims staff advised her that she would need to try different types of hay with the “fussy eater”, so she initially wasn’t too concerned that he was only eating some pellets when she took him home.
But after catching a glimpse of his long and curled teeth she rushed him to the vet, who confirmed they were overgrown and he was underweight as a result of being unable to chew and eat properly.
Alexandra says the bunny had been able to lick up some pellets and chew them with his back teeth – but his overgrown teeth prevented him from chewing hay as a rabbit normally would.
The tiny 2lb rescue rabbit was rushed into emergency surgery to trim his teeth and almost didn’t survive, with the vet forced to give him CPR after he stopped breathing.
Alexandra said: “I got a call from the vet and they said ‘Biscuit is out of surgery but it didn’t go to plan’.
“I went and picked him up and the vet said basically his breathing stopped.
“Obviously we knew the risk was higher because of him being so small but it doesn’t help that he’s underweight as well.
“They had to resuscitate him and give manual CPR and said there was a moment when they thought he wasn’t coming back.
“They managed to resuscitate him and then he took about an hour to come around from the anesthesia and he was really disoriented, but he’s okay now.
“I was just bawling – I’d only had him two days and he nearly died.”
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The vet prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs to treat the abscess and Biscuit returned for a second successful surgery to trim his back teeth on May 16.
Pets at Home have admitted that staff members should have picked up on Biscuit’s overgrown front teeth, but refuse to accept liability for his overgrown back teeth and abscess.
They argue that it would only have been possible to see his back teeth while he was sedated and the abscess could have formed while he was under Alexandra’s care.
Despite this, they have agreed to cover all of Biscuit’s vet costs – more than £400 so far – including the prescriptions for his abscess and the second surgery on his molars.
Alexandra said: “I took a photo of Biscuit about 24 hours after taking him home and looking back at it now you can see that his right cheek is swollen so there’s no way he didn’t have an abscess while in their care.
“I sent them the photo and they replied ‘thank you for including the cute photo’. That’s not a cute picture, he’s literally in pain.
“I’ve also gone back to them and said if they would’ve taken him to the vet about his incisors – which they’ve taken liability for – then the vet would’ve seen his molars and abscess before adoption as well.
“A lady from the escalation team called me and said ‘this is the worst case of negligence that I’ve ever heard of at Pets at Home and we’re all outraged in the escalation team’.
“But then they came back to say they don’t take full liability but they will pay the vet costs – why would they pay all the costs if they don’t take liability?”
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After her experience, the pet owner now has concerns about the welfare of other animals under Pets at Home’s care and worries about the chain’s priorities when it comes to the pets.
Alexandra now claims she is unable to get pet insurance to cover Biscuit for dental or respiratory issues as a result of his recent issues.
This has left her worried that she’ll be forced to fork out for future surgeries if the problems with his teeth persist.
But for now she is relieved that the resilient bunny is slowly gaining weight and seems happier and healthier after his operation, even finally starting to nibble on some hay.
Alexandra said: “He’s doing better and eating more. He’s eating fresh vegetables and we’re getting there with the hay and he’s finally starting to act like a normal rabbit and not be in pain.
“His personality has really blossomed in the last couple of weeks after the second batch of anti-inflammatories.
“He used to sit hunched over which is common for rabbits who are in pain but he’s now sprawling out which is a sign of a really relaxed rabbit.”
A spokesperson for Pets at Home said: “Pet welfare is our top priority, and we are very sorry that on this occasion we fell below our own high standards.
“Whilst it is not possible to view a rabbit’s molars while awake, concerns over Biscuit’s incisors should have been raised sooner and for this we are deeply sorry.
“We help to rehome thousands of rabbits each year, but one incident is too many and so we have provided colleagues with refresher training to prevent this from happening again.
“We are in contact with Ms Whittle and have offered to cover the costs of all ongoing dental treatment.
“We hope that Biscuit makes a quick and full recovery and is back to full health soon.”