Posted: February 14, 2014, 3:10 p.m. EST
© Courtesy Andrea Stetson
Chad the English Lop rabbit fully recovered from his injuries after the dog attack.
Family visits can sometimes cause drama, but for Andrea Stetson of Florida and her family, a visit from her parents quickly became a life-and-death situation for one of their six pet rabbits. She now calls Chad a miracle bunny because of what happened.
Chad’s harrowing ordeal began in March 2013 when Stetson’s parents arrived for a visit with their dog, Bradley, a black Labrador mix. Chad is one of six English Lop bunnies owned by the Stetsons. "They have big cages that they are in at night and when we are not home,” Stetson said, "but when we are home they are either hopping around the house or the lanai, or in our arms cuddling.” Chad was hopping around the house when Bradley arrived and spotted the rabbit.
"Their dog rushed over to Chad and attacked him,” Stetson said. "He was only about 20 feet away from us, but by the time we got to him he was in shock, lying on his side with blood pouring from his mouth. I thought he was dead.”
The Stetsons also have a dog. Jeannie is an 8-year-old mixed breed they adopted from a shelter when she was a 4-month-old puppy. She joined the family when the Stetsons had four English Lop rabbits and grew up with them. She is always gentle and loving with the rabbits.
When Bradley attacked, Jeannie also rushed to Chad’s aid. "Jeannie with her four legs got there much faster and was able to push Bradley away until we got there seconds later,” Stetson said. "That second or two when Jeannie got the attacking dog away before we could get to him may have saved Chad's life.”
Immediately after the attack, the Stetsons were rushing Chad to the veterinarian. "The good news was the bleeding was not internal. It was from a tooth that got yanked out,” Stetson said. "Since rabbits grow new teeth that was not a problem at all. Once his mouth was cleaned up, the bleeding stopped.”
The veterinarian continued treatment and, once Chad recovered a bit, X-rayed the mouth. That’s when they got the bad news. Chad’s upper jaw was badly broken.
"Our vet said a bottom jaw can be wired, but not a top jaw,” Stetson said. "There was only one vet in Florida, about four hours from us, who could do surgery, but that vet said it was not likely to be successful. My daughter and I started searching the Internet for any ideas. We came upon a few blogs from people who had bunnies with broken jaws. We sent the websites to our vet who then revised the plans. Chad had medicine twice a day. He was given water through a syringe since he was not drinking. We mashed his pellets in water to make them mushy. We added a little pineapple juice to entice him to eat. My daughter, Kristyn, held him for hours comforting him and securing him with love. After about two weeks my daughter said, ‘He's getting feisty, so I know he's going to get better.’"
The Stetsons never gave up on Chad. They continued to give him mashed food for a month and did everything possible to assist his recovery.
"The only lingering problem was he would not eat hay,” Stetson said. "The vet explained that when bunnies eat hay it is with a side motion of the mouth, unlike the pellets that they can eat with their jaw going up and down.”
© Courtesy Andrea Stetson
Jeannie the dog showed concern for Chad during his recovery, and the two remain great pals.
The concern was that if Chad could not eat hay to wear down his constantly growing teeth, the teeth would overgrow and cause other problems. If that happened, his teeth would need to be filed down by the vet, perhaps for the rest of his life.
"After two months the vet checked his teeth and they were still OK,” Stetson said. "The plan was for checkups every two months. Every day I put fresh hay in the house for him to eat and every night I put fresh hay in his cage where he sleeps at night. The hay was never eaten. Then three months after the attack when I went to put him in the cage for the night, the hay box in the house was empty. The next morning the hay box in the cage was empty. Chad was eating hay. He had overcome his last obstacle. It is now 10 months after the attack and Chad is a healthy, happy bunny.”
Although Chad suffered a tremendous physical ordeal, Stetson said it hasn’t changed his personality. "For the first month he wanted to cuddle more than usual. It was as if he needed reassurance and extra love to get through it all,” Stetson said. "Now, 10 months later, he is exactly like he was before the attack. He likes to cuddle for a while and then hop around the house and sit in his favorite spot under the kitchen table.”
Stetson praised two people for their role in Chad’s recovery. "Our vet, Dr. Scott Gregory, was also a big part of helping Chad recover. He never gave up and kept looking for the best ways to help him. My daughter, Kristyn, spent so many hours caring for him and cuddling him during his recovery. Chad really is a miracle bunny.”
Stetson said Bradley is a friendly dog, but had not grown up around rabbits. Chad was 3 at the time of the attack and had grown up with Jeannie, a dog who let the rabbits climb into her dog bed with her and gave them kisses. "That may be why Chad had no fear when my parents dog came barreling at him,” Stetson said. "He was so used to a kind, gentle dog that he didn't seem to sense danger until it was too late.”
Stetson shared Chad’s story when she was contacted to let her know that a photo of Chad she submitted to the Rabbits USA 2014 magazine photo contest had won third place in the Impromptu Rabbits category. She then agreed to have the story on SmallAnimalChannel. "Hopefully it will encourage others never to give up on their bunnies, and it might help someone in a similar situation.”
Chad is a special because of his will to survive. Additionally, he and the other Stetson rabbits do something special for the community. Check back in mid-March for details about that.
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