How to Care for a Sick Rabbit
You may have realised that your rabbit is unwell after carrying out a daily or weekly health check on it and are wondering how to care for a sick rabbit. There are a number of things you can do to help your rabbit recuperate, but the first thing is to decide whether you need to take the rabbit to the vets. If there is damage to the eyes, a broken bone, an abscess or you suspect myxomatosis or viral haemorrhagic disease you should definitely go straight to the vets. If your rabbit has a slight digestive upset or is a bit under the weather you may decide to monitor it closely at home to see if its condition improves.
Care of an Unwell Rabbit
Isolate your rabbit – whether you have taken your rabbit to the vets or not it is worth isolating it if you think it is unwell. Put your rabbit somewhere quiet away from other rabbits and general activity. If it has a contagious disease this will reduce the risk of it spreading to your other rabbits. This will also allow your rabbit to recuperate in peace without the stress of other rabbits trying to eat its food or annoying it and without being disturbed by other pets or noisy human activity.
Don't place the heat mat in the cage with the rabbit in case it decides to chew at the mat or the electricity wires! There are some which claim to be chew proof, but I haven't tested them with my pets.
Provide extra Warmth – If your rabbit is very unwell or has had surgery it may struggle to maintain its body temperature and should be kept warm – bring it into a quiet but heated room or if you have one you could place a heat mat under part of the cage. Don’t use a heat mat under the whole cage because your rabbit needs to be able to move somewhere cooler if it is too warm.
If the rabbit is a bit under the weather and it is living outside through the winter it will benefit from being moved somewhere a bit more sheltered such as inside a garage or shed and being given extra bedding.
Food and water - if your rabbit is suffering from a digestive upset cut out greens and vegetables for a couple of days and once its feeling better reintroduce them gradually in small quantities to start with. Unlike for dogs you shouldn't withhold food altogether from a rabbit with diarrhea, but you could restrict it to liberal quantities of a good quality meadow hay for two days.
Your rabbit should have unrestricted access to water. If it have a sore mouth or a tooth abscess it might find it easier to drink from a bowl rather than its usual water bottle.
Follow your vet’s instructions carefully – these may involve syringe feeding a certain amount of medicine to the rabbit every day, adding antibiotic liquid to the water for a specified time or bathing an abscess several times a day in salt water or a product like Hibiscrub.
If your rabbit has had an operation you may be given a plastic cone collar for it to wear so that it doesn't start chewing at the stitches. Your rabbit may not be too pleased about this, but it is worth being firm and not taking it off too soon so that you avoid having to take your pet back for restitching.
Monitor Your Rabbit's Progress
Making a daily record of your rabbit's progress will give you something to refer to so that you can be either confident that it is getting better or that it is deteriorating a bit and so needs to go to the vets. You should record:
- The rabbit's weight
- The amount it has eaten
- The amount it has drunk
- Consistency and quantity of droppings
- General demeanor and activity levels
- Any other symptoms for example runny eyes including a description of the colour and consistency of the discharge.
If any of these criteria get dramatically worse or more gradually worse over a couple of days you should take your rabbit to the vet.