Robbie Rabbit

by Jenny
(New Zealand)

Robbie Rabbit 'free-ranging' on the deck

Robbie Rabbit 'free-ranging' on the deck

Robbie Rabbit is about 9 months old and is a neutered mini lop. I have had him for 3 or 4 months and he was a rescue rabbit. He has been very healthy but I have noticed a change in his behaviour the past couple of weeks. He has seemed 'grumpy' and now his coat is looking more scruffy and he is molting a lot. He 'free ranges' on my deck and comes in the house during the day. He is litter trained but the past couple of weeks he hasn't been using his litter tray all the time and has taken to spending alot of time just sitting on top of his hutch and even weeing up there yesterday.


Today I noticed him sneeze for the first time and a large amount of white snot came out. I am taking him to the vet tomorrow (I am a vet nurse myself) but I am very concerned for his long term prognosis having read this site. He is a much loved pet and I will do anything to get him better. What would be the best I can do for him and would this illness explain his change in behaviour?

***** Karen Sez *****
I'm very sorry for the rabbit's health, Jenny! Yes, the behavioural changes are completely explainable by his illness. He might not feel very well. Could be like you might feel when you're down with a cold.

The most important consideration, IMO, is the contagion factor. As a vet nurse, you are in danger of becoming a vector for bringing pasteurella to your 'patients.' It's a nasty germ, incurable (at least in rabbits) and very contagious. So, you should ensure no contact between you and your pet before work. (Sorry, I'm fairly sure I didn't need to say that to you, but this is a public page, so it should be mentioned for others' benefit.)

If Robbie were a meat or show rabbit, we'd recommend euthanasia. But, we understand the bond that develops between pets and owners. You want to do all you can for it. The vet will no doubt prescribe antibiotics, and they'll help for a while.

The first round of antibiotics can serve to differentiate the diagnosis, as they say. If Robbie gets better and stays better, then the main causative agent may have been Bordetella rather than pasteurella (see http://www.raising-rabbits.com/bordetella-in-rabbits.html). Bordetella responds very favorably to antibiotics, but the germ predisposes the animal to pasteurella infections, which is why the two germs frequently combine forces in the same rabbit.

Since pasteurella is so prevalent, however, Robbie's symptoms are extremely likely to worsen again, once the antibiotic leaves the system. Giving antibiotics again and again will contribute to the development of super-germs. Not good for Robbie, not good for other animals, and not good for the environment.

I wish the prognosis were not so stinkin' lousy!

If I had a single well-beloved pet rabbit that started sneezing, I might simply let nature take its course, once we tried that first round of antibiotics. But, I'd definitely look into natural ways to boost its immunity:

-Dr. Cheeke's YQ supplement - can you get it in NZ?

-Research immunity-boosting foods that you could feed to Robbie Rabbit

-Are those veggies (in the pic) organic and pesticide-free? They need to be.

-I hope you're feeding more than people-food and hay. Not enough protein - I hope you also give him at least some high protein commercial pelleted rabbit feed

-Give a tablespoon of whole oats and/or black oil sunflower seeds every day. They will contain a full complement of healthful nutrients with no processing to destroy micronutrients.

Treated naturally, Robbie's symptoms are likely to come and go, on and off, and he may live several years in relative comfort. I hope so, anyway. But at some point as it ages, the pasteurella will fulminate, he'll develop pneumonia or some other overwhelming infection, and die. But you'll have provided the best shot at a decent life for several years.

That seems to me to provide the best solution, considering the bigger picture.

HTH Jenny, and God bless you...

Can you keep us updated on what you do for Robbie Rabbit and how he responds? (That would help all of us...)

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Jan 05, 2012
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Robbie is on antibiotics
by: Anonymous

Robbie has been put on a 10 day course of Baytril which he has almost finished and he seems a lot brighter within himself. I haven't actually seen him sneeze since the first time and my vet thought he had a pretty mild case. Thank you for all the tips on diet. Besides his veggies he does get meadow hay ad the Kaytee Rabbit pellets (recommended by the SPCA here). Alot of the veggies I grow in my garden so are pesticide free but I will look at supplementing his diet to boost his health. I have thoroughly scrubbed his hutch and the deck with Trigene to reduce re-contamination. My vet says that most NZ rabbits are carriers. I don't want Robbie on antibiotics long term so will only treat when he seems 'unwell'. Thank you for all your advice from me and Robbie.

Jan 04, 2012
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Robbie Rabbit culture
by: Anonymous

You will probably want to get him cultured for pasturella and bordetella. One is curable, the other you can probably manage.

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