Cutting Nails?

Discussion in 'Health & Wellness' started by Chas Hankins, Mar 13, 2019.

Help Support Rabbits Online by donating:

  1. Mar 13, 2019 #1

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2019
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Alabama
    My bunny Willow is due to give birth by the 16th. I have been reading through some of the forums and seen what bunny nails can do to newborn kits. Should I cut her nails or will her kits be fine?
     
  2. Mar 13, 2019 #2

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    133
    Location:
    Kentucky
    It depends, bunny nails should be clipped about once a month, more or less depending on your individual rabbit. Can you post a picture of her nails and do they seem extremely sharp to you?
     
  3. Mar 13, 2019 #3

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2019
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Alabama
    They are long and sharp enough to bring blood if she kicks off you. I was able to trim them a bit while she was snacking on some greens. I don't believe her previous owners ever trimmed her nails because they didn't really have a need to.
     
  4. Mar 13, 2019 #4

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    133
    Location:
    Kentucky
    They need to be trimmed frequently due to the possibility of them breaking the whole nail off. I had it happen to me not too long ago. I trim all of mine about once a month but this particular rabbit is my mom's and she (the rabbit) won't really let anyone touch her but my mom and my mom hadn't gotten her out to trim them in a while and so, unfortunately, I had to stress her out a bit by chasing her around the cage to catch her because she doesn't like to be touched by me and I couldn't let it go any longer and she ended up getting a nail caught in something and breaking the whole thing off, there was blood everywhere and it took me 15 minutes of holding pressure on it to get it to stop bleeding. What I do is sit in the floor legs straight out with bunny in hand and then flip bunny over on back on the floor and then grab hold of the tip of one of the bunny's ears and apply light pressure this calms them down enough so you can trim their nails real fast. For more wild spirited buns, you may have to wrap them in a towel to trim them.
     
  5. Mar 13, 2019 #5

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2019
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Alabama
    Thanks for the tips!
     
    Augustus&HazelGrace likes this.
  6. Mar 13, 2019 #6

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Augustus&HazelGrace

    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    133
    Location:
    Kentucky
    But with her being pregnant, I would wait until right after she has the babies so you won't hurt the babies if she tries to run off or fight you.
     
  7. Mar 13, 2019 #7

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2019
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Alabama
    Yeah, also she is pretty cranky right now since she is due in about 3 days lol
     
  8. Mar 13, 2019 #8

    SableSteel

    SableSteel

    SableSteel

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2018
    Messages:
    141
    Likes Received:
    85
    Location:
    Southwest USA
    You should try to cut her nails, in my opinion. (So she doesn't injure the babies jumping in and out of the nest.) You don't need to trim them too short, just get the sharp tips off.
     
  9. Mar 13, 2019 #9

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Chas Hankins

    Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2019
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Alabama
    I was able to trim "most" of them without her really caring, I will try to trim the rest of them tomorrow since I don't want to stress her out since she is so close to kindling.
     
  10. Mar 13, 2019 #10

    Liung

    Liung

    Liung

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2013
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    89
    Honestly what you’ve described sounds a lot like trancing—please don’t do this. Being forced to lie on their backs is not good for rabbits, and a rabbit that is put on their back and then becomes pliant and “calm” is actually in a state of tonic immobility—a fear response.

    Bunny burritos are fine, just don’t flip them over on their backs. I hold my buns in my lap as I’m sitting on a chair, so that their legs are tucked into the dip between my legs, and they feel comfy and secure. Then I pull a leg out to the side and clip the nails with one arm over their back to keep them still. Delilah often needs to be burritoed to accomplish this.

    But keep in mind that burritos are very restraining and therefore stressful to rabbits. Wrapping a dog or a cat or even a human in a blanket calms them down and makes them feel safe. But those are all predators. Putting a bunny burrito is only for if they would struggle otherwise and hurt you or themselves.

    One trick I have learned from psychology: brains tend to take the last moment of an experience and colour the entire memory of the experience with that emotion. The instinct when you’re doing something stressful to your buns like nail trims or medicine is to get it over with and put them down immediately. But, if after you’re done, you hold onto them a little longer without actually doing anything to them, that lessens the association of stress. If you can get them to take a treat from you while still in your lap/on the table, great. If not, give it to them immediately after putting them down.

    Once I started doing this Lahi went from anticipating his meds and running away to anticipating his meds and actually waiting to let me pick him up. He was looking forward to them, because it was the treat at the end that was most strongly associated in his mind, not the stress of being syringe fed.
     
    Meg x, Poopy Poo and Popsicles like this.
  11. Mar 20, 2019 #11

    Lauren Kiernan

    Lauren Kiernan

    Lauren Kiernan

    Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2019
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Good idea. I will try that when I clip our Charlie's nails next.
     
  12. Mar 20, 2019 #12

    Poopy Poo

    Poopy Poo

    Poopy Poo

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2019
    Messages:
    269
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    Backyard
    That's very true I've noticed that too.

    For keeping rabbit on their back I wanted to ask, I've got a very placid girl 9 months old from a very nice and relaxed family with three girls, she shows zero aggression and lets me keep her on her back and cuddle and she's not stressed at all. Another male rabbit was rescued he had his quiet couple weeks but now he also lets me hold him and showing his belly to me without any problem, they actually both like it. But my other two rabbits don't like it clearly, one is 4,5 months old lionhead he actually lets me a lot, but he won't stay still if I want to see his belly, he's very active. He loves to be petted he's very sweet, just maybe doesn't feel safe. My lop girl 4 months old and she is very defensive she probably had some bad experience in her previous family she wouldn't let me to do that to her. That is interesting why the first two are liking it.
     
  13. Mar 21, 2019 #13

    Liung

    Liung

    Liung

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2013
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    89
    Gonna ramble a bit about some principles of behavioural psychology. I’m not saying you’re wrong because I don’t know your rabbits and what you’re basing your assumptions on, so I’m going to babble about how objective behavioural assessment works in the hopes that you’ll be able to use it to assess your rabbits’ behaviour yourself and explain how you’ve come to your conclusion. I find often that knowing the basic theories and understanding the factors involved helps to both shape the way you look at things and clarify how to talk about them. It’s the difference between looking at an animal and saying “something looks wrong, can’t really say why”, and learning about health assessments and distress indicators so that you can say “this mouse is displaying mildly ruffled fur and some degree of lethargy, but is still alert and responsive, likely indicating some physical pain but no major illness”.

    (I do animal health assessments as part of my job. Vets are not impressed by “can you come to the barn I know it’s 3am but this chicken is acting weird”)

    So: you believe your rabbits like being put on their back. What are you basing your assessment that they like it on? We often have to be careful to not view our animals’ behaviours though human perspectives. For example, the viral “guilty look” in dogs is used by many people as an actual indicator of wrongdoing, despite a study done by Horowitz actually entirely debunking the idea that the behaviour is at all associated with disobedience. In fact the study found that dogs are more likely to display the guilty look when they have done nothing wrong and are being falsely accused, and don’t show it at all if they have disobeyed but the owner has no awareness of this.

    But because the behaviour resembles human guilty behavior, people have anthropomorphized it and don’t critically analyze the triggers and causes.

    Rabbit body language is so different from human or even dog body language that it’s quite hard to objectively assess their enjoyment of something. Knowing that tonic immobility is an established phenomenon, how can you tell the difference between a rabbit that is frightened of one that is enjoying themselves?

    If you try to flip a rabbit on their back and they struggle and keep flipping themselves over, of course they’re not enjoying it. But if you flip them over and they stay that way, breathing slowly and completely relaxing their muscles... that’s what tonic immobility is. The only reason we now definitely know it’s actually a bad thing is because the hormones produced in this state were analyzed and identified as hormones associated with fear and stress, not calm and relaxation.

    You can’t even really try and rate avoidance behaviour like we normally would (I know Lahi hated the experience of meds because previously he came to recognize the oral syringe and flee when he saw me get it out) because we know that a rabbit put into tonic immobility on a frequent basis becomes more prone to it, and instead of fleeing a stressful situation they become more likely to enter tonic immobility instead. Tonic immobility is at its core a survival behaviour of prey species (chickens actually do the same thing if you hold them upside down by their feet), and so the more the rabbit experiences it the more it becomes hardwired as a behaviour that successfully ensures survival.

    Behaviourists like Skinner believe that the subjective experience (their mental state, how they are feeling, their emotions, decisions, and reasoning) of any living being is entirely theoretical and unobservable, and therefore we should essentially give up on trying to draw conclusions about it. (Behaviourists apply this to even humans—I know that I have subjective experiences because I am personally aware of them, and I infer that you also have subjective experiences due to the similarities between your behaviour and mine, but I can never truly know what your subjective experiences are. I could ask you, but you could lie, or be unaware of subconscious motivations. And we can’t ask children or animals at all.)

    Instead, we should draw conclusions based entirely on observable, objective behaviours. This is really important when it comes to things like reinforcement and punishment: they are defined not by “something that is liked/disliked”, but instead by “something that increases/decreases the frequency of a behaviour”. You get a lot of people who talk about their animals as “disobedient” because they don’t listen and keep doing an undesired behaviour despite being punished. Behaviourism says: “if you are applying a consequence to an undesired behaviour, but the behaviour is not decreasing, then the consequence you have chosen is not a punishment for the animal”. (Or in other cases, is not significantly more punishing than whatever reinforcement the animal is obtaining through performance of a behaviour. You are never, for example, going to successfully punish a rabbit for chewing on furniture because the behaviour is internally reinforced through fulfillment of basic instinctual drives.)

    This means that I successfully trained Lahi to eat things that I give to him by bothering him until he ate it. When Delilah first came to me she would react to syringes by tucking her face down and avoiding it. Lahi has been taught that things will stop getting shoved in his face if he eats whatever it is, and so his reaction to a syringe is to start furiously gnawing on it. This is called negative reinforcement: increasing a desired behaviour by removing a negative stimulus.

    This is also why your car beeps at you until you put your seatbelt on. Negative reinforcement!

    So the issue with tonic immobility is that a rabbit is experiencing a cause-and-effect of being put down after they go limp and stop struggling. Since things like clipping nails are not something you can opt out of doing, a rabbit struggling won’t achieve their desired effect of making the unpleasant experience stop, and so they learn to stop struggling. That doesn’t mean they like it.

    (The first time I had to give Delilah medication, she peed on me. I had to sit there and ignore it, thanking the foresight of having her on a towel, and keep going until I was done. She’s never peed on me again, but if I’d stopped, even if I didn’t put her down and just changed out the towel, it still would have confirmed to her that this was a valid way to make me stop trying to put a syringe in her mouth.)

    When handling animals, we consistently reinforce passively accepting unpleasant things we do to them, simply through whatever we’re doing being over when they cooperate. Struggling doesn’t make us stop. (This is also why a dog should never be punished for growling—if growling doesn’t make people back off, and they are punished for growling, they now have no resort to warn people that they feel threatened and so go straight to biting. Because biting definitely makes people back off.) The ultimate goal therefore of training an animal to be handled is to reduce stress and harm as much as possible and encourage active cooperation.
     
    Popsicles and Alyssa and Bugs♡ like this.
  14. Mar 21, 2019 #14

    Liung

    Liung

    Liung

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2013
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    89
    So to be quite honest I’m not sure how I would go about objectively assessing a rabbit’s enjoyment of being put on their back, and differentiating it from a fear response that has been negatively reinforced. The only conclusive indicator would be if a rabbit flopped over on their back voluntarily, without any obvious motivators for doing so other than being pet in that position. Zoo animals are trained to voluntarily present limbs for veterinary procedures such as blood draws or nail trims in exchange for food rewards (saw an amazing video of a polar bear voluntarily doing this) as an alternative to drugging them into compliance, but they wouldn’t do it without that reward. Milk cows can initially be trained with food to allow themselves to be milked by a robot, but once they have experienced it as a stress-free procedure, they don’t need the food reward as the milking process removes the uncomfortable fullness of their udder. Sheep that are handled respectfully present themselves voluntarily to be sheared, as wool is thick and heavy and hot and they associate being sheared with feeling more comfortable afterward.

    But that doesn’t mean that they enjoy the procedure. A cow being rewarded with food for being milked by a robot will present herself even if she does not need to be milked, but if there is no food reward she will not present herself unless she is experiencing the discomfort of a full udder. (I got to observe this: the cows wear collars that are read by the robot to individually identify them, and a computer tracks when the cow was last milked and only starts the milking and gives her access to the food if it determines it is time for her to be milked. If she was last milked recently, it does not give her any food and instead shoos her out of the chute. Yet as I watched a cow entered the chute twice in a row, hoping for food.)

    Similarly, sheep will not present themselves for shearing if their wool is short. The shearing itself is not enjoyable, only the reduction in discomfort.

    Use these ideas to critically analyze behaviour! Did Lahi cooperate with his medicine when I got it over with quickly and put him down immediately? Yes, but the fact that he would try to avoid me when it was time for his meds suggests that it was still a stressful experience for him. Once I started letting him chill for a little while after I finished his meds, giving him lots of food, he instead seemed to be eager to be picked up when it was time for his meds. His cooperation during the procedure didn’t change, but the decrease in avoidance behaviours suggests that his stress during the procedure has decreased, and that his subjective experience of the procedure has become more positive than negative.

    Hope you enjoyed this foray into the theories of applied animal behavioural psychology and that you can use this to critically assess the motivations behind your animal’s behaviour. SCIENCE!!
     
    Popsicles and Alyssa and Bugs♡ like this.
  15. Mar 21, 2019 #15

    Alyssa and Bugs♡

    Alyssa and Bugs♡

    Alyssa and Bugs♡

    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2018
    Messages:
    326
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    Iowa
    @Liung wow! That completely changed the way I will clip Bugs' nails, brush, and force feed him! I usually will stop and give him a treat when he bites me while doing those things. I'm teaching him he will get out of it by biting me, and get a treat too. I will have to re-teach him to just take it lol. Thank you for sharing that!
     
  16. Mar 21, 2019 #16

    Liung

    Liung

    Liung

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2013
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    89
    @Alyssa and Bugs♡ yes, precisely! If you stop to give him the treat, you’re reinforcing whatever immediately preceded you stopping. If he bites, as much as possible you should not react, and keep going. If he’s gone a little bit with no biting or struggling, then stop to give him a treat. Ideally you’d have a second person feeding him treats AS you do whatever it is that needs doing. Or just put some food directly in front of him to munch on as you do it!

    Teaching an animal to not do something is harder, but if you wanted to specifically target biting through a training method you’d likely use fading. Have him in your lap, and every, say, 3 seconds that he goes without biting you, he gets a treat. If he bites you, loud NO! and no treat for 6 seconds. Once he’s consistently going 3 seconds with no biting, increase it to 6 seconds and no treat for 12 seconds if he bites. Ideally he will eventually understand that it’s the not biting that’s being rewarded, and you can keep increasing the time interval. Once it’s a decent amount of time, start randomizing it. Random interval reinforcement produces a much stronger behaviour than set interval, and is the principle behind why gambling is so addictive.
     
    Alyssa and Bugs♡ likes this.

Share This Page