When Tigger got to be six months of age and Shadow was turning four months, it was time to take them in to be fixed. There will be a tale to tell with Shadow about that, but with Tigger, we thought it was going to be a straight forward spay. We should have known better. The day the surgery was scheduled, we were gathering everything together when something spooked Tigger. She was still in her cage, but she had developed a habit of gnawing on her cage bars. She had been doing that when she took fright and must have jumped backward while her teeth were still around the bars. It was pretty clear immediately that something was really wrong. She was grinding her teeth in obvious pain.
When we got to the vet, we explained that she needed to be examined for the mouth injury before anything was decided or done with the spay. They told us they would call us, so we left to await what they would find. That was a mistake. We should have stayed and made sure the injury was examined and we were consulted. Instead, we got the phone call that she had cut the inside of her mouth on the top and her teeth were loose and the spay was completed, so they would call us when she was ready for pick up.
We were really upset that the surgery had proceeded with such a serious mouth injury and questioned why that had been done without consulting us first. Tigger was not a good eater and we were terrified what it was going to be like trying to help her recover from both the spay surgery and a serious mouth injury at the same time. We were really scared and thought this just might be too much and might cost Tigger her life. The vet just said he felt it was in her long-term best interest and wanted to get it out-of-the-way. When I looked at the spay incision with the very obvious stitches, I asked what was to prevent her from trying to chew them out. The vet said that rabbits didn’t do that, only rats did. I doubted he was right about that, but didn’t know what else to say at that time.
We were told to take her home and keep her in her cage for ten days, then the stitches would come out. The removal day was set for the eleventh day since the tenth fell on a Sunday. So we took Tigger home knowing we had a nursing challenge ahead. Fortunately I was working at home at the time and could keep a close eye on her. I broke up her pellets really tiny and put a few in a bowl and moistened them just a bit. She was not interested in her food that night and had the most awful dragging hop to pull herself from the front of the cage to the back. She wanted to be as far from us as possible.
A few hours later, I looked in and saw her lapping something off the floor and realized she was drinking her own urine. That is when I realized that the mouth injury was probably not allowing her to drink from her bottle. I immediately got a small bowl we had that could attach to the side of the cage and filled it with water. She was so thirsty. I felt terrible not realizing sooner that maybe Tigger would not be able to drink from the water bottle.
The next morning, I was relieved to see that Tigger was munching on some hay. That gave me hope that she would pull through. Still, it was really rough, I was having to check on her every few hours around the clock to make sure she was eating and drinking enough. We had put pellets in a couple small bowls around the cage as well as water bowls front and back since she was so obviously in pain trying to hop around. The vet hadn’t given us anything for pain. Looking back with what we know now, we should have insisted on being given something for pain for her since she was dealing with two recoveries at the same time.
Tigger was obviously experiencing strong hormonal changes too. She would get really grumpy, then angry and in spite of the mouth injury would try to throw things. Other times, I would come in and find her hunched up as small as she could get. When I would put my hand on her head, her ears would be so cold. I would get a towel and wrap it around her and just stay with her petting her head until she warmed up again.
About day six, she was getting really anxious about being in her cage all the time. I called the vet and asked if it would be okay to let her out if we did it in a hallway that had nothing in it. We got the okay and let Tigger in the blocked off hallway. We had all the room doors closed and a huge piece of cardboard four feet tall blocking the opening, so she couldn’t even see the other room. We should have known not to trust Tigger. She hopped up to the cardboard and leaped straight up in the air about three feet as if she was trying to see over the top. Fortunately, the stitches and incision appeared fine and Miss Tigger was put back in her cage with no reprieves for the rest of the ten days.
Or so we thought, day nine was a Saturday morning. Tigger was scheduled to have her stitches out on Monday, but she decided that was too long. We woke up Saturday morning to find her chewing them out herself. So much for the vet thinking that only rats did that. It would probably have happened sooner if she hadn’t injured her mouth. Off we headed to the vet. Fortunately, the stitches were ready to come out and Tigger had only scratched her skin a bit with biting at them. We were given an antibiotic ointment to put on the incision and scratches to aid the healing.
After that everything did finally proceed without more trouble with the spay incision. Tigger did need to have her teeth trimmed by the vet for a few months, but was fortunate that when they fully healed, there was no malocclusion and she was able to keep them worn down herself with normal chewing. She no longer needed the tooth trims. However, Tigger never forgot the spay. She absolutely hated to have anyone come anywhere near touching her tummy. If you put your hand anywhere near her tummy, she would be across the room in the blink of an eye.
Tomorrow senior Tigger …
Ugh, you know, with my recent experience with Moshi, I felt like I knew more than the vets I ended up having to see the day things went bad. My usual vet was out that day. Towards the end all I wanted was some metacam and an oxygen cage. I tell myself that perhaps Moshi’s body was past recovery when I noticed the urgency of the situation and that the pain medication and some extra oxygen wouldn’t have helped, otherwise I am full of anger and that does not honor his memory. Part of me just wants to go back to school and get my own vet degree so I can take care of my own bunnies. It kills me, that with bunnies being the third most popular pet, people (and vets) are so ignorant about them!
I am so glad that Tigger recovered and lived a long happy life next to Shadow.
What I came to realize with the rabbits is that when they would hit the vets office, unless they were dealthly ill, adrenaline would kick in and they would seem to not be as ill as we described. So for a vet to truly be the best possible with rabbits, I think they have to really listen to those who are seeing and caring for the rabbit at home where the rabbits aren’t trying so hard to hide their illness. Just as with human doctors, the best vets are going to be the ones who not only do physical tests and exams but who truly listen to what is being experienced at home. I agree that with the popularity of rabbits, it would seem there should be more knowledge and care available to them. All of the emergency veterinary hospitals in our area only care for dogs and cats. That makes it much harder for a rabbit to get good care evenings, nights, weekends or holidays. Like it or not, those who have rabbits have to learn a lot about caring for their rabbits on their own. So, I completely understand when your feeling you need to go back to school to learn to care for your own bunnies. The one advantage that Tigger and Shadow had is that my first adult career in life was as a nurse and I spent several years working in pediatrics. I was trained to watch closely for symptoms and problems in patients who couldn’t tell you what was wrong and I was also used to holding down squirmy beings for treatments, medications, clean ups and feedings.