‘Bunny Burrow’ Category

8x10 smushy face

Pipkin’s Big Adventure: How one bunny came back from the edge

Caring for a sick rabbit is difficult, stressful and a strain on your emotions, particularly if you aren’t sure if your bunny will ever get better. This is a story about how the supportive care you give your bunny can make all the difference in the world in their recovery. It is a story meant to instill hope and unconditional love no matter what condition your bunny is in.


Pipkin’s Story

In 2007, I went to the Toronto Humane Society in search of a pair of bunnies. The first one to catch my eye was Pancakes, a three month old girl. In looking for a friend for her, I saw the cutest lop in a cage with a note attached that explained his name was Mr. Magoo aka Scooter aka Mr. B and he had come to the shelter as a stray after being attacked by a cat. My heart melted when I saw him and knew he was the bunny for me. His age was listed as around 5-7 but I now suspect he may have been 3 or 4 since his snuffles was likely making his behaviour seem more laid back than he really was.

The shelter explained to us that he had been fostered for a bit and was just brought into the shelter that morning! What luck for me, and for Pipkin! But before I could take him home, the poor little guy had to get his front teeth removed as a result of being outside for too long without a proper diet – he manages quite well without them.

Once he was home, I renamed him Pipkin after a character from Watership Down. From the minute I brought him home, he seemed to be the most laidback, relaxed bunny, which I assumed, was because of his age. Later that year when I brought him to the vet for a watery eye, he was diagnosed with snuffles and would always have the occasional flare up because there was no way to cure it.

Even with the snuffles flare ups, Pipkin was doing quite well so I decided to get another friend for him and Pancakes (someone closer to Pancakes’ age). So, back to the Toronto Humane Society I went and there I found Ringo – a shy scared bunny who backed up  into the corner of his cage when you went near him, but there was something about him, in his face that I knew he would be a perfect addition to the little warren. Once I had him home, he changed completely, in a good way. Ringo became quite the character – playful, greedy for treats, grunting and lunging a lot in a cute way. Basically he developed an attitude, but a cute one. It’s amazing how much a bunny’s behaviour changes once they know they have found their forever home. It took three months for Ringo and Pancakes to bond and Pipkin and Ringo bonded quickly because of Pipkin’s laidback attitude, so he was easy to get along with.

With Pipkin’s snuffles episodes occurring about every few months, then clearing up on Panacur within a week, I was thankful none of the other bunnies caught what Pipkin had. When a snuffles episode occurred, the following usually happened:

-       he would sneeze more often

-       one or sometimes both eyes would water

-       he wouldn’t eat as much, so I had to feed him his favourite foods to wet his appetite (the best are the Martin brand pellets that I use as treats for the bunnies because they regularly eat ZuPreem brand pellets – they go crazy for the Martin pellets so much so that I think if they ate those ones all the time instead of as a treat they would all be chubby bunnies).

November 15 2009

Sunday afternoon I noticed Pipkin wasn’t eating anything and his left eye started watering. I thought he was having another snuffles episode so I tried to entice him with some of his favourite foods. Nothing worked, and he just sat there and wouldn’t eat – anyone who has had a bunny not eat knows how stressful this can be. Then I remembered I had some of his snuffles medication so I gave those to him and decided to syringe feed him his food – I mixed his pellets with water to create a liquid mush, and I juiced his greens. I fed him about every hour with 3-4ml of pellets, 2ml of greens and 2ml of water, and that’s about as much as he would let me give him.

I kept syringe feeding him and giving him his snuffles meds on Monday and Tuesday. Everything else about him was normal and similar to his other snuffles episodes except for the fact that he wouldn’t eat at all, but on Tuesday I noticed him drinking from his water dish at the corner of it instead of the middle (and slurping it too) and his head tilted ever so slightly to the left when he was sitting – other than that the rest of the symptoms fit with his previous episodes so I assumed it was snuffles.

Wednesday, Pipkin began eating his greens on his own but I still had to syringe feed the pellets. From Wednesday to Thursday new symptoms arose. Pipkin would be fine if he was sitting, but when he would periscope he started to wobble a little, as if there was a problem with his hind legs. When he was hopping he would lean to the left as if there was a problem with his legs – again I wasn’t sure, he just looked different. Because of his wobbles, I decided to keep him in the basement playpen overnight, along with Ringo and Pancakes so he’d have company and I slept on the couch so I could keep an eye on him.

Friday, I brought Pipkin to the vet. We did not know exactly what was wrong with him because it could have been anything such as: e. cunniculi or a severe pastuerella infection, however I was leaning toward an ear infection that can arise in bunnies who have a history of snuffles. So, our vet put Pipkin on chlorpalm and decided we should take his treatment step by step, and if the chlorpalm didn’t work then we would try Baytril, and if nothing worked, our vet noted that we would have to consider euthanasia if his quality of life was severely affected – something I was adamant on not doing unless absolutely necessary, because I had hope that Pipkin would recover.

Saturday 21 November

One day after being on chlorpalm, Pipkin was hopping around in his playpen and was extremely wobbly to the point where he would just fall over and I would pick him up to right him and I could feel his legs straining to stabilize. His appetite had improved and he was now eating everything but his mobility worsened.

Sunday 22 November

After receiving a call from the vet where I relayed Pipkin’s improving appetite but decreasing mobility, we discussed putting him on Baytril within the next few days if he didn’t improve. And just as luck would have it, the minute I hung up the phone, Pipkin fell over while hopping around and this time he couldn’t stand up with or without my help. He had become immobilized. The type of immobilization Pipkin had, I can describe like this: it was as though his entire left side was paralyzed. I tried to stand him up but he would fall over and remain on his left side. So with this new development, there was no way I could leave him alone. I had read of some people who had bunnies who stayed on their side but when I tried to have Pipkin lie down on his side he was scared and I knew I would have to be there for him 24/7 and he could never be alone until he recovered. Because he couldn’t be left alone, I will detail how I cared for him.

Caring for an Immobilized Bunny

Usually, I put the bunnies to bed in their condo but I thought to leave them in the playpen overnight would ease the workload on me and my family, and also I could show Pipkin to his friends so they would know he was still around. It was easier for all, the bunnies and me, for them to stay in the playpen and might I add they quite enjoyed it and made a mess of the place overnight – that usually means they’re having fun!

Day to Day Activities

First off, I want to say that it would have been much harder for me to take care of Pipkin had I been alone. Luckily I had my family help out, and if you don’t have anyone then I suggest you call a friend to help you with anything you need because a bunny with an illness like Pipkin’s needs a lot of care and a lot of your time. That said, here’s what I did for Pipkin’s everyday care.

Except for a few things I had to do where I couldn’t hold Pipkin (like shower, I doubt he’d like getting wet J), he was always in my arms and when he wasn’t I had a family member hold him. Because of the immobilization I held him like a baby, cradled in my arms, which is the only way he felt comfortable and secure. I learned to do a lot of daily activities with one arm, like make coffee, meals, change clothes, brush my teeth, do my hair and feed the other bunnies etc. A sick bunny can teach you a lot of things you never thought you knew or could do.

Pipkin obviously couldn’t use the litter box so I had a doggy training pad under him as a sort of blanket so any accidents would be absorbed onto the pad and not on me. That’s how I held him, all day, everyday. At night I would sleep sitting up on the couch, holding Pipkin. If I awoke in the middle of the night, which I often did, I would feed him some pellets and water. It’s a wonder I never dropped him, but when you have such a sick bunny, you really don’t sleep much anyway because they are you’re main concern and it keeps you up at night. For four weeks, I survived on coffee and caught up on some late night talk shows.

Feeding

Pipkin got used to eating while I held him, and I fed him all of his normal food at the regular times he would eat. I hand fed him his greens, syringe fed him his water and would feed him his pellets one by one throughout the day (he wasn’t up to eating his hay but his pellets have timothy hay in them so it wasn’t a concern if he didn’t want hay).

Friday 11 December

For four weeks now, Pipkin had been ill, and three of those weeks he was immobile and he was on Baytril twice a day for three weeks already. Then on Friday the 11th of December, he finally stood up on his own! Throughout the time he was immobile I would occasionally stand him up on my lap to see if he could sit upright and check if his balance was back. On the evening of the 11th, I decided to stand him up on my lap, and I could feel his back legs tensing up, trying to stabilize and sit upright. I kept my hands around him so he wouldn’t fall as he seemed to be sitting on his own. I then placed him on the floor of the playpen and he didn’t fall over! Pipkin sat up on his own and finally took a few wobbly hops around the pen. He wobbled a little and had a slight head tilt but Pipkin was determined to keep hopping. And hop he did! All around the pen! He showed he had more energy in the next coming days and weeks then his younger friends combined! He was full of joy as he hopped, exploring everything he had missed for three weeks and it was wonderful to see him so happy after such a long illness.

For the next week, I kept him in the playpen overnight so I could keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t fall over. Once I was sure he could hop around without any problems, I made a pen for him beside the rabbit condo since I didn’t want him to fall off the ramp in the condo (he still had a tilt and could only walk on carpeted surfaces). He loves his pen at night, and doesn’t mind being alone because he has the entire space to himself and gets to see his friends in the morning when they come out of their condo.

Recovery

By February 2010, Pipkin’s snuffles had been cured and he has not had an episode since he’s been on Baytril. His periscoping got better, he does more binkies at night in the playpen and runs around it more than I’ve ever seen him or any other bunny do, he eats all his food and even some of Pancakes and Ringo’s greens. He has more energy than Pancakes and Ringo put together, and his behaviour has changed from the relaxed laid back bunny he once was – he has a little attitude now (grunting at me and trying to bite but he has not teeth so it just ends  up being cute), he’s much more independent, eats more, and just seems happier. The only thing that remains from Pipkin’s illness is a slight head tilt and a slightly sunken globe (his left eye is lower than the right and looks as though it is half-closed). And if that’s the only permanent damage from his illness then we’re both happy since it could have been a whole lot worse. Considering the vet thought there was a possibility of euthanasia (and even wrote it in his chart more than once), it is a rare miracle he is alive. Even the vets at our local veterinary hospital told us they have never seen a rabbit come back from such a debilitating and serious condition – never. He is a rare bunny.

Pipkin was on the brink, but despite all odds he came back because he knew he had so much more living to do, and he shows me that everyday. And those three weeks of holding him, losing sleep, pretty much being with him 24/7 during his long recovery are all worth it when I look at his smushy face, watch him eat and see him run around with joy.

If your bunny has an illness, it is worth it to do everything you possibly can for them and to always have hope and give them hope, because you never know what will happen, and Pipkin and I know that firsthand. The power of hope and supportive care is extremely important when you have a bunny with an illness, because I believe the bunny can sense what your feeling and if you feel like you’re going to give them all the hope in the world so they can recover then it can make all the difference. Pipkin will always be the strongest bunny I knew, with an incomparable zest for life. If his story can save one rabbit from premature euthanasia then it will all be worth it to give another rabbit the chance Pipkin was given.

Pipkin’s Calendar of his illness

SF = Syringe Fed

ChlorP = Chlorpalm medication

IM = Immobile

B = Baytril

SU = Sat Upright

Pen = stayed in pen overnight

November 15 2009 – December 11 2009

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Nov. 15

SF

16

SF

17

SF

18 19 20

ChlorP

21
22

IM

23

B/IM

24

B/IM

25

B/IM

26

B/IM

27

B/IM

28

B/IM

29

B/IM

30

B/IM

Dec. 1

B/IM

2

B/IM

3

B/IM

4

B/IM

5

B/IM

6

B/IM

7

B/IM

8

B/IM

9

B/IM

10

B/IM

11

B/SU

12

B/Pen

13

B/Pen

14

B/Pen

15

B/Pen

16

B/Pen

17

B/Pen

18

B/Pen

19

B/Pen

20

B/Pen

21

B/Pen

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