A Bunny Who Refuses Food Is A Bunny In Crisis!
(Be sure to keep a copy of this information in your emergency kit.)

There will be times in your bunny’s life when he rejects food or a favorite treat. What your bunny is telling you is that he feels sick. If you are not prepared to respond immediately, your bunny may suffer a painful death in as few as 12 hours. Routinely give your bunny the opportunity to tell you he is sick by offering a favorite food in the morning and evening.

Humans who feel sick can wait and see if they improve and, often will feel better later. That doesn’t work with bunnies. When a bunny refuses food, he has already entered a downward spiral. Muscles that push food through the intestines are slowing, bacteria are proliferating, creating gas, pain is building and body temperature is dropping, leading to shock and death. (Rabbits can not "burp" or vomit, so gas becomes trapped inside.)

When your bunny rejects food, you must:
1. Stabilize your bunny using the steps listed below in red.
2. Take your bunny to a rabbit-expert vet as quickly as possible.

A veterinarian specializing in rabbits will take x-rays to identify the problem. X-rays are costly but necessary so your vet can see if your bunny has indigestion, gas, blockage, tooth spur that is cutting into the cheek or tongue, stones, or something else. Also, your vet can do things that you cannot do at home, such as giving fluids and prescription pain medication. You should try to stabilize your bunny until you get to the vet. To do so, you must have an emergency kit with the necessary tools.

Prepare your emergency kit now for the inevitable crisis. You should have:

- Heating pad or disc: electric (make sure bunny can not get to wire) or a microwaveable heating disc

- Infant gas drops (simethicone): Baby GasX, Walmart’s Equate brand is fine.

- Bayer orange-flavored, 81mg. aspirin: (also called baby aspirin or low dose adult aspirin). Any brand is fine, but the Bayer orange flavor dissolves the best.

- Syringes: (no needles, just the plastic syringe part) 1cc syringes (1cc is the same as 1ml) and 10cc feeding syringes

- Digital thermometer with a flexible tip (no glass) that will give you a quick reading of 10 seconds or under. (Practice taking your bunny’s temperature now so you can manage it in a crisis.) Come to any of our meetings and tell Joy, Marjorie Manahan, Bobbie Shewmaker or Pat Daly that you want to learn how to take a temperature and we will help you practice. If that's not possible, here is a link to a video on how to take a rabbit's temperature:  http://rabbit.org/how-to-take-a-rabbits-temperature/

- Lubricant to apply to the tip of the thermometer. Use any alcohol-free lubricating jelly.

- Food to give only if your vet tells you to syringe-feed your bunny:  Baby food squash and a can of 100% pure unflavored pumpkin (not pie filling). Your vet may sell you a bag of Critical Care, an Oxbow food product. Whatever you feed, dilute it with water to a very runny state so it can be swallowed. A sick bunny won’t accept a chewy glob. To avoid choking, do NOT just shoot the food into the mouth.  Slowly push the syringe contents into the side inner cheek area of the mouth so bunny has a chance to position it and swallow. A bunny with a low temp – under 100° may not be able to eat. Do not force-feed a low-temp bunny. You could create a life-threatening situation.

-  Plain cornstarch, NOT talc, NO perfumed powders. When your bunny tears a nail, apply dry cornstarch to stop the bleeding. Also good to knead into and dissolve fecal crust on a bunny butt. Avoid bathing a bunny butt unless absolutely necessary.

Do All Of The Following Immediately When Your Bunny Refuses Food

1. Call your RABBIT SAVVY vet - a vet experienced in rabbit care. Explain that you have an emergency, the symptoms, including temperature, and that your bunny needs to be seen immediately.

2. Temperature. Take his temperature. http://rabbit.org/how-to-take-a-rabbits-temperature/  Normal is 101° – 103°. A low temp (under 100°) can be deadly. If he is cold, put a heating pad or heating disc on your lap, cover it with a towel and hold your bunny until he gets fidgety and no longer wants heat. Use a low or medium setting because a bunny’s skin is delicate and will burn. If a heating pad is too hot to hold your hand on it for 30 seconds, it’s too hot for your bunny. In a pinch, you can heat towels in a microwave for several seconds to wrap up your bunny. When bunny has been warmed, you can proceed to steps 3,4,5. However, if your bunny’s temp was over 103°, suspect infection and ignore the following steps. You need a vet visit. If over 105° you have a major emergency; get to your vet immediately. 

3. Gas relief. Fill a 1cc syringe from the bottle of gas drops. Insert tip in the side of bunny’s mouth and gradually empty the syringe. Gas drops will do no harm. You can give a dose every hour for 3 doses, then a dose every 3 to 8 hours.

4. Pain relief. For bunnies weighing 5 pounds and more, dissolve one tablet of Bayer orange-flavored, 81mg aspirin in 1cc water. Fill a 1cc syringe. Insert tip in the side of bunny’s mouth and gradually empty the syringe. For bunnies under 5 pounds, dissolve one-half tablet in 1cc water.

5. Water. Carefully provide room temperature (not cold) water through syringe to hydrate bunny. Give as much as bunny will accept. If bunny is stressed, ignore this step.  Remember to insert water filled syringe into the side inner cheek area so bunny doesn't choke or get water in lungs.


These are rabbit-expert veterinarians you can call in a crisis:
Dr. Linda Beisswenger, Hope Animal Hospital, Fenton, MO: 636-349-0049
On nights and weekends, call Hope’s bunny emergency number 314-580-3123 and leave a recorded message. You will receive a return call and Dr. Linda may be able to meet you at the clinic (availability is according to her schedule.)   http://www.hopeanimalhospital.com   If she is not available, use VSS Emergency Ctr., Manchester Rd. & Hwy.141, 636-227-9400.

Creve Coeur Animal Hospital, 12550 Olive Blvd., west of I-270: 314-434-4300

These are members of our HRS chapter you can call in a crisis - days/nights/weekends
Joy Gioia (Missouri): Home: 636-349-0606 – Cell: 636-541-0256
Bobbie Shewmaker (Illinois): Cell: 618-604-3063 – Home: 618-628-9758
Pat Daly (Illinois): Cell: 618-920-0705 – Home: 618-632-2940

More Symptoms Of A Pet Emergency:
If a pet develops an emergency problem, care should not be delayed. Prompt veterinary care gives a pet the best chance of a successful recovery. Situations that demand immediate veterinary care for your rabbit include:

Rejection of food
Decreased Consciousness
Inability to Urinate/Defecate
Blue, Purple or Pale Gums
Rabbit Exhibiting Open-Mouth Breathing
Bleeding (more than just a scratch or torn nail)
Profuse Diarrhea (not simply loose cecals)
Breathing Difficulties
Ingestion of Toxins (including poisonous plants) or Medications

HRS MO St. Louis