Caring for Critical Care Bunnies
Unfortunately there are times where we face handling orphaned bunnies, runts or peanuts, dehydrated kits etc. We have combined things we have read as well as our own knowledge with experience that has greatly increased many vulnerable babies chances for survival. Here are a few of the circumstances we have faced and the steps we took towards their recovery.
1. Cold kits: If you find a kit that either was born on the wire or strayed away from the others overnight we have found that there is one thing in particular you can do to safely stabilize its body temperature. We read that you should place the kit in a zip lock bag with out sealing it. Place the bag into warm water making sure only the kit is below the surface to insure it stays dry. You can monitor the water temp rather easily and can always replace the water if warmer temperatures are needed. MAKE SURE THE TEMP IS NOT SCALDING! We have had very little luck with heating pads. The heat can be very uneven so use caution and close supervision!
2. Dehydrated kits or rabbits: non flavored Pedialyte syringe fed! This works amazingly well and rather quickly.
3. Bottle feeding kits: This is the one thing you just can't seem to get anyone to agree on! I have tried many different methods and have had tremendous success with only one! Before making the decision to bottle feed please consider the fact that nursing with their mother is the best thing for them! If mom is healthy and has simply for whatever reason decided not to nurse them, try to force her. Lay mom on her back and cup one hand over her eyes and calm her to where she is completely relaxed. If she has not pulled fur around her nipples on her own then you can gently pull to make nursing easier for kits. Place the kits on her belly so they can latch to a nipple. I reccommend one at a time as they move alot! Usually after about 3 days of that mom should nurse on her own. If not then consider the following...Supplies that I have on hand are: Eye droppers, goats milk, pediatric liquid vitamins, medicine cups, non flavored Pedialyte and clean wash clothes.. Make sure you are holding the kit upright! You have to be extremely careful not to allow the kit to aspirate any fluids! That is a very high cause in death for bottle fed kits! Pour a small amount of goat’s milk into a medicine cup. The milk should be at room temperature for feedings. Place 2-3 drops of pediatric vitamins and 3-5 drops of Pedialyte into the prepared milk. Using the eye dropper, place tip into the side of the kits mouth. It may take a few feedings before the kit adjusts to the dropper. Slowly allow a very small amount until swallowed. There is no measure for how much a kit eats that I have determined, each is different however a round belly, not too tight, is a great sign of a successful feeding.If your kit will not take to the eye dropper then try using a q tip. Wet the end of the Q-tip and allow the kit to nurse from that. This also helps them from drinking too quickly. Both methods have proven succesful for our kits. You then should take a damp warm cloth and gently stimulate secretion of wastes as they cannot yet do this on their own! When all your kits are fed and cleaned place them in a container that has a lid with breathing holes. Line the bottom with newspaper and clean washcloths. Roll washcloths to line the sides of container. Place kits together to provide them with more natural heat between their bodies. Cover the kits with another wash cloth and keep container in an area away from drafts and cool air. I have found that kits will eat early in the morning and some may eat a second time late in the evening. We monitor our kits very closely as they can take a turn for the worse rather quickly! If you are handling a single kit rather than a litter I have found sometimes sticking them with another mother that is nursing kits the same size will usually take them on as her own rather easily. I will bottle feed my kits untill close to eight weeks of age making pellets hay and water available as soon as they show interest in eating solids. I have found these same steps are very successful with cotton tail bunnies as well!
4.Sick or malnourished rabbits/bunnies: We have had rabbits that are either ill on medications or malnourished rescues that result in poor or loss of appetite. A good friend of mine told me about a wonderful product called Critical Care by Oxbow. This can be mixed with water and syringe fed as well as provided as an oatmeal base to rabbits who will try to eat on their own. If you cannot find Critical Care or find yourself without any at a crucial moment something I have found that works just as well:
Supplies I have on hand: Canned pumpkin or baby food, Non-flavored Pedialyte, timothy hay, food pellets and bananas.
In a food processor place 1/4 of a banana, 1/8 cup of pellets, 1/4 cup Pedialyte, 1/8 cup of pumpkin or baby food and some hay. Blend until a puree. Add water as needed to get to consistency for syringe feeding.
5.Runny stools in bunnies and rabbits: Regular dried oats. Either remove all food and replace with oats or mix oats into pellets. I have found this to help relieve runny stools in weaning bunnies or ill rabbits!
6. Vent Disease: This amy appear as sores around the eyes, nose and vent area. I treated this in a few rescues with a topical antibiotic ointment for 7 days along with a strict peniciilian g treatment. I dose my rabbits at 1 tenth of a cc per pound of body weight. I administer subq 1 time every 3 days for a total of 3 doses. I have seen more severe cases that required vet care and and antibiotic called Baytril which you can get through your vet. Animals with Vent disease must be quarantined away from other animals as it is highly contageous. When administering Pen G please pay close attention to your rabbits stools. It can result in runny stools. I blend rolled oats into their feed until treatment is complete to help keep them regular. Pen G for swine and cattle as well as sterile syringes can be purchased at your local feed store.
7. Overgrown Teeth: Sometimes a rabbit's teeth do not align correctly or can be a result of an injury and require special care. When I am faced with this problem, I will use a pair of toe nail clippers to gently clip back the teeth. This is rather easy and the relief for the animal is so much better afterwards! Please use caution, as clipping too much of the tooth can cause infection or a more severe problem.
8. Wry Neck: In cases of "Wry Neck" a rabbit may appear to be swaying it's head back and forth, rolling, darting eyes, or dizzy. Many things may be the cause. In cases I have treated, it appeared that stress, a severe change in climate, dehydration, parasites and even other ilnesses can be the cause. When I begin treatment I try to treat everything at once.
1. Make sure the ears are clean of debree.
2. I start Pen G ( the same dosage is given as for treating "Vent Disease" as listed above in #6.)
3. I will dose them with Ivermectin 1% injectable. I will administer orally 1 tenth of a cc per pound of body weight and will give a second dose 7 days later.
4. I will make sure I give them plenty of fluids with electrolytes!
5. I will make sure their nutrition is increased by providing them with pineapple, canned pumpkin, nutri cal and critical care, as well as continuing their regular diet. It is alot like humans pumping their systems with echinacea and vitamin c.
6. Sometimes a I may use a pin worm medication as well if I determine it may be parasites!Piperazine Wormer can be purchased at a feed store. ( reffrence "Worming" below)
9. Worming: I worm my rabbitsonce a month as well as my dogs with Ivermectin 1%injectable which you canpurchase at a feed store. I dose them each starting at the age of 4 months with 1 tenth of a cc per pound of body weight orally. I have heard of some breeders dosing only 1 time every 3 months and some only twice a year. Because we go to so many shows and we do rescue as well, I stick to my strict worming schedule to protect every animal in my care. I have never had any problems with this worming schedule.
I will also use a Piperazine Wormer which is primarily used in dogs, cats and horses and can be purchased at a feed store. I do not dillute it and give 2-4 drops orally depending on the size of the rabbit.
10. Mites: Fur Mites and Earmites! If you are not thourough and consistent with treatment you can loose the fight with parasites rather quickly! At the sighn of any infestation I immediately quarantine the animal and start them on Ivomec ( dosaging same as "Worming" above). For earmites I will thouroughly coat the inside of their ears with baby oil/ mineral oil. I will continue tokeep the ears clean of debree for about 2 weeks to a month. I will dosewith Ivomec, and then again in 7 days following that at monthly treatments there after.For fur mites it is a bit more complicated. I will dose the animal with Ivomec as list above for ear mites and then I shave the animal with clippers and bathe thouroughly with dawn dish soap. I will then clean their cage area(away from children and other animals) and sprinkel flea and tick powder FOR CATS around the outside of the cage on the floor. I will then gently rub a light dusting of the powder on the rabbits skin. Be careful not to use too much. I will not put any bedding in the cage except for a sheet of newspaper. I will wear gloves when handeling any infested animals and change my clothes imediately after. I will scrub my arms and hands with Borax and hot waterto help protect myself from being infested. It is important to continue treatment until all signs of infestation are gone!Sometimes treatment requires Revolution which must prescribed by a Vet!
Some things to have on hand for a BUNNY EMERGENCY KIT:
Ivomec 1% inject able for swine
canned baby food
non flavored pedialyte
Critical care by oxbow or my homemade recipe
corn starch (for quicked nails)
Clippers for shaving infected areas or their bottoms in case of wet tail
wet tail remedy and rolled oats for diarrhea
Now again these steps for critical care animals are my opinions only. I am not a vet so please consult with a professional before attempting to care for any animal needing medical attention.