How do I care for a disabled bunny?

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fannymanson

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My poor boy.




I am writing this with tears in my eyes. My bunny, Big Brown, has become disabled. I posted a while back about his instability and falling over. At the time he was still able to hop and get around pretty well. Now his right hind leg is practically useless. He drags on his hip very badly and pulls his hind end along. He is not paralyzed, he can feel his leg, and I can tell he has muscles that are active in it, but it is useless to him. He lays on his right side constantly and the muscles are starting to atrophy.

Many people referred me to a vet and believe me, if I could afford it, I would take him. Since my last post, one of my cats got sick and passed away, and that was very costly. I am not made of money. I live paycheck to paycheck. In fact, my electric bill didn't even get paid last month. I almost didn't post this because I know there are always people who say things like "If you cant afford to pay the vet bill, then you shouldn't have pets". Maybe they are right. But it's too late now. I have several pets and I can't imagine a life without them. If you feel this way, skip this post and move along, because I am not interested in your remarks.

My concern is that I need to be able to take care of a bunny with a disability. I have made a modification to his cage and built a screened floor for him. I have also posted another earlier entry showing photos of his cage with carpeting to help give him traction.

http://www.rabbitsonline.net/showthread.php?t=79691

That worked for a while, but as his disability has progressed, he became unable to get in and out of his litter box. After I found him wet with urine, I ditched the carpet and now his cage is lined with newspapers, covered by a couple inches of shavings, and then a screened frame which allows his droppings and urine to fall away from his body.

I turn him out in the back yard for 8-9 hours every day. He can graze and eat cecotropes and get fresh air and sunshine all day. In fact, he gets more turnout than his brother just because I can't bear the thought of him laying on a caged floor all day.




The screened floor was a last resort. I know rabbits need to be able to eat their cecotropes, and I generally don't feel that a caged floor is appropriate for animals. I am at a loss. I know he needs medications. I called the small animal clinic at the University and they said they would need to do bloodwork and radiographs and xrays and it would be over $300 for a diagnosis. Plus the cost of treatment. I could possibly afford the treatment, but I do not have $300 in my budget. I hate it, but it's the truth.

I am faced with a decision. Should I have him put down? I feel like he is maybe approaching his old age. He was born in November of 2008, so that would make him 6 years old and maybe this is the beginning of the end for him. We have built him a little wheelchair out of PVC but so far I don't have it rigged quite right for him to use it. Plus, even after I get it set up, he can only use it while supervised.

I bought a baby pool and I am going to carpet the floor of it so that when the weather is not cooperating, I can still get him out of his cage for a bit. I don't know how to take care of him. I don't know whether he is in any degree of pain. I don't know how much more time he has or would have if he didn't become disabled. I need any helpful advice that people can give concerning caring for a disabled bunny. It is heartbreaking to see what he is going through, and he is such a good boy. I hate that this is happening to him.

In addition to his disability, he had one of his front incisors break off in 2010 and it never grew back.
http://www.rabbitsonline.net/showthread.php?t=80371

He also has a large number of sebaceous cysts on his testes.
http://www.rabbitsonline.net/showthread.php?t=55213

I believe he may also have a chronic case of snuffles because he sounds gurgly and snotty although I never see any excess discharge. His disability may be related to that. I feel like such an inadequate bunny mommy because I can't afford to pay for his medical care.. This is rotten. After my two boys pass, I will never have bunnies again. This has been very discouraging.
 

Ivythelionhead

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I'm so sorry unfortunately I don't know anyway to help you but I just wanted you to know that I don't judge you sometimes you can't afford a vet and you just do the best you can and I also wanted to show you my support tho I know it's not much considering you don't know me but I'm here un the less and I hope someone comes on here who can help you I truly do good luck with your bunny hope he gets better.
 

Azerane

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I'm sorry that I don't have much advice to give since I don't have any experience with this sort of thing. I just wanted to say, that if you did end up considering putting him down, I would look for a rabbit specific rescue instead. There are many people out there who would have all the knowledge and experience of caring for a disabled bun, and it's not the end of the road. So if it came down to euthanasia, I simply would look into rescues first :)

Best of luck with him, despite his problem, it sounds like he still leads a pretty good life.
 

Kati's Holland Lops

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I don't really know what to say to help... I have a rabbit that is blind in one eye, I just try and make his life fun, enjoyable, and high quality. You know what they say quality of life is better than quantity
 

yodathedwarf

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Well he is old and you are trying your best. Just don't give up on him. Is he making noises indicating pain? If your rabbits making those noises you have the choice to put out his misery. My opinion.
 

JBun

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I'm so sorry this has happened to your bun. I don't have experience with a severely disabled bun, but here are some excellent links with a lot of helpful information. I hope you are able to find the answers that you need to provide your bun with the best life possible, despite his condition.
http://www.disabledrabbits.com/
http://mohrs.org/index.php?id=paralysis
http://www.catsandrabbitsandmore.com/disabled_rabbits
http://www.specialbunny.org/special-needs-housing/

I also found this.
http://brighteyessanctuary.org/educ/SpecialCare.pdf
 

fannymanson

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Excellent collection of links! Thank you! I am going to work on setting up the baby pool with carpet for traction, cushions, towels, and hay. I might even try diapering him if he will let me. I don't want to put him down, but I want him to be as comfortable as possible. He will only lay on his right side and then props himself up with his front legs. It makes me so sad for him.
 

fannymanson

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I am horrified to say this, but Big Brown has Fly Strike and I am most likely going to have him euthanized tomorrow morning. This was unknown to me until about an hour ago when I brought him inside and saw the mess on his body. I have been flushing it for an hour and we are still finding maggots and eggs.
 

fannymanson

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Update, I believe my other bunny, Bobby, is getting disabled too. He is collapsing on his right hip and he can't navigate or hop very well.

I am very distraught about this. I was doing somewhat ok with one, two is a lot though. I may be getting out of the bunny business. I really don't WANT to have them put down, but how much of my life and my time and my money can I give? I still have other obligations too.

So I am considering euthanasia for them at some point. I know I don't have to make a decision right now, as I can manage them, but they will surely become more and more dependent. I also wonder about their quality of life. I can see Big Brown enjoys certain things despite his disability. I know he is also frustrated that he can't move and go where he wants. It breaks my heart for them both.
 

JBun

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Have you done any investigation as to why your first rabbit became disabled? Was it spinal injury, spinal degeneration, e. cuniculi, and did you ever try and treat it with medications?
 

fannymanson

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No, I am afraid that I can't afford the vet bill, I am sure it would be over $300 according to the conversation I had with the vet at the small animal clinic.

http://vetmed.iastate.edu/vmc/small-animal

I don't think it was injury, because it was degenerative, getting worse since spring. They both spent time in the backyard when the weather permitted, although now I am scared to let them out. Bobby is clumsy and Big Brown is dragging and struggling with his hind end. Sometimes he struggles so hard he flips over and I am worried he may hurt himself flailing about like that. I want him to stay still and balanced.
 

JBun

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Did you look into e. cuniculi as a cause of the paralysis? It's a protozoal parasite that can attack a rabbits brain and CNS causing neurological symptoms like paralysis. With you having two rabbits coming down with similar symptoms, I would suspect this as being a possible cause.
http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/paresis.html
http://www.woodward-vets.co.uk/information/Encephalitozoon%20cuniculi.pdf
http://www.gwexotics.com/wccms-resources/a/5/0/e/77554b90-a660-11e0-a685-0050568626ea.pdf

It really would be best to have a vet look into this and offer treatment, but you are saying this isn't possible, so I'll just provide the info I know about treating e. cuniculi and you can decide what you are going to do.

The antiparasitic used to treat e. cuniculi, is called fenbendazole. It is a common wormer used in a variety of farm animals. It can sometimes be found at a feed or tractor supply store that carries livestock supplies, or it can be ordered online. The best one to use is Safeguard liquid goat wormer. The dosage used to treat EC is 20mg/kg once a day for at least 28 days, with the fenbendazole. The liquid goat wormer is a 10% solution, meaning it has 100mg/ml of the fenbendazole. So that translates to 0.2ml/cc per kg of the rabbits body weight(or 0.09ml/cc per lb) of the wormer given daily for 4 weeks, administered using a 1cc oral syringe.
http://www.amazon.com/Durvet-Safeguard-Goat-Dewormer-125ml/dp/B000HHLVB8

If these neurological symptoms your rabbits are showing are caused by EC, treatment will have the greatest chance of helping your other rabbit who is just starting to show signs, but it is possible your disabled bun could show some improvement, but there is a chance the EC spores have caused permanent cell damage that may be irreversible.
 
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fannymanson

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Can I just say here thank you so much! I didn't know I could just buy the product myself! I ordered the Safeguard product from Amazon for $20. I will dose them both. I can try to take care of them and keep them clean and comfortable. We are going to modify Bobby's cage tomorrow with a wire floor frame like Big Browns. I do not want to keep them on wire flooring full time, so I am also going to figure out another enclosure. I like using the baby pool, but Big Brown sometimes gets out and tries to go exploring. Bobby just had a butt bath because he wasn't using his litterbox for his droppings, although he still uses it for urine.

DSCI3078.jpg
 

fannymanson

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Just wanted to add a couple of photos from today. I will eventually move Big Brown back into his cage, but for now, Bobby is borrowing it. I am off work today so I am checking them every hour or more. These guys are so patient and good for me.

DSCI3188.jpg

DSCI3187.jpg
 

cirrustwi

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I'm so sorry to hear that this is happening to your bunnies. And I completely understand not being able to pay for a vet. I was a vet tech and have worked in management of multiple pet stores, but after 9 years with out answers, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease last year and due to the treatments, I am unable to do the lifting any longer, so I have gone back to my original profession as a pharmacy tech and I miss the perks of having great relationships with great vets. Anyway, from what you are describing, this sounds like E.C., which is heartbreaking. However, I'd like to suggest that you get in touch with a rescue group I fostered for and adopted one of my rabbits from. They are based in Pittsburgh, PA and only take in special needs rabbits, most of which have gone to shelters and the shelter has gotten a diagnosis from a vet and they can't afford the care, so they call these people and the group takes on the rabbit. The vet they use is the best rabbit, or any exotic animal, vet within the area. They are doing great things with E.C. and may have some suggestions for you. The rabbit I got from them has E.C., but she only shows symptoms in her eye and she has not had an infection in over 3 years and if she did have one, I have full confidence that we could fight it. She also has not passed it to my other rabbits. The group is called Rabbit Wranglers, http://www.rabbitwranglers.org/ and they have a Facebook page.

Just so you know, E.C. isn't anything you did wrong. Most people don't know, but 90% of all rabbits have been exposed to E.C. somewhere through their genetics and nearly 100% of show rabbits have been exposed.
 

fannymanson

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Do rabbits lick and suck fabric for any reason? I have noticed Big Brown licking the towels in his bedding so that they feel very wet. I wondered if it is cause by pain, or happiness or anything? He was also pretending to dig the towels. I did take him outside for a minute after that. I thought maybe he just wants to be a rabbit for a little bit.

I also wonder about these scabs from the fly strike. They are thick. Maybe even 1/4 inch in places. Some of them are starting to peel. I did trim a loose one so the scab wouldn't catch and rip off. Or should I even help get the loose ones off? I don't know. I am only treating with Vetericyn. I think I read about another medicated shampoo to try. I am using baby shampoo for butt baths now.

I did order a book about caring for special needs bunnies, but it isn't here yet.

He looks like he only has one leg in this picture, but they are all there, I promise! He anchors his front legs the opposite direction so he can prop up. I am also worried about his spine with that twist. Or are they pretty flexible?

He's giving you his good boy ears.

DSCI3192.jpg
 
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whiskylollipop

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I've been following this thread silently, you are such an angel for doing so much to help Big Brown! He's looking so much better and I can't tell you how much that warms my heart.

Licking fabric/carpet is just a thing bunnies do, possibly to clean their tongues or simulate grooming another bunny or something. Its not a sign of pain, so don't worry! As for the scab, I'd continue trimming off very loose bits so they don't catch and rip like you said, but leave them otherwise so it protects the new skin beneath.
 
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