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Dr. Kanfer’s Korner

Rabbit Savior and Dr. Kanfer are teaming up to bring you Kanfer’s Korner: a Q&A style blog covering all topics of rabbit care.

Dr. Kanfer is a well-known exotic veterinarian in Southern California with extensive medical knowledge in rabbits. She will join us bi-weekly to answer your questions on specific topics. For example, one week Dr. Kanfer will cover the topic of Liver Lobe Torsion, the next week will be questions about diet. Our hope is to provide the rabbit community with accurate, up-to-date information about rabbit care that can be shared on social media from a reliable source.

Click Below to Visit Their Website and Learn More About Their Staff:

www.exoticanimalveterinarycenter.com

Rabbit Related Topics:

 

• RHDV2

• Husbandry (diet, housing, grooming)

• The Anorexic Rabbit: Is My Rabbit Bloated?

• Liver Lobe Torsion

• Bladder Sludge & Stones

• Heart Disease

• Kidney Disease

• Arthritis & Care of Paralyzed Rabbits

• Dental Problems: Malocclusion & Jaw Abscesses

• Respiratory Diseases

• Cancer

• Megacolon

August 2022 Topics:

 

 • Topic 1: RHDV2

 • Topic 2: Husbandry (diet, housing & grooming) 

 

October 2022 Topics:

 

Topic 3: The Anorexic Rabbit: Is My Rabbit Bloated?

December 2022 Topics:

 

Topic 4: Live Lobe Torsion

Please email your questions to info@rabbitsavior.com with the subject line “Kanfer’s Korner Questions”.

Click below to watch The Rabbit Overview:

An interview with Dr. Kanfer, Jonathan Silva and Louie B Free

Kanfer’s Answers:

 

Kanfer’s Answers: Liver Lobe Torsion

What exactly is liver lobe torsion, and how common is it?

Rabbits have 5 sections, or lobes, of their liver. The lobe on the right is called the Right Caudate liver lobe and is the most likely one to be twisted. The lobe will acutely twist at the base. When it twists this cuts off the blood flow to the lobe and the tissue starts to die. This can be very painful. This causes the liver enzymes to become very high on blood tests. There is also a decrease in the red blood cells, called anemia. Sometimes there is free blood in the belly. The anemia may occur secondary to blood loss if blood is leaking into the belly from the injured lobe, or it could be due to direct damage to liver tissue. We don’t know why rabbits get LLT. It is relatively common. It is getting diagnosed more frequently in the past several years because rabbit vets are getting better at treating rabbits, and are more likely to perform bloodwork and x-rays, and be able to diagnose it. It seems to occur most frequently in healthy middle-aged rabbits.  

 

What are the symptoms of LLT?

The rabbit will suddenly stop eating and will be lethargic. The temperature may be normal or may be lower than normal. The rabbit may or may not press their abdomen down with pain. The gum color may be pale or white. These symptoms appear the same as a basic GI stasis or bloat. 

 

How is LLT diagnosed, and treated? Is surgery always needed?

Diagnosis: On bloodwork the rabbit will have elevated liver values and low red blood cells. Sometimes there will also be low platelet numbers. X-rays may show an enlarged liver or decreased detail in the liver area. Definitive diagnosis occurs on ultrasound, the affected liver lobe will be dark and not have blood flow.

Treatment: If the rabbit is not very anemic, is not painful, is not lethargic, has a normal temp and is nibbling on food then they may be able to be treated medically. Medical treatment includes pain meds, intestinal meds, metronidazole liver antibiotic, possibly a second broad spectrum antibiotic, Milk Thistle, SQ or IV fluids, and syringe feeding. The rabbit needs to be closely monitored to make sure the anemia doesn’t worsen. It can take 1-2 weeks on meds for the rabbit to be back to normal. 

If the rabbit is not eating, is painful, or bloodwork looks really bad then it definitely needs emergency surgery. If there is significant anemia then the rabbit will also need a blood transfusion before or during surgery. 

What is the success rate of LLT surgery, and what are the risks?

The success rate is high but depends on how sick the rabbit is as well as how experienced the veterinarian is. If the diagnosis is made quickly and the rabbit goes to surgery within 12-24 hrs then there is a better prognosis. If the rabbit has very low platelets then there may be more risks. They may die during or after surgery from inability to clot or too much clotting, or they may form a clot in their lungs or heart.

If my rabbit is diagnosed with LLT, how long do I have before they need surgery?

If a rabbit has a LLT that is too bad to be treated medically then they should have surgery performed within 12-24 hours of onset of signs. 

Can multiple lobes twist at the same time?

It is uncommon but has been reported. 

What does recovery look like for rabbits with LLT? 

It depends on how sick they are. If they get surgery then they need to be hospitalized for a couple days afterwards. They may be tired, sedate. The veterinarian needs to syringe feed them to get their gut moving again. They will need to be on pain meds, antibiotics and other treatments for at least a week. 

If a rabbit has a mild case and is treated medically they may be able to be sent home sooner, and the owner will need to medicate them for a few weeks and bring them back in for frequent rechecks. 

Is there any way to prevent LLT?

Sadly, no.

What is the chance of recurrence?

Extremely low. 

Are there certain breeds of rabbits more prone to LLT?

Some veterinarians have stated they are seeing it most frequently in lop rabbits. At our hospital we see it in almost all breeds of rabbits and don’t see any one breed overrepresented. 

What is the most common age range of rabbits you see with LLT? 

Usually 3-7yrs old. But recently we had two cases, one was a year old and the other was only 9mos. 

A friend of mine lost her 6 year old rabbit last year to LLT. They did everything right – took her to the emergency vet as soon as she stopped eating, had bloodwork, x rays and a CT scan done. They scheduled the surgery right away and the rabbit made it through just fine. While in recovery a day later, the bunny crashed and passed away. How common is that, and what might have happened to the rabbit?

Most likely the rabbit had a blood clot that traveled to the lungs or heart. 

I wanted to ask Dr Kanfer how we can tell the difference between liver lobe torsion and stasis…. My bun is always twisting his body and rolling over on his back. Is it possible for him to twist his liver doing that? Mahalo!

Stasis and LLT appear similar, the rabbit stops eating and is lethargic. Blood Work will show elevated liver values and anemia, then an ultrasound will give a definitive diagnosis of LLT. 

We don’t know if twisting or binkying causes LLT. Or gas. 

My rabbit had two liver lobe Torsion surgeries before the age of 2. During his second surgery, the doctor noted a grayish color to his liver and suggested he only had 2 months to live. They put him on medication called Sam-E Milk Thistle, and he lived for 10 more months. Peppers passed away last month even though he was showing NO signs of further liver issues or GI stasis. One day he started having seizures and his heart stopped. The doctors don’t know why. My question is there anything we could’ve done to cure the liver lobe torsion and prevent it from returning? What could have caused his liver to do this twice? 

That is unusual. Usually only one lobe is affected. Since your rabbit’s entire liver was discolored, there could have been some other liver disease occurring. Sometimes a biopsy will give more information. There could have been a congenital liver dysfunction, a Coccodia parasitic infection, or a bacterial infection. Milk Thistle and SAM-e are very helpful for liver disease.

Why are Holland lops predisposed to torsion?

We do not know why some rabbits develop a LLT. There could be a genetic cause. Other vets have reported seeing a higher incidence of LLT in lops, but at our hospital we see it in almost all breeds. 

If your bun is diagnosed with torsion – how much time do you have? Do you need to hospitalize your bun?

Rabbits that stop eating should be seen by a rabbit savvy vet within a few hours. They should have x rays and bloodwork done to differentiate if the rabbit has a LLT, a bloated stomach, or just GI stasis. If the rabbit has a LLT they should have surgery performed within 12-24hrs and they need to be hospitalized. 

Why do some exotic vets, even those who see rabbits, misdiagnose torsion?

Many owners cannot afford to pay for bloodwork and x rays, or don’t realize why these tests are so important. Some exotic vets do not keep up with the most recent information. Some vets assume that owners don’t want to spend much money so they won’t even offer x rays or bloodwork. Some  vets don’t realize that an anorectic rabbit may be at risk for death. Some vets don’t have staff that are experienced enough to take x rays or blood on a rabbit. Or they don’t have the ability to run blood work in the hospital or perform an ultrasound. 

Kanfer’s Answers: Bloat

Our two-year-old Harlequin, Pronto, often appears bloated and we’ve been searching for a cause. We give him and his brother unlimited Oxbow Timothy Hay, about a quarter cup of the Oxbow garden organics adult pellets, and veggies (parsley, Romaine, Spinach, some carrot once a week, etc.). I also give both of them an Oxbow Digestive every day which does seem to help. When he gets bloated we will often treat him with 1 ml. of simethicone infant drops and this appears to head it off. I will not give him veggies for a day or two to see if he gets better. Typically his poos are fine (large, round, golden brown, soft) and he has a great appetite. But, about every four months he will show the beginning signs of GI stasis (not eating, drinking, sitting in his litter box) and we do a more intensive intervention–1 ml of drops for each hour for their first three hours, belly massages, critical care, and water syringe fed and sometimes placing him on a towel on a heating pad on medium. Last week we were at our wit’s end, did everything for four hours in the middle of the night and it was the heating pad that appeared to finally help. We’ve had to take him to the vet for emergency appointments. twice in the past two years–one time an hour and a half away at 1 am to a 24-hour vet school hospital because no interventions on our part were working. But with hydration and pain meds he perked right back up. What can we change diet-wise to prevent these issues? Pronto is a healthy, happy, active little guy normally, but his belly blows up like a sausage while his brother Marco is muscular and svelte and eating the same diet.

I would recommend a full work up to see if there is an underlying cause. Full body x-rays, bloodwork and fecal test. He could have an intestinal parasite called Coccidia. He could just be ingesting a lot of hair. Or he could have a scarred area in his gut or something else going on. You can try preventing episodes by giving daily Laxatone hairball remedy (maple or malt flavor). If that doesn’t work some rabbits do well on a chronic intestinal stimulant given every day as a preventative (Reglan). Or giving him an injection of fluids under the skin once a week may help. 

 I recommend the following emergency protocol to follow, that you can start at home at the first signs of a decrease in appetite:

  1. Check temperature using rectal thermometer. Normal temp in rabbits is 100-103*F. If the rabbit is below 100*F you need to warm the rabbit. Place the rabbit on a towel on a heating pad set on low, and lace another towel over them. Recheck the rectal temp every 10 minutes while on the heat pad. Rabbits can quickly become overheated.  You can buy a thermometer at a pharmacy. Get a digital one with a long flexible tip. For lubrication use vaseline or KY jelly. You can purchase a heating pad at a pharmacy as well. 
  2. Administer an injection of warm fluids under the skin. 
  3. Administer a pain reliever like Meloxicam/Metacam. 
  4. Do not syringe feed the rabbit if the temp is below 100*F, or if the belly feels enlarged or firm. If you do syringe feed, do not feed more than 10ml every 3 hrs. 
  5. If the rabbit does not improve within 2-3 hours they need to see a vet right away. 

 You can ask your veterinarian to prescribe SQ fluids and teach you how to administer them at home. And they can also supply you with some pain meds to have on hand for when he has his next episode. Your veterinarian can teach you how to take your rabbit’s rectal temp. Or you can look for videos online.  

 

Is it possible for a bun to get bloated just from excessive grooming or not drinking enough water?

Yes bunnies often get bloated from excessive hair ingestion. A small chunk of hair exits the stomach and enters the small intestine, getting stuck. This causes the stomach to fill up with gas and fluid. The rest of the rabbit’s body becomes dehydrated, and their blood pressure drops, as well as their body temperature. The most important treatments for bloat are hydration into the veins or under the skin, pain meds, and keeping their temp up in the normal range. In many cases fluids under the skin and oral pain meds may help if given at the first signs of illness. If the rabbit does not improve within a couple hours then it needs to be hospitalized on IV fluids with a rabbit experienced vet. If the rabbit’s stomach is very enlarged then the vet will have to sedate the rabbit and pass a tube down its throat into its stomach to empty out the gas and fluid. With IV fluid treatment the blockage will usually pass. If it doesn’t pass within several hours then the rabbit may need emergency surgery to remove the blockage. 

 Some rabbits don’t drink much water, because they are getting enough water when they eat their greens. If a rabbit was left without water or greens, they could become dehydrated and sick. Dehydration could lead to a bloat. But the most common thing is that the rabbit swallows too much hair and then they become dehydrated. The myth is that it’s a large hairball in the stomach. That is false. The hairballs that cause blockages and bloat are small and get stuck in the small intestine.  

 

What signs can we look for to tell the difference between stasis and bloat?

 It can be difficult to tell the difference between bloat and stasis unless you get x-rays done. Some vets are unable to identify a mild bloat on x-rays. But a major bloat is obvious on x-rays, and often obvious when the vet palpates the rabbit’s belly. Bloated rabbits almost always have a decreased temperature. GI stasis rabbits are more likely to have a normal temperature. In both bloat and stasis there is often no appetite, and no stool production. They may act painful, or may just be sitting quietly. 

What causes bloat?

A small chunk of hair exits the stomach and enters the small intestine, getting stuck. This causes the stomach to fill up with gas and fluid. The rest of the rabbit’s body becomes dehydrated, and their blood pressure drops, as well as their body temperature. 

 Rabbits can also develop bloat if there is a constriction of the intestines. This can happen in recently spayed female rabbits. They can form adhesions from the surgery (fibrous bands of scar tissue that form between internal organs and tissues, joining them together abnormally). 

 

How serious is bloat in rabbits? 

Bloat in rabbits is life threatening. If your rabbit doesn’t eat its meal right away, and doesn’t take any treats, be very concerned. For a dog or cat you might wait a day or two to take them to the vet. For rabbits you should not wait more than a couple hours. Their lack of appetite may be just GI stasis, and they just need some SQ fluids, pain meds, intestinal meds, and syringe feeding. Or they could have a life-threatening bloat. Bloated rabbits go into shock and can die. Or their stomach can rupture. Getting rabbits treated right away is very important. The earlier the bloat is treated, the better the prognosis. 

 If your rabbit is not eating, it needs to see a rabbit experienced vet right away. A good rabbit vet will recommend an x-ray, all rabbits that stop eating should absolutely have x-rays done. Bloodwork is very important as well. This tells us how sick your rabbit is, and if there is something else going on, like a twisted liver lobe. 

 Treating a bloated rabbit can be expensive. I recommend being prepared by having pet insurance and a savings account. If your rabbit gets sick it could easily cost $500-5,000. 

 

What are the early signs of bloat?

Rabbits can be fine, eat dinner as normal, then be lethargic, hunched and not eating treats 1-2 hours later. Often there are no early signs, it is very sudden in onset. You can try and prevent bloat by giving Laxatone hairball remedy every day when shedding and groom them daily when shedding.  

Are certain breeds of rabbits more prone to bloat? 

Bloat occurs in all breeds and sizes. Most common in healthy middle-aged rabbits (3-6 yrs). But can happen at any age. If a geriatric rabbit bloats, there is often an underlying cause, like kidney insufficiency. 

 

Are rabbits with megacolon more prone to bloat?

Megacolon rabbits are prone to a different kind of bloat, involving the large intestine instead of the stomach. Sometimes they just get a lot of gas in their cecum. That is not truly a bloat, because it is not a blockage, and is instead just excessive gas buildup. 

Many megacolon rabbits have irregular sized poop, that may be fused together or oval in shape, and may get quite large. Because Megacolon rabbits have motility issues and enlarged poops, these poops can get stuck in the colon. This then causes a large intestinal bloat. Hydration, pain meds, enemas and other meds can help but if the blockage is severe the rabbit may not survive. If the rabbit has a large intestinal obstruction and is not improving with medical treatment then they may need surgery. This type of surgery is very challenging. 

 

What causes recurring bloat episodes in a rabbit?

Could be chronic hair ingestion, intestinal parasites, scar tissue, adhesions, kidney insufficiency, or other issue. 

If I think my rabbit is bloated, is there anything I can do to treat at home in case I can’t get to a vet right away?

I recommend the following protocol to follow, that you can start at home at the first signs of a decrease in appetite:

  1. Check temperature using rectal thermometer. Normal temp in rabbits is 100-103*F. If the rabbit is below 100*F you need to warm the rabbit. Place the rabbit on a towel on a heating pad set on low. Recheck the rectal temp every 10 minutes while on the heat pad. Rabbits can quickly become overheated.  You can buy a thermometer at a pharmacy. Get a digital one with a long flexible tip. For lubrication use vaseline or KY jelly. You can also purchase a heating pad at a pharmacy as well. 
  2. Administer a dose of warm fluids under the skin. 
  3. Administer a pain reliever like Meloxicam. 
  4. Do not syringe feed the rabbit if the temp is below 100*F, or if the belly feels enlarged or firm. If you do syringe feed, do not feed more than 10ml every 3 hrs. 
  5. If the rabbit does not improve within 3 hours they need to see a vet right away. 

 You can ask your veterinarian to prescribe SQ fluids and teach you how to administer them at home. And they can also supply you with some pain meds to have on hand.  

 

How soon after noticing symptoms of bloat should I get my rabbit to a vet? 

Within 2 hours. 

How is bloat treated at the vet? Will my rabbit need to be hospitalized? 

A good rabbit vet will perform x-rays and bloodwork right away. After bloat is diagnosed the rabbit should be hospitalized and started right away on IV fluids, injectable pain meds and heat support. They may need a tube briefly placed down their throat to relieve the excessive gas and fluid in the stomach. The rabbit should be monitored closely and have repeat x-rays performed every couple hours to see if the GI tract starts moving. Once the GI tract is moving and the small hairball passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, the rabbit is usually out of the woods. If the GI tract doesn’t start moving within 4-6 hrs, or the rabbit gets worse then they need surgery to remove the obstruction. The longer you wait, the worse the rabbit will get.  

 

How well do rabbits typically recover from bloat? What kind of home care should I be prepared to give once my rabbit comes home from the vet after a bloat episode?

Rabbits usually recover pretty well, if the bloat is treated quickly and properly. Often they will need to continue pain meds, intestinal stimulants, extra hydration, and syringe feeding for 2-5 days afterwards. 

 

What kind of food should I avoid feeding my rabbit so he/she does not become bloated?

Avoid carbohydrates, large amount of fruits or sugary foods. Keep the pellets and greens limited so the rabbit eats a lot of hay. Rabbits are always grooming and are always ingesting hair. Hay will help keep the intestines moving properly and keep the hair moving through. Exercise also helps the gut move properly. 

 

Other than a correct diet, what else can I do to minimize the possibility of my rabbit becoming bloated?

You can try and prevent bloat by giving Laxatone hairball remedy every day when shedding and groom them daily when your rabbit is shedding.  

 

Kanfer’s Answers: Husbandry

I have a 2-year-old, female lop. She has choked on her pellets on two different occasions, causing me to give her the bunny Heimlich maneuver—-traumatizing!! Now I feed her one pellet at a time or none at all, only hay. Is this something she will grow out of with age (eating too fast) or might there be another reason she chokes easily?

This could be due to eating too fast or could be from dental discomfort. Another possibility could be something constricting her esophagus, like a tumor. But this is more likely to occur in a middle aged or older rabbit, like over 5 yrs old.  Avoiding pellets is a good idea. It would be ideal to get x-rays of her head, throat and chest, but she may need a CT scan or fluoroscopy to see if there is anything interfering with her swallowing. Also, when rabbits have a choking episode there is a high chance of them getting food in their lungs and getting an aspiration pneumonia. X-rays are necessary for diagnosis, and the treatment would be antibiotics. 

 

I wanted to ask Dr. Kanfer how I could encourage my rabbit to drink more water? She has 2 water bowls, a stainless-steel fountain and a waterer with a floating disk to prevent her dewlap from getting wet. She will only drink water with some apple juice or blended veggies. She won’t drink enough water on her own.

Many rabbits do not drink a lot of water. If a rabbit is being fed a big salad, they will get their water from that, and will drink less water. Rabbits that don’t get any greens and eat primarily hay and pellets tend to drink more water. If your rabbit is otherwise healthy and the poops look normal then it is probably getting sufficient water and I wouldn’t worry about it. If your rabbit has GI stasis episodes or bladder sludge then they may benefit from fluid injections under the skin.  

 

I have a question about pellets… I notice a lot of people recommending a brand of pellets that has a lot of soy in it. What do you think about bunnies eating soy?

Soy is a source of protein. Soy and corn are foods that are GMO (genetically modified organism). Certain foods are GMO to try and increase the crop yield and help the plants resist the effects of the herbicide being used.  There is information in the literature that GMO’s can cause a higher number of allergic reactions and fertility issues in humans. But there is also evidence that animals do fine on a diet containing GMO. 

A proper rabbit diet should be limited amounts of pellets and greens with a large amount of hay. Since the pellets are a small part of the diet, I am not as worried about which pellet brand is used. I do recommend the higher quality brands, but as long as the rabbits are eating a timothy-based pellet without seeds and puffs added, that is the most important thing. Also, the food the rabbit eats is mostly digested by the good bacteria in their cecum, and the bacteria produces the nutrients the rabbit absorbs. Personally, if a rabbit is healthy, I don’t worry about pellets that contain soy. If the rabbit has GI issues, then it may be better to try a non-GMO pellet. 

 

My vet says that domesticated bunnies do not need pellets, they basically just need hay and some greens, and I can use pellets as a treat. Do you think bunnies can get all the nutrition they need from hay and greens? If pellets are necessary, what percentage of their diet should be pellets?

In the wild rabbits eat grass, dried grass, leaves and branches. Pellets were initially created for rabbits used for meat and in the labs, to allow for complete nutrition of all the required vitamins and minerals, and to promote fast growth. A house rabbit can definitely live on a diet of hay only, without pellets or greens. We feed pellets and greens to make sure the rabbit has all the micronutrients they need, and for variety. Some hays may be grown on fields that are lacking nutrients, but good quality hay providers will make sure that their hay is healthy and not nutrient deficient. Pellets and greens should be fed in limited amounts. Rabbits 5lbs and under should get no more than 1/8-1/4cup of pellets and 1 cup of green leafy vegetables per day. They should be eating primarily hay. This will keep their teeth worn down and keep their gut moving normally. 

 

I have a few questions on CBD for rabbits, what has been your experience with any CBD products, have you done any studies or recommend a brand? Also how do you think CBD would benefit a rabbit after either a surgery or an elderly rabbit? Have you tried CBD for any of your patients yet and what was their outcome?

CBD can be helpful to relieve pain after surgery or due to arthritis. I am attaching my CBD handout below to answer your questions. I have used it in my bunnies and find some products work better than others. 

Click here to read Dr. Kanfer’s CBD handout

 

How often should you groom different breeds of rabbits? How do I know if I’ve groomed my rabbit enough?

Some rabbits shed frequently, some only shed 2-4 times a year. In short haired rabbits, if the fur is coming off when you are petting their back, then they need to be groomed. If your rabbit has patches of bare skin then you are grooming too much. You can use the Hair Buster rabbit comb or use your hands to pull off the loose hair.  Long hair rabbits may need to be combed daily or weekly. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with grooming long haired rabbits, and you can have them shaved by your rabbit vet or rabbit rescue groomer every 1-3 months. If you see hair in your rabbit’s poop then they need to be groomed more frequently. I also recommend using a kitty hairball formula like Laxatone (malt flavor) daily whenever a rabbit is shedding. 

 

If I don’t have styptic powder at home and accidentally trim my bunny’s nails too short, what else can I use to stop the bleeding?

You can use flour or press the nail into a bar of soap. Or hold pressure with a tissue for a few minutes. 

 

What is the best flooring to have in a rabbit’s area to prevent sore hocks? How can I care for my existing sore hocks?

All rabbits should be kept on carpet. This provides them with secure footing so they are comfortable and will be as active as they want to be. Many rabbits have thinner hair at the tip of their ankle and the skin looks pink. This is not sore hocks. But should be monitored to make sure it doesn’t get worse. Signs of sore hocks: scabbing and/or swelling, excessive hair loss on the bottom of the rear feet, painful feet. Rabbits can be given soft beds to relax on if the feet are just pink. If the feet are getting worse or are scabbed and swollen, the rabbit can be kept on a large piece of faux sheepskin. You can buy it on Amazon, called Sheepette. You can also use children’s socks or bunny booties. There is someone on Etsy that makes bunny booties. If the rabbit has significant sore hocks, then they may need to be managed by a rabbit veterinarian, and will need antibiotics, pain relievers, may need foot soaking and ointments, and intensive care.

 

What kind of greens are best to feed a rabbit who has urine sludge?

Rabbits with bladder sludge should avoid parsley, kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, and should avoid alfalfa. Many rabbits with sludge are overweight and will improve significantly if they lose weight. 

 

How often should rabbits be fed fruit (strawberry, banana, watermelon, blueberry, etc.)?

Fruits are treats and should be fed sparingly. I recommend one small treat per day. So 1-2 blueberries OR a quarter sized piece of banana OR a small piece of strawberry OR a half a baby carrot OR a bunny cookie. Too much fruit can cause soft stool and obesity. 

 

Should rabbits really stay away from carrots?

Yes, carrots act like carbohydrates. Think of them as equivalent to a piece of bread or fruit. Should be used as treats only.  

 

What is the minimum amount of space a rabbit should have (not counting “play time” space)?

Most places recommend a minimum of 10-15 square feet per 1-2 rabbits, plus an exercise area of 24sf or larger. An 8 panel exercise pen is a good size for 1-2 rabbits. Then they should have a few hours each day to run around outside the pen. 

 

Is cleaning a rabbit’s scent glands necessary? How often should it be done?

Most rabbits will clean their own scent glands. If a rabbit is arthritic or overweight then they probably need to be cleaned. They probably only need to be cleaned once every few months. 

 

How much salad should I be feeding my rabbit?

1 cup of salad per bunny per day

 

What are the most nutritious greens I should be feeding my rabbit?

Overall greens are mostly water. But contain micronutrients. Good greens to feed rabbits: green leaf lettuce, romaine, dandelion, carrot tops, cilantro, parsley, kale, baby bok choy. You can find detailed lists on the rescue group websites. 

 

What greens are not good for rabbits?

Avoid broccoli, spinach, iceberg lettuce, celery. Feed in limited amounts: kale, parsley. 

 

My rabbit came from a place where he didn’t have hay available, and now he won’t eat it. How can I get him to eat hay?

He may be getting too many pellets and greens. Or he may have bad teeth. He needs to have his teeth examined by a rabbit experienced vet. If his teeth are normal and he is not skinny, then you may want to try decreasing his pellets and greens. Rabbits should get 1/8-1/4cup pellets and 1 cup of greens each day. Feed a plain green pellet, no puffs or seeds added. Offer a high quality fresh hay that you can get from a rescue group or a feed store. Ideally offer Timothy, Orchard or Oat hay. Offer fresh handfuls every day. SLOWLY decrease pellets and greens by 25% every 2 weeks til you get down to the recommended amount. If your rabbit still won’t eat hay, you can try adding in alfalfa hay to entice him to eat. If he has bad teeth then he may never eat hay, and that is ok. 

It seems that the pellets for older buns, Science Selective and Oxbow’s new 5+ pellets have alfalfa in them. I have an 11 year old bun who has been on Science Selective for years and have had no problems. Should I change?

Alfalfa is higher in calcium and protein. Alfalfa based pellets and alfalfa hay is very helpful for babies and older bunnies. Babies need calcium and protein for growth. Many older bunnies start losing weight and need more nutrient dense food. Alfalfa hay or pellets can also be used to tempt rabbits to eat and help them gain weight. It should be avoided in rabbits that have bladder or kidney stones or bladder sludge. Healthy adult rabbits do not need all that extra calcium and protein, and if they eat it regularly could potentially cause problems. If your 11yr old bunny doesn’t have any issues with stones or sludge then he can remain on the alfalfa based pellets. Your bunny would need X-rays to check for stones or sludge. 

Dr. Sari Kanfer, originally from New York City, was able to escape the big city and attend veterinary school at Colorado State University. Shortly before vet school, she became hooked on rabbits and later followed her addiction to the West Coast. After 10 years of building a great clientele in the exotic pet community, she opened the Exotic Animal Veterinary Center as a full service hospital dedicated to high quality, compassionate veterinary care for avian and exotic pets. Dr. Kanfer believes that no matter how small or unusual your pet is, it deserves the best veterinary medicine has available.

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