The Tale of Tiny Tim

profile of rabbit under chair

tiny tim photoIt had been about two years since we adopted Tiny Tim, our little Holland Lop. He had been found abandoned in an alley with a dog in pursuit two days before Christmas. He was a mess, covered with fleas, dirty and weighing only a few pounds. It seemed appropriate to name him after the sick little boy in the story “A Christmas Carol”. We weren’t sure he would make it, but he did and was clean, flea free and certainly no longer starving. I was lying on the floor petting Tiny Tim, thinking about how little time we have with these guys and what a tough time some of them have when I felt this lump on his left jaw. I rushed him right down to the vet where I was given the grim diagnosis, it was a jaw bone abscess. Surgery was scheduled immediately to remove the infected tooth and drill a drain hole in his tiny jaw. After several weeks of massive Baytril injections, hydrogen peroxide flushes, Baytril flushes and a follow-up surgery I was told that the prognosis was very bad. A third surgery was recommended to peel back his cheek and scrape out the infection. The chance of survival was poor at best.We decided that if this was the end for Tiny Tim we would allow him his dignity and try to keep him as comfortable as possible until the end. No more surgery or heroic efforts. All hope seemed lost when a close friend suggested we get a second opinion and recommended we take Tim to see Dr. Walter Rosskopf at Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital in Hawthorne, California. During that initial visit for a second opinion we were given a ray of hope. The approach at Avian and Exotic was one that seemed based on experience and knowledge and was quite different from our former animal hospital. That was in November of 1996 and Tiny Tim is now healthier, stronger and the happiest he has ever been.

After his examination Tiny Tim was put on a long term antibiotic treatment consisting of an oral Baytril tablet and a Naxcel injection twice daily closely monitored with a blood test every two weeks. We continued to flush the abscess until it healed and we became very aware of his behavior and any variations from one week to the next. Working with Dr. Rosskopf we also developed a holistic approach in addition to the medical treatments. Since Tim will not eat hay, we developed a proper nutritional balance of fresh fruits, vegetables, pellets and vitamin and mineral supplements designed to help the healing process and give his immune system a significant boost. Since there are no rabbit supplements on the market we devised a palatable concoction made up of liquid and chewable supplements from the health food store mixed in with Laxatone and Nutri-Cal and convinced Tiny Tim that this was a treat. I guess it worked because he runs to his feeding area for his piece of fruit and vitamin treat after his antibiotic injection! He likes it so much that we can mix in a crushed Baytril tablet and he doesn’t even care. The finishing touch to our long term treatment is LOTS of love and attention. This is the easy part as Tim really likes people and attention.

Our first attempt at reducing the treatment resulted in a minor flare up that was indicated by a blood test, so we returned to the previous dosage and his test results improved. We decided to let him stabilize for a month or so and try again. We are starting to reduce the number of injections while keeping the oral treatments the same and monitor his blood tests very closely. After nine months he is getting oral Baytril twice daily and an injection every other day. Our initial goal is to try to eliminate the injections completely. He may be on the oral Baytril for the rest of his life, but that’s O.K. he thinks it is a treat.

Bone abscesses are very serious, but not always a death sentence. Don’t give up based on what your vet tells you, get a second opinion, look at alternative medicines and nutrition, listen to what the bunny is telling you by watching his/her behavior. They may not even know they are seriously ill.

by Steve Velasco