When Shadow was just a few months over a year old, we woke up one Saturday morning and realized right away that something was very wrong. He didn’t want his morning treat or to come out of his cage. We made arrangements to get him to the vet right away and felt fortunate that the vet had Saturday morning hours. Unfortunately, most likely since the vet was only open half a day on Saturday and we were describing what seemed like stomach problems, the vet examined him for that and prescribed treatment for stasis.
We took Shadow home and began the recommended diet and treatments. On Sunday morning, Shadow came out of his cage right away and at first we thought that was a good sign. Then he bent down to eat out of a bowl and fell over on the floor and was rolling around. It was clear that something was very wrong with his balance. We realized then the vet had not done a full head to toe check of him the day before and the proper diagnosis needed had been missed.
We got on the phone calling every vet we could find and contacting rabbit people we knew via phone and email trying to find some assistance since we weren’t sure what was wrong or how to help Shadow. The emergency animal clinics that were open had no exotic vets on staff or call. The exotic vets had no Sunday hours, except for one that was more than an hour away. The air conditioning on the car had just gone on the fritz and we hadn’t had a chance to even schedule an appointment for that yet. We knew we could not take Shadow such a long distance in the Georgia heat with no air conditioning in the car. We would trade one emergency for another if we tried. We only got the answering machine for one exotic vet nearby who indicated she had emergency call back, but only for current patients. We had nothing to lose and Blaine left her a message anyway.
The exotic vet we left a message for did call back and we were so appreciative. She said normally she would not call non patients back, but there was something about what Blaine had said that made her decide to make an exception. We described the problem with Shadow’s appetite and activity being off the previous day and now his falling over and rolling around when he bent his head to eat. We were asked a lot of questions and told that it sounded like either a problem with an ear infection or a neurological problem with seizure like activity. The vet thought it was more likely an ear problem from what we described and that the falling over was due to dizziness. She suggested we put him back in his cage and make that as safe a space as possible since he was experiencing balance problems. She wanted us to keep trying to get him to eat and drink and then bring him in first thing the next morning on Monday to be seen as a new patient.
Tigger and Shadow were bonded at that time and sharing a cage that was two cages linked together. The vet suggested we separate them so that we could better monitor Shadow and so that Shadow would not be tripped by Tigger or accidentally hurt her by falling on her. We separated the cages into two. Then we removed things from the floor of what would be Shadow’s cage, toys and such that were loose and that could trip him or that he could fall on. Then we put him in his new cage for one. When he tried to eat out of his bowl, he fell over in the cage again and was rolling around trying to get back on his feet. Shadow was wild-eyed terrified. When he was able to get back up, he hopped to the back of the cage into the litter pan and laid down propped up against the side. Thinking about the problem likely being dizziness, we got some freshly washed greens which would give him both food and some water and held them out to him right where he was laying so he did not have to move his head. He was so eager to eat those, it was clear he was hungry and thirsty.
We thought some more about the problem and realized it was probably a good idea to keep him in his litter box as much as possible. It was a safe space if he fell and the sides allowed him to prop himself up and rest his head to keep it steady. The litter box fit the cage side to side in the back. We realized we had three cage walls to work with surrounding him. We moved his hay rack, water bottle and food bowl so each was on one of the walls around his pan. We positioned each so that they were right on a level even with his head so that he did not have to move his head up or down to eat or drink. That was a success and Shadow began eating and drinking again. We continued throughout the rest of day and evening to also hand feed him some greens.
By evening he was still a very sick rabbit. It seemed he was just a tiny bit stronger since he was able to eat and drink again now that we had things so that he didn’t have to move his head and risk losing his balance. He continued resting comfortably in his litter box keeping himself propped up. We got his carrier ready to take him in to the new vet first thing the next morning.
Tomorrow, the diagnosis and the long road to recovery …