Pet Questions? Ask a Vet and Get Answers ASAP
Hello, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with Zoe today.
I completely understand that it can be a struggle to know when a rabbit is unwell. You are not alone in this because this is a challenge for any rabbit owner. The reason is because as a prey species rabbits strive to hide when they are feeling unwell (since being sick makes you a target for predation). Therefore, we often get very few hints until they are just too poorly and the diseases is too advanced to be hidden anymore.
Now her quietness is difficult to interpret, as it can be a non-specific sign of illness or being stressed with the recent weather changes. That said, her appetite and thirst are a concern here. To give me a better idea of her individual situation, can you tell me:
How recently was the diet changed?
Now you noted that she didn't want her carrot, but can you tell me if she is eating at all?
Is she producing the same volume and size of stool pellets as she usually does?
No small ones, fewer ones, or jelly grape clusters of feces in her cage?
Does she show any signs of a wet chin/paws/chest (or dried like it has been wet) or teeth grinding sounds?
As I said before, rabbits are the masters of hiding illness. Therefore, if we are seeing Zoe being quieter or lethargic and potentially off her food, then this is quite serious and we need to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. The reason why we need to be so pro-active is because any decrease in appetite (especially if it leads to a drop in fecal output) is a very serious problem in rabbit medicine. This is because rabbits have a more complicated gastrointestinal tract then other domestic pets (similar to horses, actually) and if you imagine these guts behave like conveyor belts. They should always be moving, which is why access to slowly digestible foods like hays are fed ad lib.
When a rabbit goes off their food, for whatever reason (ie dental disease, bacterial infections, etc), this can cause their gut to slow or stop, which can lead to gastric stasis, a situation which it is one of the few true rabbit emergencies. So, if you think she is eating less and drinking less, then it would be prudent for her to be seen by her vet before this can progress any further.
Just to note, some of the other signs we can see with gastric stasis:
Now in regards XXXXX XXXXX "why" she is lethargic, showing a decreased appetite and thirst can be a little trickier. There are of course a range of primary issues we must consider, and this is something that a full physical exam by your vet will be able to shed light upon. The vet will be able to listen to her guts, check her temperature, and have a general evaluation of what underlying trigger might be ailing her.
Depending on the vet's findings, they can address the underlying trigger and initiate treatment. Often these cases need pain relief, pro-motility drugs, +/- antibiotics. If her signs are severe, she may need to be hospitalized. Or if you are able to provide diligent supportive care at home, they may advise you on how to syringe feed her.
Typically, anorexic rabbits need to be hand or syringe fed (usually hourly) to continue nutrition input to meet her body's requirement and keep her guts moving to prevent/address stasis. To support her, it is worthing getting a vet to dispense a critical care feeds that you can syringe feed the bunny. A very good product for this is Oxbow’s Critical Care feed (http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/vets/products/critical_care) or Recovery Diet and most vets will be able to provide this to you. This is a highly nutritious herbivore feed that can be easily made into a slurry for syringe feeding. And it is much easier to use then trying to create a balanced critical care diet at home.
Now be warned that if you do undertake syringe feeding her, then this can be a challenge (we all end up with Recovery on us when we are syringe feeding rabbits). To administer it in as stress free means as possible, I would advise having a peek of this guide (HERE) since a video is worth at least a thousand words. If she is quite resistant to being fed, then do watch the end of the video for 'towel wrapping' him to keep her snug and secure while you are feeding her.
In regards XXXXX XXXXX if she is severe dehydrated then the vet might give sterile fluids under her skin. Otherwise, you can try tempting her with pedialyte (fruity flavors are best tolerated), Lectaid (from her vet) or diluted Gatorade (50% diluted with water) in a pinch. These will help replenish electrolytes and get some glucose into her system. If she isn't keen on it, you can give pedialyte via dropper of syringe. A typical dose for animals is 4.8mls per 100 grams of body weight per day (obviously divided over all day drinking). This is her maintenance rate and it is a good starting place for supporting her against dehydration.
Overall, a depressed appetite with lethargy is a very serious situation for a rabbit and this shouldn't be ignored. I would advise that she should see her vet immediately. They will be able to determine the underlying trigger, treat her for this and advise you on how to administer critical care diet and nurse her through this situation. Overall, prompt treatment and supportive care are the best things we can do to get this under control and give Zoe the best chance of recovery and getting back to herself.
If you don’t already have a rabbit vet, and wish to find one near you, by checking here (http://www.rabbit.org/vets/vets.html).
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
Remember that if you have any lingering questions or concerns, please reply so that we may continue our conversation. I will be happy to work with your further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. Please remember to rate my answer when you are satisfied (with 4-5 stars or a happy face) so that I may receive credit for my assistance. Thank you & have a great day. : )
Hi again,If the diet was abruptly change, that can affect the delicate GI microflora within the rabbit's intestine. So, if possible, you do want to reintroduce the old diet components alongside the new to restablize the gut and then gradually wean her to what you wish to feed. If she will eat the older diet for you, that would be ideal. Alternatively, there are some products on the market for rabbits that can be used to support that delicate GI bacterial population (ie Fibreplex -example). But in either case, do monitor her intake because if she isn't keen to eat then she will need to be syringe fed as I outlined above.In regards XXXXX XXXXX water intake, I would say that it would be ideal to measure her water intake at this point. You can do this by measuring how much water you put into her water bottle or bowl & then measure what is left after 24 hours. You can then divide the total volume by her body weight in kilograms. This will give you an idea of her daily water intake and allow you to determine if the volume she is drinking is abnormally low or not. Ideally, she should be drinking around 50-150 mL/kg body weight daily. If she is drinking less then this, then we' d want to consider supporting her (ie with pedialyte) and having her vet check her over to determine whether GI stasis is responsible for her decline in thirst.Dr. B.
Hi again,They are a very different species and sadly a lot of people don't realize how much so until they do suffer heath issues. In a way, rabbits are more akin to horses (since both have a similar GI design, cannot vomit, etc.) then cats or dogs. Since Zoe was a surprise addition to your home and you perhaps have not had rabbits before, I would suggest having an explore and read of the House Rabbit Society's website (LINK). It is a good resource about health, behavior, feeding, and would be a good starting place to getting to know the ins and outs of rabbit care.All the best,
Remember that if you have any lingering questions or concerns, please reply so that we may continue our conversation. I will be happy to work with your further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. Please remember to rate my answer when you are satisfied (with4-5 stars or a happy face) so that I may receive credit for my assistance. Thank you & have a great day. : )