What Are You Doing Here?

Virtually every week, someone posts on my blog in a last ditch effort to save a poor bunny’s life. The story goes the same every time.

Their daughter just got a bunny last week or a couple months ago and he is now sick and dying. He has not eaten or pooped in a couple days and is now breathing his last breaths in their arms.

Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I write this because this is an all too true story. I have played out this story hundreds of times in the past couple years since I have published my book. I hear these desperate pleas from folks who are just starting out with their first pet rabbit and he is so sick that he is dying.

What I want to say right now if you are reading this searching for what to do to help your sick bunny, you need to stop whatever you are doing, call a RABBIT vet specialist and get your rabbit to the vet ASAP. Minutes and hours make a difference. If it is the middle of the night, you need to get your bunny to the vet and be there at the front door when the first person comes in. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY.

By the time you realize or think your bunny is sick, he is very sick and possibly dying. Rabbits are prey animals and they hide the fact that they are sick from their owners. If you are not experienced with bunnies, you will not notice this until it is too late. If you rabbit is not eating and refusing his favorite treats, then he is sick and may be hours from dying.

You should have already found where the nearest rabbit specialist vet is located and have his phone number and address handy for these kind of emergencies. If you have not yet located your rabbit’s vet, you are wasting precious minutes doing something that you should have done before you ever brought a bunny home. I am not joking.

It amazes me that people will do everything that they can to avoid taking their bunny to the vet and then when they do, nine times out of ten, they go to the same vet that treats their cats and dogs. I am here to tell you from living this experience dozens of times, it is always going to end badly for the rabbit. Those precious hours that you delay avoiding that vet bill are what usually cost the rabbit his life.

The sooner an experienced vet starts the critical treatment for a sick rabbit, the more chance he has of surviving. An astoundingly large percentage of sick bunnies die at their dog and cat vets, because they simply do not have the experience or knowledge to treat a pet rabbit. You do not want to have your vet looking up treatments for your bunny on the internet as he lay there dying.

I hope you get the pervasive theme here. If you are not rushing your sick bunny to the rabbit specialist vet as soon as you learn that he is sick, there is a very good chance they he will die. You should know how to tell if you bunny is sick and check him every single day, if not a couple times a day for his health and welfare. One of the main reasons that indoor pet bunnies live so much longer than outdoor hutch bunnies is that their owners figure out that the indoor bunnies are sick so much sooner than the outdoor rabbits. The first time that most owners realize that an outdoor bunny is sick is when they find him dead in the cage.


Visit the nearest rabbit rescue website to you and contact them. They will know who the vets in the area are who are proficient at rabbit vet care. Ask them to rate the local vets if there are more than one.

Of course, this is a useless exercise if your rabbit is already sick and dying. You need to do this long before your bunny becomes sick.

Often, rescue websites will maintain an online list of local rabbit vets. The House Rabbit Society does this, so if you visit rabbit.org and then visit their local chapter website, you should find a list of rabbit vets for the area.


If your rabbit is not eating or pooping, then he is sick. It is that simple. Bunnies will not eat or drink if they are nervous or not feeling well. When they stop eating, they also stop pooping. This is why we clean their litter box every day. If you have not cleaned their box in three days, how will you know if the poop in there is from today or two days ago.

A good bunny owner checks his rabbit’s appetite and litter box once or twice a day.

If you suspect that your rabbit is sick, we will usually offer him his favorite treat. If he does not want it I do not panic, but it puts me on alert. I will usually try again in about ten or fifteen minutes to see if he will take it then. Rabbits live for their treats, so if they refuse them it is usually a very bad sign.

What I don’t understand is that at this point you need to be rushing your bunny to the vet. Instead, most people will start searching online for treatments or solutions to their bunny’s sickness. This is the worst possible thing that you can do because the longer a rabbit is sick, the more likely he will succumb to whatever it causing it.

It can be many different things that make a rabbit stop eating and pooping. It can be something as simple as nervousness to teeth to disease to improper diet to food allergy to respiratory issues to hundreds of possible reasons. This is why it takes a specialist to save your bunny. Rabbits are fragile exotic critters who need a special skill set to take proper care of them. The sooner the public learns this before getting one, the better it will be for the bunny and the family that brings them home, but mostly for the bunnies.

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

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

Your Rabbit And His Greens

Since St. Patrick’s Day is coming in March, it got me thinking about GREENs. Our Beach Bunny group even has a Green Salad Party every year for the bunnies at the beach. So I decided to write this article about salad greens and your bunny. Most green leafy vegetables are OK for rabbits, with very few exceptions, but that does not mean that you can buy him just anything at the supermarket. For a complete list of greens and vegetables that are OK for your rabbit, visit the House Rabbit Society list online.

Some bunnies do not tolerate certain vegetables very well and others cannot handle almost any at all. You must be careful about what greens you feed your pet rabbit, just like you must do with all of their other food. You should not suddenly introduce a strange new green into his salad, without watching to see how it will affect him.

It is best to only try one new green veggie at a time with your bun. Give just a small amount (a couple of 3″ squares) and then wait a day to see what happens. You will need to know what the signs for stomach distress are in rabbits.

If your rabbit is suddenly not active when he normally would be or if he is sitting in an unusual place for a long period. That should be a red flag. If he is constantly trying to get comfortable by stretching out and moving from one side to the other. This can be a sign of intestinal discomfort or gas. Being lethargic or lacking energy  or appetite can be another sign.

Any of these signals, should cause you to take notice. It does not mean it is time to panic, but you should now be aware that your bunny might have something wrong with him. You will want to start paying very close attention to him, at this point. If he is clicking his teeth loudly and sitting hunched over, that is a sign of extreme pain which needs immediate attention.

If I notice my bunny exhibiting any of these symptoms, I like to offer a healthy treat that I know my rabbit always likes, to see if he takes it. A rabbit who is sick will not eat.This is pretty universal among rabbits. It is always a bad sign when your rabbit refuses his favorite treat.

When you have given your rabbit an unusual (new) green vegetable in the last 24 hours, then you probably know the cause of this problem. This is why you only want to introduce one new green at a time, otherwise you will not know which green it was that upset your bunny’s tummy. You certainly don’t want to give it to him again, just to see which one it was.

If your rabbit is not acting normal and you feel that something is off, then almost always you are correct. Rabbits try and hide the fact that they are sick from their humans and when they break any of their routines, you should immediately be on the lookout for other symptoms that they are not feeling well.

Now that you know something could be wrong, you will want to check your rabbit’s litter box. Has he pooped in there, since you last cleaned it (hopefully you clean it everyday, otherwise this inspection is useless)? My bunny’s litter boxes are cleaned each morning, so if there is nothing in there in the afternoon, this is a sign of a possible problem. You should make a habit of checking your bunny’s box at least once a day. It is an important part of having a pet rabbit.

You should be extra vigilant if you think your rabbit is showing any signs of something being not right. Especially, if you gave him some kind of new food, green or treat in the last 24 hours. Stress is another factor that can cause these issues.

If you think your bunny is not feeling right, the signs will be subtle. You must be in very in tune with pet bunnies so that you know when it is time to take them to the vet. Waiting for something dramatic to happen, before deciding it is time for that car ride to the animal hospital is usually the difference between life and death. Enough said on that subject.

Even though more than 80 percent of your rabbit’s diet should be grass hays, one of the highlights of a bunny’s day is their salad time. With a little careful experimentation, you can find your rabbit’s favorite healthy green veggies to serve him. Just like other creatures, rabbits like variety. Sure they will gobble up some romaine lettuce every day, if you give it to them, but I have found they get much more excited over the little treats in their salad. Things like a sprig of dill or basil or a few squares of crinkly kale, along with their regular fare.

Be aware that rabbits can be fickle about their veggies. What may taste good to them one month, may not taste the same the next. Do not be surprised if your bunny’s favorite green does not change regularly.

Sometimes my bunnies are grabbing their green carrot tops first and other times it is the dandelion leaves or kale pieces that they are seeking first. I am sure that it is due to the variations of being grown on different farms with different seeds in different seasons or locations, etc.

This means that just because your rabbit turns down some kale or chard one time, does not mean he will never eat it. Just the other day someone offered some homegrown chard to my bunnies. They never liked it before, but readily ate this fresh stuff. It obviously had a different flavor than what I had been buying at the store.

Some people even go out and pick wild greens for their rabbits. I have a friend who goes out to large public parks, just to pick the dandelion leaves for her bunny. Just be careful not to pick anything that has been sprayed with any type of herbicide or pesticides.

If you have any question about whether something is safe or not for your rabbit, do not let them eat it until you have checked to see if it is on the “safe bunny foods” list. If you do not know what a plant is, do not give it to your bunny. Many wild plants are toxic for rabbits and domestic rabbits do not have the ability to distinguish safe from harmful plant species, like wild bunnies can. If you do not know for sure what a plant is and that it is safe, never give it to your rabbit.

Erin Go Bragh!

Getting Friendly With Your Rabbit’s Poop

litter box

A litter box works best when filled with fresh grass hay for your bunny to graze on. It encourages good litter box habits and gives busy bunnies something to do.

I thought I would start the new year by getting into a subject that all but a true bunny lover will find strange, your rabbit’s poop. People who don’t know much about rabbits may at first feel like us bunny lovers are obsessed with this topic. This is because when you truly are aware of your bunny’s health and well-being, your first and most obvious clue that something is amiss are his fecal droppings.

Rabbits are well-designed eating and food processing machines. They have evolved to where they have extremely efficient digestive systems, otherwise how could they live with such verve and energy on a diet of just grass (which is most of a healthy rabbit’s diet). As grazers, they need to be constantly eating. It can actually be fatal if their insides stop processing their food for even a day, which is a condition known as gastrointestinal stasis or GI stasis for short.

Cecotropes (cecal pellets)

Cecotropes (cecal pellets)


Cecotropes (Cecal pellets)

Knowing how your rabbit’s insides work are very important to keeping your pet bunny healthy. It is critical to understand that they are fermenters and that their food is digesting in their intestines by bacteria located there. This is why rabbits can often die when given the wrong antibiotic, because all the important good bacteria in their gut are killed. This is why you should never give any kind of antibiotic (or medicine) from another pet to your rabbit, without your vets express approval, but I digress.

Adding anything different or new to your rabbits fermentation system can cause an upset, until their body adapts to processing it. Us humans get a similar condition when we get Montezuma’s Revenge. Things like sugars and starches, which are not a natural part of a rabbit’s diet can cause this problem. I saw this when after not having been given fruit for many months, I gave some to my buns. They all got sick the next day. If they are getting sugars every day, then they do not get this reaction, but then that leads to other issues and problems, such as fatty liver disease and being overweight.

The best barometer of your bunny’s intestinal fortitude, so to speak, is their poop. It should be consistent and any daily variation with it is very telling. I recommend that you become very familiar with your rabbit’s little droppings daily. Every good bunny lover does this.

You want to see lots of firm but not rock hard round droppings each day in your rabbit’s litter box. They should easily smash between two fingers when fresh. It is a good idea to clean your rabbit’s box each day, because it gives you a chance to see how he is feeling by inspecting his poop. If you clean his box and there are not any in there, you now have a big red flag that should not be ignored. Rabbits are eating and pooping all the time, except for when they are sleeping. If you were to discover this, I would watch him for a couple hours to see if he goes, but if I offer him a treat or some green salad and he is not interested, it means that you have a sick bunny. Steps must be taken immediately or you possibly risk a very bad outcome. When it comes to GI stasis, time is of the essence.

If you are not cleaning your rabbit’s litter box every day, then it becomes a lot more difficult to know if he is using it or not. It is hard to tell if the piles of poop in the box are from today or yesterday or the day before, if it is not cleaned daily. Besides that, rabbits are very clean pets and tend to avoid a dirty box, not to mention that they eat more hay if you give it to them fresh in a clean box each day. Most people who have house rabbits put their rabbit’s hay into their litter box to encourage it’s use and to promote more grazing on the fresh hay.

One of the most important things you can do if you love your rabbit, is to learn to recognize when they are ill and take immediate steps to help them survive. Rabbits tend to have a very low survival rates for a lot of very common issues, simply because their owners are not paying enough attention to how their pet is feeling on a daily basis. When you think your rabbit is sick, almost 99 percent of the time HE IS.

You should familiarize yourself with what healthy good poop looks like and the difference between that and their cecotropes. Rabbits eat all of their food twice and the first time through their system, it comes out as cecotropes (or cecal pellets). They eat these and if your rabbit is healthy, you should very rarely find these, if ever. Finding cecotropes laying around or in his box are a sign that he may be getting too many treats or too much nutrition. This causes your rabbit to not feel the need to eat his cecotropes. Therefore,
finding cecal pellets from your rabbit on a regular basis should also be a red flag warning for you. I recommend taking appropriate action right away, should you begin to find these in your bunny’s area.

The most common reason for finding cecotropes is fruit, too many treats or too much green salad, or too many pellets. I would reduce the amount of these things that your rabbit receives until the problem goes away. I would start with the pellets and fruit first, since they are the highest calorie items. Rabbits do not ever need either one of those things and a very small amount goes a very long way, especially if your rabbit is of the smaller variety. A teaspoon or two is all that most bunnies need of pellets and I never give mine fruit, as I explained earlier.

It is possible to give your rabbit too much salad. He should only get an amount no more than twice the size of his head daily. That is the most he should have and he can certainly have less. Treats are also usually highly caloric and many store bought rabbit treats should never be given.

Never give your rabbit yogurt treats or anything with dairy, seeds, nuts, corn, beans, peas, legumes or popcorn. They are bad for your rabbit. Many of the rabbit treats sold in stores have one or more of these items and so beware. Just because a pet store sells them, does not mean that they are good or ok for your bunny. I would say that half of the items I see in our local pet stores should not even be sold to rabbit owners. I suggest that you give healthy green treats and compressed timothy (not alfalfa) hay cubes to your bunny. You can find some relatively healthy rabbit treats online, but avoid those that the main ingredients are flours and sugars, such as molassas or honey.

Timothy Hay Cubes

TImothy Hay Cubes are a good healthy treat for your bunny. Do not confuse them with Alfalfa Cubes, which are not the same.

One problem that you can see by looking at your rabbit’s poop is something called Mega-Colon. It is a deformation of your rabbit’s colon that causes his poop to become misshapen and egg-shaped. I have a rabbit who has this issue and her poop is sometimes small and sometimes very large, but very rarely round. This condition allows for a rabbit to easily get a condition called bloat, which is similar to colic in a horse. Bloat can be quickly fatal for a bunny. It puts intense pressure on their heart and lungs if it occurs high up in their intestines which can stop their heart or breathing. I have heard of
this happening in as little as 8 hours.

Bloat often appears to novices as GI Stasis, but can be more serious and more quickly. Your rabbit will appear to be in discomfort and will stop eating and pooping. He may keep shifting his position in an effort to relieve the gas that is building up in his abdomen. He may show signs of pain which is clicking his teeth loudly or sitting up hunched over. These are all signs that he is feeling discomfort.

To check for bloat, squeeze your rabbit behind his ribs in his belly area, gently. It should be squishy and soft, not hard and blown up like a balloon. You should do this when your rabbit is feeling fine, to acquaint yourself with how it should feel, normally. I check my Mega-Colon rabbit’s gut, every day to make sure that she is not experiencing any gas buildup, because I know that she is prone to it.

Mega-Colon poop.

Mega-Colon poop. Notice irregular size and egg-shape.

Mega-Colon poop.

Mega-Colon poop. Egg shaped and irregular.

You should not have to normally do this, unless your rabbit is having signs that something is amiss. Lack of poop in his box or signs of discomfort are good reasons to check for bloat. Not wanting his regular daily salad or a bunny treat are also signs that it would be good to check your bunny for gas.

Because they are fermenters, they are producing gas all the time and so a blockage or GI Stasis can be the reason for their bloat. It is not something to mess with and it requires an immediate visit to the vet. Do not wait, because hours can be life or death in a severe case.

Hopefully, you will already have a relationship with a rabbit specialist vet for your rabbit. When your bunny is dreadfully sick, is not a time to be out searching for the proper vet for your bunny. It is a waste of precious time. If you need help locating a rabbit specialist, visit the House Rabbit Society website (www.rabbit.org) and go to their recommended veterinarians list for your area.

The final thing I want to mention is the “string of pearls” that we often find from our buns. This is a sure sign that your rabbit is ingesting a lot of his (or his partner’s) fur and this issue will usually go away if you groom your rabbit by combing him. Rabbits cannot throw up fur balls, like a cat can. In fact, they cannot vomit at all and so once they have swallowed fur while taking one of their many daily baths, it must pass all the way through their system.

"String Of Pearls"

“String Of Pearls”

Generally, their system was designed for this, but they can get blockages if they swallow too much. This is especially true if they have low motility in their gut, which is slower than average movement or speed at which things move through. Low motility in a rabbit’s gut makes them more prone to fur blockage. It is best to regularly groom your rabbit and if you are finding these “string of pearls” in their litter box, then it is a sure sign that you need to “step up your grooming game”.

Every good bunny parent spends a lot of time examining and appraising their rabbit’s poop. It is part of doing it right. To the uninitiated, it may appear as if we are all a bit crazy for being into our bunny scat, but it is only because we truly love our buns and we care.

If you want to stay on top of what’s going on inside your rabbit, you too will want to learn about his poop. When you see that there is a lack of it or is has chanced in any way, you will want to find out why. Do not hesitate to call your vet and keep some of it for a sample. I have even gone as far as to email pictures of my bunny’s poop to her doctor. A rabbit’s poop tells a story, if you are savvy enough to understand what it is saying.

Why People Over-Feed Their Pet Rabbits

It suddenly dawned on me the other day why many people over-feed their rabbits, while I was talking to a couple who had just rescued a stray bunny who was nibbling the grass on their front lawn. They were lovingly telling me about how they had gone online and learned a little about rabbits and discovered that they should live indoors.

The nice man had gone out and bought a rabbit hutch at the local pet store, but because he had read that wire bottom cages were bad for rabbits, he converted it by covering the floor with a nice wood. He also cut off the legs and made it so the rabbit could hop in and out of the hutch when he wanted. The couple had learned a little about bunny-proofing inside their house and were learning the “hard way” as the went along about spots and places that they had missed, when their new bunny went out for play time runs.

It was quite obvious to me that these people had totally and completely fallen in love with this rabbit. They were eager to tell me all about him and asked me all kinds of questions, as they hungrily learned as much as they could from talking to me.

After we had spoken a while, we learned that their rabbit was already very over-weight and suffering from being over-fed. It was then, that I had the revelation about why so many people make this deadly mistake with their bunnies, especially people uneducated about them.

When we first get rabbits, we quickly learn that our bunny likes to interact and will easily approach you if you have some kind of food or treat for them. We all love it when our rabbit goes through his silly begging motions, which are usually quite cute and highly effective. When we are just learning about pet rabbits, this is sometimes the only interaction that we are able to have with our furry pets. Some of us get a Pavlovian response and will continue pass out the treats in order to interact more and get the approval from our otherwise aloof or distant bunny. This can become a habit and the toll that this takes is directly proportional to the caloric content of the treats that you bestow.

Of course, the more sweet or caloric the treat, the more your rabbit will beg and dance and mine even hop up into my lap to say, “Please, please, please”. It is hard not to give in to a bunny who has jumped into your lap and is giving your kisses to try and pry another treat out of you. Other rabbits will do their own brand of seduction to get that next treat, but I now realize how universal this behavior is.

The problem arises when you fall into the habit of using highly caloric food to get close and interact with your rabbit, because over time it builds up. I am not going to go into a long speech about how bad it is for your rabbit to be overweight, because I have written a lot about the subject. Let’s just say that an overweight rabbit will generally live less than half as long as a rabbit who is not. This means that instead of living ten or twelve years, an obese bunny can usually only expect to live about five years… maybe six if he is lucky.

Add to the equation that rabbits prefer sweet treats to ones that are not. People who are not rabbit savvy, do not know how bad that it can be for their pet. This is a formula for disaster. Rabbit vets see thousands of rabbits each year who are overweight and in the throes of some horrible kind of GI stasis, fatty liver disease and other problems that it causes.

Of course, it does not help that many of these treats that are so bad for your bunny are sold in pet stores and online at bunny websites. Virtually all rabbits will scarf down as many pieces of dried fruit, yogurt drops or treat cookies as you will give them and still do a dance for more. If you do not know any better, you might be inclined to even give them another and then another, when they woo you into it. If you do this every day for several years, your rabbit will eventually have problems from it.

Another big mistake that is frequently made is we over-feed our bunnies their green salad. I often see people giving their little five pound rabbit a half pound of salad each day. This is three or four times the correct amount to feed a bunny, each day. The amount of salad that I suggest you feed your rabbit should be no bigger than twice the size of his head, daily. This will account for different sizes of rabbits, since smaller rabbits should eat less than larger ones. So if you are giving your rabbit this mondo green salad every day, that too can lead to rabbit obesity over the years and dramatically shorten their life or cause many trips to the vet.

Probably the worst mistake people make is in giving their rabbits too many rabbit pellets. Most adult rabbits do not need them. They were actually designed for farmers to get a bunny fat very quickly, so you could eat him, not for a long healthy life as a pet. Many rabbit lovers never give them to their bunnies. If you do, I recommend 1/8-1/4 cup of timothy (not alfalfa) pellets a day. Even less is OK. I think that vets tend to tell people to give too many pellets. I have been told to let them have unlimited pellets by a vet before.

Pellets are the densest most nutritious food that a rabbit usually eats and so it can have a dramatic effect on their weight with just a little more or less each day. When rabbits become seniors and they have trouble keeping weight on, pellets are often used to help keep them from getting too skinny, but for most healthy adult bunnies, they must be given very judiciously, if at all.

In conclusion, I think people need to learn other ways to get close and interact with their pet rabbits other than just feeding them all the time. I know how easy it is to fall into this :”treat trap”, as I call it in my new book, The Bunny Lover’s Complete Guide To House Rabbits. I have been there myself, before.

Get down on the floor and interact with your bunny. Just being down on his level and in his space will eventually turn into interaction time between you. “Play” with your bun using simple toys. Some bunnies will nudge a ball back to you, if you gently roll it towards them. Rattles and small toss toys, like toilet paper tubes are fun to hand to your rabbit. He will sometimes take them from your hand and toss them.

These “fun” rabbit games are how you get close and enrich your rabbits life. I have had a bunny who like to chase the end of a shoe lace. She saw my cat doing it and learned to do it, too. She would grab the end and pull it with her teeth, just like my kitty would do, if I tossed it to her.

You will find if you spend close to an hour each day interacting with your rabbit, that your bond will become greater and he will be a lot more interested in you. I can virtually promise that you will both be happier, as a result. He will look forward to this time and approach you for pets and closeness.

Of course, you can reward your bunny with very small treats regularly, but look for the healthiest ones you can find. Get things that most closely resemble what their natural food would be. By this I mean fresh sprigs of cilantro or parley, instead of fruit or cookies. Apple sticks or a small handful of oat hay. Compressed hay cubes are good healthy treats of timothy hay that most rabbits adore. Get the ones without the pieces of fruit and seeds in them.

Never buy those gourmet pellets at the pet store. They have all kinds of things in them that rabbits were never meant to have, such as dried peas and corn, nuts and seeds and lots of other bad stuff. Many rabbits will pick out all the junk and not even eat the pellets. This is bad. I wish this stuff was not even sold in pet stores. Once again, people think that if they pay more money for this “deluxe” food, that they are loving their rabbit more. Little do they know that they are actually loving their rabbit to death.

If you are in the “treat trap”, get out now before it is too late. You can reverse obesity, but once it hits a certain point, there is no way to go back. Don’t wait until it is too late and you are sitting in the vet office crying about it like I have done before.

The Bunny Guy