Trevor’s front legs were crossing after he became disabled because of age-related arthritis. Using fleece toys as props, he was able to sit up comfortably to eat. Medications, syringe feeding, fleece beds and toys, waterproof pads and Snuggle Safe heating discs helped him to live his final weeks in comfort and dignity. Trevor passed away on Dec. 20, 2011, just a few months shy of his 11th birthday.
Duchess enjoys a sunbeam while Trevor has his breakfast.
Every year, hundreds of bunnies all over the world become disabled because of illness, injury, age, or other issues. This is not an automatic death sentence! With proper vet care and extra help at home, many disabled rabbits can live happy and well-loved lives.
Angel developed severe head tilt from e. cuniculi. With her balance mechanism not working properly, she rolled constantly and needed help with everything at first. Her recovery took a few months and included medications, syringe feeding, subcutaneous fluids and a padded enclosure. Now she is a healthy, happy girl, enjoying hopping around her enclosure, run time in the TV room or on the patio, and, most of all, her loving husbun, Cadbury.
Cadbury and Angel.
Some of the most common causes of disability are:
-Injuries to the spine because of trauma or disease
-Parasites Encephalitozoon cuniculi (common abbreviations are e.cuniculi, E.C. or just ec) or Baylisascaris procyoni (often called raccoon roundworm)
-Age related spondylosis, arthritis, or neurological issues
Hind Limb Weakness in the Rabbit, by Susan Brown, DVM
A happy Thumper getting her acupuncture treatment from Evelyn Sharp, DVM. Thumper was disabled for 5 of her 11 years.
Thumper and her first husbun, Lucindo.
A rabbit-savvy vet is a must when caring for a sick or disabled bunny. Please find one now, before they are needed, so you are prepared in the event that your bunny does become ill or injured.
Online resources such as webpages and chat groups can be a great source of information and support for you and your bunny.
House Rabbit Society has many informative articles such as this one – Caring for the Chronically Ill
Here is a great list of resources from Cats & Rabbits & More (with a link to Disabled Rabbits online group)
Medirabbit and Morfz are both websites every rabbit parent should be familiar with.
Thumper and her second husbun, Beau.
Finding your bunny injured or ill can feel like the end of the world. There are many people out there who have gone through this difficult time and are happy to help you with their knowledge and experience. With the help of your vet and the wider rabbit community, this can be a very special loving time with your rabbit. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Contact us with any questions you have and we will help you as best we can.
Last but not least, here is a wonderful article on Quality of Life by Marinell Harriman.
Beau, on the left, has the drooping lips of a bunny who has had his incisors removed due to severe malocclusion. Diana, on the right, has healthy teeth.
Rabbits and guinea pigs, along with other mammals such as prairie dogs, pikas, mice, chinchillas, beavers and rats, have what is known as open-rooted teeth. These teeth grow throughout the life of the animal, and are kept worn down to the proper length through the normal biting off and chewing of tough plant matter- stems, leaves, branches and roots. This is one reason why hay is such an important part of the diet of domesticated rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.
A maloccluded rabbit. Eating becomes impossible for these animals, and they starve to death if their incisors are not trimmed or removed. This bunny had his incisors surgically removed by an experienced vet, and became a well-loved companion rabbit.
Malocclusion can occur for many reasons, and is a life-threatening issue if not attended to. Incisors can be trimmed every 3 – 4 weeks by a person properly trained in the procedure, or the incisors can be removed by a rabbit-savvy vet. Bunnies who have had their incisors removed do very well. They need large leaves torn up for them, and hard vegetables and fruits such as carrots and apples chopped or grated, but can usually manage pellets, hay, and most greens just fine.
Sometimes tooth roots can become infected and abscess. Surgery and rabbit-and-guinea pig-safe antibiotics can save animals and give them back a normal life in many cases.
Here are two medical cases that we currently dealing with: Nellie and Marcus. Their symptoms are typical of patients with abscessed tooth roots.
Nellie had her eye removed due to it being pushed out by a fast-growing abscess underneath. She is on antibiotics and we flush her eye socket daily to keep it clean. Nellie is cheerful and has a good appetite, and we hope to have the infection cleared soon. She has had dental and TMJ issues for the past couple of years which we have been able to manage with supplemental feeding, pain meds, antibiotics, and regular oral exams.
Nellie lives happily with her four friends doing all the things guinea pigs love to do- eating, sleeping, and standing by the baby-gate jumping and wheeking in anticipation of more food.
Update 5/24/11: Nellie is doing very well! Her weight is back up to where it should be for the first time in two years. We hope to have her off of antibiotics soon.
Marcus’ first symptoms were a weepy eye and intermittent drooling. The vet prescribed antibiotics, but then a huge abscess appeared on his neck. The vet opened two incisions to reach the interlacing pockets of the abscess, which she cleaned and we flush daily.
We are hoping to clear the infection medically, but if this is not possible, the vet may have to do more extensive surgery, which would likely result in his having his two lower incisors removed. If this is the case, we will have his upper incisors removed at the same time to eliminate the necessity for monthly tooth trims. Without lower incisors for his uppers to wear down against, he would have to have his upper incisors trimmed every month for the rest of his life.
Update 5/24/11: Marcus is also doing very well! His abscesses have been difficult to eliminate, with tentacles reaching up into his jaw as well as through his neck, but our persistence is paying off. The antibiotics, flushing, and weekly cleanings by the vet have cleared up most of the infection now and it looks like Marcus will be able to keep his teeth! He has also slowly been regaining his weight, and is a handsome looking boy once again.
Here are links to further reading about malocclusion in rabbits and guinea pigs:
When Teeth Turn to Tusks and What to do When Bunny Foo Won’t Chew
Donations to support our work are gratefully accepted! They can be made to the Friendly Farms Medical Fund at the Avian and Exotic Clinic of the Monterey Peninsula.
Update 10/13: Angel and Cadbury are a delightful couple who enjoy each others’ company very much! Angel no longer has a head tilt and we have not seen a seizure for a couple of years now. Though nursing a rabbit through a head tilt episode is heart-wrenching and seems to take forever, many rabbits return to happy, healthy lives, and Angel is a great example! She and Cadbury are permanent residents of Friendly Farms.
Update 4/9/10: Angel is now living with handsome Cadbury! Contact us for more information about this sweet couple.
Update 1/20/10: Lovely Angel is doing very well! She is back to using a regular litter box, and loves to do laps through her tunnel when she is out for her run. Angel has now been spayed. She will always have a head tilt, and has occasional seizures because of the neurological damage from the e. cuniculi, but she is a very loving and happy girl.
Angel is a darling Holland lop girl with head tilt. She came to Friendly Farms when her family decided that they do not have time for a special needs bunny.
Angel’s condition comes from an organism called encephalitozoon cuniculi
(e. cuniculi, or just ec for short). E. cuniculi is a protozoan parasite that can affect the brain and/or organs, and common neurologic signs include head tilt with rolling, hind-end weakness, urinary incontinence, or kidney damage. Rabbits can contract it from ingesting spores from the urine of an actively infected animal, or from their mother through the placenta.
While many rabbits carry e. cuniculi, few become disabled. We have had many e. cuniculi positive bunnies over the years, and have several living with us at present. These include Boo, who has hind-end weakness, urinary incontinence, and a kidney stone, Sarah, who has hind-end weakness, Rose, who shows no symptoms, but has tested positive, and Cinnamon, CJ, Grisabella and Trevor, who show no symptoms, but have all lived with ec+ rabbits and therefore have likely been exposed to, and carry, ec.
Angel’s head tilt was severe when she first came to us, and she was rolling often. She needed supplemental syringe feeding, sub-cutaneous fluids, and eye lubrication, along with oral medications, and a safe, padded living space. She is now able to feed herself and hop around a bit on her own, though she does still get confused and hop in circles at times. We anticipate continued slow progress over the next few months. Many rabbits fully recover from ec episodes, though some retain varying degrees of head tilt.
Your donations allow us to save bunnies like Angel from euthanasia and assist them in regaining their quality of life. Donations can be made to the Friendly Farms Medical Fund at the Avian and Exotic Clinic of the Monterey Peninsula by check or credit card. Or contact us here at Friendly Farms if you would like to sponsor Angel.
Boo is a shedding professional! Read more about him on our Adoptables page.
Is the fur flying at your house? It certainly is at Friendly Farms! Many of our bunnies are shedding their winter coats right now, and we are working everyday to keep up with them!
Rabbits are especially vulnerable to deadly hair blockages from swallowed fur when they are shedding, so it is doubly important to help them with their grooming during these times. As bunnies can’t vomit, everything that is ingested has to pass through the entire length of their long digestive tract to be eliminated. This is another reason why feeding a high fiber grass hay based diet is important.
Most rabbits shed every three months; a heavy shed followed by a lighter one. Some bunnies lose a lot of fur at once and will need to be groomed several times a day while they are shedding. Brushing your rabbit at least once a week year-round is a good rule to go by, and then as often as needed when she is replacing her coat.
“Watch us change this navy blue towel to white before your eyes!” Chester and Danika are permanent residents of Friendly Farms.
Almost all of our rabbits are short-haired and we rarely have to use more than barely damp hands to groom them. We have found that stroking their head and ears with one hand and passing the other hand over their body to collect loose fur usually allows us to continue the session for as long as we like without the rabbit getting upset. Many rabbits enjoy a brushing with a soft bristled brush, if you prefer. Their hindquarters are often where you’ll find the most tufts of loose fur that need to be removed.
Even short-haired bunnies can get mats around their tails, especially if they are overweight, so be sure to check this area during your grooming sessions. A flea comb, mat splitter, or mat rake can be helpful in breaking up mats in short-haired rabbits.
Gorgeous Clyde is easy to love, but his beautiful coat needs regular attention to keep looking good.
Our long-haired bunnies need grooming at least twice a week when they are not shedding, and we brush them out well every other day when their old coat is being replaced. A hair pick works well for breaking up mats, and then we use a regular comb to smooth them out. A slicker brush can be used for the finishing touches- just make sure the bristles are not sharp and scratching bunny’s delicate skin. Keeping long-haired bunny’s fur trimmed short can be helpful in preventing mats.
Patience and a lot of strokes makes grooming a fun time for everyone, so be sure to set aside enough time so you do not feel the need to rush things. For more information about keeping your bunny looking and feeling good, visit the House Rabbit Society website at rabbit.org.
Myxomatosis is a viral disease spread by arthropods, such as mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, that is deadly to rabbits. Every year people lose their beloved companion rabbits to this horrible disease. This year is no exception, but there are some things that you can do to protect your bunnies.
Mosquitoes are most active at dusk, so this is a good time to bring any bunnies that are out playing inside for the night.
Use mosquito netting to cover your rabbit’s outside play area.
Do not allow water to sit in puddles anywhere in your yard, as mosquitoes need such pools for laying their eggs.
Encourage swallows, certain bats, and other bug-eating animals to visit your yard. They eat thousands of insects each day, and are enjoyable to watch at work!
Use topical parasiticides such as Advantage to control fleas and ticks on all of your pets. Your vet can give you the proper products and dosages for each animal. NEVER use Frontline on rabbits- it is not formulated for them and will kill them.
We do not recommend the use of bug sprays or chemical lawn treatments, as they are toxic to more than just insects. Rabbits should never be allowed to graze on plants that have been treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
Myxomatosis cases peak between August and November, so this is the time of year to be especially vigilant. When the mosquitoes come out, it’s time for the bunnies to go in!
Best wishes from all of us here at Friendly Farms for a safe and happy autumn!
Condolences to Jill and Stephen on the loss of their girl Peaches. She was a very well-loved bunny and is missed very much by them, and also by her partner, Hootie.
Peaches enjoying a treat.
Hootie gives Peaches some love. Peaches was also affectionately known as Mrs. Hootie.
Update 9/19/09: Our condolences to Jill and Stephen on the loss of Hootie. Rest in peace, little guy.