rabbit Charles twisted his back, causing his right hip to become
dislocated. The emergency room vet, after numerous attempts, could
not get the joint to stay in the socket. He underwent a femoral
head osteoectomy, in which the socket was removed. The hope was
that the muscles, or tendons, would take over the job of the joint.
However, three days after the operation, the left hip became dislocated.
What followed was a month of intensive home care and eventually,
sadly, a quiet death.
my last month with Charles I learned a lot about keeping a rabbit
who could no longer hop about clean, happy and as healthy as possible.
There is a lot to think about and do, but if you have the time -
and this sort of care does take time - it is well worth the effort.
The bond with your rabbit will deepen and you will never doubt how
much you are loved and appreciated. And while my story had an unhappy
ending, many partially paralyzed rabbits have lived happy lives
for much longer periods of time, from several months to several
can become paralyzed for many reasons; from injuries such as I mentioned
to neurological problems such as those related to e. cuniculi (pronounced
'e. koo-nik-u-lie'). So - after you and your rabbit have gotten
the very best vet to give you a prognosis that you and your rabbit
can live with, the at-home nursing care begins.
DO I DO NOW?
Initially, the hardest part for both the rabbit and you is the psychological
pain and adjustment. House rabbits tend to be very independent,
and your rabbit is now dependent on you on ways that neither you
nor your rabbit has ever known. Though cute, we know that rabbits
are not children and that many don't like to be picked up and "told
what to do" - and most don't want you to be in their faces,
prodding them, hand (syringe) feeding them, moving their poop, cleaning
their private parts, etc. Most house rabbits like their spots and
like you in your spot. You will find, however, that after you and
your rabbit get adjusted to this new way of living, he or she will
understand what you are doing and will be accepting and grateful.
At this point your rabbit may not be able to use his litter box,
be able to clean himself, and he may be not even be able to move
around. You need to quickly get used to the fact that he can't do
these things for himself. I wasted a lot of time and probably made
Charles even more frustrated by trying to create some sort of litter
box that I kept hoping he could use. I tried puppy pads so he wouldn't
have to hop over a three-inch side of a normal litter box; I tried
putting litter in a corner of his x-pen. Charles would have none
of it. He simply peed all over himself whenever and wherever he
had never before been confined and now he had to be, because he
could barely move without tripping over himself and he had no control
of his bladder. To accommodate your newly disabled bunny, you'll
need to do the following immediately:
will need to set up accommodations according to your rabbit's
needs and abilities, sometimes this is a matter of trial - and
will want and need to have constant access to your rabbit
also need to find a place where your rabbit is still part of the
family, as keeping him engaged in life is a big part of the nursing
Charles could only scoot - indeed, he could barely lift himself
up off the ground, we set up a corner of the kitchen that was about
5' by 4'. We put up movable walls, using sections of the x-pen.
I did not use the entire x-pen, because I wanted to have easy access,
but some people use the entire pen to allow the rabbit more scooting
room. You will need to decide the best way to accommodate your bunny.
Some things to keep in mind while figuring out the best set up for
too many obstacles in the pen (toys, etc.) can make it hard for
bunny to manipulate himself about. Arrange things according to his
safety and ease of movement
much can your rabbit move about?
will he access the food and water?
Also keep in mind the access YOU will need for petting, scratching
his ears, feeding, medicating, kneeling next to your rabbit to listen
for possible grinding of teeth (a sign of pain), and cleaning. A rabbit
who scoots or drags himself about needs a very clean, cushy place
to do this and many partially paralyzed rabbits suffer from some degree
of fecal or urinary incontinence. On the other hand, some rabbits
lose the ability to urinate completely and must have their bladders
"expressed" (manually voided) several times a day. This
is something your vet or we at Zooh Corner can teach you how to do.
much fussing around, we worked out the following:
one layer of newspaper (may or may not be needed)
a plastic tarp (large enough to cover the entire space)
a padded undersheet that is about 4'x 3' and is made by Pampers
for the bed of one who is incontinent
a synthetic wool covering that covers the entire area
synthetic wool can be purchased by the yard at most fabric stores.
You can also purchase smaller synthetic coverings at PetCo,
or other larger pet supply stores. Some synthetic wools have rubber
backings. We put the smaller coverings over the synthetic wool yardage
coverings. Even with all of these layers, we had urine on the floor,
which we cleaned with white vinegar and Nature's
synthetic wool is your best friend when you are dealing with an
incontinent rabbit. It draws the urine down to the bottom and the
top stays dry, thus the urine is kept away from your rabbit's body,
keeping him relatively dry. It also gives him some cushioning, helping
with possible pressure sores, another thing to look for with a rabbit
who must scoot or drag himself around. You can wash the synthetic
wool and it dries very quickly. You'll want to have enough on hand
so that when you are washing one set/piece, there will be more available.
We bathed Charles's bottom almost every day. It is important to
keep your rabbit's genital area clean and dry, so it does not become
raw or infected. It is important that you wash only the bottom part
of your rabbit or those areas that must be washed.
easiest way to clean a rabbit is in the kitchen sink. Put a rubber
pad, used for protecting glass, in the bottom of the sink, get your
bunny shampoo out, put out two towels - one for your rabbit's front
paws, the other for drying; have your hair dryer near by and plugged
in. Get the water to a comfortable luke-warm temperature. Lower
bunny into the sink on his hind end - which will most likely need
to be supported by one hand, and let his from paws rest on the towel
at sink-side or against your body. You will need to adapt to whichever
way is the easiest and most comfy for your rabbit. Rinse the bottom
part of his torso, whatever areas are dirty and lather with bunny
shampoo. I was worried about Charles' reaction to this, but he liked
it. Keep talking to him, keep kissing his head, keep him calm. Many
rabbits enjoy having their dirty bottoms and stiff muscles massaged
and soaked in the warm bath.
method is to have two plastic containers, shallow enough so your
rabbit can straddle the sides - backside in the container, front
paws outside the container. Fill one container with warm soapy water
(bunny shampoo), add more shampoo as needed and lather well. Move
over to next container, with clean water (or with white vinegar
in it if your rabbit has no pressure sores).
is important that you dry your rabbit as thoroughly as he will tolerate.
We generally sit the bunny on a towel, supported by one hand, and
manipulate the hair under the flow of a luke-warm blow dryer set
about 10 inches away. Often it is easier to set the dryer on a bunched
towel, aim it at the rabbit and move him as needed. Because the
rabbit's bottom can get very messy and because a rabbit's fur is
quite thick, it may be wise to have your rabbit's bottom shaved.
ASK YOUR RABBIT VET. Shaving also gives you a good view of any rug
burns or pressure sores, and it makes the application of Desitin
ointment possible. Since a rabbit's skin is so very thin, it is
wise to put the ointment on the bottom after almost every bath.
you put your clean rabbit on his just washed bedding, you will have
this great moment - and your rabbit will know you have done for
him - I promise.
If your rabbit does not have to be confined in a very small area
for medical reasons or if you really cannot create a safe, accessible
space where your rabbit can urinate as he will, you can do diapers.
I was skeptical about using diapers on my rabbit, but they work
and Charles tolerated them surprisingly well. The best thing about
diapers is that it permitted Charles to venture through the house
as he once had. I could bring him into the den and he could scoot/drag
himself to his favorite place.
To Diaper Bunny
Unless you have a very small rabbit, you need to get diapers in
size "large" (or Step Two) for newborns. I made many mistakes
purchasing diapers that were too small. The diaper comes folded,
and you simply cut a 1" slit in the right in the middle of
the center fold - this will create a 2" slit for the tail.
a towel on the counter or table, put your rabbit on the towel,
facing away from you.
the front of the diaper (it has the Velcro), pull the paper coverings
off the Velcro tabs, open the diaper and wrap the diaper through
your rabbit's back legs.
the tail through the 2" slit.
the four ends of the diaper, slightly suspend the rabbit in this
"hammock" and secure the diaper snugly around his chest
area or upper belly, depending on how high the diaper will go
on your rabbit.
the tail isn't sticking out of the slit, stick your finger through
the slit, find the tail, and pull it out.
on how much your rabbit poops, the diaper can get very heavy. The
greatest downside to diapers is your rabbit cannot get to his cecotropes
(you know, the smelly stuff that looks like greenish-brown grapes),
which is so nutritional. Clearly, you should recover the cecotropes
from the diaper and feed it to your rabbit, if he will take them.
the diaper only to give Charles freedom when he was feeling well
enough to roam around. I thought he would be spending all his time
pulling at it - but that did not happen. It gave him freedom, and
that was more important to him than the oddity of having this funny
AND KEEPING BUNNY HAPPY
Keeping your rabbit happy and engaged in life is very important
and you will need to find new ways of doing this.
muscle massages during cuddle sessions
vets will recommend home physical therapy sessions
toys he can flip about or chew, but those that won't inhibit his
movements in his pen
him outside to sit on the grass with you (no chemical fertilizers/pesticides)
visits from you, lots of pats and conversation (even just in passing
bunny into different rooms so he can see what is happening
your rabbit has a partner, this will be very helpful in keeping
him occupied and happy (and can help keep those ears groomed!).
If not, you may want to talk to your vet about adopting a new
friend for him, to help while away all those boring hours when
YOU aren't there!