Okay friends...let's go "Down the rabbit Hole" for a change! Not with Alice in Wonderland but with a few real specimens I had in the past weeks at Island Vet Clinic land.
Yes...People do bring rabbits to the vet clinic and it's amazing how much they bond with these creatures and how little they seem to know about them! The following cases tend to show, how out of ignorance, you can kill your rabbit:
Cotton - 2 yr old, white albino brought in a semi comatose state after "only one day of diarrhoea".The matted fur around his anus confirmed that he has been with liquid faeces and the lack of elasticity of his skin showed that he was really dehydrated. First things first, I braced myself for some delicate intravenous catheter placement because what this bunny needed right now was fluid...and he needed it urgently. Well, the last time I placed a catheter on a rabbit was in vet school, 18yrs ago...and I was a bit nervous while shaving that front leg for venous access. All went pretty well though, found the cephalic vein; placed the catheter and started my Dextrose drip running.
Question time now...while Cotton lies patiently on owners lap with his intravenous line. So what do you feed your rabbit? "Hmmm...mostly vegetable left overs; Carrots, Lettuce,Tomatoes and rabbit pellets". Hmmmm!If there is one thing Bugs Bunny did wrong...it's making people believe that rabbits thrive on carrots!!In the harsh natural environment wild rabbits scarcely encounter juicy carrots and other veggies and their digestive system has evolved to process low calorie but high fibre food such as grass, hay and other "weeds". Rabbits need roughage (fibre) in their food and they do extract a maximum from them. Have you ever noticed (or been told) that rabbits eat their pooh? Well,however gross that may seem, THEY DO!! And they eat them directly from their anus.In fact, what they eat is not technically faeces but caecotrophs - shiny, mucus-coated, bean shaped "pellets" that contain a lot of nutrients. Once eaten, they undergo a second digestion phase and, then only, come out as dry round pooh that we are familiar with.
Ok back to Cotton...as he lay down there slowly picking up fluids and energy, I explained to the owner why it is totally not ok to feed rabbits lettuce and tomatoes on a regular basis. Lettuce contain Lactucarium - a substance that is reported to be culprit number 1 in rabbit diarrhoea cases. Tomatoes, on the other hand,are not that acutely toxic but do contain Solanine in various amounts and will surely upset his stomach if fed regularly. By that time, Cotton's whisker movements showed us that he'd had enough and was ready to sit. So dear rabbit owners, when you feed your rabbits think FIBRE...this is what keeps your rabbit healthy and in good shape...not carrots and other cucumbers etc. These ARE NOT natural rabbit food and are to be given as treats if you want but not as staple food. And....yes..rabbits do need a fresh bowl of water everyday too.
No-Name - 3yrs old, beautiful black rabbit. Presented to me as not eating and salivating a lot. Oral inspection revealed severe malocclusion and overgrown incisors. No wonder this animal was not eating! After successfully wrapping it up in one of my used scrubs, we managed to trim down the teeth to normal length and polish them for normal eating. Five weeks later here he was again with the same incisors overgrown and curled inside his mouth! So he is now on regular appointment for dental work!
Rabbit teeth are not like ours...they continue to grow throughout their life and get worn only by abrasion when the animal chews over solid food. Visibly, this one had not been having a go at hard stuff for a while.
Pilou - Big chubby white rabbit laid motionless in his box as owner explained, how from one moment to the next, rabbit just collapsed and would not move. He got me thinking of ink poisoning when he mentioned that Pilou is very fond of shredding newspaper bedding and eating them. But, then again,newspaper ink nowadays is mostly organic and harmless. The only toxicity we get from newspapers is the sometimes utterly stupid and defamatory articles that some so-called journalist bother to write.
So back to his inspection then and... a vertebral dislocation was palpated at the lower back level! When apprised, owner said that at no point of time did Pilou get hurt there, nor did he fall down etc. For having seen that in the past, I, sort of, suspected how this happened and when I asked how he handles his rabbits( because he has 5 more at home)he told me "by the ears as everyone else"... Okay! while you can handle your rabbit by holding the ear, you have to hold his hind legs to support his weight.
Reason 1 - It is cruel to let an animal hang by its ears (especially if this is a heavy fat one as Pilou)
Reason 2 - These hind legs are so strong that if they kick in the air and there is nothing to support...spine damage can occur.
When told this, despite the fact that he continued to deny, I felt sure he will be careful with the 5 other ones at home now. Pilou had to be euthanised because it is no life for a rabbit to lie down in pain and paraplegic!
As cute as bunnies may look...as fun as they may be to play with...a pet rabbit is a special animal with special needs and to pretend that we can just throw vegetable left overs at them and keep them locked in a small cage 24/7 is totally wrong. They need daily care,running space, interaction and dedicated time from you.
Next time your kid asks you for a bunny because his school mate has one or he just saw one cramped in a tiny bird cage at your local pet store...think twice.
If you are not ready to provide the above rabbit needs, get kiddo a stuffed fluffy bunny...He will play with it same as with a real one and then dump it away in a few weeks...just as he would with a real one too..but this time no animal would have suffered.