When Your Rabbit Needs Special Care : Traditional and Alternative Healing Methods

When Your Rabbit Needs Special Care : Traditional and Alternative Healing Methods
Lucile C. Moore and Kathy Smith
June 2008
How To & Reference
Trade Paper

From the Authors of A House Rabbit Primer and Rabbit Health in the 21st Century

When Your Rabbit Needs Special Care is an illustrated guide to the care and behavior of rabbits with special needs. The book provides information on topics as diverse as how to administer subcutaneous fluids to a rabbit and how sounds and color help promote healing.

Quotes from top rabbit veterinarians and alternative healing practitioners from across the country are included, as are useful tips from rabbit owners who have had experience in dealing with particular medical conditions. The text is illustrated with both photographs and drawings, making it easy for readers to follow.

Authors Lucile C. Moore and Kathy Smith provide pet owners with special-needs rabbits with information on basic care, pain control, digestive system problems, chronic illnesses, physically challenged rabbits, progressive disabilities causing mobility problems, dental care, elderbuns, and emotional issues.

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Mr. Tim: An Introduction to Special Needs and Special Care

PART I: Traditional Healing Methods

Chapter 1
Basic Care I
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 2
Basic Care II
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 3
Digestive Ailments
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 4
Infections and Infestations.
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 5
Sprains, Dislocations, Fractures, and Pododermatitis
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 6
Coping with Paresis and Paralysis in Your Rabbit
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 7
Dental Disorders
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 8
Other Illnesses and Conditions Requiring Special Care
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 9
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 10
Triage for Large-Scale Rescues
Lucile C. Moore, with Debby Widolf, Shelley Thayer, and Sandi Ackerman

PART II: Alternative Healing Methods

Chapter 11
An Introduction to Alternative Treatments
Kathy Smith

Chapter 12
Interspecies Communication
Kathy Smith

Chapter 13
Energy Medicine
Kathy Smith

Chapter 14
Acupuncture and Chiropractic
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 15
Healing Through Touch
Lucile C. Moore

Chapter 16
Alternative Systemic Treatment
Kathy Smith

Death and Recovery from Grief
Lucile C. Moore

Appendix I
Tables of Selected Medications Used to Treat Rabbits
Lucile C. Moore and Kathy Smith

Appendix II
Rabbit Vital Signs
Kathy Smith, reviewed by Noella Allan, DVM

Appendix III
Traditional Resources for Rabbit Caregivers
Lucile C. Moore and Kathy Smith

Appendix IV
Alternative Treatment Resources for Rabbit Caregivers
Lucile C. Moore and Kathy Smith


Abbreviations and Acronyms


Selected Bibliography


Mr. Tim: An Introduction to Special Needs and Special Care

The baby rabbit was barely visible on the bottom of the hay-filled box at the back of the barn. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light I could see that his tiny body was shaking. He appeared so small, so delicate; I was afraid even to touch him. I looked at my friends, my questions in my eyes.

“I was going to euthanize him because he has a lot of congenital abnormalities,” Sharon explained to me. “But my husband fell in love with him and begged me to find him a home. I couldn’t trust just anyone to give him the special care he needs, so I thought of you.”

Sharon carefully lifted the tiny rabbit from the box and handed him to me. For some reason I held the frail body as I would rarely hold a rabbit—upside down, cradled in my arms. His trembling stopped immediately and he relaxed against my chest with a visible sigh. My heart contracted and a fierce protectiveness filled my being.

“Did you see that? Did you see how he looked at her with instant total trust?” my friend Dave marveled. “He knows he is safe now. He knows he has found a home.”

That was my introduction to the world of special-needs rabbits. For the next several years, my life would revolve around the tiny little tortoise Holland Lop. Answering his needs would fill my every day, and his incredibly strong spirit would dominate that of every other rabbit in my home. He lived three wonderfully happy years, and when he died, he died in my arms. For his burial, I wrapped him in a hand-stitched velveteen heart quilt given to me for that purpose by a friend who understood the magnitude of my loss. A lock of my hair rested on his breast. This book is dedicated to you, Mr. Tim, and to all those human companions who meet the difficult and rewarding challenge of caring for special-needs rabbits.

Mr. Tim was a true special-needs rabbit; a rabbit who required special care every day of his life. But any rabbit can become a rabbit that requires support for a short time. The bun might become ill, break a limb, have serious digestive troubles, or simply live long enough to develop some of the infirmities of old age. Occasionally, a rabbit may not come through a routine surgery as expected and suddenly require special care. Nor is a physical problem necessary for a rabbit to require extra support. Sometimes rabbits need special care because of emotional problems stemming from early mistreatment.

Usually the need for special care is temporary, lasting only long enough for the rabbit to recover from a transitory condition. Sometimes, though, the need is permanent. Most caretakers of permanently disabled rabbits don’t set out to become caretakers. A perfectly healthy rabbit may become a disabled rabbit in an instant if the spine is severed in a cage accident or from mishandling. Other times, rabbits have serious congenital problems that may not show up until months or years have passed.

Most of us can cope with a temporary need to give a rabbit extra care if we are able to find the information to help us do it correctly. Sometimes all it takes is a day or so of monitoring a rabbit’s temperature and food intake, and adding a light blanket to the cage for warmth. Or we may need to give an oral medication for a few days. We can probably even copethough we may be a little more hesitantif we find we need to administer subcutaneous fluids for a week.

Providing such care for the life of the rabbit is a different matter entirely. If you are suddenly confronted with having a rabbit that requires lifelong special care, one of the first questions to ask yourself is whether you will realistically be able to take on the commitment. Caring for a permanently disabled rabbit requires a great investment of time, money, and emotion. If you have cared for a healthy house rabbit, quadruple or quintuple the time you spend on it for an estimate of the amount of time it will take to care for a severely disabled house rabbit. Does your job and family life permit such an investment? Can you take the emotional upheaval of caring for a permanently disabled rabbit? Many such rabbits experience widely varying ups and downs that can be hard to take. Just when you feel the rabbit has turned the corner, he/she slides back downover and over and over again. Finally, do you have the financial resources to provide permanent special care to a rabbit? Special daily supplies and food are often required, not to mention veterinary costs and medications.

If you can’t answer the above questions in the affirmative, you may want to think before taking on the care of a severely disabled rabbit. The twin necessities of earning money and caring for one’s human family may simply make such a commitment impossible for many, however much they may wish to take it on. If your current circumstances don’t allow you to take on such care and you find yourself with a rabbit requiring special assistance, contact your local House Rabbit Society (HRS)1 chapter or rabbit rescue organization. They may be able to find someone who can. But if you do answer in the affirmative, prepare yourself for a life-changing experience. Caretakers often develop remarkably close relationships with their special-needs rabbits. Donna Jensen, who became a member of the House Rabbit Society (HRS) in 1992 and has fostered rabbits with special needs ever since, comments, “Nothing is more special than caring for them. It is very rewarding, and I always say it is an honor to serve. They really, really want to be here, so you say ‘Yes, I will do this for you.’”

Maria Perez, manager of the Las Vegas chapter of the House Rabbit Society, sanctuaries 16 medically compromised rabbits. “The most rewarding thing is that I learn something of value from them every day,” Maria states. “They indeed never cease to amaze me.” Although she loves all the rabbits who come to her, it is evident that one, Chloe, holds a special place in Maria’s heart. “The veterinarians say that she is a miraclewith all of the adversity she has overcome and medical challenges, yet she remains the happiest soul I have ever known. She is my life coach. ‘It’s OK Mom, tomorrow is another day,’ she’ll whisper when I’m blue. She is a joy to my heart each and every day.”

Stephen F . Guida, a volunteer with Brambley Hedge Rabbi t Rescue, has shared his life with several rabbits needing special care. “I have received so much from caring for my special-needs bunnies,” Steve comments. “For one, the complete and total trust they place in you is very beautiful and heart-warming. The love they show every time you care for them is something that never grows old. Curiously, my special-needs bunnies have always seemed to be my happiest bunnies, taking such complete joy in a simple brushing, a pat on the head, a scratch on the ear, or something that any ‘normal’ rabbit would not think twice about.”

Lucile C. Moore, PhD