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Sarahlyn

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Me again,

My 4 wild cottontails have been experiencing dandelion greens for the past three days and they did great. Still having a bit of formula.

My small bun didn’t want milk anymore, bit my feeding nipples up, so I added rice pablum (as per rehabber instructions) so she didn’t need to take as many units and she could “chew”. She’s done well for a few days like this. As instructed, I introduced plain shredded wheat yesterday. I thought, it’s going so well, maybe I should pablum up all the feeds and start feeding them less as they feed themselves with the greens and wheat. I also added clover.

Bad move on my part, I now have THREE possibilities making my big guy sick. He’s suddenly lethargic and covered in diarrhea.

He was fine when I put in the dandelion green. But after this, he’s not fine, but:

shredded wheat
clover greens
rice pablum

Which is most likely to have made him sick?

I’ve removed all food for the moment, they have access to clean water, I cleaned the cage and dishes and given the sick guy a few cc’s of unflavoured pedialite. He’ll get formula tonight, as in the past, but without pablum. I’ll reintroduce dandelion greens tonight or tomorrow... what else could I be doing?

Contacting rehabber also.
Thank You.
 

JBun

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The one covered in diarrhea is an emergency! It needs to be taken to the vet immediately and treated for enterotoxemia, being given the meds metronidazole and cholestyramine.
Rabbits: The Mystery of Poop (link to emergency treatment for diarrhea in baby rabbits)
 

JBun

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Rice and wheat, are you kidding me! If this is how rehabbers are advising the care of baby rabbits I'm surprised that any survive. High carb foods are the absolute worst thing to give any baby rabbit. It's been proven in studies that the carbs don't digest properly in baby rabbits, and end up in the cecum where they lead to overgrowth of harmful bacteria, which can then lead to dangerous digestive illness developing.

Wild baby rabbits should be getting plant based foods like they would be getting in the wild, such as dandelions, grass, slow introduction of clover, etc. Your culprit is likely the rice and wheat. Rabbits of any age should never have a lot of carbs in their diet. Their digestive system is designed to fuction best by consuming a high fiber plant based diet.

For the primary food I would start off with fresh grass and/or a grass hay that isn't too mature and coarse. Then slowly add in fresh forage like the clover, one plant at a time in small amounts to make sure it doesn't cause digestive upset. If it doesn't then gradually increase the amount.

If the lethargic baby is acting normally now and no longer has diarrhea, he may be fine and may not need meds, but I would still want to consult with an experienced rabbit vet.
 

Sarahlyn

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It only took minutes. My little one died.
I will not give them either wheat or rice again. I read that rice was a huge no-no but the rehabber (yes, she’s licensed) said leave them as much wheat as they want. tut they should have access to it at all times.

I am a diabetic and I should have known better. “No sugar” doesn’t mean there isn’t sugar. I just read it... 38g carbs per cup. That’s about the amount in a cola or juice.

The other three are thriving. I’ll Stef back with dandelion greens and their original formula for a couple days before I introduce anything new.

I’m so saddened I caused this :((((

Thank You for your help. You’ve probably just saved the final three babies.
 

JBun

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I'm so sorry. Don't blame yourself. You didn't cause it. You thought you were getting good advice from a professional. I'm just so surprised someone licensed in this doesn't know better.

Sounds like a good plan. When you think you're ready to try solid food again, I would start with grass or grass hay. With domestic rabbits at least, grass hay is one of the best foods for them, the best tolerated, and what is usually recommended to feed to help correct digestive upset. And don't rush it. With new foods a gradual introduction is usually best with rabbits. It gives their digestive flora time to adapt to the new food.

Especially young growth of grass as it can be a bit rich. If you want to go with a safer option I would start with a medium soft good quality grass hay (no mold). It's not as rich as young growth grass so is easily tolerated and almost never causes digestive upset, provided it is mold and weed free. Then after being on the hay for a bit with no problem, start trying fresh stuff gradually.
 

Sarahlyn

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I have Timothy hay, but was advised not to use it. What’s your thought on starting with Timothy hay?

Thank You so much, everyone.
 

JBun

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I've never raised wild cottontail babies, but the few litters of domestic babies that I've raised have always been started on grass hay before any other solid food, and it's always helped to avoid the common enteritis issues that baby rabbits can so easily get.

Any digestive issue I've dealt with in my pet rabbits has always been helped by giving grass hay. Whether it was a little kit that started getting mushy cecals from starting to eat moms pellets, or a bun born with megacolon. So I'm a great believer in the health benefits grass hay provides to pet rabbits.

I can't say what you should do, just provide my experience. I've never had grass hay cause a problem, and rarely ever heard of it causing other rabbit owners problems, even with sudden introduction into the diet. But I do know of fresh young growth of grass sometimes causing problems, particularly when too much is suddenly introduced.

If you're not sure then maybe trying a little bit for a couple of days to see how it goes would be good. With fresh grass I would definitely do a slow introduction, especially if it's tender early growth. The longer more mature growth is less apt to cause issues, though may not be as palatable for the little babies.
 

Sarahlyn

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Long post but us a happy ending and I want to THANK YOU ALL, in this thread and others for your amazing support and guidance :)

Thank You so much!

UPDATE: after loosing bunny one of four, I went back to measured formula feeds (10% body weight max) of goat milk, sugar free cream 1:5, 1:1 goat KMR, 1/32 probiotic, 1/32 bovine colostrum and unlimited Timothy hay for a couple days. Reintroduced dandelion green for one day, then added about 2 tbsp clover the next day. That evening everyone fed well, but one babe was covered in... something.

I scrambled back through the notes and researched meds mentioned (to see if I happened to have any) and read articles... for a long time. I cleaned out the cage and put in only shavings and Timothy hay. I had a needle to extract liquid Imodium but feared the immensely small dose which was needed to capture, so left everyone untouched until morning. Because! I’d also learned there’s diarrhea, and there’s soft cecotrope! Sick bunny was eating and drinking normally, and trying to clean himself off. So I thought.... and I waited.

My hope and suspicions paid off as bunny was as well as the others next morning. Copropgagy!

Did I kill bunny 4 washing his hind end when this happened to him!?

So! Instead of handling them to feed formula, and because I had been lessening amounts to half their weight to wean, I decided to keep hands off and just pour the mixture into a plate. No weighing, no syringe feedings, simethicone drops by dropper through the cage...

Here’s the update:

All 3 are thriving on dandelion greens, white clover and Timothy hay. They’re drinking water, once a day a little dish of formula (as opposed to twice). Bunnies are 100, 111 and 119 grams! This weekend I will stop formula completely and release Tuesday if all 3 are at 120g, which I am having no doubts they’ll be.

Tuesday they will be 40 days old :)
 

Sarahlyn

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The one sick and appearingly recovered was found dead this morning! I was so sure he was okay 😢 the other two are taking clover, hay and dandelion and weigh over 100g.

Thoughts on releasing them now???
 

JBun

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Sounds perfect for them! I'm sorry about the other little. Wild rabbits mature much faster than domestic, so they're at the right age to be out learning how to take care of themselves. Well done for raising them and getting them back out there. Hand raising baby rabbits is no easy task.
 

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