Because of their instincts as prey animals, rabbits don't
tend to show outward signs of illness or pain. A prey animal
that looks sick or injured will be singled out by predators.
Then they often soon will become a meal. For this reason, it is
very important that you know your pet rabbits' ways and
habits so that you can notice anything out of the ordinary,
and that you take even small changes seriously. Something as
simple as hiding in a new place, refusing a favorite treat
or unusual posture can be a sign that something is wrong.
Here is a veterinarian recommended checklist to help you
decide whether your bunny may be ill:
1. Offer the rabbit a treat. If it is not
interested, try a
different treat. If nothing works, go to step two.
2. Take the rabbit's temperature.
Simple instructions for taking your rabbit's temperature:
a. If possible, get someone else with whom the rabbit is
familiar to help you. Hold the rabbit on its back in your
lap on a soft pad on a secure tabletop, whichever seems
easiest to you. The rabbit's head should be against your
belly and its back should be curled so you can access its
rear end. Make sure its back is supported all the way down to
the tail so that if it kicks it won't injure its back.
b. Once the bunny is calm, take a well-lubricated plastic
thermometer and very carefully and gently insert it into the
rabbit's rear end (the opening that is closest to the base of
the tail). If you are holding the rabbit as described above
and its back is curled, the thermometer should go in almost
straight down toward your lap. Don't put it in more than an
inch, and don't force it in at all. Be very carefully about
that, a rabbit's colon and rectum are easily damaged.
c. If the rabbit struggles, carefully let it turn onto its
stomach and talk to it soothingly until it will let you turn
it over again. If you just can't seem to do it, you'll need
to take the bunny to your vet and have them do it for you.
After a few minutes, take the thermometer out and check the
temperature. If the temperature is around 104 degrees
Fahrenheit (39.9 degrees Celsius) it is a low-grade fever
and might be caused by anything from stress to the
beginnings of an illness.
If the temperature is over 105 degrees Fahrenheit or 40.5
Celsius it is serious. Brain damage or death can occur
fairly quickly if a rabbit has a high fever for very long.
Immediately place cold packs on the rabbit's belly and
sides. (Frozen vegetables will work if you don't have cold
packs.) Swabbing his ears with rubbing alcohol on a soft
cloth (or cool water if you have no alcohol) will help a lot
too. Meanwhile, call or have someone else phone your vet's
office and tell them about the situation, and take the
rabbit to the clinic or emergency hospital immediately.
If the temperature is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38.1
Celsius), the rabbit is hypothermic and may be in shock or
have a serious systemic infection. This too is an emergency.
Place cloth-wrapped hot water bottles (Ziploc bags work too)
around the rabbit to help increase its body temperature.
Watch its temperature until it is at least at 100F, then
wrap it in warm towels (from the dryer?) and take it to the
If the rabbit's body temperature is between 101 and 103
degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.4 Celsius, go on to step
3. Take your stethoscope (Pet owners
should always own a
stethoscope.) and listen low on the bunny's belly for soft
gurgles. If you hear them, good. If the noises are loud, the
rabbit may have a serious digestive problem. If you hear no
sounds at all, the rabbit may have the even more serious
problem of ilieus, or Gastrointestinal Stasis.
In any event, if things don't appear normal for your rabbit,
call your vet or take the rabbit to the emergency veterinary
clinic immediately. When it comes to your pet's life, err on
the side of caution.
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