Let’s be honest: most pet bunny owners don’t think about preparing in advance for a rabbit-related emergency. A bit of preparation and planning now will save a lot of stress and anxiety down the road, and might just save your bunny’s life.
In this video, Dr. Laurie Hess outlines the key things you can do or buy to ensure you’re prepared to take care of your rabbit in an emergency.
I’m Dr. Laurie Hess and today, I’m going to talk to you a little bit about being prepared for an emergency if you have a pet bunny. Most pet bunny owners don’t think about getting their rabbits and themselves ready in case they have an emergency, but you really should be prepared.
So what should you have on hand if you are going to get ready for an emergency?
The first and probably the most important thing you can have is a safe carrier – something that is secure and potentially non-chewable. I mean, this is an OK carrier. It’s mesh. Most bunnies won’t chew through this, but ideally, you want to have something even better, which would be something solid and plastic. You’d be amazed how many people bring their bunnies in in cardboard boxes or just carry them in their arms into the animal hospital, and that’s really not safe. A bunny could jump out of your arms. You could drop it. There’s so many reasons not to do that.
So a safe, secure carrier that seals so the bunny can’t get out or chew his way out and then ideally, a towel. So you want to have a towel both in the bottom of the carrier to keep the bunny comfortable and warm and not sliding around if you’re driving and then perhaps another towel if it’s inclement weather, if it’s cold, so that you can wrap the towel or a blanket if it’s a large carrier around the outside of the carrier to keep the body warm if it’s very windy or it’s wintertime and it’s cold.
Another thing you want to have ready is some syringe feeding formula. This is a powdered formula that I try to make sure all of the bunny owners that I treat their bunnies, that they all have them at home, have this at home, and it’s mixed with water and there’s some directions on how to do that. And then, we give bunny a big syringe like this with a big kind of needle nose. For little bunnies, it might be a smaller syringe like this, but something that once you mix this with water, your veterinarian should be able to tell you how much, based on your bunny’s weight, you would need to feed the bunny if something happened and the rabbit stopped eating altogether at home. But you want to have something on hand because rabbits that are not eating are prone to developing a condition called gastrointestinal stasis which basically means when they stop eating, food stops moving through their intestinal tract and everything slows down. The normal bacteria that inhabit their GI tracts or gastrointestinal tracts change. A lot of gas producing bacteria come in and can make them very uncomfortable, making them not want to eat even further, and it could potentially lead to a life threatening problem. So certainly, if your bunny stops eating for whatever reason, you want to call your veterinarian, but you also want to have on hand some syringe feeding formula and the appropriate syringes and directions on how to feed your bunny, and that’s something, you know, you can certainly ask your veterinarian to describe to you and show you.
Another thing you want to have is a thermometer. This is a rectal thermometer. We can use it in bunnies. We use this in bunnies all the time. Usually, we pour in just little bit of lubricant like K-Y Jelly or Vaseline on. And you should learn to be able to take the temperature of your rabbit – again, something your veterinarian can show you. Ideally, you want to have two people to do that, and we’ll just pick up a bunny like this and kind of flip them up and support their back really well, and then, if you have a helper, you can insert the thermometer. You just want to make sure you’re really helped by yourself, because as you can see, they kick and you want to make sure you have a good handle on the bunny so that he can’t injure himself. Anyway… The reason we care about that is that rabbits that have very low temperatures have been shown – when they’re ill – to not have a good prognosis. So if your bunny’s temperature is were low, again, another reason to get to the veterinarian right away – if your rabbit’s not eating, for example.
Another other thing you want to have available is styptic, styptic pencil like this stick with a little bit of clotting agent styptic on the end. It also comes with the powder. And that’s what you would use if you were trimming your bunny’s nails or if the nail broke and it started to bleed. So you could just pat this on the end of the nail or if you have a powder, you can pat the powder on the end of the nail, let it clot, and then once it’s clotted, you want to flush it off, wash it off with a little bit of water gently, not touching the clot because you don’t want to make it bleed again, but you want to wash the styptic off so that the rabbit doesn’t eat it.
Another couple of things you want to have is some antiseptic solution. This is a solution we use. It’s called chlorhexidine. It’s something you can get from your veterinarian. It’s a blue solution that we dilute like this just to very pale blue, usually one part of the solution to about 20 parts of warm water if you had to use it just to clean off minor wounds that your bunny might get like, again, if the bunny develops a little scratch or has a nail that’s broken or something like that. Bigger wounds, you want to certainly go to your veterinarian for. But at home, in a pinch, you could use that. Of course, you use a little bit. You dilute it like that each time you have to use it. You don’t save it diluted.
Another thing you might want to have is eye wash. This is just over the counter, unmedicated, saline eye wash, and if your bunny happens to get something in his eye like a piece of hay, if he’s rubbing at it, if it seems red, you can in a pinch again flush out the eye. You want to come from over the top of the bunny like this. I’m not going to do it here. But you want to come this way as opposed to coming right at the bunny, and drop some saline in his eye. Certainly, again, with a rabbit who is rubbing his eye a lot, if there’s a lot of discharge coming out of the eye, you want to contact your veterinarian, but that’s something that’s a fairly harmless thing to do.
So you want to have an evacuation plan with your family. Make sure, you know, who is getting the bunny’s carrier, who’s getting the bunny, who’s getting the blanket, that type of thing. And you certainly want to always have on hand your veterinarian’s number and also, the number of perhaps a 24-hour hospital in your area that will treat rabbits if it is after hours, at nighttime, or on weekend when your regular vet is closed. So those are some really important things that I think all bunny owners should know and be thinking about at home just in case there is an emergency. It’s better to be safe than sorry so be prepared and get your emergency kit together.