Dwarf rabbit suddenly not eating and discharge in one eye

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Sep 11, 2021
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Frankfort, IL
Our dwarf rabbit Lola just started not eating late Saturday morning. She would take some food by hand late morning but now she does not want anything. She has a history of having this issue. Lots of things can set it off including going to the vet. It is Saturday night and there are no small animal emergency clinics within 100 miles. Will definitely call first thing Monday morning. But first we have to get there. Our local vet is 10 minutes away.

She also has some discharge from one eye. Never seen that before. She was just at the vet 5 days ago - which may be contributing to this issue.

We have Oxbow Critical Care which I have already force fed her twice today. Typically when this happens the vet prescribes a probiotic and pain medicine. We do have some probiotic left from last time and it has not expired. Our other rabbit has arthritis and is on Meloxidyl for pain. Does anyone know if I can/should give Lola some of this? I do not remember the pain medicine she was given before.

How often should I be force feeding her? Other than that she seems very alert. Cleaned her face after the force feeding.

Thank you in advance.
Is the eye discharge clear or is it white sticky discharge? Any white clouding to the cornea or swelling of the eye lids?

Because meloxidyl is a prescription, we can't say whether or not you should give it. So that would have to be your choice. But if you do, it should always be given when a rabbit has food in their stomach, and is well hydrated. And also making sure to give the correct dose based on the rabbits size. If your rabbit has preexisting kidney issues or a gastric ulcer, meloxidyl should not be given.

Just a caution on syringe feeding. It's normally not recommended to start syringe feeds when a rabbit has stopped eating for an unknown reason and hasn't been checked by your vet to first have a full gastric obstruction and bloat ruled out, as syringe feeding anything in these instances can cause serious or even fatal complications, as it can increase pressure on the stomach, heart and lungs. So syringe feeding before seeing your vet, is a risk that you should be aware of. But if you stop syringe feeding, you absolutely do need to get to a rabbit vet before Monday, as it is considered an emergency when a rabbit has gone more than 12-24 hours without eating, and is an immediate emergency if that lack of appetite is accompanied with bloat, diarrhea, listlessness, or other very concerning symptoms.

What I usually do when a rabbit has stopped eating, and though may be somewhat lethargic, is still alert and mobile, is first make sure their body temp is warm enough and provide a rabbit safe warm pack to help warm them up if they are cold(I check by feeling their ears). A sick rabbit will usually get chilled, unless they have a fever, which can indicate infection and is an immediate emergency.

Next I try 3 rounds of baby gas drops(simethicone)an hour apart. Also some gentle belly massages and encouraging movement can help if it's a simple stomach upset, though DO NOT massage if bloat is present or suspected. If after the third dose of gas drops my rabbit isn't starting to eat and act more normal, and/or it's been more than 12-24 hours since they last ate a sufficient amount, and/or they have deteriorated and worsened, it's then time to get them to the vet.

There is some good info in this link as well, though some info such as syringe feeding or giving medications prior to seeing the vet, isn't something that should normally be recommended.

When in doubt about any medical issue, you should always consult with your rabbit vet. All we can do here is provide info of our own experiences and other info found on the internet(preferably from reliable rabbit sites), but it's no substitution for good veterinary advice and/or an exam from an experienced and knowledgeable rabbit vet.
The eye discharge is white in color and was just noticed today. We just adopted a young cat named Roy. The cat literally hangs out with the rabbits for hours at a time when they are in their area. Completely peaceful. But, when we let the rabbits loose in the basement for exercise Roy has twice now swatted Lola and Norm. I saw him swat Lola a day or so ago on that side of the face right by the eye. He is playing but even with his claws kept short they can do damage.

She has pooped since I posted this and it looks normal. Since we saw the poop we felt that there is not blockage and we could force feed her more Critical Care. Added the probiotic. Also added a little under the recommended amount of Meloxidyl and gave that too her. And then after that gave her a drop of Simethicone. You did say just one drop right? Will repeat in an hour. She looked better this time when feeding, happily taking the food.

Plan on leaving a small amount of Critical Care before going to sleep.

Thanks for your help. Lola is now 10 years old. We have seen these exact symptoms now 5 or 6 times with her. Our other senior rabbit Norm has the exact same environment and never has this problem. Of course he has arthritis and teeth issues.

Plan on taking her to our local vet first thing Monday morning.
Cat scratches and bites can be very dangerous to rabbits, and can prove fatal very quickly due to the bacteria present. White discharge would mean there is an infection, if the white stuff you're seeing isn't just a bit of fur stuck in the eye but is actually pus.

Medirabbit: white eye discharge

Medirabbit: corneal abrasion and ulcer

But if there really is white sticky discharge in or around the eye, that you think could very well be from your cat scratching the eye or the skin near the eye, or even just suspect it could be, if it was me I would get bun to a rabbit vet immediately, as an emergency if necessary. Cat scratches need to be treated promptly and aggressively with a rabbit safe systemic antibiotic, ophthalmic antibiotic when the eye is affected, and anti inflammatory pain relief(meloxicam), along with any other needed treatment, to have the best chance of successfully controlling the infection.

A suspected scratch from a cat is not something to delay treatment on, but needs immediate attention and treatment. There have actually been people on this forum, that have had their rabbit die soon after their cat scratched or bit their rabbit. That's how serious a cat scratch/bite can be.

If the lack of eating is due to a cat scratch and pain from an infection, baby gas drops aren't necessary. Though for future reference it's 1-2ml, the specifics being in the GI stasis link I shared in my post above.

If you don't believe there's a scratch present or infection due to your cat, but that the lack of appetite is being caused by some other painful condition, because you have seen your rabbit poop, that means bloat or a blockage aren't as likely, so I would continue the syringe feeding as well as the meloxidyl, if I were in your position, until bun can be seen by the vet.

They found an upper respiratory infection and the usual gastro problems. The upper respiratory is likely causing the eye discharge - which is in both eyes now. She also noted labored breathing which again probably from the upper respiratory. They have her on oxygen and are connecting an IV to administer the drugs to fix these problems. They are taking an x-ray to make sure there are not other issues. There should not be any - she just had an x-ray about three weeks ago at our regular vet as part of her senior wellness checkup and he said she was in great health.

The vet today sounded very concerned with her health. I know the gastro problems are just the way she is and is treatable. And I would think the upper respiratory can be fixed with antibiotics.

I would like to know how she got the upper respiratory infection. She had to get it from one of us or the another non-rabbit animal. Lola and Norm never leave the house except to goto the vet.

I also think going forward we are going to disinfect the carriers. We use the same carriers for the rabbits and cats. Also be even more diligent about washing hands before giving them food.
Rabbits can have some bacteria already present in their system and be asymptotic carriers, and then the rabbit becomes stressed in some way(eg emotional, environmental, physically, age related, etc) and this can weaken their immune system making them more susceptible to disease taking hold. Just as with people, the very young and old, and those with preexisting health issues are most at risk due to a vulnerable immune system.

URIs can sometimes be curable, though it depends on the bacteria involved and also the overall health of the rabbit. The pasteurella bacteria is one of the worst a rabbit can get, as it is so hard to treat and rarely completely curable, so hopefully this isn't what your rabbit has.

Medirabbit: respiratory issues in rabbits

I had rabbits that had it and the only antibiotics that were effective in controlling it and actually getting rid of it for some, was azithromycin and pen g injections. Because the injections were too stressful for the rabbits involved, I opted for the azithromycin. It has good tissue penetration, which is why it would be so effective in rabbits in getting to and knocking down the infection. But azithromycin is usually considered a last resort antibiotic, as it can have serious digestive side effects for some rabbits. A few of mine did have some initial stomach cramping, but not severe enough that the med needed to be stopped.

Another med that I found extremely helpful with getting the discharge under control for my rabbits, is benedryl(diphenhydramine). It's not typically prescribed for URIs in rabbits, so you would need to ask your vet about whether or not using it would be helpful for your bun or not, if you feel the current medication your bun will be on isn't enough and it's something you think could help.

Nebulizing is another option for rabbits with serious respiratory issues, though it's not something I needed to do with my rabbits.

https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-... for,chronic or acute Pasteurella infections.
I'm really glad you were able to get your rabbit seen so quickly. Even though it wasn't a cat scratch, it's still sounding pretty serious. I'm sorry it wasn't just something simple and more easily treated. But it sounds like you made the right call taking her in this morning.
Picked her up a few hours ago. They kept her an extra day due to still breathing harder than normal. They sent us home with Ciproflox, Baytril, and Meloxicam. I guess the Ciproflox is for the URI. I know the Baytril is for the gastro issue - we've used it before. The Ciproflox has to be put in her eyes.

When we first put her pack in her area she ate some pellets and then went to a corner and is just sitting there. Seems like she is still breathing a little hard. I know she does not do well traveling and the drive home was over an hour in heavy traffic.
The cipro eye drops are for possible spread of infection into the eye from the nasal cavity through the tear duct, the baytril is a broad spectrum antibiotic and is going to be for the URI itself. The meloxicam is a NSAID to reduce inflammation.

When treating URI's in rabbits, it usually requires a long course of antibiotics of 4-6 weeks minimum, and at least 2 weeks extended past the end of the symptoms clearing up. If you aren't seeing improvement after the first week on the antibiotics, I would suggest discussing with your vet if a different antibiotic might be needed, as it might be the bacteria present isn't sensitive to the antibiotics you're using.

Hopefully she's doing a bit better now that she's had time to settle back at home.
Noticed some clicking sounds when giving oral medications. From my reading I think that is the URI. She ate fairly good yesterday but slept more than normal. After giving the meds today she is not wanting to eat much. I think tomorrow we will give a little Critical Care before the meds.

Breathing more rapidly when we go into her area. But yesterday she was sleeping on her side so deep we could not see her breath. Both my wife and I thought she was dead. I think she was extremely tired from the stress of the past few days.
Keep a close eye on her eating today. If amounts are too reduced, you'll need to start syringe feeds right away. You just don't want to risk GI stasis setting in if she's not eating enough on her own.
She ate very well today. She even came out for exercise with Norm. However, we noticed her left front paw by where our wrist would be is droopy. She sometimes drags the paw when hopping. They did have an IV in both front paws right where our wrist would be. I called the vet and they said that can sometimes happen and to give it a few days. Did a google search and did not come up with anything.
Left paw still not any better. Called the ER vet today and got a vet tech on the line instead of the receptionist. Explained the issue and she said to bring her over immediately which we did. They diagnosed her with Cellulitis. Gave us a wash, cream, and an injectable antibiotic. Vet said this can happen but it is rare. Said there is an outside chance the paw may need to be amputated.

Has anyone else seen this before. I do not understand how a skin infection could cause her to loose mobility in the paw?
So is your rabbit showing signs of having cellulitis, like a fever or the skin on the leg being swollen, tender, red or mottled, and/or warm from an infection? Or is the only sign being lack of function in the lower front leg?
Vet did not mention fever, but the leg is swollen, tender, and discolored. First pic shows how she holds it normally (she has the cream on). The second pic is what the paw looks like after cleaning. When she hops around and the leg stays folded like in the first pic.

Vet did an x-ray and the bone is not broken. The paw is flexible and she does not appear to be in pain if you straighten it out. Gave first Penicillin g shot this morning. Never gave a rabbit an injection before.

I guess the swelling or whatever causes numbness so she does not use it? I have not found any other occurrence like this on the web.

Lola paw 2.jpgLola paw.jpg
Did your vet rule out compartment syndrome from severe inflammation, as the cause of the weakness in the leg? Is your bun still getting the meloxicam each day and an adequate dose(0.3-0.6mg/kg)?

Any time the skin is broken, an infection starting is always a possible risk. Your poor little bun is just having the worst luck. I hope the antibiotics get the infection under control soon. Though injections are a pain to do, pen g is a good one to try, and actually may be more effective with the URI as well.
Never heard the work compartment syndrome mentioned. They never really said why the paw is weak. The way it is just hanging it seems like it would be numb. I will ask Tuesday when she goes in for a checkup. She is getting .4mg (3mg/ml) of Meloxicam once daily.

She looked even better today than yesterday - other than the front paw. Totally taking advantage of the extra pampering from my wife and I.
Compartment syndrome is where severe swelling, like with inflammation from an injury or infection, can put pressure on muscles and blood vessels in a limb, impeding blood flow which can cause tissue damage and may cause numbness in the limb. It's an emergency type situation and would be very painful.

Since your bun is acting better and not acting like she's in severe pain, this probably isn't likely then, but the inflammation could still be a cause of the paw weakness, due to it restricting blood flow to the paw and causing numbness. Which really isn't good, as ongoing blood flow restriction could result in tissue necrosis occurring. If that happens, amputation becomes a real possibility. So hopefully it's not this.

Another possibility might be the nerve was somehow damaged. I think as the infection responds to the antibiotic and the swelling goes down, it will become clearer what's causing the weakness.

That's really good she enjoys the extra attention ❤️ Some rabbits hate it and it can be a real struggle to provide the nursing care they need when unwell.

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