is a reason for concern when weaning young bunny rabbits or purchasing them. Rabbits age 3 weeks to 10 weeks
are at an elevated risk for bunny diarrhea which can be fatal. It just so
happens that weaning falls in this time period.
It is tempting, then, to assume that weaning causes
bunnies to die of diarrhea. But not so – it is the stress at weaning which, if
not handled wisely, can upset the bunny's digestive processes and result in a bunny’s death. And since death from
diarrhea can strike at any age, including before weaning and up to and throughout
adulthood, let's take another look at bunny
A Misguided Craigslist Post
We discovered the following Craigslist post aimed at both bunny buyers and bunny sellers, which linked to
Raising-Rabbits as though we supported their argument:
(The post has since been removed, but in case it returns with a different
posting number, we thought it best to leave this info here for now.)
should we care about a confused post on Craigslist?
Because the opinions of the
poster seem to be widespread across the worldwide web, and because
Raising-Rabbits exists to help present the truth about raising rabbits.
Here is what the post said:
"ANYONE INTERESTED IN
PURCHASING BABY BUNNY'S [sic]:
"Please, PLEASE! Be
sure to ask the age! Bunny's [sic] sold before the age of 6 weeks will usually
die due to lack of milk and their body not processing food (they get diarrhea)
also called Enteritis. Do your research (https://www.raising-rabbits.com/rabbit-diarrhea.html)
before buying a bunny and watching it suffer until death. An honest rabbitry
will not knowingly sell a rabbit before 8 weeks of age because does not have a
good chance of survival. Once a rabbit gets Diarrhea it is hard to save and
usually considered gone. There is a reason for a weaning age! IT IS THE LAW a bunny
is NOT sold before 8 weeks of age!!!
"I have seen bunny
rabbits before the age of 8 weeks all over Craigslist lately. Just because
someone says they are weaned does not mean they are of correct age! Many will
selfishly sell rabbits before weaning age because they are "CUTE" at
that age and sell quickly but only to doom them for death in the end. Even at 8
weeks some bunnies are not ready to be weaned. Look for diarrhea on the bottom
to see if bunny's [sic] are truly ready to be weaned."
Weaning Worries Explained
I can certainly see that the poster believes what s/he wrote, but I see a twofold problem. First, the post is nowhere near accurate, and second, the poster is a bully.
The post is representative of the online bullying that frequently occurs when opinions or situations arise that are caddywampus to one's own personal opinion. In this case, the poster took umbrage at rabbits being sold for pets before s/he thought they should be sold. Unfortunately, s/he didn't have a clue but couldn't restrain her/himself from bashing readers with misinformation and a threatening attitude.
I leave this individual to find courtesy and kindness on his/her own, and in the meantime we'll explore the truth about weaning worries:
Death due to lack of milk? No. Bunnies
are fully capable of feeding themselves without mother’s milk by age 4 weeks as long as you provide them with healthy feed (and no sugary treats).
“Will usually die…?” Nope, not true,
at least not among experienced rabbit breeders. Selling a weaned bunny younger
than 6 weeks old does not by itself doom a bunny to death. 100% of bunnies are physiologically weaned by 4-4.5 weeks of age.
An experienced breeder recognizes
the stress to a bunny that occurs at weaning and at the point of sale,
and doesn’t combine these two events on purpose if it can be helped. THIS is the key to excellent post-weaning survival
The honest rabbit breeder knows better than to believe that 8 weeks is a magical age after which
a rabbit is immune to death.
This 2.5 week old unweaned rabbit went from healthy to dead in 12 hours. Weaning worries were not a factor in its death.
a rabbit gets diarrhea it is hard to save..." So much depends on the kind and the severity of the
diarrhea. If you're feeding tons of sweet
apples and bananas and yogurt treats every day to your recently weaned baby rabbit and it dies, don't blame its death on weaning.
Pictured: This bunny was not salvageable, and in fact died before showing any symptoms at all. This is a typical scenario when pre-weaned bunnies succumb, which thankfully happens only rarely. If I were to guess at causes, I'd say this case of dysbiosis and enterotoxemia might have resulted from recent first exposure to solid foods, coupled with excessive mother's milk consumption, given that it was one of a litter of only two bunnies. This is of course just a guess.
If you can catch the diarrhea before the bunny dies, and if you stop the sweet treats and give it some grass hay, chances are great its droppings will miraculously normalize.
It's less about the laws, and more about excellent animal husbandry practices. Wise stress management will help minimize weaning worries
and bunny deaths, even when bunnies are sold under 8 weeks of age.
Every single baby rabbit alive at 8
weeks of age has already been physiologically
weaned and is capable of surviving without its dam. 100% of them. Even if the
litter is still in the cage with the dam getting occasional milk snacks (the
poor doe is probably frustrated as all heck with the bunnies after 8 weeks with them). Whether a person recognizes this or not is in question.
nothing magical about the age of 8 weeks. A possible susceptibility to diarrhea exists
up until the age of 10 weeks generally, and to some degree into adulthood as well.
If you see signs of old loose droppings on the bunny’s bottom, I would consider this a good thing, as long as the evidence was clearly old evidence. This would mean the kit’s intestinal flora have become balanced and the danger has already passed. And in fact, the danger can pass as early as 5 weeks of age.
At right: This 5-week-old kit shows the remnants of a mild bunny diarrhea. It was not physically weaned at the time. This kit never showed any signs of illness and never experienced any loose stools later.
It is impractical to lay down dogmatic
rules about when you can and cannot wean and/or sell baby rabbits.
It is far
better to understand exactly WHY a rabbit might get diarrhea after weaning and
to prevent it as much as is possible through excellent rabbit husbandry practices.
point is not to see how early one can wean, but to identify the biological
realities of weaning rabbits in order to establish best practices and to
allay any unfounded weaning