Senior bunny - concerning behaviour

Discussion in 'Health & Wellness' started by skiptracer, Mar 17, 2014.

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  1. Mar 17, 2014 #1

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

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    Hi all,

    I posted an introduction about a month ago - we have a 10 year old bunny that we adopted recently. So far he's been in good health and spirits.

    For context: Lately, we noticed him drinking a lot more water than usual and more frequent urination. When we adopted him we were told to watch for signs of kidney failure, and taking these as indicators we sent him along to the vet yesterday.
    His tests went well - he has no kidney issues, and all of his bloodwork came back normal. However, he was kept in for longer than usual due to a strange spell he had shortly after the procedures. Basically, he went completely limp and was unresponsive to anything- and so the vet (who is a bunny specialist, and has been working in emergency for most of her career) got him hooked up to an IV and gave him lots of good fluids, being concerned that he was near death.

    Apparently there was no immediate reaction to this treatment (she said that with rabbits that are dying, they usually respond to this quite well, and quite quickly - even if just for a short while) and so she kept an eye on him. After quite some time, he started to hop around and eat some greens and behave like his usual self.

    Since we have had him home, he is acting incredibly strangely. Much like the vet described, he is going through spells of complete limpness/unresponsiveness - these can last 2-10 minutes. His head is on the ground and his feet are stretched out behind/in front of him. For a bunny that is usually resistant to any handling (we can barely even pick him up for a toenail clipping!) he is unresponsive to our touch when he is like this - he doesn't try to move or resist. He also won't notice any pellets we place near his nose, despite the fact that when he is behaving 'normally' he goes CRAZY for them.

    Then after a while - he hops up again. There is always a LOT of droppings in the place he was just laying, which we have been putting back into his litter tray. He'll hop over to his food and water and have a little of each - but he's not eating with vigour like before, just little amounts here and there.

    It's also worth noting that he wants nothing to do with us - he used to give us head bumps for pats, and how he completely ignores us even when we are trying to comfort him (we could be doing more harm than good to our relationship with him by stroking him during these spells, but we honestly don't know what to do). We did call the Emergency vet clinic last night (that our vet works from) due to the first of these spells, but by the time I was off the phone he had decided t get back up and start hopping around. However, 5-10 minutes later, he had another episode.

    I know that this is all quite vague but I'm hoping that someone might have some insight. We are concerned that he may be on his way out, but are sincerely hoping that we have a little more time with our little bun.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
  2. Mar 17, 2014 #2

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

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    In addition: this is strange, but he is chewing his food differently. It sounds loud and wet, and it seems to take him a long time to chew. I really have no idea what might be wrong :(
     
  3. Mar 17, 2014 #3

    PaGal

    PaGal

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    I can only imagine how worried you are. I really have no experience with older buns or any situation similar to yours. Hopefully someone may come along that has more knowledge.

    When he was at the vets last were his teeth checked? Dental issues could maybe explain why you are noticing a difference in the way he is chewing. It could also explain why he is not eating with the same vigour as before. Is he still eating his greens the same as he did before? If he's not eating his pellets as much but is still eating his greens as always then that could also point to dental issues. Pellets being hard might be more painful to chew.

    I don't think that would explain the spells though.
     
  4. Mar 17, 2014 #4

    whiskylollipop

    whiskylollipop

    whiskylollipop

    Laura the Bunsnuggler

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    Oh no :( That sounds really weird, I'd suspect the vet accidentally affected his nervous system in some way during the kidney procedure that's now causing him to go into these odd seizures. I'd go back immediately and ask for a proper checkup.

    When he has an episode, is he completely limp even when you pick him up or make loud noises near him? Are his eyes open or closed? Is his nose moving? Are his poos normal-looking, solid and round?
     
  5. Mar 17, 2014 #5

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

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    Thank you both so much for responding. PaGal, I think his teeth are okay - he's still eating pellets (sporadically, but definitely eating them) and also enjoying carrot when he does feel like eating. He's also still eatings greens, but it seems to be more laboursome than it was before - almost like he's producing more saliva. He was making some considerable grinding noises last night, which led me to believe he was in discomfort.

    whiskylollipop - that's a good point, and I hadn't thought of the potential for his nervous system to be affected. I will be calling the rescue centre we got him from (as they still take care of his vet bills) and also consulting our vet today. I had wondered if maybe these were seizures, but never having a bunny before I don't know what to look for. I worry that perhaps we bit off more than we could chew getting such a senior bunny, but we love him so much.

    In his most serious episode, he was limp enough for my partner to be able to scoop his hand right underneath Bun without any resistance (we were trying to gently pick him up to put him in his carrier, thinking we would be needing to take him to emergency). We were also able to handle his feet easily (he still had a few bits of tape stuck to his fur after coming out of the theatre). We said his name to him - no response, and my partner also tapped the floor to see if we got any kind of response - nothing. His eyes were open but not bulging, his nose was not moving at all.
    When he comes out of an episode he does seem quite active, hopping around - but also very easily frightened - almost like we are not familiar to him and he's scared of us. I have wondered before if he might be a little senile, and now I'm wondering if these are some kind of mini strokes.

    His poos don't seem to have changed much other than getting a little smaller - although his poo has always varied quite a bit in size, and as he's not a big hay eater we were told that we should expect his poop to be on the small size. I haven't seen a significant enough change in size to feel worried about yet - although there does seem to be a lot MORE than usual.

    Poor Stan. Don't you just wish that sometimes they could talk so that you could know what was wrong and help them? I just want to scoop him up and make it all better :(
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
  6. Mar 18, 2014 #6

    whiskylollipop

    whiskylollipop

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    Laura the Bunsnuggler

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    Loud tooth grinding is a sign of pain. Bunnies only stop moving their nose in a state of sleeping/unconsciousness. Along with the other symptoms and what you said about him not wanting to be touched, it sounds like something's definitely not right with the poor thing and it /could/ indicate a serious problem. If his eating is laboured, there's always the possibility it's a tooth issue...but if it only started along with the other behaviour changes, I'd hazard that they're probably linked.

    You may be right that it's the bunny version of a stroke that he's going through. I have no experience/knowledge with this though - hopefully your vet will be able to give him the treatment he needs. I'm glad you have the rescue's assistance with vet fees. Get well soon, Stan!
     
  7. Mar 18, 2014 #7

    JBun

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    A stroke does sound like a possibility, maybe due to the stress of being at the vet. That could account for the strange eating that you are seeing now, especially if there is any diminished muscle control on one side of the body. The continued limpness episodes could be seizures. These episodes can certainly be causing confusion and affecting how he is reacting to you.
    http://wildpro.twycrosszoo.org/S/00dis/Miscellaneous/Epilepsy_Bears.htm

    I agree that the grinding noises are likely due to pain, or could also be due to emotional distress. Your rabbit may need pain meds, but if due to emotional distress, possibly from seizure/stroke confusion, then other steps and meds may be needed. I'm not sure what can be done for rabbits that have experienced a stroke, but I know for seizures they can give meds to help. If you don't have a really good rabbit vet, I would suggest finding one. In complex medical situations like this, you want the best rabbit vet available to you.
    http://www.boingonline.com/alternate_home/Melbourne_vets.html
    http://members.shaw.ca/cocoasun/AustralianRabbitVets.htm
     
  8. Mar 18, 2014 #8

    skiptracer

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    Hi guys,

    Our vet (who really is a good vet - she's specifically a bunny doctor, that is all she does - here in Australia they do not offer such specialisations due to rabbits still being seen as pests, but she studied in the UK and comes highly, highly recommended) came out today to do some more checks, and gave us the sad news that Stanley has heart complications, which are terminal. I can't remember the exact details of the kind of heart disease he has, but essentially his heart is no longer functioning the way it should and as a result he has irregular heartbeats which explain his episodes. It also explains his decrease appetite, and some other symptoms he has been showing (coughing, stretching up his neck frequently when breathing normally, unusually lethargic behaviour, fluid retention in his chest). Sadly, it is terminal and she does not expect that he will live much longer. We have been given medication for him and told that if he does see it through the coming days then then we may have him for a few months, but often rabbits decline quickly - she lost her own bunny to this same disorder at the start of this year and it was a rapid decline.

    I am staying home from work to be with him. At the moment he is barely eating (I've managed to get some Critical Care into him, but he will only take it if I feed it to him off my finger) and some sweet treats. Thank you all for your kind words and thoughtfulness- it has really helped and I appreciate it more than you know.
     
  9. Mar 18, 2014 #9

    PaGal

    PaGal

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    Oh no poor Stanley! Such sad news and I am very sorry to hear it. He is lucky though that he has been able to be in a home where he is loved and cared for.
     
  10. Mar 18, 2014 #10

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

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    Thanks, PaGal. He got through the night okay but now we are having trouble getting food into him, which I'm concerned may be the final push.
     
  11. Mar 19, 2014 #11

    mjpeter

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    I'm so sorry...I just read through the thread. You and your bun will be in my thoughts.
     
  12. Mar 19, 2014 #12

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

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    thank you - it means a lot. It's heartbreaking to think that just a few days ago he was coming outside with us and happily hopping around, exploring. Now he can barely move from his little rug to his food..
     
  13. Mar 19, 2014 #13

    skiptracer

    skiptracer

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    Also, if anyone has any tips on how to make a critically ill rabbit comfortable, that would be really helpful. We have already elevated his food (I think he has trouble breathing when his head is close to the ground), and have put down lots of blankets. He has lots little dark cosy spots to sleep (made from carboard boxes). We are finding that he doesn't want us anywhere near him, and that's really hard. All I want to do is stroke him and try and comfort him the only way I know how, but he seems very afraid of us at the moment.
     
  14. Mar 19, 2014 #14

    whiskylollipop

    whiskylollipop

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    Laura the Bunsnuggler

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    Oh Stan. :(

    I'm so sorry, it must have been very hard to hear that news. I'd be a devastated mess for weeks! It's awful how these lovable little creatures have such short lives. Stay strong. If I knew my time was coming, I'd probably want to be left alone too...but that doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate the home and care you've given him. I'm sure he'll live out the rest of his life as comfortably as an old bunny can.
     
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  15. Mar 19, 2014 #15

    PaGal

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    It is a terribly sad situation that you are in and my heart goes out to you and your bun.

    My grandmother had some mini strokes and then had two major ones. She did not survive the last. After the first major one there were times she would not recognize me or remember me. If your bun has had strokes it may be that he doesn't always remember you and that might be why he is acting fearful. I would also think that being a prey animal they may instinctively be more frightened when they are not well. Just as they have an instinct to hide their pain. He may feel more vulnerable knowing he is not well.

    I think you are doing every thing you can to keep him comfortable. He is lucky to have found a good home with a loving family to care for him in his final days.
     
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  16. Mar 19, 2014 #16

    Nancy McClelland

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    I thought with his age that the news would not be good. Some of ours have gone at 3 and we had one almost make it to 16. Just how things are. All we care about is that they are happy the whole time they are with us and it's never easy having to say goodbye no matter how long they are with you.
     
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  17. Apr 1, 2014 #17

    skiptracer

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    Hi all,

    Thought I'd give you a little update :) Defying the vets suspicions, our little man is still with us! His behaviours and his appetite wax and wane - he has days were he is very confused and avoids us, hardly eats, and days (like today) were we get up in the morning and he greets us for pats and eats ALL of his greens (which is rare lately).
    The vet came to visit us last week and gave us another dose of his medications (he's on a diuretic and also some medication for enlarged hearts). We had connected some behavioural problems with the administration of his medication, so the vet told us to hold off for a few days. Surprisingly, he came along in leaps and bounds. We even got a binkie out of him when we took him outside for some excercise! We've started him on the meds again now, and are thinking up more inventive ways of giving them to him. Syringe dosing was causing him far too much stress and we have found that soaking his liquid meds in sultanas works a treat. As we do not want to go back to syringe dosing due to his moods being much better when he does not have to endure the stress of it, does anyone have any other creative ways of dosing? I have heard of babyfood, however not so sure if that is okay (obviously we would need to find a kind that is literally 100% vegetables/fruit with no additives). He doesn't like juice, either.
     
  18. Apr 1, 2014 #18

    JBun

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    Jenny - Health & Wellness Mod Staff Member Administrator Moderator

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    Glad to hear your bun is hanging in there and is doing ok despite everything. If your bun doesn't have stasis issues, you could try mixing the meds in some mushed banana. Plain canned pumpkin(no added spices) might work as well, if your bun will eat it.
     
  19. Apr 1, 2014 #19

    skiptracer

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    Hi JBun, thanks! We have tried banana, but he's really not into it. We have one fussy bunny! He also doesn't like the apple flavoured critical care.
     
  20. Apr 3, 2014 #20

    ChocoClover

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    Poor little bun. I feel so bad for you and him.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2014

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