Bunnified News, Commentary, Social Criticism, Bunzo Journalism

RUNNING BUN MAGAZINE - All things "bunnified," news from the rabbit multiverse, deep down in the Earth, where it's still warm.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sanctuary Rabbits: Glenna - Becoming Accustomed to the Life

 Glenna the Good
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Well enough people have been inquiring that I better post an update about Glenna. And then I'll post one about Bojangles' pending adoption later. Yay for Bojangles!

Glenna has settled into her new life here at the Sanctuary and we are all fond of her. She licks me a lot but she is also known for little nips now and then. That is only if I'm standing in her way though. Usually, she is wonderful. She has developed a special tactic for demanding her Oxbow Organic Barley Biscuits or her daily carrot or pellets - she stares me down and skulks until I acknowledge this and comply with her wishes.

She is also a trouble maker. And a scallywag. But she has earned it. When she comes out to get her exercise, first she beelines to Sparty Macaw's cage in the living room to see if he has dropped any of his yummy (and fattening) Harrison's pellets. Or until I discover her absence and go fetch her. Then she hops on the bed and explores it thoroughly for crumbs I may have dropped - of popcorn (a favorite), or anything else. And if Felix the Schipperke is up there too, she usually says hello to him by bussing him on the nose. I can tell she genuinely likes Felix (pictured above with the earless princess) as do most of the bunnies and kitties around here, but she used to fear him when first coming here - probably from her days as a stray and being wary of dogs. Felix is a shepherd breed (they're really miniature Belgian shepherds) so he is very protective and gentle around all the little animals.

When her crumb scavenging is completed, she goes to the box under my end table and digs around in the packing paper and takes a nap - this is so like a cat - that's why the box is there (for Max the Maine Coon). She is content to spend quite a bit of time in her box (see photo above).

Last week, Glenna went in for a recheck. She needed another molar trim and she had her incisors trimmed. One of them isn't growing so Dr. Carr said we probably should have it extracted soon as it might be prone to abscess. And I've been thinking about having them all out. She can't use any of them, they curve at wild angles, they're useless.

She also has been flirting with the boy buns over here so we'll have to think about matching her up with one soon. At first, I thought she might have a crush on my little bunny, Sundance, who is quite a handsome little Netherlands dwarf. But upon meeting him, she kicked his butt and he didn't appreciate it. So she probably would appreciate a larger fellow. We'll let you know if anything gels in that department.

Well I have the flu, so I'm off to nap some more and hope for better days. I'll keep you posted on anything going on with Glenna as it happens. But let it stand as testament to why rabbits should live in the house, Glenna's poor missing ear lobes which succumbed to frostbite.

Cheers to all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sanctuary Rabbits: Glenna - Stick & Carrot Game

 Glenna the Good
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Ok so I decided to give little Miss Glenna Bun an extra large carrot to celebrate having her last dose of medicine tonight. Yay! 10 days of yucky antibiotics without any complaint! So I started to stick it through the bars on the top of her cage and it didn't go all the way through and started swing back and forth like a pendulum. She tried to catch it and I laughed and took some photos while she made me think of Bugs Bunny and the proverbial stick and carrot routine. Except in this game, the stick was also the carrot.

It didn't seem fair to keep laughing while she tried to solve the problem. She made a number of good attempts to remove the carrot and then gave up. So she decided to just try and eat it while it hung there. That's when I decided the game was over and let her have her reward. She did give me a reproachful look for just a split second but at the same time she couldn't help but be excited at the size of this evening's carrot. Enjoy silly pictures above. After today, she will have the go ahead to get out of the cage and stretch her legs and do some exploring, at last!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sanctuary Rabbits: Earless Glenna Update

 Glenna the Good
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Just a little update on Miss Glenna Bun. She is doing very, very well. She is still being confined per the doctor's orders and she has just about had enough of it. Every evening, she demands her carrots (now that she knows what they are) but she knows she's going to get medicines first so she motions her head to the 2 syringes on my desk and looks at me. She wants her meds so she can get her veggies!

I've brought her up on the bed several times now to watch some TV and she doesn't seem comfortable. I think she is still apprehensive about the little dog and big cat who are often up here too but whom are 100% totally bunny trustworthy. She is slowing getting that into her head. She must have been pretty scared of dogs in the past though as a result of some experience with them.

When Glenna Bun first came in, I was told she'd been sprayed by a skunk 'or something.' No one who smelled her seemed sure what it was. Neither was I when I smelled her after the 'surgery' smell wore off. But I knew I'd smelled it before sometime. Well I remembered now. She has just been absolutely soaked to the bone in rabbit urine. She smells just like the 11 rabbits I helped animal control in nearby West Virginia confiscate from a backyard breeder four years ago this summer. They were sitting in milk crates in 104 degree heat in the July sun sitting in 5 or 6 inches of their own waste and urine. They had been drinking dew although a few had chewed up water 'bowls' (which were really just the bottoms of gallon milk jugs cut off) and they all smelled so bad it was unthinkable. And when I got them all home, I had to give each one a hot bath with lots of hand soap. Yet still they reeked for months afterward until their first shed. Glenna also has the telltale signs: urine stained fur all over her. It is impossible to remove urine stains from a rabbit's fur; you just have to wait until they shed.

Glenna smells like that even though she's had two descenting baths. When the a rabbit has been so completely doused over and over for long periods of time, that is what they smell like. She also came in with a spot on her nose that has the distinctive mark of a rabbit bite. She'd been bitten pretty badly on the nose but came away without serious (i.e., abscess) injury. It's unclear whether the abscess she had removed from her back was from flystrike (warbles) or the bite of another rabbit. It is in the right place for a rabbit who is being bitten by another one who is humping them. And she shows evidence also of having had a litter (or two or three or more) in the form of long teats.

She is a very patient lady though and obviously feels safe as she naps all the way over on her side. When she wakes, she looks at me hopefully as if to say 'pellets now?' but she only gets about a tablespoon of pellets per day. That's because of her double whammy malocclusion - incisor and molar - so she needs to eat mostly hay so her bite can correct itself.

Her ears are turning white at the tips and I don't know what that means, it may just be fur growing in or something else. I'll talk to the vet about it on Monday. It might mean further necrosis but usually that's black although this may be the first stage. I did take some macro photos of her ears so I could study their structure while I prepared to flush the ear's of old lady Beatrix who has an ear infection. One of those photos is at the bottom of this page so if you dare, scroll all the way down and you'll see it. I didn't put it right under this post because it may be upsetting to some people.

A number of people have asked me about her ears wondering how this happened to her. Most people's first reaction was 'did a dog attack her?' and that answer is no - a rabbit attacked her! Rabbits are like that when unaltered. What happened to Glenna is that her ears were frostbitten. Considering that it's August and she has only just come inside where rabbits should live, she has been a little hobo for a long, long time. Or it may have very well happened before she even escaped the place where she used to live - they probably kept their rabbits outdoors, that's pretty much a given. Or this would not have happened. And it's why we never condone this heinous practice. If you do a Google search for 'frostbitten ears' you will find images of lots of animals whose ears look just like poor Glenna's.

In other news, I have an excellent application on Mrs. Bojangles and am looking forward to her happy ending.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sanctuary Rabbits: Earless Glenna Settles Into the Good Life

 Glenna the Good
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Little Earless Glenna, former hobo rabbit, read the hobo signs at the door here correctly: "This is the place, kind old lady, fresh water and a safe campsite." As I type this, she is drinking chilled filtered water from a sparkling white water crock and sampling a few of the pellets served here. She has already enjoyed quite a bit of the yummy hay we offer our sanctuary guests and she has tossed her cups a few times. And for breakfast, she'll sample some baby lettuces from Sam's Club.

Thank you all so much to each and every one of you who so generously donated your well wishes and funds towards little Glenna's surgery. She came through the surgery very well, as performed by Dr. Lisa Carr of VCA North Rockville (soon to be of VRA - Veterinary Referral Associates - Gaithersburg). She was spayed and had her abscess removed which was uncomplicated and she had her incisors and molars trimmed.

I am still kind of in awe of the outpouring of response to the plight of this little gal. And she is sweet. She has been exploring her cage and standing up on her haunches to try and touch the top of it with her nose but can't quite reach. Then she seems to kind of lose her balance and sits back down. She's stretching and acting for all the world like a carefree bunny, not one who has been running the streets since winter.

She still has a slight odor to her which I can't quite recognize but I've smelled it before. It will come to me and I'll post about it when I figure it out. I also can't quite place whether it is organic or not.

She just stretched again, she seems to enjoy doing that, and she yawns a bit too. Right now, she's setup in a temporary cage next to my bed so I can keep close observation on her. She is on quite a few medications for the next two weeks or so as well.

It is hard to look at her ears, especially from a bird's eye point of view. It's not often you look down at a rabbit and can see the entire inside of their ear. They seem so vulnerable. I've thought about making her a little Tam O' Shanter to keep them warm. Or maybe I'll get her some of those gag bunny ears people buy for their dogs around Easter, at least she could look a bit more bunny-ish that way.

She certainly enjoys attention and having her head stroked. Tomorrow, we are both going to take it easy. It's been a long, long day. Left the house at 8:45am and didn't get back until 7:30pm, all on bunny business. Four new rabbits in today: Glenna and three males including one 6 year old mini-lop named Bebop who is hopefully intended for Beatrix (also 6 year old mini-lop). Bebop is exceptionally charming and handsome. Look for photos of him soon. One of the other new guys is Quasar who looks just like Starshine (now Chloe) and one little otter Netherland dwarf guy as yet unnamed.

Well it took me from the time I got home until just an hour ago to get everyone settled in for the evening and I still have to give Glenna and Beatrix their meds before hitting the hay (not the edible stuff, just figure of speech, not going to waste good hay sleeping on it, the rabbits here do plenty of that!)

Thank you again all you wonderful rabbit people who extended your caring and pocketbook to such a wonderful little gal in need. We've got a bit of a ways to go before she's 100%, I mean this gal has a lot of healing to do but she is well on her way and it's all thanks to you!

Bless your hearts each and every one!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lend Me Your Ears: Earless Rabbit Glenna Needs Your Help

 Glenna the Good
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We first posted about poor little Glenna bunny the other day. She was a stray found by a Good Samaritan with dental issues, two incidences of flystrike (warbles - flies burrow into the rabbit's flesh and lay their eggs, the maggots are then born and cause great pain and infection in the rabbit's body. If untreated, it is fatal), smelling like a skunk (presumably, odor has yet to be identified), and ears that just "peeled off" when given a bath by the first vet she saw.

Then she came into Bright Eyes Sanctuary care with a foster mom who is also an exotics vet tech. The foster mom says that Glenna is very sweet, loves to be held, is sociable with other rabbits and just loves people. As you can see from her photos (above), she has only stubbs for ears.

Glenna is going to be spayed, have her molar trims, have her abscess removed, and anything else that may come up during surgery. Then she will no doubt be on medicine for quite a while and require multiple rechecks with the vet.

The estimate on her surgery is about $300 with our rescue discount but that did not include the spay (we'll find out more tomorrow) and it did not include anything else that might come up - like if the abscess has spread fingers throughout her body and would cost more because it would take longer surgery time to remove it. So we're pretty sure it will be $450 all told.

So far, as of this writing, we have received $70 in donations for Glenna's care, we need to raise $380 more AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Thank you Ann, Gerry, and Kristen! You can see our fundraising thermometer above and if you click on it and make a donation using PayPal, it will automatically go up. Her surgery is tomorrow! We don't know if she's going to spend a night or two in the hospital yet or not. But we need to raise these funds to cover her surgery! Please help! Tell all the bunny lovers you know so we can take the very best care of this wonderful, loving rabbit.

We appreciate it! We are a nonprofit, fully approved IRS 501c3 all volunteer, charitable animal rescue. Your donations are tax deductible.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Muck Digger of the Running Buns: Satisfaction


Rabbit Treats: Wild Carrots -
Cheap Eats! Yummy for Your Bunny!

Freshly pulled wild carrots!
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All the adopters I've known, hundreds of them now, I try to impress with the fact that healthful treats versus junk food treats are very important and can be the road to health for your companion house rabbit or the road to rabbit illness.

Healthy treats for companion house rabbits are so important. The retail pet stores like Petco and PetsMart are in business to sell you things whether or not they are healthy for your animals. Arguably, there is debate about what is health and what is not for all animals including us humans. And there is as much debate on how best to raise and care for animals including us humans.

But most people agree that no matter what animal you're talking about, be it humans or companion house rabbits, refined sugar treats and candies are not good for you. They are yummy and we love them but one has only to look around and see the obvious detrimental health effects it has on those who imbibe them. Obesity among humans is a good example, our society is hedonistic and our candy industry has the kind of variety you only find elsewhere when you're talking about things like the diversity of life!

Similarly for our companion animals, in this case, specifically rabbits, we rabbit rescuers often see obesity as a major issue for the rabbits we adopt out. Obese rabbits are more susceptible to a variety of health problems ranging from intestinal issues to cancer. Your pet rabbit should never have treats that have refined sugar in them. Those yogurt drop things they sell at the pet store? They are complete and total junk and horrible for your pet rabbit's health. Sure your bunny will beg you for them! I beg my husband to bring home Chocolate Chip and Cookie Dough ice cream for me when he calls me from the grocery store. Sadly, he complies and I find myself also calling him to say not to bring home any ice cream as often!

I always tell adopters that the best treat for their little pet rabbit is healthy, natural treats. Ingredients to watch out for are sulfites used as preservatives which you may find in dehydrated or dried fruit. These are not good for anybody and sadly, even the online bunny shops are now putting this in their rabbit treats. Artificial sweeteners are equally as bad. You may find some papaya tables which contain sorbitol, an artificial sweetener, and I don't know about you but I cannot eat or chew anything with sorbitol in it as it makes me very ill.

So please, only small amounts of natural fruit treats for your pet bunny. A slice or two of banana a day will buy your way to the very warmest parts of your bunny's heart. Strawberries are also cherished but be warned that you should only buy ORGANIC strawberries as according to Consumer Reports, strawberries are one of the foods containing the most pesticides and rabbits are more prone to pesticide poisoning (and resulting cancers) as are children because of their small size and the amount of these toxins that build up residually in their fat tissue.

Carrots are a wonderful treat. I recently had a wonderful pair of adopters ask me if it was normal for their adopted bunny's poop to be orange. It turns out they were feeding their little rabbits several huge carrots a day. This is very fattening because of the high sugar content of carrots. That is fine though, in moderation. Hopping while intoxicated on carrot sugar is life threatening to your pet rabbit. So chop the carrot up into slices and feed moderately. For a 5 pound bunny, I would recommend about 5 or 6 slices of carrot a day or 2 or 3 baby carrots. They do prefer the normal sized carrots though. Baby carrots have a different texture and do you like them? Neither do I. So your bunny probably won't like them either. Also keep in mind that carrots are a root vegetable and as such contain pesticides in the pulp so you can't wash it off. So buying ORGANIC carrots is the way to go again. Fortunately, organic carrots are not that much more expensive than non-organic.

This time of year though, there is a wonderful alternative to store bought carrots. Look around and wild carrots are everywhere you see. I purposely let the wild carrots grow to about 4 feet high in my yard, wherever they pop up so that the carrot root in the ground can grow as big as possible.

Wild carrots you say? Never heard of them? Well carrots were domesticated from the weed Queen Anne's Lace. That's right! That prolific weed you see just about everywhere right now has a little carrot growing in the ground underneath of it! Granted that wild carrots are pretty small compared to the behemoth vegetables in your supermarket. That's why I like to let the Queen Anne's Lace grow as tall as it can (much to my neighbor's chagrin) before I or my husband go out and pull out the aromatic weed.

Queen Anne's Lace

Here are some photos of the Queen Anne's Lace (bottom photo above, white flower) plant which surely you recognize. You will surely recognize the carrot top leaf (see first photo above) which you are no doubt used to seeing in the grocery store. The Queen Anne's Lace is that lovely white flower that is a bunch of little flowers forming a circular disc-shaped bloom. Let it grow tall and then you'll have some wonderful wild carrots to pull out of the ground at the end of summer!

Be sure that you know where you harvest your wild carrots from have not been sprayed with pesticides. Don't pick them along the highway. It's dangerous for you to be out there and they are covered in exhaust fumes from cars. Pick them in a meadow in the woods in parks or let them grow in a weedy patch of your yard. After you pull the root (the carrot part) out of the ground, smell it. It's not orange but it smells just like carrots because it is a carrot!

Then wash the plant thoroughly to remove any bacteria, fungi, or bugs and scrub the dirt off the root under tap water. Chop the entire thing up (well don't chop up the flower, that's fun for them to do with their teeth) and serve the entire plant to your bunny and enjoy the happy faces you see!

Just pulled, Needs washing and scrubbing.
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 -Thumper S. Thompson
All content and images © Running Bun Magazine. Use without permission prohibited.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Incoming: Earless Rabbit - Stray Needs Much Vet Care

 Glenna the Good
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Here are some photos of the incoming foster rabbit, as yet unnamed female. She has an abscess and had warbles or flystrike - that means maggots burrowing into the flesh to lay eggs. This condition is usually fatal if untreated. The person who found her worked at a vet and said when she was bathed that her ears "just peeled off."

Right now the theory is that she has been a stray since this past winter and suffered frostbite to the ears. But this theory is not hitting home with me. Frostbite usually attacks the extremities, yes, but only the tips. We've taken in stray rabbits in the past who had frostbite but only on the toes. So we'll see what the exotics vet says about this next week when she goes in. This rabbit needs multiple surgeries before she can go up for adoption. Her foster mom, an exotics vet tech, reports that she is using the litter box and seems nice and friendly and calm and no doubt is very happy to be inside and be cared for.

We'll update you more on this poor creature when we have more information. If you can donate towards her care and all the vet care she will need, please use the PayPal donate button on the left side of the screen. We appreciate it! We are a nonprofit, IRS 501c3 all volunteer, charitable animal rescue. Your donations are tax deductible.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Gloved One: Talks Openly About the Hidden Risks of Pododermatitis



Selecting a Qualified
House Rabbit Veterinarian

As a rabbit rescuer, I find the most challenging aspect of rabbit adoption to be convincing the new rabbit caretaker to take their rabbit to a qualified rabbit veterinarian.

I always hear in response, "Oh I have a wonderful veterinarian 3 blocks from my house and he's great with my cat, I really feel very comfortable with him." Well, folks, that's great for your cat! It's great that you don't have to drive very far either, but most responsible rabbit caretakers find themselves with a long drive to find the very best and most qualified exotic veterinarian and are glad to do so.

If you are to be a successful, responsible, and caring house rabbit caretaker, you must research and select a veterinarian for your rabbit just as carefully as you would do to find a specialist for your child.

Jar Jar Binks was neutered by a 'country' vet (or a farmer perhaps) using a staple gun and no painkiller prior to my adopting him. He had xrays later in life which revealed the staples still in his scrotum.
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What's The Fuss All About?

So what is the big deal about rabbit medicine? Why can't just regular, every day dog and cat vets treat your rabbit? Well, the answer is they haven't had any training! How can that be, they went to vet school right? Yes, we hope so, but the problem is that in vet school, the curriculum does not include companion rabbit medicine.

Oh, well, actually it does include an afternoon's lecture on treating rabbits who are being raised for meat or fur and how to keep sick ones from infecting a healthy herd. How is that done? The traditional method of keeping sick rabbits from infecting a healthy herd is to 'cull' them. That's a handy little euphemism for 'kill' that sounds just slightly different. Cull, kill, same thing. Not much of a treatment is it? If you have maybe one or two hutch rabbits in your backyard and you want to keep them breathing a little longer, maybe your cat and dog vet might be able to do that, keep them breathing a little bit longer. They do this by keeping the Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine around the office. It has a short section on rabbit care that was written many, many years ago before it was even safe to spay and neuter bunnies.

So if this is your intention, just to keep them breathing a little longer, you don't need to finish reading this article. But if you want to know more, then read on, dear reader. I will impart to you the secrets of exotic rabbit medicine and how to select and build a team relationship with your qualified rabbit veterinarian.

Rebecca, once paralyzed due to e. cuniculi, made a full recovery
and goes to her exotics vet for an annual wellness exam.

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The Birth of a Great Rabbit Vet

A rabbit specialist is born after they finish vet school. He or she decides they want to specialize in exotics which include not only rabbits, but guinea pigs, birds, small and large rodents, reptiles, and fish. Among these many exotic species, there are those vets who choose one or two of these species to specialize in but for the most part, any exotic vet will help you far more than a cat and dog veterinarian. So now your vet has decided to become a rabbit specialist; at this point, he usually will then work as an intern with an established top exotics vet for several years.

During this time, the intern learns the tricky art of anesthetizing a rabbit without killing them. This is the real acid test of a rabbit vet; do they know how to spay a rabbit successfully by anesthetizing them with either isofluorane or sevofluorane gas? Isofluorane, or 'laughing gas,' is the most commonly used anesthesia for rabbits although it is thought the more expensive sevofluorane offers the patient a quicker recovery time.

By the way, I should quickly note that some cat and dog vets are actually able to neuter rabbits but are not confident in spaying them. They usually do this with injectable anesthesia which is very risky but some of them have become proficient at it. These vets, in particular, are probably ones who have been in practice long enough to remember when male rabbits, or 'bucks,' were neutered with staples (chop! Can you say 'OUCH!'?) and wanted to experiment with something a little less crude. So a handful of 'country' vets here and there may be able to neuter a male this way but that is the extent of their rabbit experience.

In The Doctor's Bag

He or she will also learn about the special drugs which exotic vets keep around the office which are not commonly used on cats and dogs and so there you have yet another reason not to expect a cat/dog vet to be able to treat your rabbit. Special antibiotics such as liquid Baytril (only the pill form is used for cats and dogs) which can be compounded into a tasty mixture in an exotic pharmacy to entice your rabbit to look forward to getting his medicine; trimethsulfate, fenbendazole, and analgesics (painkillers) such as liquid metacam (also called meloxicam) are extremely important for your little rabbit's medical treatment. And it is most certain that your rabbit specialist will carry a good and steady selection of Critical Care for Herbivores by Oxbow Hay Company which is used for assist feeding rabbits, guinea pigs, and other exotics after surgery or during other types of convalescence. If your vet doesn't carry this prescription formula food, they are not a practicing rabbit vet, period.

Most likely, your rabbit-specialist-in-training will also be getting training in treating large birds (parrots) and reptiles too. These drugs are also used for those species and there is debate even among rabbit specialists about the proper dosage or safe length of time to use these drugs for rabbits and other exotics. None of this will be the least bit familiar to a vet whose entire practice is cats and dogs.

After your rabbit specialist is fully trained, he or she should have at least a 99% success rate spaying rabbits; 99.99% is preferable.

Birds and Bunnies

Many wonderful rabbit vets are also avian (bird) vets and may even be a board certified avian vet (ABVP) or maybe even a diplomate certified avian vet (DABVP) which means they did especially well on their board certification exam. Although there is no board certification for rabbit vets yet, it is a general rule of thumb that a good avian vet is also a good bunny vet. This is, for one reason, because birds and bunnies are very similar in their fragile systems and the drugs they can tolerate.

Another important aspect of being an exotic specialist is they can offer your rabbit a quiet, low-stress hospital in which to recover from surgery or other treatment during their stay. Housing a newly spayed rabbit next to a coonhound is a disastrous idea and I have known rabbit caretakers who have lost beloved bunnies because of just this. Rabbit specialists should also subscribe to Exotic DVM magazine in order to stay current with the latest discoveries and treatments. It was in this magazine only as little as 4 years ago that tremendous breakthroughs in treating e. cuniculi, a prevalent blood parasite of rabbits, was reported. If your vet is telling you that e. cuniculi is a death sentence, or that neurological symptoms from it, such as partial paralysis or head tilt, are untreatable or not worth treating, then they are at least five years behind the times or that was probably the last time they attended an exotics conference or rubbed shoulders with a real exotics vet.

Horatio, a little Netherland dwarf, required about fifty stitches during his abscess surgery following his ill-fated attack on a cockatoo. Only a very skilled rabbit vet could have performed this operation.

Horatio's incision not only went up and down his chest (see previous photo) but around his front legs as well. He required the use of anitbiotic bead implants which only qualified rabbit vets have in house.
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Upon Re-examination

So by now, you should have a solid understanding of the difference between rabbit vets and cat and dog vets and why it is so important to take your rabbit to a rabbit veterinary specialist. And it doesn't stop there. Even among the specialists, there will be the good ones, the bad ones and everything in between. I personally drive and hour and a half to the best exotic hospital in three states, and so now you know why I cringe when I hear a prospective adopter tell me, "Oh I have a vet 3 blocks from my house and he's just great with my cat. I feel very comfortable with him." What is your goal? Feeling comfortable with a vet or getting your sick rabbit qualified care? Medicine of any kind is not about getting a warm fuzzy or social interaction. It is a matter of life and death and if the best rabbit vet on Earth has a boorish personality, then grin and bear it. It's worth it.

Your role in your rabbit's medical care is not to have a warm fuzzy from your vet or save on gas money. It's to be as informed as the vet! You should be aware of the latest treatments and understand what is going on in that sophisticated little European sports car called a rabbit. Make sure you get your homework done by picking up a copy of Kathy Smith's Rabbit Health in the 21st Century and make sure you pick a vet for your rabbit who also recommends this book or keep looking. Exotic medicine will cost you more but you will get your money's worth; your rabbit will get well.

 -Thumper S. Thompson
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Splash of Buns 'N Noses



Does Your Rabbit Have
e. Cuniculi,
Pasteurella, or just a cold?

If you don't know the answer, your vet should be able to tell you right away which is the likely culprit.

Over and over, I'm explaining to people why you can't just take your rabbit to just any veterinarian. In a sentence (the title of this little article, above), I've summed it up. If your veterinarian doesn't know what e. cuniculi or pasteurella are, and why they're so deadly to rabbits, and the latest treatments for them, then you shouldn't be going to that vet with your rabbit. You might as well just throw your money out the window. You don't take a Saab or an Audi to your local Shell station for repair do you? (If you had one, that is, I don't either but in a parallell universe, I'm wealthy and have great cars.) Well you have to take that Rabbit to an imported car specialist, too. The point I'm trying to make is, your rabbit veterinarian has to have had special training to treat rabbits.

I remember my very first adopter calling me to 'blame' me for his newly adopted rabbit having developed a jaw abscess. A jaw abscess is a terrible thing, but it is also not a predictable thing. There was no way I could have known that poor little rabbit would have developed an abscess. She needed immediate surgery and her prognosis would have been good. But the adopter, who could have easily afforded the treatment, refused to take the little bunny to a real rabbit vet even when I offered to pay for it! He said, "I'm comfortable with Dr. (Blah blah blah dum dum)." That is no qualification! He also relayed to me, "Dr. (Dum Dum) said it is major surgery and even minor surgery is very risky for rabbits and she doesn't feel comfortable doing it."

I shot him down immediately, "But Fluffy has already had major surgery! She's been spayed! And she recovered just fine!" Yea, Dr. So-and-So, that's pretty major surgery and if you don't feel comfortable doing elective surgery on rabbits, then you should refer your client to someone who does, or to a group like the rabbit rescue who pays for more surgeries on rabbits than you'll ever hope to perform on them, for a referral.

Remember, any vet will gladly take your money and break up their day from seeing cats and dogs, but if they're a responsible vet, they'll tell you the extent of their experience with exotics and whether they are really qualified to help a sick rabbit. Ask them, 'do you think it's e. cuniculi, pasteurella, or just a cold' and if they look taken aback, go somewhere else.

In conclusion, your rabbit's ace in the (rabbit) hole is going to be you carefully choosing a vet for them and trying to stay on top of rabbit medicine yourself as your vet. For more in-depth information on this topic, see my article, Selecting A Qualified House Rabbit Veterinarian. And I highly recommend the book Rabbit Health in the 21st Century by Kathy Smith.

 -Thumper S. Thompson
All content and images © Running Bun Magazine. Use without permission prohibited.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Truth About Vitamin D



Is it the answer to rabbit dental disease?

Frances Harcourt-Brown publishes a new paper on acquired dental disease in house rabbits

Frances Harcourt-Brown is considered by many to be the world's leading rabbit researcher. She is the author of the seminal Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. Although there are many wonderful rabbit medicine practitioners and researchers in this and other countries, Harcourt-Brown, a 1973 graduate of Liverpool University, is generally considered at the forefront of rabbit medicine for a couple of reasons. One reason is that she has espoused rabbit medicine enthusiastically and her practice in the UK is approximately 85% rabbits whereas here in the US, there probably aren't any practices having as high a rate as that of rabbits being seen. The vets that BES bunnies most often go to, SEAVS, is about 65% rabbits and that's the highest we've heard of in this country. Arguably also, there is a higher concentration of rabbit owners per capita in the UK than the US.

That might be because rabbits are a native species in the UK and are not in the US - there are no American rabbits (well, except for the highly endangered tiny pygmy rabbit), there are only hares (cottontails) in the US. So Harcourt-Brown also has access to a large population of wild rabbits to study.

Harcourt-Brown is particularly interested in rabbit dentistry although she has published many peer-reviewed scientific articles on rabbit medicine. The latest of her works is titled, The Progressive Syndrome of Acquired Dental Disease in Rabbits. and was published in the July 2007 Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. Intriguing article title, isn't it? We thought so, so I bought it and now I can relay to you the most important parts of the article for rabbit owners.

For the past year or so, Vitamin D has enjoyed a lot of publicity. If you're like me and stay on top of medical and health news, you've heard a lot of hub-bub about Vitamin D. Certain media outlets, like Life Extension Foundation, are usually years ahead of the rest of the media in reporting on what will soon be hot topics. That's where we read about the Vitamin D 'epidemic' four years ago and have watched with interest as medical media and general media outlets around the country have finally caught up. Not only are people not getting enough Vitamin D, but neither are house rabbits! And, according to Harcourt-Brown and other rabbit researchers, that could be a key cause of rabbit dental disease.

My first rabbit, Darth, didn't wake up from his last molar trim. He was an 11 year old little 2 lb. Netherlands dwarf, a darling little fellow much like Spike. His teeth were particularly bad. His trim frequency had gone from every two months to every two weeks. I ended up driving all over Kingdom Come trying to find the best price on his trims. I ended back at the place where I started though with his final trim because all that driving was wearing us both down. For his last trim, he was dehydrated from drooling with pain and he didn't wake up. We were very sad but we also couldn't afford that anymore. Still, he lived a long, dignified life. Really, we should have thrown in the towel earlier, but it is very hard to know when it's time to do that.

Not all rabbit dental disease is this bad. But what happens is, your rabbit's molars, which are supposed to have a flat surface, grow pointy and sharp and pierce the tongue, or roof and/or sides of the mouth causing pain and infection. And they can't eat. The vet puts him under anaesthesia and trims the points down with a Dremel-like tool.

Harcourt-Brown's new article discusses not only appropriate treatment, which has changed in the past several years, but also things like exposure to sunlight, the lack of which may be a key cause of this syndrome.


Many people don't understand what Vitamin D and sunshine have to do with rabbit's teeth. Good question! Sunlight or sunshine allows your body to synthesize, or build, Vitamin D. Vitamin D allows your rabbit's body to metabolize, or utilize, calcium. Calcium is needed by the teeth and bones. In rabbits, teeth grow perpetually, so they need to be able to effectively metabolize calcium all their life. Yes, you can get Vitamin D from other sources than sunlight, like fish and algae, and a few other plant sources [editor's note: supplementing Vitamin D in the diet is dangerous and can be toxic if not supervised by a medical professional, sunlight or artificial lighting simulating sunlight cannot be toxic as the body simply stops synthesizing Vitamin D from these sources when sufficient levels are reached]. But those sources got their Vitamin D by synthesizing it from the UV in sunlight. And not just any sunlight, it has to be a certain wave-length of sunlight which is most accessible around high noon.

I talked to a few vets about Vitamin D lately and its possible relation to this rabbit dental problem. They had varying opinions on whether increased sunlight exposure would be useful, but that's all they were, opinions. It is not really known right now just how this would affect the new syndrome Harcourt-Brown describes in her paper. But she does make some interesting conclusions. "Most pet rabbits are housed indoors or in hutches and are proteccted from sunlight, so they are unable to synthesize Vitamin D," she says. If that is so, then a little sunlight could go a long way toward helping ease not only dental issues, but bladder sludge, bladder stones, and the like. Leading US rabbit advocate (and Chapter Manager of the Florida House Rabbit Society) Dana Krempels, PhD, seems to agree about the sunlight factor and dental disease (see link for comment).

Let the Sunlight Pour Down

It should be noted though that the sunlight must fall directly on the animal. Sunlight coming through a glass window has the UV filtered out by the glass and is of no use in the context we are discussing here. For people who keep parrots and reptiles, we have long known that this a vital part of those animals' living requirements. Parrot people who live in climates where it is too cold most of the year to take their birds outside, purchase special full spectrum lights which simulate the sunlight spectrum and these have been proven to be beneficial to the birds, and people as well (who suffer from SAD). There is no possibility of a toxic amount of of this light as the body simply stops synthesizing Vitamin D once it has enough. And, your body (and also your rabbit's) can store Vitamin D for later use. So if a rabbit's required 'photoperiod' is 5 minutes a day, and he gets 35 minutes of noonday sun in one day, that's enough for that week.

There are risks, though, in taking your rabbit outside. Predators, escape, pathogens, pesticides, and other dangers lurk about. If you do take your rabbits outside regularly to munch on some grass in the noonday sun, be sure that the grass is pesticide-free and that it's a dry day. More humid days make for more pathogens swimming about in the air and on the ground. Harcourt-Brown also says, "Significantly higher PTH and lower blood calcium levels have been found in rabbits without dental disease and living outside in natural conditions." Finally, an interesting note Harcourt-Brown makes, "Despite its prevalence in the pet rabbit population, PSADD is not documented in laboratory rabbits, even though the majority of these animals are not provided with twigs, grass, hay, or any other abrasive diet."

In Conclusion

She goes on to include, "Similar (dental) radiological changes to those that occur in rabbits with PSADD have been recorded in the incisors of genetically obese laboratory mice. In the mouse study, restricting the food intake prevented the (dental) changes taking place, which is the opposite expected result if the dental pathology was due to insufficient chewing." These two observations, that lab rabbits do not develop PSADD, and that elimination of obesity in lab mice eliminates PSADD in mice, are packed with potentialities. And more research I'm sure will be done on these two topics by Harcourt-Brown.

In the meantime, it is certainly a good idea to look into making sure your rabbit gets their true 'photoperiod' each day, or the amount of time required by a certain animal to obtain their needed amount of sunlight. And also to keep them slim and trim. An aside, cats are the only animals that, other than invertebrates who manufacture their own Vitamin D, do not require sunlight in order to synthesize the Vitamin D hormone.

One final note on this article by Harcourt-Brown, she clearly opines that doing a minimal trim on maloccluded teeth is preferable over the now 'old school' approach, which is to trim them down to the base of the gum line. Doing this, she notes, only causes the tooth to grow back faster and more deformed and destroys enamel of which rabbits have a finite amount during their lifetimes. This would be a good thing to discuss with your vet if your rabbit is going in for regular trims. I personally, will request this in the future, although it won't be necessary really since this is already how my vets are doing it. But I will still double check just to be sure.

 -Thumper S. Thompson

All content and images © Running Bun Magazine. Use without permission prohibited.