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We Have a Sick Bunny

Mallow was having trouble moving around this morning. This got worse to the point where he'd try to hop forward and he'd just fall over.

Then he started having messy poop.

I ended up taking him to the vet this afternoon. Part of the problem was that he was very dehydrated. They gave him fluid intravenously - they couldn't draw a blood sample until they'd done this. They also got a urine sample and a stool sample (from his fur - poor bun).

The only thing that looked wrong was that he seemed to have a "bacterial overgrowth" in the stool. They gave him a vitamin B12 shot and some banana-flavored oral antibiotics, which he lapped right up. (Brownie, whom I'd brought along to soothe him, hopped out of the carrier when she smelled it and started trying to climb into the vet assistant's lap for her share.) I will have to give him this stuff twice a day for two weeks.

Rabbit digestive processes are weird. They are designed to eat mostly grass, but unlike cows, they don't have a fancy multi-chambered stomach to get all the nutrients out of the grass. So basically, they run it through twice. They have two kinds of poop, one of which (called cecotropes) ... they eat.

It's very bad news when your rabbit isn't pooping.

When we got Mallow home, he was somewhat brighter-eyed and alert but still unable to move around without falling over. And he wanted to move around. He seemed to want to go to their hay-filled litter box, so we put him in there and then hand-fed him a bunch of wet and nutritious food: greens damp with water, a small strawberry also damp with water, a teaspoon of raw oats, a tablespoon of bunny chow. Before he'd eaten all that, he started pooping - first the cecotropes and then normal rabbit manure pellets.

He seemed happy to lie down and rest after that, so we're leaving him to it for now.

He's always been so healthy - they both have - but they're 10 now. That's very old for rabbits.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, poor little guy -- and Brownie is such a scamp, trying to snag a share of tasty banana flavor! Dehydration can really hit small critters hard -- the only time Strega's ever had to make an emergency vet visit was when, as a very dim kitten, she decided to eat foam rubber off a guitar stand, and apparently the ensuing constipation left her not wanting to eat or drink for a while, with drastically scary results. Do you know the skin and gum tests to check them for dehydration in the future?
Jul. 15th, 2010 11:57 am (UTC)

No, I don't know how to check that. Tell me?

He's still eating enthusiastically. At 7:00 I fed him his medicine and some damp greens, then used some baby cornstarch (which is what they recommend) to clean up around his butt a bit. I moved him out of the litterbox onto a folded towel with another towel rolled up between him and the side of the pen to help prop him up, on the opposite side from which he'd been lying in the litterbox, and gave him a portion of bunny chow, which he ate. He has some hay within reach of his head and is near the spout of the water-bottle. I got him to take on half-hearted lick at that this morning.

He's now half-sitting/half-lying in a fairly normal-looking pose - head upright, on his chest with front legs extended, back end lying on its side. But when I tried to get him properly on his feet when I first got him up, he fell over again.


I need to go to work. The Young Lady should be up in a few hours and can fuss over him some more.

Jul. 15th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)

Basically, you're going to be doing very crude tests that will demonstrate skin elasticity and capillary refill time; you'll really need to have an idea of what the responses look like for normal hydration levels first, so try these out on Brownie for comparison now, and try them on Mallow again when you know for sure he's doing better, and they'll be much more helpful if you ever need to use them in the future to determine if something's wrong. (I tend to do the skin version frequently with both Strega and Bikkit just when they're getting petted, so I always have a good gut sense of their normal condition -- Biscuit I'll even mess with her gums occasionally, too, when I'm inspecting her teeth, since she's vastly more tolerant of that sort of thing than the kitty.)

For the skin test, you'll want to gently pinch/lift up a bit of loose skin between your fingers and see how quickly it snaps back to its normal position. Try it out yourself on the back of your hand to get an idea of what you're looking for without fur in the way. Elderly animals will commonly show somewhat less elastic skin than younger ones, so you do need to know what their normal skin condition is like and not compare directly to a much younger critter, but if they're sufficiently hydrated the skin should still relax back down to its normal position very quickly; if it remains visibly pinched up when you take your fingers away and takes more than a second or two to settle back, that's a big warning sign. (The E.R. vet demonstrated this to me the time Strega made herself so sick, and it really is a pretty dramatic effect; once you've seen it, it really sticks with you.)

The gum test will only work if they don't have darkly pigmented lips and gums, and are tolerant of having their mouths messed with. Press a finger firmly against the critter's gums until you see the tissue go white; when you lift your finger away, the pale spot should flush pink again almost instantly. (Again, you can test this out on yourself to get an idea of the effect.) In a dehydrated animal, the blood flow is more sluggish and the white spot where you pressed down will take much longer to regain its normal color. (In dogs and cats, this is also an opportunity to check the overall moisture level of the mouth -- if their gums and leps are dry and sticky instead of moist and slippery, that's another dehydration sign; I don't know what the normal baseline state of a bunnie's mouth is like in comparison, though!)

In dogs and cats, dry/cracked nose leather is another potential warning sign, although you want to look at that in conjunction with the other tests and symptoms since there are so many things that can cause similar external skin problems -- I don't know how well that translates to bunnie noses, though! And sunken eyes are a pretty universal sign of dehydration.

Jul. 15th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)
Poor little guy! Hopefully it's just dehydration. I think him eating and pooping properly is a good sign. *hug*
Jul. 15th, 2010 11:58 am (UTC)

>sigh<   >hug<

(See response to smilla, above, for morning report.)

Jul. 15th, 2010 12:45 am (UTC)
Poor baby! :( I'm glad that he seems to be doing a little better. *hugs*
Jul. 15th, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)

>sigh<   >hug<

(See response to smilla, above, for morning report.)

Jul. 15th, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
Poor bunny! They really do have tender little digestive systems, and something can go wrong so quickly! I'm glad he's doing better though.

Good on you for having 10 year old bunnies though, that's downright impressive.
Jul. 15th, 2010 12:00 pm (UTC)

Thanks. I think we've been lucky.

(See response to smilla, above, for morning report.)

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 15th, 2010 12:00 pm (UTC)

Thanks - me too.

(See response to smilla, above, for morning report.)

Jul. 15th, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
Poor bunny. I'm glad that he's somewhat better. I hope he'll recover soon.
Jul. 16th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Poor honey! I hope he feels better soon.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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