Listen To Their Tummies

Did you know that you should almost always be able to hear the gentle gurgling sounds going on inside your rabbit’s tummy? This is an important way to know what is going on inside your rabbit’s gut. I recommend that you learn the good from the bad sounds.

Put your ear on the side of your bunny’s tummy and listen closely. You should hear the gentle gurgling of the food and the gas being produced in his gut slowly passing through his system. I believe that you should do this often and familiarize yourself with this healthy sound.

The sounds you do not want to hear are no gurgling at all (stasis) or big popping noises (gas). I recommend that a rabbit lover learn to distinguish these sounds. It can be an invaluable tool to quickly tell what is ailing your bunny, if he suddenly stops eating.

Of course, there are many other reasons that they can stop eating, such at illness or teeth problems, etc., but if you have a rabbit who is prone to digestive issues, this is a great way to help figure out if a vet visit is in order, right away.

Rabbits produce gas all the time, since they are fermenters. Any of you who have ever made homebrew beer know that the process creates a huge amount of gas. The same is true for the rabbits’ digestive system when they process their food.

Normally, this is not a problem and it all simply passes on through. The problem is when it does not pass right out and causes a painful balloon like condition. We humans know the pain that a small amount of gas can cause in our stomachs. Rabbits can experience discomfort if there is any kind of slowdown in the movement of this gas from inside their bodies.

Some foods and situations, such as being stressed cause extra gas that they can have difficulty getting out. It will often cause them to immediately stop eating, which is usually our first indication that they are experiencing the pain or discomfort.

All good bunny parents always have baby gas drops (liquid simethicone) on hand at all times. If you hear a lot of loud popping sounds, instead of the usual gentle gurgling sounds then maybe it is time for a few doses of the baby gas drops. This is usually the first treatment I will give a bunny with an upset stomach.

They make it slightly sweet so it is palatable for babies, so most bunnies will not hate the taste, still it is somewhat of a challenge to give to most rabbits. You should learn how to give medications to your bunny, since no rabbit likes it and there will most likely come a time when it will become necessary. Liquid medication should be given with a syringe or dropper by angling the syringe at a 45 degree angle to his nose. You enter right behind his large from teeth and in front of his rear molars in the space where there is no teeth.

Be careful to not drown your rabbit by injecting it all at once down his throat and go slowly to give him a chance to swallow it drop by drop. Once mine get the taste, they will sometimes lap it up if they are not too sick. Really sick bunnies will not want to eat anything at all and must be forced to take their medicines. Still, proceed with caution.

I give one full dropper full (which is about a full .cc or .ml) to the bunny every half hour until he/she has had three or four doses. Then I proceed with another dose every four to six hours. I very very rarely get to the point where I am giving those doses four to six hours later. It works pretty fast, if that is the true problem.

If your rabbit is still needing medication four to six hours later, you really should not be delaying getting him to the rabbit specialist vet any longer. You are wasting precious time by trying to treat a sick bunny on your own. A lot of people do this because they do all they can to avoid those expensive vet bills, but often delaying going to the vet just makes things a lot worse.

I truly do not recommend trying self treatment for more than an hour or two because unless you are almost certain that you are simply dealing with a mild intestinal issue, you could be wasting precious time for your bunny. Most rabbit lovers do not have the experience to deal with intestinal issues in their rabbit.

Most of the time these gas drops are just buying you precious time until you can get your bunny to the vet for some real treatment. They are by no means a substitute for vet care during GI stasis or bloat conditions. Those conditions require a much more serious medical regimen or your rabbit will most certainly die. Please do not underestimate the necessity for taking your rabbit right away to his vet specialist when he stops eating or pooping.

Can I Help You?

It is a good morning that I don’t wake up to one or two panicked emails from bunny owners who have rabbits who are dying and they are seeking advice from me. Don’t get me wrong, I want to help people all I can, especially rabbits in dire need. It is just very hard to not think about some poor defenseless bunny at the mercy of someone thousands of miles away who may or may not take my advice.

Most often, I have to tell them to simply find and take their bunny to a rabbit specialist vet. Almost always, they have never visited a vet before and most certainly not a rabbit specialist. I know that many areas are not blessed with a plethora of vets who are trained to work with rabbits, but part of having a pet bunny is at least knowing where the nearest vet is located, should you ever need to see him in an emergency. When minutes count, do you want to spend a few hours trying to found out where it is you will have to go with your bunny.

The harsh reality is that every day a pet bunny somewhere gets in trouble and needs help from his human. Often, whether or not the little guy survives depends on how long before the owner notices that something is wrong and how he reacts. Our reaction will usually depend on the knowledge that we have about bunnies and the resources available at the time. Many rabbit vets do not work on weekends and so what do you do if your bunny is in distress late Saturday night? I have had this happen several times, myself.

If you are reading this blog, then you obviously have the internet available and that can be a wonderful thing. There is a wealth of information on tap there, but beware of some advice you may find. Finding a factoid posted more than once does not mean that much, since often the same misinformation has been copied and pasted from one website to another. Still, most of the time you will be getting good information, which in an emergency can be better than nothing.

Understanding that being desperate for some answers about what to do in an emergency leads to me receiving dozens of letters each week from distressed bunny lovers about their pets. Often, I can respond that most likely there is nothing to worry about, such as the myriad of emails I get from people the first time their bunny does some bright red or orange pee (I probably get that one once a week… haha). Other times I lose sleep worrying about the fate of some bunny whom I am sure was barely hanging on when their owner wrote me. With the popularity of Facebook amongst bunny lovers these days, I get even more amazing communications.

It is a good thing, since it means that we are slowly getting our message of rabbit education out there to the public, but it is also a double edged sword. When you put yourself out there like I do, you get lots of the horrible “dead bunny” stories, too. It is hard not to think about some of them and usually after my reply, I rarely hear back from the person about what happened. When I do, it is never good news, so it is one of those “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situations.

Really, the only way that hundreds of rabbits are not going to continue to die every day from the “stupid owner syndrome” (don’t worry, we have all had it) is to educate the masses. When it becomes common knowledge how to properly keep a pet rabbit, most of these saddening emails will stop. Stories like my neighbor’s dog just ate my rabbit to my rabbit stopped eating two days ago are virtually all from lack of common knowledge. With rabbits, a little prevention goes a long way to avoiding these kind of sad stories.

So go ahead and please do write me or post in my blog. I will do what I can to help you and possibly even help you save your bunny, but please don’t wait until it is too late and your bunny is on death’s doorstep to do so. I am here to help you.

The Bunny Guy

Red Eyes, Eye Scanning & Rabbit Vision

Many aspects of how rabbits are put together are a mystery to the people who have them. This article is to help unravel one of those mysteries for you, a rabbit’s vision.

We see a broad color spectrum with lots of depth perception to help us navigate the world around us. Rabbits being prey animals, have evolved with eyes on both sides of their head in order to see 360 degrees. This is so they can always be on the lookout for approaching predators. Ironically, a rabbit has a blind spot directly in front of their nose. Their whiskers and smell are normally used to detect things in that area (and sometimes their teeth).

REW Bunny (red eye white)

REW Bunnies (red eye white) tend to eye scan the most

Bunnies are far sighted and do not see very well up close. They also tend to see in greens and blues because most of their food is green stuff.

Rabbits see things in two dimensions. They do not easily tell distance and have virtually no depth perception. They can see a cat, but cannot visually tell if it is ten feet or fifty feet away. Their vision can identify a cat, but they tend to use their other senses such as smell and hearing to determine how far away it is.

When a rabbit sees things with both eyes, he sees a flat picture that is similar to page in a coloring book. Imagine taking one of those extra wide panoramic pictures and wrapping it completely around your head and then being able to see the whole picture at once. This is hard for most people to imagine and conceptualize. This is why we don’t easily understand a rabbit’s vision. It is absolutely nothing like our own.

Then add to that the lack of a full color spectrum and the inability to see things up close and now you are beginning to understand a rabbit’s vision. This is why they tend to rely more on their hearing and sense of smell to alert them to danger around them. Their vision is important, but for up close work (like eating) they use their nose more than their eyes.

I often have people ask me about a common rabbit phenomenon called, eye scanning. It is a bit disturbing the first time you see it and it consists of a rabbit kind of weaving and bobbing like a drunk person in order to look at something. The first time I saw it, I thought the bunny was developing some kind of neurological problem or MS.

It turns out that it is more common in red eye bunnies, but I have seen a couple of non-red eye bunnies do it, as well. Usually the bunny will be sitting upright and his head will kind of weave from side to side. If you look closely, you will see that he is eying or looking closely as something, switching from one eye to the other in his gazing at it.

What he is actually doing is trying to get a better look at something, by using both eyes to view it. I think that for some rabbits, it helps them better gauge their surroundings. I think that they do it more when they are unsure of a location or curious about what is happening nearby.

My big New Zealand bunny does not care for cats and will thump whenever she sees or hears them. Often, she will start thumping and I cannot figure out what she is alerted to. Then I will see a cat way way off in the distance that she is seeing. To her she just sees a cat. She does not know if it is ten feet away or over one hundred feet away, like it really is.

Another common mystery is, why rabbits have red or pink eyes. This is actually the result of albinism. It was intentionally bred into bunnies in order to have a blood line that would produce all white bunnies all the time. Albinos of all species have pink or red eyes because it is due to the complete lack of pigmentation within their bodies. Normally it is a mutation, but this mutation has been bred to exclude all other varieties, in rabbits.

This is usually a recessive trait in most species and so when any genes are present to give color, the color is dominant and will be present. However, it is possible for a non-albino to give birth to an albino (all white with pink eye) offspring due to both parents have the recessive gene hidden in their DNA.

Albinos are sensitive to sunlight, due to their lack of pigmentation and red eye white rabbits are no exception. They can find glaring bright sunlight a bit annoying and will often seek shade to comfort their sensitive eyes. Keep this in mind when taking your red eye bunny out and about. Their sensitive eyes and skin do not like hot direct sunlight.

Affording Medical Care For My Bunny

I am going to be brutally blunt here, right off the bat. If you cannot afford or are unwilling to pay for emergency medical care for your rabbit(s), then you probably should not have one.

Rabbit vet care can be very expensive. It is just as pricey or even more so than vet care for a dog or cat. People routinely are faced with $1000+ bills when a bunny gets sick and needs medical care. It is not a matter of “if” you will get one of these bills when owning a rabbit, but simply “when”.

As with all creatures, the older you get, the more you will need to see a medical professional.  Because rabbits are exotic pets, they will need to see a specialist. Dog and cat vets simply do not have the expertise or knowledge to treat your sick rabbit.

Do you want your doctor looking up how to treat a serious illness on the internet before he treats you. It does not instill confidence or give you much hope when you know that your doctor is treating or seeing a medical problem for the very first time.

A rabbit specialist is critical for your pet’s survival, when he is seriously ill. If you care about your pet, you want to give him the best chance at making it and so it means you must use a more expensive rabbit specialist vet to provide the best care possible.

After having lost a couple bunnies to dog and cat vets, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a rabbit specialist vet available when your bunny needs one. This is definitely going to cost you something and bearing the expense is part of being a responsible pet owner.

Would you not take your children to a doctor or dentist if they were sick or in pain? Would you not find a way to get them care, even if you could not afford it? It is the same for pets.

You must find a way to get the proper care to a sick animal, regardless of the cost and whether you have the funds readily available. IF this means putting it on a credit card or finding a friend to let you put it on their credit card, it just needs to be done. You don’t hesitate and let someone die because it is not convenient or affordable for them to live.

What defines us as a society and as human beings is our reluctance to accept and allow others to suffer. To turn your back on an animal or other creature that needs your help, makes you less human. To be human is to empathize and feel the pain that others feel. It is part of what we are as a species.

So I get back to my point. You have a responsibility as a pet owner to provide good and proper care for your charges and do all in your power to prevent abuse and suffering.

This translates into a huge weight that must be shouldered when you have several pets and maybe even some human children, too. I have met many families who have several children and a house full of pets on top of that. Most of them are very responsible and provide very well for them. What worries me is when I hear people making excuses about avoiding expenses and vet care that they know are necessary.

The bottom line is if you cannot afford five or six kids, two dogs, three cats and two bunnies, then what in the heck are doing getting in over your head like that? I know it is with good intentions that we take on such huge responsibilities, but why burden you and your family with what you know eventually will become unbearable? It is only a matter of time before a menagerie like that will become very expensive.

Should you really be taking on that third dog, that sixth bunny, that tenth cat. Some of us try and rescue every critter that needs our help, but I can tell you from experience that rescue work can easily become a full time job. It takes a lot of dedication to have a full time rescue job, especially if you have a family, too. All the work and time are nothing compared to the expense that can be incurred, regularly. I have seen more than one family go broke trying to rescue animals. This is why rescue is best done in a group where the time, expense and responsibility can be shared. I know that there is a fine line between rescue and hoarding pets.

To me, when your “rescues” are being harmed by your inability to provide proper care, including medical care, then you have crossed the line.

I recently met a family who has spent an enormous sum of money to spay and neuter a large unexpected litter of bunnies. Even with discount services and HRS rebates, their expense for this stretched the family budget to the limit. They were trying their best to cope with ten bunnies that were now part of their family, but it was a disaster waiting to happen.

The number of times your bunnies will visit a vet seem to be directly related to the level of experience you have as a bunny lover. The less you know about bunnies, the more often you make mistakes and the more likely you will be making frequent vet visits. I always tell people that it is a long journey to learn about rabbits. It takes time and you will make mistakes.

Now multiply this inexperience factor by ten rabbits and it is almost guaranteed that there will be more vet bills to follow. This is where you must make a decision. How do you afford the inevitable vet bills for so many bunnies? If you are independently wealthy or make a lot of money, that is good, but what about the average person? How do you afford so many rabbits?

There are pet medical insurance policies but they can be impractical, since they charge by the animal. Five or six animals would end up getting expensive with just the monthly premiums, alone.

Anecdotally, the family with ten rabbits suddenly found that half of their buns were very sick. They were in dire need of a vet, but now they are seeing an impending vet bill TIMES FIVE! They were already strapped for money from spaying and neutering all of those rabbits. To save money, they wanted to take one bunny in to the vet and hope that they could get enough medications to treat all five. I am not saying that was not a well intentioned plan, but how do you decide which bunny gets to see a doctor and which ones will not? Do you see where I am going with this?

This is where you have to ask yourself, is ten rabbits too many for a family who cannot afford them? I cannot answer that for them, but I know that the answer for me is, yes.

The Bunny Guy

Are We Activists?

It has taken me a few days to gather my thoughts so that I could write this blog. I became aware of a big rabbit rescue case back east by reading some posts on my Facebook timeline.

There was a person who is very well known in the rabbit breeder and show world who was reported to the local Humane Society. This was purportedly done by member of the House Rabbit Society.

When the local authorities went to his property, they confiscated 375 rabbits. Rabbits were this man’s world. When you have that many rabbits, you must eat, breathe and sleep with bunnies.

Some say that the conditions that the buns were living in was not humane and so the man was charged with a crime. In my study on this case, I read the comments from many people who had seen the videos of the conditions from the news reports. They said that the operation was a typical rabbitry and no worse than any other.

I personally have not viewed the video, but I am convinced that this is probably true. I have worked in rabbit shelters for years and know that taking care of just 30-40 rabbits is a full time job. You can spend hours cleans and trying to care for them and as soon as you are done, it is dirty again. It is a never ending job.

Having witnessed a couple rabbit breeding operations, they are not usually kept as clean or nice as we do at a shelter. Rabbits are housed in wire bottom cages to simplify the job for the owner (farmer). The waste just falls through the bottom of the cages into some kind of collection system.

Since the rabbits are not spayed or neutered, there is a lot of spraying by the males going on. They squirt their pee all over the place, like most un-neutered males do, and so there are usually splash guards in place to minimize the effect. Still, it is a huge job to keep the urine spray under control. The caustic bunny pee really eats up and stains anything it touches.

This all creates a relatively dirty environment when you have over a hundred bunnies living in one area. Even if you were cleaning it up all the time it would never be spotless, because by the time you got it half done, the bunnies would have peed and pooped it up again. haha

I am not trying to justify any of the conditions these bunnies were living in. I am simply stating that in all probability, this operation was no better or worse than most other legal rabbit breeding businesses.

It was very enlightening to read and digest the messages by the supporters of this very popular person who was incarcerated in the story. Their take on the whole matter was that a bunch of “rabbit activists” had started all of this.

As the drama played out on Facebook, I realized that there were many more of the rabbit breeders and hobbyists who showed and bred rabbits, than House Rabbit advocates. They viewed our ideas as fringe and wacky, because rabbits are livestock.

I read comments like, “We don’t understand why all those west coast shelters are overloaded with bunnies. When we have too many rabbits we just put them in the freezer.”

Others said, “Sure, people have pet cows and pet pigs, but if you let them live in your house with you, then you deserve the destruction that you get from it. It’s their business if they want to let rabbits chew up and destroy everything in their houses.”

So what we have here is an animal who is caught between two completely different worlds. On one hand, we have the majority of people who think that rabbits are livestock and on the other we have the people who think bunnies are nice pets.

Most of the people who consider bunnies as pets, do not think that they should be treated as livestock. To people who associate them with agriculture and eat them, that position is extreme.

Should people be allowed to farm or breed rabbits at all? I don’t think that anyone who eats beef, pork or any other farmed meat can honestly say no. This is why many rabbit lovers are vegetarian or vegan.

My opinion is that we already have it both ways, so we need laws recognizing the duality. There are millions of rabbits who live in farm conditions and thousands more who live as beloved pets. In California, they are solely livestock in the eyes of the law. This validates the position of the masses that rabbits are meant to live outdoors in miserable conditions destined for a horrible death at the whim of his owners.

Yet millions of people are slowly learning the joys of having a companion rabbit. As their popularity grows as pets, so does the glaring conflict for rabbits: pets vs livestock.

You cannot have a rabbit and call him a pet, then treat him as if he were livestock. The biggest problem I run into trying to educate people is teaching them this difference. A rabbit who lives in a cage in the back yard just eating pellets is not a pet. Pets live with you and you share the enjoyment of the human/animal bond. Otherwise, what is the point?

Will the “activism” or advocating for rabbits stop people from farming animals? I truly doubt it. I believe that vegetarians will always be a minority and that there will always be farms. Still I see a march towards more humane treatment for all animals, because public awareness has demanded it.

We have recently seen Europe ban all animal testing and California enact laws to require some livestock be kept in more acceptable conditions. I think the idea is that suffering is not meant to be part of the equation, regardless of whether you plan on eating the critter or not.

The USA recently shamed itself in the eyes of the world by allowing Congress to pass a law to make it a federal crime to secretly video the conditions at factory farms and processing centers. This means that regardless of the laws, there will be no whistle blowers or anyone to enforce them. This is our powerful agricultural lobby flexing it’s muscle against this new demand by the public for less suffering of the animals caught up in the food chain.

For a rabbit, his lot in life is solely dependent on whether he was born by a breeder at a farm or a breeder who sells to pet stores. One will live about six months and be killed and the other has a chance to live a happy long life of 10+ years with a family. I have always said that if you are a rabbit and live in my house that you have hit the lottery. haha

My bunnies are so spoiled. I love spoiling them. I volunteer at shelters and donate to rescues because I believe that there is a place for rabbits as pets in our lives. They are more than just livestock. If this makes me an activist, then I guess I am.

The Bunny Guy

Therapy Rabbits Bring Smiles

Star and Snickers in their stroller during a therapy session.

Star and Snickers in their stroller during a therapy session.

I thought I would post this blog about Pet Assisted Therapy.

My focus has always been education about rabbits and so I almost turned down the opportunity to take a couple of my bunnies to one of these therapy sessions. I know a friend whose bunny went to classes to become a certified therapy rabbit, so I thought that mine would have to do this, too.

It turned out that the nursing homes that we have been visiting gladly accepted us to come visit them, without any kind of certification. They were so glad that our rabbits were interacting with their patients, no one was worried about their lack of credentials but me.

Star is a notorious nipper, but only when she wants to tell you something. Not wanting her to have an excuse to ever nip, I never let anyone hold her during our outings. She usually only nips when she wants to tell you that she needs to use her litter box or wants down from your lap. It is never a hard nip, but it would be totally unacceptable if it happened to a patient.

I solved this problem by bringing them inside their stroller. My rabbits love to sit quietly and get ear rubs and pets. Snickers has learned to lean way out of the stroller to beg for pets, if someone tries to ignore him or does not immediately do it.

During some of the rounds to visit the bed-ridden patients, Snickers like to hop out of the stroller on his own onto their bed. He thinks it is fun to get some pets and then hop back into his stroller to tell Star all about it. Everyone thinks it is so cute and Snickers has never nipped anyone ever in the year that he has been with us, so I think he is really a perfect rabbit for this.

Snickers hopping back and forth entertaining a patient.

Snickers hopping back and forth entertaining a patient.

My point of this article is that this has turned out to be one of the most fun and rewarding things that I do with my rabbits. I am so passionately focused on rabbit education, I initially did not see the value in talking to people who would most likely never have a pet rabbit during their lifetime.

What I found instead, was a glow of happiness that they spread where ever they went in the process. I highly recommend that if you have an adventurous rabbit who likes ear rubs to try doing this. The ones that I do are through a local Humane Society. The nursing homes usually make a donation to the shelter in return for our coming to visit, so it is a win-win for everyone.

I was very surprised how much my rabbits actually enjoy all of this attention, with Snickers begging for ear rubs and Star smiling while getting pet. The smiles on the faces of the patients are also very heart warming, too. It gives you a good feeling for the next couple days when you think about it. It only takes about an hour once a month, but I have truly grown to enjoy doing it, almost as much as my bunnies do.

The Bunny Guy

Deadly Combination? Rabbits With Other Pets

One of the most common questions that I get asked by the public when I am at educational events is whether rabbits will get along with their other pets, such as dogs and cats. My answer is always the same: It depends on the dog or cat, not the rabbit. Rabbits are vegans and get along with all creatures.

This is a tough subject to write about at this moment, because a tragic thing happened last weekend that made me contemplate this issue. A friend who was fostering some rabbits that he rescued accidentally had his dogs get into the area that he was keeping the bunnies and they were killed. I am absolutely certain that no one was more horrified or saddened than this family.

They had with all good intentions saved these bunnies (mother and daughter) from a miserable existence in a petting zoo. They were not spayed and so were most likely going to suffer from tumors or cancer before they were four years old. After bringing them home, the family discovered that the daughter had a terrible malocclusion of her front teeth, so they had two surgeries to correct that problem. Both girls were also spayed, at considerable expense for this family.

Someone working at their home, left a door open and the tragedy occurred. While thinking about this sad story, I thought that this certainly happens hundreds of times a day across America. It is not because anyone intentional wishes for this to happen, but rather it is purely an accident. In my mind, this begs the question, “Should you even have a pet rabbit, if you have another animal who will potentially harm him?”

star and buns 067

Result of a predator attacking a pet bunny.

This is a tough question, but from the rabbit’s point of view in every case, I am sure you can say that the answer is probably a NO. I think it is one thing, if you have a dog or cat that you feel will learn to live in harmony with the bunny. I have seen this in many families and it worked for many years in mine. Millions of people have pet dogs, cats and bunnies living together happily.

Where I think the problem arises is when you have a critter whom you know will harm your rabbit and decide that you can keep them separate and protected from each other for long term. First off, I want to say that the rabbit virtually always comes out the loser, if for a single second you fail. I have heard this story about an accidental death of a bunny too many times to count. If it is so common, then why does it happen so often?

Maybe the problem is that we underestimate the prey drive of our other predator pets, like dogs and cats and overestimate our bunny’s ability to survive being bitten, even once by one of them. A dog does not even have to be trying to harm a rabbit to kill him. Most of the time when a dog hurts a bunny, he is trying to play with him.

A rabbit darting quickly across the room or yard sets off an instinct in many dogs that is just so intense that they cannot resist it. Before you can say two words, the deed is done.

Is this preventable? Possibly, but it is almost inevitable, even if you are very careful. You may prevent this deadly interaction for years, but it only takes a second of negligence and nature takes it course. In the case of my friend, it was a worker who was not used to constantly having to think about protecting the rabbits when the disaster happened. It could have happened to anyone, and IT DOES. It happens all the time.

Do you see that look in his eyes?

Do you see that look in his eyes?

This is why I have decided that it is truly not a good idea to have a pet rabbit and a dog or cat with a prey drive. No matter how well that you think you can do at keeping the bunny safe and happy, he is not going to be happy unless he gets time to run and play. If he is running and playing where a dangerous dog has the potential to attack him, then we have a problem.

One needs to honestly assess whether your dog/cat is one who would TRULY be a good companion for a bunny. If you have an older dog who likes to cuddle with a cat buddy and licks him, then you might have a dog who can get along with a rabbit. If you have a dog who chases squirrels or cats in the park, who wants to play rough with you all the time and is very puppy-like or hyperactive, he probably should not live anywhere near a house bunny. This takes an honest unselfish approach on the matter.

Why sentence a rabbit to a horrible violent death by choosing to bring one home because he is “just so cute”, knowing that your pet rottweiler would love to make him lunch, the first chance he gets. In my opinion, is just selfish and wrong-headed.

It can get a lot trickier when you are actually trying to make this choice in the moment and thinking about adopting or rescuing a bun. The answer is usually not just so black and white. I feel that when making this decision that you need to be very objective and remember that having a pet house rabbit is simply not for everyone. Forcing the issue and taking on a bunny, when in your heart you know you shouldn’t, is just a disaster waiting to happen. Maybe you need to wait until your situation changes at a later part of your life.

As I said, this is a tough issue and I am sure a lot of folks will disagree or have their own perspective on this issue. Please share your thoughts. What do you think?

The Bunny Guy

Have You Found The Right Vet, Yet?

I have had an awful lot of very sad email this past month from desperate bunny owners whom are seeking advice from me about their sick bunnies. While I enjoy educating the public, I am not a rabbit veterinarian. Even with my dozens of years of rabbit experience, I am nowhere near an expert on rabbit medical issues.

Rabbit specialist veterinarians are Avian Exotics trained. They are technically bird doctors, but this is the specialty that is formally acknowledged as rabbit experts. I could never be anything close to that, because these vets often spend decades learning and working with ill bunnies.

This leads to another issue, which is that dog and cat vets often only see 5 or 6 bunnies a year. This is not the way to gain experience with bunnies. Having your vet searching for the right medication or treatment on the internet, is not a comforting feeling and when it comes to rabbits, experience is everything.

I work as a rabbit educator every year at the National Veterinarian’s Convention held here in San Diego and get to speak with hundreds of vets and their assistants from around the country. It is amazing how little some of them know about rabbits. What is even scarier is that if you brought them a sick bunny, I am sure most of them would try to treat him… BUT, do you think that your rabbit would be getting the finest in medical care at that point?

The truth is I have made this same mistake. The first time I took my bunny to my dog’s vet to ask why he always had mushy poop stuck to his butt. I asked if it was anything I was feeding him and the vet told us to just feed him unlimited pellets and he would be fine. I got a big hopper feeder and did exactly that. Of course, it only made his problem worse.

That poor bunny had almost daily butt baths and eventually died in this vet’s office. I will not go into the gory details. This illustrates to need to qualify the vet that you bring your rabbit to visit, which means you want one who sees a lot of rabbits, all of the time. You do not have to be an Avian Exotic Specialist to be a good rabbit vet. Instead, a vet needs to do a lot of study and work with rabbits to be up on the latest antibiotics and treatments for common rabbit ailments. Rabbit medicine is changing rapidly and so this is important.

It is easy to find a rabbit specialist vet in my area, because we have a couple dozen of them. Our local chapter of the House Rabbit Society lists all the bunny approved vets on their website and publications. Other House Rabbit Society Chapters also publish their own local lists. Go to the national HRS website to find a list of local chapters. They even have a vet list of their own, but the local chapter’s website will probably be more up to date and have more options.

If you happen to live in an area that does not have a House Rabbit Society affiliate, then search out your local rabbit rescue people. You may even be able to contact your local Humane Society to find who in your area is active with rescuing rabbits. These are the people who are going to know whom the good bunny vets are locally. It is a highly effective method to home in on a good rabbit specialist. Searching on your own, can be disappointing and a good reference is important when seeking medical treatment.

I highly recommend that you find your vet before you ever get a bunny. If you already have a rabbit, but still do not have a regular vet for him, then what are you waiting for? After your rabbit is already sick, is not a good time to frantically be searching for one. This will lead you to taking your bunny to the wrong vet almost every time. Again, I speak from experience. As our local bail bondsman says in his local TV commercials, “Better to know me and not need me, than to need me and not know me”.

Another really important thing to do with your bunny and his vet BEFORE he ever gets sick is to get a blood panel run on him while he is HEALTHY. Rabbit blood test values can vary dramatically from rabbit to rabbit. When your rabbit’s vet does not have anything to compare a test with, he is only guessing as to what is out of whack. This can waste precious and valuable time when trying to diagnose a sick bunny. When you know what the healthy values are, it is a lot easier for your bunny’s doctor to diagnose and treat him.

The last issue I would like to address is that you should learn how to tell when your bunny is sick. I always tell people that if you think your rabbit is sick, HE IS. Rabbits hide the fact that they are sick, because they are prey animals. Any break from a normal daily routine should may you suspect something.

Don’t jump right to conclusions and get dramatic, but if your rabbit normally never sits and hides in an out of the way place and now he is doing it, that should be a red flag. Now you should be paying attention to see if he truly is not feeling well. I will offer a small healthy treat to my bunny at that point, like his favorite dried herb or a sprig of parsley. If he refuses that, I am not super aware that something is just not right.

I may watch him for a few minutes, noting his posture and body language. I will feel his ears to see if he is cold or warm. Rabbits should not have ice cold ears, if indoors at room temperature. As soon as you have determined that your bunny is not OK, it is time for a call to his vet. The clock is now ticking.

I have written before about how to tell from body posture, if your bunny is hurting or ill. I cover this topic in Rabbit Communication, extensively in my new book, “The Bunny Lover’s Complete Guide To House Rabbits”. Get your copy for a lot more detailed explanation of what your rabbit is trying to say to you.

Meanwhile, you have got all the basics and if you still have not found the perfect vet for your rabbit, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

The Bunny Guy

No Such Thing As A Pet Rabbit?

I was informed this week that an event that I have attended as an educator for the past three years would not allow us to bring our bunnies this year. The Paw-In-The-Park held in Escondido is put on by the Escondido Humane Society and numerous sponsors. When the permits for the event were issued, it was stipulated that ONLY dogs would be allowed. We were basically told that our rabbits would not be welcome, even though they had done this many times before.

It reminded me of something that happened last summer. I have a group of friends who like to go out to dinner with our rabbits each week. We call it “Bunny Night Out”. Often, we just go to a local street fair and eat the street food, but during the summer it gets too crowded to push the buns in their strollers. During these times, we will all meet at a restaurant with a “dog friendly” outdoor patio.

Our favorite was a Japanese place that we had all been to many times before. One day after we had all ordered, the manager came up and told us we would have to leave. It appears that a complaint was made to the CA Health Dept. about our previous visit. This prompted a visit by a Health Inspector who informed the restaurant that they would be fined if we were allowed to return.

Not to get into the mental state of a person who would make such a complaint, my point is that while dogs are considered pets and therefore welcomed on pet-friendly patios, rabbits are still classified as “livestock” in the state of California. This was a technical violation of Health Codes that forbid “livestock” in dining areas.

These recent examples are just my personal experiences in the past year. Multiply this across the tens of thousands of people who have pet rabbits in California and we now have a much larger issue. It is time that we re-classify pet bunnies to be what they truly are… companion animals, no different than a pet cat or dog.

We are fighting a major battle trying to educate the public about how to properly care for and house their pet bunnies, but when the government is institutionalizing all the wrong ideas and myths, it is part of a much deeper problem.

It makes our job of educating people a lot harder, when even the government does not recognize our pets as such. It creates skepticism and even worse, resistance to our ideas. I have heard people I meet in the public rationalize that rabbits do not deserve a better life because they are not truly meant to be pets and belong on the farm (or dinner table).

I have not even heard of any kind of movement in California to change these laws. I am certain that any attempt at change would be met with stiff resistance by the farmer’s unions and lobbies. That is why I think that the best compromise would be to create a dual classification. At least it would acknowledge that many thousands of rabbits who are pets in homes across California exist and that is a good start.

SURVEY:

Thanks,
The Bunny Guy