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When to Seek Vet Attention for Your Rabbit
Property of Tracy Hutchings. Written November 2009, revised April 2010
There is one easy rule when it comes to seeking vet attention for your rabbit. This is
‘If you notice any change in your rabbit’s behaviour then seek vet advice immediately.’
Why is that?
Rabbits are a prey species, which means that they hide their pain and illnesses until they can hide them no more. If a rabbit starts to show illness, then they are likely to sink hard and fast because they feel so bad they can hide it no longer.
This means that if you are seeing any sign of something being wrong, then you need to act instantly to prevent the rabbit sinking hard and fast and dying.
Signs that mean you should seek vet attention
While a rabbit will hide an illness as much as possible, it is possible to pick up if you learn to read the signs and learn how to read your rabbit/s.
No signs should be ignored, but the signs shown in bold are typically associated with a very ill rabbit that needs immediate and emergency veterinary attention. Really though, any sign or symptom could be an indication of an emergency.
It is important to remember that these are just a guide to the common signs. If you notice anything different from what is normal for your bunny, then you should seek vet advice.
Also remember to trust your gut instinct. If you feel something is not right, then trust yourself and follow what you think is best to do.
Obvious and common signs are
~Misshapen poo (smaller, larger, different shapes)
~Mucous in/around the poo (can be an emergency)
~Any change in output
~Straining to wee
~Unable to settle/get comfy
~Passing blood in the urine
~Passing a chalky substance in the urine
~Sores on the feet (sore hocks)
~Runny nose (nasal discharge)
~Any noise when breathing
~Not grooming as much or getting matted (this is most noticeable in long furred rabbits).
~Boney spine (this can be different from weight loss).
~Lack of appetite
~Anorexia (no appetite)
~Coming over to eat, looking as though the bunny wants to eat, then running away and not eating
~Eating and food falling out of the mouth
~Changes in eating habits (for example not eating things the bunny used to)
~Drooling (either constantly or sporadically)
~Loss of fur
~Excessive shaking of the head
~A tilted head (head tilt)
~Reluctant to move
~Moving in a different way from normal (this can be an emergency depending on the change)
~Tooth Grinding (this is a sign of pain)
~Unable to move
~Breathing through the mouth (mouth breathing)
Other times to seek vet attention are (any of these can be and often are an emergency)
~Parasites (such as fleas, worms, lice, mites)
~Any different or new ‘lumps and bumps’ either on the surface of the rabbit or inside the rabbit.
~Any change in physical appearance (body, head, eyes, ears, tail, etc)
~If the rabbit has been involved in a fight or ‘incident’ either with another rabbit, or a different animal (even if there are no injuries immediately obvious)
~If a potentially toxic substance has been ingested (such as chocolate or a toxic plant)
Behavioural signs that something is wrong
When you know what is normal behaviour for your rabbit, it can be easy to identify behaviour changes. These behaviour changes can be an indication that something is wrong with the rabbit and it is important to look for and act on any behaviour changes.
Common behaviour changes might be
~Being vicious (either to a bonded friend or a person)
~Being more grumpy than normal
~Being evasive from people (i.e. harder to catch, running away, staying away)
~Wanting more attention
~Fighting between bonded friends
~Mounting between bonded friends
~Chasing/Nipping between bonded friends
~’Divorcing’ of bonded friends
Rabbits can be very hard to look after because they do their best to hide their pain and problems and it is down to us, as owners, to learn how to read our own bunnies, identify any potential problems and then to ensure the rabbits get the care and attention they need.
When you notice something that is not right with your rabbit, it is important to call your vet (including the emergency, out of hours vet, if appropriate) and explain the situation fully. Remember that your bunnies rely on you to fight for them, and it is important to listen to your gut instinct about what they need, and fight for it (an example being, if you feel they need to be seen immediately, then explain this politely to the vet/receptionist, why you feel that and ensure that they completely hear your concerns and take appropriate action).
When your bunny sees the vet (ensuring it is the most rabbit savvy vet around), they will need to know certain things.
These things will be different depending on the complaint and problem, but generally the vets will need to know
~Any changes in behaviour
~When the rabbit last ate (and what)
~When the rabbit last pooed, and what it looked like.
~If the rabbit is drinking and weeing.
~Any symptoms or problems you have noticed and when you noticed them.
Hopefully your bunny will never need the vets, but it never hurts to be prepared. Just remember
‘If you notice any change in your rabbit’s behaviour then seek vet advice immediately.