Posted: December 20, 2013, 5:50 p.m. EST
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Baby bunnies must eat every day to stay healthy.
Q: A problem has been bothering me about my new baby bunny. His name is Nugget, and he's just over 9 weeks old. A few days ago, I noticed his wee was a bit mucousy-looking, cloudy and dried into a powder. I know this could be a calcium problem, as I took him to the vet. She said cut down on his junior and dwarf pellets completely and just feed him on vegetables and hay. He's on green oat hay, timothy hay, dried dandelion leaves and plantain. I wanted to give him a good variety of things as I cut down his food. My worry is he's so small and skinny. I can really feel his bones. Sometimes he's really active and other times he's really scrunched up. I keep listening for teeth grinding. He’s not done it yet. He loves his rocket leaves (arugula) and bits of wet grass. I am going to take him back to the vet’s. I just really need a second opinion. He's worrying me sick! I have had rabbits nearly all my life, so I knew this wasn't right straightaway.
A: Your idea of returning to the veterinarian’s office is excellent. When a rabbit as young as 9 weeks is as sick as you describe, you have no time to waste. When adult rabbits get sick and do not eat well, they usually have some fat stores that can help them for a few days or longer to maintain their blood sugar level. But in young rabbits, when they do not eat, they do not have these body stores, and they quickly become hypoglycemic and dehydrated. At that point, even if we treat the initial problem, we may not be able to save the bunny because there has been so much damage due to the lack of blood sugar for so long.
It is not uncommon for our initial approach as veterinarians to be conservative in our treatment. We do not want to use medications that could have detrimental side effects nor cause more problems for our patient, so we try to use conservative medicine to help our patients. We depend on the pet parents to let us know how this approach is working.
In your bunny’s case, he has not gotten better with this type of approach. Seeing your veterinarian again, as you are doing, is key to a partnership to keep your bunny healthy. Based on the signs as you describe, I would be concerned with one of the many types of gastrointestinal infections that can cause severe disease in young rabbits.
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