What I need to know when I'm looking after your rabbits . . .
It is vital that I am made aware of your rabbit’s diet, daily water and hay consumption and poo size, quality and quantity. These vitals are directly related to the strength and efficiency of the digestive system which directly affects a rabbits stress coping ability.
However positive the boarding facilities or bonding experience, rabbits are prey animals and naturally suffer stress and adrenaline/cortisol interference with environmental changes and travel. Prey animals can be fragile and frightened by change but there are things we can do to help them stay strong and make the boarding and bonding experience positive for them.
Overweight rabbits on high carb, starch, low fibre diets are at a far greater risk of not coping with boarding and bonding, vet visits, anaesthetic etc. and are at a far greater risk of GI stasis or going into shock. Rabbits again that don’t eat their caecals or have small hard droppings and are fed muesli and locust beans, popcorn and cereals such as pea flakes are highly likely to have impactions building up and inflamed/damaged gut walls and very low good gut flora and bacteria.
If I am presented with a rabbit who is overweight with the above dispositions though it may seem blunt of me, it is in your beloved rabbits best interest that it is brought to your attention and an appropriate care plan made. This category of rabbit is likely to take much longer to settle down, behave and eat as they would do in their own environment.
If a rabbit comes to me being fed a detrimental diet I will continue it to reduce risk of further stress. However, continuing this diet could damage your rabbit further, and I would encourage a transition to a safe diet care plan, including offering the bunny smaller amounts of what it is used to while introducing positive supplements such as the Protexin range and Wild Plants etc. Through my work at the Rabbit Residence Rescue, I have experience transitioning hundreds of bunnies over the years. It can be an extremely complex process, and fragile rabbits may need syringe-feeding and motility drugs to help. If it helps you understand it is literally like a drug addict having the withdrawal stage before positive change and health is reached.
All of us hope we are doing our best and indeed this is our intention so I know it can be a shock when you are told that what you thought was right is actually wrong. Sadly despite the amazing organisations out there such as The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund and LagoLearn Ltd food companies still continue to market products to make us believe they are good when they are not. It is wrong but it goes on and owners become innocent victims.
How I care for your rabbits . . .
Though cages are the worst thing in the world, if a spacious positive BUT new environment is overwhelming for the rabbit, the rabbit may actually feel safer in a well-protected cage in a quiet corner. If a rabbit does not poo, eat or behave in a healthy manner by my observation within 12 hours the owner must give me permission to take the rabbit to my vet Iain Cope (Vets4Pets, Newmarket) to receive a clinical examination for any potential hidden pre-existing conditions and most likely to receive motility drugs/fluids. This must be authorised even if I can’t get hold of the owner. This makes payment of service vital when dropping off rabbits with me so I have funds to pay for a vet visit should I not be able to contact the owner.
At home I can offer the following without veterinary intervention;
Protexin pro fibre, fibreplex and bio lapis
Syringe feeding of supreme recovery and critical care and avi pro plus which are all well-known supportive supplements.
The owner must consent to the use of these very safe, very well-known positive products should the use of them be appropriate.
I also have a glucometer, thermometer, weighing scales and snuggle safe hot water bottles.
Lastly, I avoid the use of carrots and vegetables unless the rabbit is very healthy. I will prioritise the use of safe natural plants from the garden such as milk thistle, sow thistle and all the wonderful plants mentioned in Dr Twigs Way’s books sold by the RWA. I also prioritise the use of herbs such as parsley, camomile, mint and lavender. All well documented to be safe and have positive benefits.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.