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I’m one of those annoying people that always tell people to take their rabbit to the vet at the slightest sign of ill health.
I know it’s annoying.
I know the vet is expensive.
But also, I’m not a vet. I’d hate to give advice that didn’t include a vet visit and then find out later that a vet could have easily solved the problem.
I’ve never had a cat or dog of my own, but I grew up with them. At least two of my mum’s dogs are well known for developing a sudden limp on a cold morning so they can get out of going for a walk.
Rabbits not only don’t fake injuries (that I know of, but I would LOVE to be proven wrong), but they will try to hide any problems they do have, because a rabbit that looks weakened in any way is an easy meal for a passing predator.
Often, a rabbit that looks a bit ill is actually on the brink of being very ill, so it’s never a good idea to delay a vet visit.
Take your rabbit to the vet if they’re not eating or drinking
Rabbits need to eat and drink pretty constantly. If your rabbit isn’t eating because they’re feeling off, this can cause their digestive system to shut down, and this could kill them faster than whatever it is that’s putting them off their food.
If your rabbit isn’t eating or drinking, they need to go to the vet asap. I have an article on GI stasis here, but they really need to go to a vet.
However, Sod’s Law dictates that your rabbit will stop eating on a Sunday night, or any other time that you can’t get to a vet, so there a few tips that you can try (such as administering baby gas drops) that could save your bunny until you get them to the vet.
If you can, try to source an emergency vet. We’re lucky that our vet have a large hospital branch that we can use as an emergency vet when our closest branch is closed. We’ve only had to use it once (touch wood) and it cost us over £350, but I’m so glad it’s an option.
I’ve mentioned in another post that we don’t have insurance for our rabbits, because we don’t think it’s worth it, but we do keep money to one side for emergencies such as this.
Take your rabbit to the vet if you notice them spacing out more than usual
We first noticed that Daisy had EC when we saw her eyes tracking to one side.
Before you panic, this is a common behaviour in red-eyed rabbits, so don’t panic if you see it.
I would recommend you keep a tube of Panacur (you can get it on Amazon) on hand so you can treat EC straight away. The parasite is carried by a large proportion of rabbits, so it’s definitely worth having.
By the way, a lot of vets recommend putting rabbits with severe head tilt to sleep. We did a lot of research beforehand and insisted that as long as she was eating and drinking, she was entitled to a chance to fight.
(she had to be hand fed and have a bottle held to her mouth, but she didn’t need to be syringe fed – she ate hay and veggies with wobbly vigour)
It’s looking like she’ll always be disabled but she’s not in any pain and is adapting to her new lifestyle super well.
Take your rabbit to the vet there’s an unexplainable change in their behaviour
If your rabbit is drinking a lot more than normal, or is less active than normal, isn’t cleaning themselves properly, it’s worth a vet visit.
If you think you’re being paranoid, there are a tonne of really active house rabbit groups on Facebook where you ask and gauge from the reaction whether you’re over reacting or not. Expect a lot of ‘get them to a vet’ responses though (they’re there for a good reason).
Take your rabbit to the vet if you suspect they’ve hurt themselves
Rabbits are really, really, good at covering up physical injuries.
If you spot a drop of blood, check your rabbit over well. Check that they haven’t lost any claws or teeth, and see if they’re still bleeding.
Sometimes rabbits lose their claws for seemingly no reason.
One of ours lost three claws when we first got her and the vet suspects it was switching her diet from a LOT of muesli and a bit of grass to a LOT of hay, some veggies, and a few pellets.
Another thing to watch out for is excessive cleaning or shaking of the head. This can be a sign that something is irritating/hurting them.
Take your rabbit to the vet if you notice them scratching, or see white flakes on their skin
Moulting can be a very strange affair with rabbits. We sent Daisy to the vets because she had a totally bald patch on her head and a few white flakes.
I assumed it was mites – one of my other rabbits was prone to mites, and since we do often pick them dandelions from the garden, they could have come into contact with mites.
Turns out was just a weird moult. This can happen. Some rabbits moult in patches, others get weird tidemarks, others seems to be a cloud of fur for two weeks twice a year and don’t shed the rest of the time.
One of the reasons it’s important to gain your rabbit’s trust with regards to you petting them is that it’s a good time to have a quick look for any skin issues. You don’t need to pick at them or bug them, just give them a little massage and keep an eye out for any changes.
Take your rabbit to the vet if you’re not sure you should take your rabbit to the vet
You can always call the vet and ask them if you think you should bring them in. They’ll probably say yes, because, er, that’s how they make money, but at least the decision will be made for you.
Taking an animal to the vet unnecessarily is far better than regretting not taking them to the vet.
Some rabbits will rarely have to go to the vets, some will have to go more often. It’s just part of the pet lottery, just like how some people gets rabbits that snuggle cutely on their shoulder and others get rabbits that pee in their shoes.