Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rabbit Emergencies

I was reminded again this week how important it is to have your rabbit examined at the first sign of it being unwell.

Rabbits are a prey species, and as such WILL NOT show signs of illness until they can't cope any more and often are about to die. If a prey species shows signs of weakness in the wild, they are more likely to be picked up by a predator, so those who can be stoic in the face of pain have a greater chance of survival.

The rabbit patient of note this week had been fine the previous morning. The previous afternoon it was "resting" in it's cubby and didn't eat its dinner. That was the point at which it needed to be examined. Unfortunately it didn't come in until the next morning by which time it was going into shock and died before lunch despite treatment for the shock.

Before he died, we had gotten as far as taking some radiographs and had identified a problem in the region of the liver/stomach. Fortunately the owners gave us permission to perform a necropsy (post-mortem examination) to find out what was going on. It turned out that this very-well cared for and well-loved pet had a torsed liver lobe: one of the lobes of the liver had twisted, cutting off its blood supply, and then ruptured, sending blood pouring into the abdomen and causing the shock.

I had never run into this condition before in rabbits, but an online literature search revealed it is "not uncommon" and often is identified in well-cared-for rabbit pets, often house rabbits. Those who survived had been given fluids and supportive care early and the condition had been diagnosed with blood tests (raised liver enzymes indicating damage to the liver) and ultrasound as well as radiographs. One even got as far as surgery in which the offending lobe was removed. Unfortunately our patient didn't live long enough for us to get to that point.

So the lesson for the week is to get your rabbit down to the vet's the minute it refuses food or behaves oddly, and be prepared financially if they ask you to allow some diagnostics - radiographs, ultrasound, blood tests - along with hospitalisation and fluid support. It may be a matter of life or death.


At January 9, 2009 at 11:51:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At February 21, 2009 at 7:47:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have adopted two dwarf bunnies age approx. 8 weeks old. they were from a five bunny birth the other three has died one of my babies has grown three times bigger than the other had the poop issue stuck on the bottom for two days I bought the infant gas drops it has stopped the baby eats and drinks but now has a discharge from the eye. she stikk is the size of the palm of my hand, her name is Willow and I would hate to lose her but don't have the $100.00 to go to the vet (laid off last week) what can I do?

At February 22, 2009 at 10:00:00 AM PST, Blogger Holly Carter said...

Unfortunately it is difficult to give very useful advice on a specific patient without actually seeing the pet.
In general, the first thing to do is to ensure the bunny is eating the right foods. If she is housed with the other rabbit, you may need to separate them for feeding to be sure each is getting their fair share. There is a post on this blog that was written in July 2006 about feeding that I would suggest you read. Very young bunnies should have a small amount of a pellet for growing rabbits, grass and timothy and alfalfa hay ad lib.
Please check your bunny's teeth to be sure they are not overgrowing - this can be a problem in dwarf breeds whose front teeth don't meet properly.
Rinse the eye with a weak salt solution (1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup boiled and cooled water) twice a day. If the discharge doesn't go away in 4 or 5 days or if it is getting worse despite the rinses then you will need to take her to a vet for an exam and possibly some eye drops.
My sympathies for the loss of your job. I hope you are able to get back into employment soon!

At May 17, 2011 at 12:05:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an experienced house rabbit person. I've read annecdotal stories of bunny tragedies involving cleaning products, car exhaust, seemingly "ordinary" situations that end in harm/death. Information concerning bunny safety usually address elec cords, pesticides, plants. I also have several rabbit reference books; I still feel I need more detail on what is OK and what isn't to keep my bunny safe. Specifically,today I found some ants in my house. Typically chemicals advise they "last for several months". Spraying only outside of house will not stop the ants. Is there a non-toxic substance to repel ants? I fully recognize rabbits are very delicate. I've searched multiple websites without finding answers. Can you help?

At May 19, 2011 at 1:26:00 PM PDT, Blogger Holly Carter said...

One challenge we humans have is seeing things from the rabbit's point of view. We have to remember that things that we view as "ordinary situations" may have some aspect that stresses the rabbit to the point of death.

On the topic of pesticides, fortunately, many of them do not have mammalian toxicity - they act on processes in the insects that are unique to that family of the animal kingdom. As we know, the unfortunate fact is that many modern substances have been tested on rabbits before they came to market. It may be possible to find LD50 or other toxicology studies for specific ingredients in the pesticide you are interested in using. In practical terms, if using a spray, I would use the very minimum amount needed to eliminate the problem – like just spraying the points of entry, for example, rather than all along the floorboards.

Having said that: With specific reference to ants, I would first try to find their point of entry to the house, and identify what is attracting them. One spring I discovered that one of my houseplants had bloomed and the nectar was intoxicating to the ants. Another time I found they were attracted to our sugar bowl and simply moving the sugar to an inaccessible location made the ants go away. Currently, in my house, I use the small ant traps and I position them at the point of entry of the ants and blockade them in such a way that the pets and children don't have access. Obviously you don’t want your rabbit to think that little black square thing is a fun toy!

I have also heard that citrus (like a few drops of lemon oil) can be distracting/confusing to ants. I found this interesting blog post – but I cannot vouch for the effectiveness or safety of any of the remedies:

Thanks for asking!

At October 21, 2013 at 12:03:00 PM PDT, Blogger Kaycee Sasser said...

My rabbit is under surgery currently for this same problem. Sadly

At November 1, 2015 at 1:15:00 AM PDT, Blogger kelinci said...

useful sharing. thank you.


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