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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11511
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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Just noticed first signs of diarrhea in our dwarf rabbit.

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Just noticed first signs of diarrhea in our dwarf rabbit. Think hes about two months old , he is the runt, still very active seems to be eating good. We give him fresh water morning and night, feeding him Young Oxbow Health young rabbit food and Oxbow Health alfalafa hay. Anything we can do at this early stage to help?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with over 30 years experience raising and showing rabbit. I'm sorry to hear of Pepper's problem. Some additional information will be helpful.

How runny are his droppings? (liquid, slightly mushy, etc.)

How long have you had him?

Did he come from a pet store?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Slightly mushy. We just got him last Wednesday and yes he did come from a pet store.

Thank you for getting back to me. I can tell you're trying to do a very good job of caring for your rabbit. Oxbow makes top of the line foods. I doubt that is what the pet store or the breeder fed Pepper, and a sudden diet change can lead to mushy stools. In addition, alfalfa hay is very rich. It is often used to fatten up young meat rabbits for market. I have never used it with small pet rabbits because it can lead to diarrhea. Once a rabbit is mature, it is essential that it be replaced with grass hay because alfalfa can cause urinary tract problems. The Oxbow company itself recommends this. I would replace it now with one of Oxbow's good grass hays - timothy, orchard grass, or a blend.

If you can't get Oxbow right away, you can use one of the bagged timothy hays sold in pet stores.

I also suspect that Pepper was weaned too young. I never wean my Netherland dwarf or Holland lop babies until they are 2 months old. Then I wait a couple more weeks to be sure they are doing well before selling them. Both unethical rabbit breeders and pet stores are so eager for sales of baby rabbits that they take them from their mothers by age 4 weeks. Then the newly-weaned babies are rushed off to a new environment. All of this is stressful and such young rabbits are susceptible to some dangerous conditions. When weaned too young, beneficial bacteria don't have time to colonize the intestines, and inflammation resulting in loose stools can occur. The bacterial infection, Coccidiosis, is also common in baby rabbits. In ones so young, even a slightly mushy stool can quickly cause an emergency situation that leads to dehydration. If you want to read more about this, scroll down to the section on baby rabbits at this link:

Besides switching to grass hay, the most important thing to do right now is provide some beneficial bacteria (probiotics) for your rabbit. A brand called Bene-Bac is often available in pet stores and online. You can also use a human liquid formula, if it is nondairy. These are available in health food stores. Give some beneficial bacteria every day for a couple of weeks. After that, provide some twice a week.

Make sure Pepper is drinking. The reason diarrhea is so dangerous in young rabbits is that it quickly results in dehydration, which is fatal. You c an also give him Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants) once per hour. Put the syringe in the side of his mouth, not straight down the throat. Give him a few drops, wait for him to swallow, then give a little more. There's no specific amount to give, but ten drops or so once each hour would be good.

If the droppings get runnier or fail to improve with the measures above, or if Pepper stops eating or becomes lethargic, you'll need to see a vet right away. This link will take you to a directory of rabbit vets:

If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. I hope Pepper will be fine.


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