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FAQ: Medicating Your Rabbit|
Susan Davis and Laurie Gigous
Rabbits are very sensitive creatures and they stress very easily. Your veterinarian or a veterinary technician will probably show you how to give pills, administer eye or ear drops, or syringe feed your rabbit. But sometimes rabbits who are as good as gold when they're at the clinic put up quite a struggle when you try the same procedure at home. Every rabbit/person pair will work out their own routines. But to give you a head start, members of the House Rabbit Society have pooled their experience and come up with the following tips for medicating bunnies at home.Getting Set Up
Because your rabbit may act up a bit once you start to medicate her, it's important to make things as easy as possible for her and for you.
Some oral medications don't taste like much of anything; some are very bitter. And some rabbits will swallow just about anything, while some will curl their tender lips at anything that even hints of medicine. House Rabbit Society members haven't quite come up with fifty ways to disguise the medications, but here are some suggestions.
If your veterinarian has prescribed medication in tablet form:
If your veterinarian has prescribed medication in liquid form:
When it comes to eye drops, most people are either "uppies" or "downies." That is, some people prefer to pull the lower eyelid out, to form a little pocket into which to squirt the medicine. Others prefer to lift the upper eyelid back, and drop the medication onto the eyeball itself or the white of the eye itself.
This is usually done quite easily on the floor; most rabbits hardly blink (sorry) at the procedure. (Some rabbits, in fact, seem to think this is their owner's strange way of showing affection.) Some people like to do it with the bunny on a waist-high surface, however, so they can stabilize him with one hand and medicate with the other.
If you're putting ointment in, try not to touch the eyeball with the nozzle. And once you squirted it into the eye, you can gently hold the eye shut and massage it to melt and spread the ointment. Otherwise it sometimes clumps and floats off the eyeball.Ear Drops
Rabbits like to have their ears stroked. They generally are not big fans of having liquid squirted down there though. It feels weird and it sometimes makes a mess of their ears and faces, which, of course, hurts their egos. That means that sometimes rabbits are most uncooperative about this procedure.
You can try administering ear drops on the floor, but a smart rabbit will vote with her feet--that is, she'll hop away after the first squirt. It's often easier to do it on a tabletop, where you can secure her with one hand.
The first trick with ear drops is to get the nozzle pretty close to the ear's actual opening (never push anything down beyond that opening though!). That way, when the rabbit shakes her head, the medicine will go down into the ear instead of all over your kitchen. The second trick is to try not to hit the inside surface of the ear with the nozzle itself. This tickles and it will make the rabbit shake her head, which makes it very hard to aim.
Once the drops are in, you can massage the base of the ear to help it go down and get spread around. You can wipe off any liquid that dripped onto her cheeks as well÷that will help her dignity.Syringe Feeding
If your rabbit stops eating, your vet may suggest that your "force" or "syringe" feed your rabbit. This just means that you're making some kind of food mixture and giving it to your rabbit through a big syringe. Your rabbit may be very calm about this procedure at the vet's office. Chances are, he'll throw quite a fit when you try it at home.
Syringe feeding is really an art and a science, and it takes practice, patience and creativity to figure out how to do it. Nevertheless, we swear it can be done and doing so often makes the difference between life and death.
CAUTION: syringe-feeding can cause the rabbit to inhale food, with serious consequences or death.
Always check with a rabbit vet first. The ampunt of food (cc's) will be based on rabbit size. Don't force - make sure the rabbit swallows. In general, Take your time, use less rather than more and point syringe to the side and go slowly.
Your vet will probably recommend some find of pellet "slurry" for your rabbit. One standard recipe is 1/2 cup of pellets, blended with one cup of water, one tablespoon of psyllium husks, and one tablespoon of acidolopholus or Prozyme. You can throw it all in a blender or food processor; keep blending until it appears shiny. (Never give your rabbit straight psyllium, as it can suck the liquid out of the rabbit's gut and cause serious problems.)
Load the syringe with the recommended amount. Put your rabbit up on a countertop or table. You can wrap the rabbit up in a bunny burrito if you think she'll need it. Then:
1) point her nose towards the right (if you're right handed)
2) curl left arm around her body
3) tell her she's the cutest
4) pick up loaded syringe with right hand
5) tuck the nozzle into the corner of bunny's mouth
6) point somewhat to the side, so if too much comes out, the bunny will not aspirate. Go slow..less is better than more, give him time to swallow; don't let fluid go down the lungs.
7) keep giving a little more as she chews
8 praise rabbit vigorously, tell her you know it's a drag
9) wipe slurry off tabletop and walls, reload into syrringe
10) when you've given her a good dose, quickly wipe off her cheek with a warm wet rag, so it doesn't cake on there for the next three months.
Some people also do this with the rabbit cradled in the crook of their arm. Again, be sure not to choke the rabbit with the slurry.
Melissa's Banana-Pellet Balls
For rabbits who aren't eating because they've just had surgery, have sore teeth, or who are elderly or are depressed, you might also try the very famous Melissa's Banana-Pellet Balls, developed by Elizabeth TeSelle. These are high-protein and high-fat and not suitable as a steady diet for young healthy rabbits.
You will need
Mash 3/4-1 banana in a shallow bowl with a fork. Add acidophilus and mash it in. Grind up 1/3 - 1/2 c. dry pellets in coffee grinder until they are dust, and add slowly to banana. Cream the pellet dust into the banana with a fork just as you would cream butter and sugar. The mixture will be very stiff. When fully blended, add a small amount of rolled oats and cream again.
Form the mixture into stiff balls with your hands. It should make 2-3 balls, enough for one or two meals per day. Discuss the amount with your vet and weigh your rabbit weekly to ensure that she is maintaining weight (or gaining, if that is what is desired).
Some rabbits may like the mixture firmer and others may like it gooier. Experiment a little to see what your bunny prefers. You can add a little less pellet dust to make it gooier, or make the recipe as is and add a small amount of banana baby food. Do not add water, as it provides no calories.
Other helpful tips when Thumper has to visit the vet
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