Living in a multiple pet household it seems like there is always someone needing veterinary care. It’s almost as if they know the moment you’ve paid off the credit card bill to the vet! I picture them standing around the water bowl taking bets on how much each can get us to spend on them. “I’ll bet they will spend $100 on me if I just throw up on their shoes” says cat #1. “Well I bet I can get an exam AND an x-ray if I start limping” says the dog. And so on. Fortunately they don’t all do it at once and are polite enough to wait their turn. We just have to put a certain amount into the monthly budget for vet care and the clinic’s phone number on our speed dial. Is that true for you too?
When is it necessary to rush in to the vet and when can you treat at home? Obviously if there are broken bones or open wounds, it’s a necessary trip to the doc. Less severe things like vomiting and diarrhea or lack of appetite and lethargy can sometimes be the first signals of a severe disease but can also just be caused by something the pet ate and will clear up in a day. You know your pet better than your vet so only you can gauge just how “off” he is acting. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration, which in itself can be dangerous. So if it continues more than 24 hours it’s probably best to have your pet looked at.
Rabbits, being herbivores, need to eat all the time. Constant grazing keeps the gut working the way it’s supposed to, so if a rabbit stops eating – and, more importantly, stops pooping – it’s an emergency. Can’t really just wait and see with these little guys. At the least they need supportive care, fluids and syringe feeding of Critical Care, a special diet for sick herbivores. If it’s just a temporary tummy upset this should kick-start the digestive system back into gear. If it doesn’t work in 24 hours then you really do need the help of a veterinarian knowledgeable about lagomorphs.
That’s where we’re at with my little Nugget, a 3-year-old, spayed female Netherland Dwarf. I noticed yesterday morning that there weren’t any poops in her hay box or the surrounding floor. She showed no interest in the fresh hay or greens I offered so we made an appointment with Dr. Pfann at Brandner’s Vet Clinic. He is one of the most experienced rabbit vets in our County and willing to support clients that are able to do home care.
I have to say that there are unique challenges to syringe feeding a rabbit. The trick, of course, is to get the food into the mouth and encourage them to swallow it. It’s amazing how much they can push back out! That gives you an opportunity to monitor whether the rabbit is doing other normal behaviors like grooming herself. The need to be clean wins and they groom up the Critical Care they had spit out! In either case she will still be ingesting the food – but that’s a very messy way to go. If she doesn’t even show interest in cleaning herself, she will most likely need to be hospitalized. It’s quite a sight to see a white rabbit with bright green food smeared all over!
All pet owners should learn how to give sub-cutaneous fluids (under the skin). It’s a skill that will come in handy if any of your pets get sick or even just old. Often elderly cats have kidney issues and having some extra fluids can really extend their lifespan and increase their comfort. Ask your vet to show you how sometime when you aren’t facing an emergency and can calmly pay attention. And if you ever need to syringe feed a rabbit, feel free to contact me for some tips. I’m getting in some practice right now!
Bark After Dark – dinner and auction for the animals! Join us for this fun fundraiser on Sat., Nov. 3, 6:30-10:00 p.m. at the RP Community Center to support the lifesaving programs of the Animal Shelter League. Get your holiday shopping done and give presents that give twice – something nice for the recipient while knowing you helped animals in need. Tickets are just $25/person or $40/couple in advance and are available at the shelter or online at tinyurl.com/BarkafterDark2018.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.