A Bunny Who Refuses Food Is A Bunny In Crisis!
(Be sure to keep a copy of this information in your emergency kit.)
There will be times in your bunny’s life when he rejects food or a favorite treat. What your bunny is telling you is that he feels sick. If you are not prepared to respond immediately, your bunny may suffer a painful death in as few as 12 hours. Routinely give your bunny the opportunity to tell you he is sick by offering a favorite food in the morning and evening.
Humans who feel sick can wait and see if they improve and will often feel better later. That doesn't work with bunnies. When a bunny refuses food, he's already entered a downward spiral. Muscles that push food through the intestines are slowing, bacteria are proliferating, creating gas, pain is building and body temperature is dropping, leading to shock and death. (Rabbits can not "burp" or vomit, so painful gas becomes trapped inside.)
When your bunny rejects food, you must:
1. Stabilize your bunny using the steps listed below in red.
2. Take your bunny to a rabbit knowledgeable vet as quickly as possible.
A veterinarian specializing in rabbits will take x-rays to identify the problem. X-rays are costly but necessary so your vet can see if your bunny has indigestion, gas, blockage, a tooth spur that is cutting into the cheek or tongue, stones, or something else. Also, your vet can do things that you cannot do at home, such as giving fluids and prescription pain medication. You should try to stabilize your bunny until you get to the vet. To do so, you must have our Bunny Emergency Kit (available at our shelter) or make your own.
Prepare your emergency kit now for the inevitable crisis. You should have:
- Electric heating pad or microwaveable heating disc (if use electric pad, make sure bunny can not get to wire)
- Infant gas drops (simethicone): Baby GasX or Walmart’s Equate brand is fine.
- Bayer orange-flavored, chewable, 81mg. aspirin: (also called baby aspirin or low dose adult aspirin). Any brand is fine, but the Bayer orange flavor dissolves the best.
- Syringes: (no needles, just the plastic syringe part) 1cc/1ml syringes (1cc is the same as 1ml) and 10cc/10ml feeding syringes (We like the Monoject brand for feeding, they will not clog.)
- Digital thermometer with a flexible tip (no glass) that will give you a quick reading in 10 seconds or less. Have your bunny vet show you how to hold bunny safely and take temp so as to not cause injury. Practice taking your bunny’s temperature now so you can do it in a crisis. Come to any of our meetings and tell Joy Gioia, Marjorie Manahan, Bobbie Shewmaker or Pat Daly that you want to learn how to take a temperature and we will help you practice. If that's not possible, here is a link to a video on how to take a rabbit's temperature: http://rabbit.org/how-to-take-a-rabbits-temperature/
- Lubricant to apply to the tip of the thermometer. Use any alcohol-free lubricating jelly.
- Baby powder with cornstarch as main ingredient or Plain cornstarch (NOT talc, NO perfumed powders) When your bunny tears a nail, apply dry cornstarch to stop the bleeding. Also good to knead into and dissolve fecal crust on a bunny butt. Avoid bathing a bunny butt unless absolutely necessary.
- Food to give only if your vet tells you to syringe-feed your bunny: Baby food squash or canned, 100% pure unflavored pumpkin (not pie filling). Your vet may sell you a bag of Critical Care, an Oxbow food product. Whether feeding squash, pumpkin or Critical Care, dilute it with water to a runny state so it can be swallowed. A sick bunny won’t accept a chewy glob. We like to use 1 part Critical Care to 3 parts water. To avoid choking, do NOT just shoot the food into the mouth. Slowly push the syringe contents into the side cheek area of the mouth so bunny has a chance to position it and swallow.
Important: Critical Care becomes toxic after 24 hours, so make it fresh daily.
Important: If bunny has temp under 99, do not syringe feed. Bunny may not be able to swallow and food may dribble into his lungs,
resulting in death.
Do All Of The Following Immediately When Your Bunny Refuses Food
1. Call your rabbit knowledgeable vet - a vet experienced in rabbit care. State that you have an emergency, the symptoms, including temperature, and that your bunny needs to be seen immediately.
2. Temperature. Take bunny's temperature. http://rabbit.org/how-to-take-a-rabbits-temperature/ Normal is 101° – 103°. A low temp (under 99°) can be deadly and you need to warm your bunny so he doesn't go into shock. Moreover, you must warm an unresponsive bunny until he is alert enough to swallow gas drops and dissolved aspirin or it will dribble into his lungs.
However, if your bunny’s temp was over 103°, suspect infection and do not use heating pad - you have a major emergency; get to your vet immediately.
If he has low temp, put a heating pad or heating disc on your lap, cover it with a towel and place bunny on it. Use a low or medium setting because a bunny’s skin is delicate and will burn.
If a heating pad is too hot to hold your hand on for 30 seconds, it’s too hot for your bunny. In a pinch, you can heat towels in the clothes dryer then wrap your bunny. Do not force bunny to stay on the heating pad; bunny will let you know when he no longer needs the heat. When bunny has been warmed, you can proceed to steps 3 & 4.
In reference to the following directions: DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING ORALLY (by mouth) TO AN UNCONSCIOUS OR SEMI-CONSCIOUS PET
3. Gas relief. Fill a 1cc syringe from the bottle of gas drops. Insert tip in the side of bunny’s mouth and gradually empty the syringe. Gas drops will do no harm. You can give a dose every hour for 3 doses, then a dose every 3 to 8 hours.
4. Pain relief. If you are heading to the vet and will get there within 3 hours, don't give aspirin because the vet will give a more powerful pain med. Otherwise, for bunnies weighing 5 pounds and more, dissolve one tablet of Bayer orange-flavored, 81mg aspirin in 1cc water. Draw it into a 1cc syringe and insert tip in the side of bunny’s mouth and gradually empty the syringe. For bunnies under 5 pounds, dissolve one-half tablet in 1cc water.
These are rabbit knowledgeable veterinarians you can call in a crisis:
Hope Animal Hospital, 300 Biltmore, Fenton, MO 636-349-0049 (next to Chuck's Boots off Hwy. 30 at Northwest Blvd.)
Regular hours: Mon & Tues: 8 - 6 / Wed: 8-12 & 2-5 / Thurs: 8-7 / Fri: 8-5
On nights and weekends - leave emergency messages on both 636-222-3972 and 314-580-3123.
Dr. B may be able to meet you at the clinic if she is available. If she is not, use VSS Emergency Center, Manchester Rd. & Hwy. 141, 636-227-9400
Creve Coeur Animal Hospital, 12550 Olive Blvd., west of I-270 314-434-4300
Regular hours: Mon - Thurs: 8-7:30 / Fri: 8-6:30 / Sat: 8-2
These are members of our HRS chapter you can call in a crisis - days/nights/weekends
Pat Daly: 618-920-0705 and 618-632-2940
Joy Gioia: 636-541-0256 and 636-349-0606
Marjorie Manahan: 636-734-3964
Bobbie Shewmaker: 618-604-3063 and 618-628-9758
More Symptoms Of A Pet Emergency: If a pet develops an emergency problem, care should not be delayed. Prompt veterinary care gives a pet the best chance of a successful recovery. Situations that demand immediate veterinary care for your rabbit include:
Bleeding (more than just a scratch or torn nail)
Blue, Purple or Pale Gums
Inability to Urinate/Defecate
Ingestion of Toxins (including poisonous plants) or Medications
Profuse Diarrhea (not simply loose cecals)
Rejection of food