How We Learned to Medicate Shadow

Shadow responded best for treatments to a firm but open hold

Just relaxing in a football hold here

When Shadow became so ill with the ear infection and needed months of antibiotic treatment, it was a learning experience not only in the diagnosis, but also in how to handle giving him the needed medicine. At first when he was really ill the first couple days and needing shots, we used the means of holding a rabbit down that I had first learned with my family’s first rabbit, Thumper. The vet had taught us to hold him flat to a table with pressure along the spine and shoulders to keep him from flipping and injuring his spine. It is a good idea to make sure to have your vet show you how to immobilize your rabbit for treatments at home if it is ever needed.

However, as I had written before after a couple of days of shots Shadow was well enough that he could flex his muscles and bend the needle even though he couldn’t move to get away. We switched over to a by mouth antibiotic that was given by syringe into the side of his mouth. Since I had more previous experience holding squirmy little bodies, nursing both rabbit and human babies, we started out at first with me holding Shadow immobile on a table so that Blaine could syringe the meds into him. Unlike Thumper and human babies, Shadow was extremely athletic and his hind legs were incredibly strong. As he started to regain a bit of his strength on the meds, he was able to kick back with his back legs. Let me tell you even with a small sick rabbit, those back legs are incredibly strong and when he kicked me in the stomach, I thought I was going to lose breakfast.

So, we tried the other method suggested for rabbits of using a towel to mummy / burrito wrap the rabbit so that only the head is free. That is when we discovered that Shadow was like many humans and clearly had a serious claustrophobic streak. He went completely berserk, thrashing, biting, and scratching. It was nearly impossible to safely get him back to the floor while we regrouped. It was clear if we tried to stick with the mummy / burrito idea, someone was going to get hurt, possibly all of us. It occurred to me that maybe just as many humans tolerate getting MRI’s with a more open style of machine, that maybe Shadow could be treated with a firm but more open style of holding.

So, I put on and buttoned up a denim jean jacket with the collar turned up for some protection if Shadow tried to scratch or bite and picked him up and held him up on my shoulder baby style with his head facing back over my shoulder. I had one hand firmly on the back of his head and shoulders with my forearm along his spine and the other hand firmly holding his bottom. If I felt him start to move, I pressed my forearm and hand more firmly along his spine and shoulders to hold him steady. Now this position isn’t something that would work at all well for lots of rabbits, some might try to go over the shoulder, but for Shadow it worked. The more open hold clearly made him feel less threatened. He would gnaw on the jacket in protest between getting his meds syringed in a bit at a time, but he didn’t go nuts like he did with the towel wrapping. Over the months he needed to be medicated, we were able to control the situation and safely get him the meds he needed without hurting him or creating the terror reaction the towel wrapping tries had brought on.

Next week the story of Shadow and parsley …