On the Flip Side

Nap time for Tigger & Shadow

We pulled the sheet off our cage and now we are napping on it.

Tigger is still on the mend.  She is eating a bit more on her own each day and is a great deal more active.  She went from a flopped out zero speed to full out run last night.  She wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to zoom into the gate opening when we were coming into her area.  She took off upstairs for a while.  She has started to use the litter box again and has lost the poopy butt problem.

So, why did we go to the vet first thing today?  We had to take Shadow in.  Shadow has allergies and Georgia is having big time problems with high pollen counts this year.  The poor boy regularly sneezes and swallows a lot so we know he has a post nasal drip.  He has been in a couple of times this spring to be checked out for the allergies and ear problems.  The sneezes are usually dry irritated sneezes.  Late yesterday they switched over to very wet sneezes with a wheezy sound on the end.  We don’t need to have a bunny go from allergies to bronchitis or pneumonia, so off to vet we went.

The good news is that Shadow’s lungs are clear.  The vet says a lot of animals are having issues with pollen allergies here this year.  That doesn’t surprise me at all, since the human animals in our house are having a tough time with it too.  So we have all the doses for human and animal antihistamines now.  We have a prescription for antibiotics in case he becomes a great deal more congested.  There aren’t any exotic vets at any of the animal hospitals in our area, so they are helping us to be prepared in case he should get really sick on an evening or weekend.

Everybunny is now going to be getting feedings of Oxbow Critical Care.  It will aid Tigger to keep her GI tract moving.  The vet suggested some feedings of it for Shadow now too since he is having problems keeping his weight up.  He has lost a little more weight each visit the past few months.  His appetite is terrible which I can completely understand.  The allergies are probably making everything taste awful or he might have an irritated mouth and throat.  Poor bunny!

Typical Tigger

Tigger drinking

Heh, heh ... I'm gonna eat Shadow's food and drink his water!

This morning Tigger is still getting extra syringe feedings and water along with meds for gas and pain. At first she wasn’t really very interested in much I offered her to eat for a self fed breakfast.  I was trying to give her a tummy rub when she decided to show me she had a lot more energy than yesterday and shot out of her cage and took off running around the room.

We have the stairs blocked at the moment so that she can’t go running up or down while she is still weaker than usual and more likely to trip. She and Shadow both started begging to go downstairs to the kitchen. When I said no, Tigger jumped on Shadow’s head and a humping away she went. I decided to let Shadow escape her and let him go down to the kitchen.

When Tigger settled down again, she decided to move in to Shadow’s cage. It is typical Tigger to take over his cage without an invitation and make herself free with his hay, pellets, water and litter box facilities. In this case, I am quite happy to see her do it if it means she is eating and drinking voluntarily.

She ate some pellets and hay, drank some water, and now is alternating between napping in his cage and gnawing his chew ring.  Life is so sweet stealing the other bunny’s stuff.

Tough Tigger

Tigger cleaning up

Must get the human cooties off of me!

Early on during this past weekend, it really looked like we might lose our Tigger.  She has had issues with going off her food throughout her life.  She has been in to the vet at least once a year all of her ten years.  There has never been a clearly defined reason or cause found. 

What makes it really hard is how quickly it hits.  She will be eating everything in sight, running around and playing with no signs of feeling ill at all.  Then she will go in for the night or  lay down for an afternoon nap and it is like a switch has been thrown. 

The next morning or after her nap, Tigger doesn’t want to eat, drink or move.  It has seemed like a gassy tummy issue on many occasions.  Per the vets instructions, we would give her Simethecone, extra water, tummy rubs, get her to move around and switch to hay only.  The problem would usually clear up in a few hours or overnight and she would be back to normal.  We have watched for any common denominator in foods or activities, but there seems to be no identifiable pattern. 

This past year, the problem has been more severe and she gets quite ill and takes days or weeks to return to normal.  She has seen the vet a lot.  She has been checked out head to toe, had tests, and been put under anesthesia twice for tooth exams and had a couple filed down to be sure they weren’t the cause.  The anesthesia makes me so nervous since that is riskier at her age. 

This weekend she took her afternoon nap and when it came time to wake up and run around again, she seemed completely unresponsive to everything around her. Poor Shadow was licking her from head to tail without any reaction on her part.  Then he pawed at her trying to get her to respond to him.  She opened her eyes wider, but that was it.  We separated them and went to work giving the pain meds and Simethecone in the vet prescribed doses and then syringe feedings of water and Oxbow Critical Care.  In between we would offer Tigger  parsley, a favorite, and a variety of hays.  She seems to eat when we offer things to her and hand feed her.  We have also been giving her tummy rubs.   

Late yesterday, she started to show some temper over being medicated, fed and cleaned up.  Our Tigger is coming back again, at least for now.  We are winning battles to keep her with us, but realize that at ten years old, losing the war is closer than we would like it to be.

Tending to a Tigger

Tigger is feeling poorly and hidingThis is going to be a short post today.  We are taking care of a sick Tigger.  This past year she has had a number of times she just seems to shut down and stops drinking and eating without warning, often after really active days.  Numerous vet visits haven’t identified a definitive cause.  She has received treatment for a number of possible causes.   We now have a supply of Oxbow Critical Care and pain meds on hand for times when the trip to the vet isn’t possible, like evenings, weekends and holidays.  Since Tigger is 10 years old, this may be part of the aging process for her.

We are providing supportive care, giving syringe feedings and water.  She is eating her favorite parsley and occasionally some hay.  We have her on pain medicine and are keeping her warm, clean, dry and well-loved. 

Taking care of a senior bunny is tricky because so many factors can change as their bodies age, requiring changes in their care and environment.  The House Rabbit Society has an excellent article on many things to be aware of:  Living With An Elder Bun.

Follow Friday – HRS Health Database – Repetition for Emphasis

Health Data Request by the HRSI wrote about this last week.  This is important so I am repeating it today.  The article on the back of the most recent HRS newsletter is about their project to collect and preserve health data on rabbits.

They are asking for participation from everybody who has a bunny with health records.  Adding to the information in this database can aid in the care of other rabbits. I will downloading this to work on filling in as much information as I can for Tigger, Shadow and Portia’s veterinary care during their lives with us.

I have saved 10 years of vet bills that I will work to add into the database. Now that Tigger and Shadow are senior buns, I am thinking a lot about the time when they will leave us. It would be wonderful if part of their legacy was contributing to longer lives for other rabbits.  One recent vet visit we were given a prescription medication that doesn’t have a lot of documentation on how it works in rabbits, the vet wanted to try it since it was well tolerated by other herbivores.  So we might be the first to add data on that medication for rabbits. 

Check out this page on the HRS website with the info and download links: http://www.rabbit.org/health/healthdatabase.html.

More About B.A.D.D. Rabbits

Shadow with a hay necklace

I like to wear my food

Yesterday I defined B.A.D.D (aka BADD) as Bunny Attention Deficit Disorder.  I think it is a cute, but really easy way to communicate an accurate description of Mr. Shadow.  

Blaine has often complained that blog posts make Shadow sound like a bad rabbit.  He isn’t at all.  Shadow has the sweetest, friendliest temperament.  There is just so much playfulness and lightheartedness in what he does and how he acts.  However as a baby and young rabbit, he was absolute full-out non stop energy nearly all the time.  He was into everything imaginable.  Tigger was too, but at five years old, she started into a more mature slower phase.  Shadow has slowed a bit, but at ten years old, he has the energy level that many adult rabbits start out with.

Shadow isn’t a bad rabbit, he is a BADD rabbit.  I really believe that just as many humans are hyperactive and easily distracted, so is our Shadow.  He is a true joy to have around, but only because we have become knowledgable about how to meet the needs and challenges of a very high energy easily distracted animal. 

Whether human or animal, high energy / high activity beings require more time from those caring for them.  We had to learn how to protect Shadow and also Tigger when she was younger from harming themselves with their over the top can do rabbit attitudes.  We also needed to keep up with needs for lots of fun things for them to do.   I am sure a lot of high energy / high activity rabbits probably get abandoned by people who weren’t prepared to deal with all that bunergy.  It does at times seem like bouncing off the walls activity and that somebody or somebunny needs a padded room.

Blaine and I would both say the reward in the relationship we have with wonderful active rabbit companions is worth the time it took to understand their unique personalities and needs.

Follow Friday – HRS Health Database

Health Data Request by the HRSI received a copy of the House Rabbit Society newsletter this week. The article on the back is about their project to collect and preserve health data on rabbits.

They are asking for participation from everybody who has a bunny with health records.  Adding to the information in this database can aid in the care of other rabbits. I intend to download this and work on filling in as much information as I can for Tigger, Shadow and Portia’s veterinary care during their lives with us.

I have saved 10 years of vet bills that I will work to add into the database. Now that Tigger and Shadow are senior buns, I am thinking a lot about the time when they will leave us. It would be wonderful if part of their legacy was contributing to longer lives for other rabbits.  One recent vet visit we were given a prescription medication that doesn’t have a lot of documentation on how it works in rabbits, the vet wanted to try it since it was well tolerated by other herbivores.  So we might be the first to add data on that medication for rabbits. 

Check out this page on the HRS website with the info and download links: http://www.rabbit.org/health/healthdatabase.html.

No to Rabbits Swimming

Rabbits Swimming = Bad IdeaToday I feel the need to make a comment on a few videos I have seen on the web of rabbits swimming in backyard pools.  Someone else on Twitter had seen one too and wondered if this was a good idea.  My first immediate reaction is, NO, BAD IDEA!

I spent my teenage years working at a neighborhood pool, taking swimming lessons right up to the advanced level.   Then I then began teaching swim classes at the pool and taking  water safety, lifesaving and pool management classes.  It is very easy to drown.  It can happen quite quickly even in a pool full of other people.  That is why many pools will have everyone stand at the edge and check the bottom before everyone leaves.  I would be as terrified of a rabbit in a pool as putting an infant in a pool.  I don’t think either are a good mix. 

It can be hard to judge between playful splashing around and someone who is in the first stages of panic.  Part of lifesaving teaches how to fight off someone who has gone into full-blown panic and grabs the nearest person potentially causing both to drown.  What if the rabbit suddenly panics and tries to bite, claw or climb up someone?  Would a child be able to manage without being put at risk themself?

Even if you don’t drown, swallowing water the wrong way can have dire consequences.  I knew someone who landed in the ICU and almost died from pneumonia caused from getting just a little water inhaled through a snorkel.  Swimmers ear is an unpleasant outer ear infection that often plagues swimmers.  This would be something I would see as a huge risk for splashing water around big bunny ears.  It is not fun to medicate rabbits, so this isn’t a risk I would want to take.

It isn’t recommended that people with allergies regularly swim, because the pool chemicals can cause sinus, allergy and asthma problems for sensitive individuals.  Since rabbits have been used as test animals for cosmetics and such because their sensitivity is similar to sensitive humans, I would see the chemicals as a huge risk for the rabbits too.

When you swim laps in a pool that isn’t the proper temperature you risk muscle cramps if the temperature is too cold and heat exhaustion or stroke if the temperature is too high.  Regulating the temperature of a pool for lap swimmers is an important part of pool management.  I had one time a pool was too hot for laps, I swam them anyway and ended up quite ill afterwards.  Lesson learned on that one and I don’t want to try to figure out what a good temperature needs to be for a rabbit to swim laps.

If all that isn’t enough, there is the fear factor.  Some people are deathly afraid of water.  I can only imagine how some rabbits would react to suddenly being put in a huge body of water completely outside their experience.  I would not want to risk scaring a rabbit to death.

Power Issues and Rabbits

Blue FlashlightIt has been a real challenge to keep things going online this week and last.  Although we are located in a large metropolitan area, we are a bit off the grid.  We are far enough from the nearest electric substation that we have power issues.  Bad weather or someone in the area hitting a pole can send the electricity surging on and off which can kill sensitive electronic equipment.  So I have been powered down a lot as storms have rolled through daily here.

We discovered early on as house rabbit owners that lights out and roaming rabbits are also a tricky sensitive mix.  Trying to navigate a dark room safely without knowing where the rabbits are is not good, not good at all.  

We stocked up on both flashlights and batteries.  We have a flashlight and sometimes two in every room of the house, so that we can reach one quickly.  Usually they are close enough to grab without standing up.  We don’t want to be moving around much in the dark and possibly stepping on or tripping on a bunny.  Shadow would be particularly vulnerable since his deep coloring makes him disappear at times even in good lighting conditions.

As soon as we lay hands on a flashlight, we use treats to quickly get Tigger and Shadow into their cages.  We have found it to be a good thing to get them safely locked in, because sometimes when the lights come back on they go on and off again a few times before they stay on.  This can be really disturbing for the rabbits and we don’t want them to go running off in a panic that could cause them to injure themselves.  Also, we are in the warm south where it is customary to have air conditioning running much of the year.  The rabbits are not used to the outdoor noises they hear when the windows are open and are more easily startled by the unfamiliar sounds.

Perhaps you don’t experience power issues to the extent we do.  However, if you do from time to time, flashlights are relatively inexpensive.  You can buy small ones in packs and keep them handy.  One thing we have seen time and again with our rabbits is that they don’t understand that we can’t see them in the dark.  When we grab a flashlight and turn it on, we will usually find they have come from wherever they were and are now beside us.  They seek us for reassurance, not realizing that we don’t know they are there.

Although rabbits like to be mysterious creatures and behave unexpectedly, they crave for their living environment to stay pretty stable and predictable.  So if you are new to rabbits, you may want to think about what conditions tend to hit your area in regard to storms and such that disrupt things and have some plans in mind for keeping rabbits safe and sound.  This is one reason it is good to have a cage or enclosure that can close them safely in, even if you intend for yours to be free roam.  Sometimes for their own safety, it is good for a time to be able to get them quickly to a safe and secure location until a dangerous or scary situation has passed.

I’ll share a Follow Friday suggestion later today.

Rabbits As House Pets

Cute Trio of Baby Rabbits
There are more and more places where people are seeing baby rabbits available to bring home as a pet.  Babies can be irresistably cute. If you haven’t had a rabbit as a house pet before, is it a good choice for you?

It depends on how much you know about rabbits.  Unfortunately, many baby bunnies are taken home during Easter season and are given up just a few months later because new owner’s weren’t prepared for what they got.

Size Does Matter.  There are dozens of recognized rabbit breeds.  Of course there are innumerable combinations if breeds mix and well bunnies do mix and mingle and multiply freely when allowed to. The size of a full-grown rabbit can range from 2 or 3 pounds to over 20 pounds.  You could get a lot more bunny than you bargained for if the baby rabbit turns out to be one of the giant breeds! 

Whoa, They Live How Long?  Many think a bunny will be like guinea pigs or hamsters and live just a couple of years.  Well cared for house rabbits can live for ten years or more.  Bringing home a bunny is a long-term committment. 

The Importance Of Being Altered:  Like cats and dogs, rabbits make the best house pets when they have been spayed or neutered.  Rabbits become “teenagers” at four to six months of age and have raging hormones making them harder to handle.  Since rabbits are social animals, it is good to get pairs, but if those pairs turn out to be boy and girl, you could end up with way more bunnies than planned.  Baby bunnies can easily hide their true gender even from experienced vets.      

To be successful with a pet rabbit, you need to be aware of the importance of a good diet and just how well a bunny can hide being ill.  It is good to have knowledge of common rabbit diseases and illnesses and the early signs that say bunny needs a rabbit savvy vet. Vets for rabbits are usually exotic veterinarians and their fees can run higher than those for cats and dogs.

For good health, rabbits need a minimum of 30 hours of free runtime a week.  If they are in the mood they will run top speed around rooms, up and down stairs, and bounce on and off furniture.  They hit speeds up to 25 miles an hour.  Bunny lovers call it the Bunny 500 and just sit back and enjoy the show. 

Where Is The Bunny And What Is He Doing?  For your sanity and the rabbit’s safety, you need to learn how to bunnyproof your home.  Rabbits can wiggle into unbelievably small places and like to chew everything in sight.  They are very curious and sometimes very stubborn. 

Okay, We Are Rabbit Crazy:  Once people learn these things about rabbits, they can’t understand why we actually have multiple rabbits.  It’s because rabbits are unbelievably fun as a pet.  See yesterday’s post for all the playful things they like to do. They can be litter box trained and can learn their names and understand many words and commands.  However like cats, whether they respond to a command depends a great deal on whether they are in the mood.  

To Mystery:  We read an article once that said rabbits are the pet of choice for people who love mysteries, because you just don’t know what they will do next.  We have always been well entertained by them.  It is hard to stay in a bad mood when a bunny decides to play the clown or hops up beside you on the sofa and flops down to be petted.

Surfing Time:  Rabbits are not for everyone.  If you are thinking of one as a pet, do some Internet surfing to get a good handle on whether a bunny is your pet of choice.  A good site to start with is the House Rabbit Society.  They have loads of information and also local chapters in many areas where you can check into adopting a rescue bunny.

Bonded on Their Terms This Time

Shadow & Tigger

Napping in the sun together

That first bunny marriage for Tigger and Shadow lasted a year. Then Shadow became deathly ill with an inner ear infection.  He stopped eating and drinking. The vet asked us to separate them so that we could closely monitor him. Reluctantly, we did for the first 48 hours until it was clear he was eating an drinking again.  After that, we let Tigger out to share run time with him.  She ran to him clearly showing she meant to groom his head.  He growled at her, lunged, and started chasing her around the room.

The vet suggested keeping them separate until Shadow was off antibiotics.  Two months later, as Shadow was coming off meds, Tigger developed an inner ear infection of her own. This time the vet asked us to move them to separate parts of the house with no contact at all until we got them both infection free.

So, four long months later, we began the rebonding process. We thought perhaps it would go well, because they had both showed signs of loneliness while apart. This time was bumpier than the first time. Now they had issues with each other. It was clear Tigger was holding a grudge.

For two years we tried off and on to rebond them without any real progress. They weren’t trying to kill each other, but they weren’t getting friendlier either. They would start out amiable or ignoring each other and then a head humping or butt nipping incident would lead to a chase, and lock down for both.  They were both holding grudges and no one was giving an inch.

We had pretty much given up hope when we noticed a change taking place. Their cages had remained side by side.  During their separate run times, Shadow started spending a lot of time flopped by Tigger’s cage when he would be out.  Then Tigger started flopping beside his cage on her runtimes.  Then they started grooming each other through the cage bars. 

We started trying “door dates”.  We would open the door of the locked up bun’s cage, pet both of them and allow them to groom each other at the door. Shadow would even come running if we called “door date”. After a few months as jailhouse lover’s, we tried letting them out again for short run times together.

This time around, we decided to do “bunding” instead of bonding. In bonding we were trying to define their relationship in terms of what we felt a good bunny bond should be. We decided to let Tigger and Shadow define their relationship on their own terms and be “bunded” instead.

The result is a pair that share their run times, but have separate cages. They have a good relationship most of the time, but they will have occasions where they fuss with each other, like a grumpy old married couple.  They get a little pushy shovy or might hump a head or chase the other off.  We allow this, because it never progresses further.  They aren’t out to harm each other. 

The little stinkers have proved to us conclusively that humans aren’t the only ones who have weird on again off again relationships. When they go to the vet, they look like the best bonded bunny couple in the world. They spend the minimum two-hour round trip in a carrier together without the least bit of fussing. For Tigger and Shadow it is clearly you and me against the world if they have to go out.

These two have always been incredibly high energy bunnies. Looking back, I don’t know why we thought they would ever be total snuggle bunnies all the time. Tigger and Shadow have a high-spirited relationship. They have “bunded” themselves quite well and love their shared run times, but also love their separate alone times in their own cages.

On the Bunny Bonding Trail, uh Trial

Tigger & Shadow in a quiet momentOkay, I freely admit right up front that when it comes to bonding bunnies, we did almost everything possible wrong. We had always seen bunnies snuggling together and had no idea you couldn’t just put two of them together. We got Tigger first, realized she was lonely, and brought Shadow home a couple of months later as a companion.

The only thing we did right was to keep to separate cages and run times until they were altered. We didn’t believe the vet was correct that we had two females. Thank heavens for our gut feeling, since little Shadow was hiding his male status quite well. During the month we were housing them side by side with separate play times, we realized that getting them together was going to be harder than we thought.

Tigger had lost that lonely feeling, now she had a purpose in life. Unfortunately, her new mission meant trouble for Shadow’s well-being.  That rabbit had invaded her space and she would patrol the perimeter of his cage and try to nip him if he came too close to the bars.  Shadow was smart and stayed away.

I thought I would get them used to seeing each other while feeling somewhat protected.  So, I tried holding Shadow while Tigger was out running.  However, Shadow surprised me and decided to take the offensive.  He dived out of my arms making a beeline for Tigger.  She was quite ready to meet this challenger head on.  I grabbed Shadow right before they reached each other and got the bite he intended for Tigger.  I told Blaine about my foolishness and suggested we needed to regroup and find a game plan.  Blaine decided when I wasn’t there to repeat my experiment and got the same results, except the bite he got came from Tigger.

We needed help.  Being admitted computer geeks, we went online and found the House Rabbit Society. We read all the bonding material and talked to local people and knew the road ahead was going to be a bumpy one. We now had altered bunnies, so hormones were fading and that was good.  However, we weren’t starting out with great snuggle bunny personalities, we had alpha rabbits. 

We started real slow with just five-minute dates in neutral territory in a bathroom and adjoining hallway.  At first they really didn’t even want to be in the same room together.  Sometimes we would end up with a rabbit flopped along the bathroom wall with  the other flopped along the hallway wall with just their heads out together in the open doorway so that we could pet them jointly.  They clearly weren’t very trusting of each other.

We built up their time together over three long months. Gradually, we introduced them to their shared space and then had a beautiful bonded couple 24/7 who shared their cage and runtime.  As the picture shows, we had a success!  Yeah, well sort of, the rest of the story later today.  What we didn’t realize is that we had the Liz Taylor and Richard Burton of the bunny world …