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Rabbits/Medical care -vs- euthanization


QUESTION: After 3rd try our Sr buck & jr doe took. We then noticed his face was pulled at a strange angle. I knew he'd had a stroke. Now you can' handle him w/o the head turning under body and seizing. Quality of life on meds w/o physical comfort from daugher or put down? It tears her up to see him this way. He was her first show Mini rex.
and been waiting on the hand-picked doe to mature.

ANSWER: Hi Christie:

I just found your question in the 'open' question pool.  Has anyone replied to you yet? Have you resolved your issue?  If not, I'd be happy to answer your question.  Please let me know.

Lisa L.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Red is a 1 1/2 y/o Mini Rex.  He is housed in his own 18x20x14 wire cage. He is fed a daily ration of 16% Purina pellet w/a small amount of barley, oat and black sunflower mix. Every other day a handful of Timothy grass and once a week a single, small treat of carrot, celery and/or cabbage.

Our mixed herd is housed in an a/c shed. All separate except for brooding does.

No he is not fixed d/t the fact that we show our rabbits as a 4-H project and they can not be altered.

His condition has deteriorated and when we went to euthanize him, the vet still wanted to begin an antibiotic tx first but we've put a 3/4day limit.  I would still like your input please.

ANSWER: Is "Red" the same rabbit your original post was about (the rabbit that may have had a stroke) or are you asking me about a different mini rex?  I need to be clear before I can help.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yes. It is the same animal. "Red" is his name.

Ok - thank you for clearing that up.

The first thing I would say is that while you decide the fate of Red you need to immediately stop giving him ANY cabbage at all.  It can actually be deadly.  You should absolutely avoid all Brassica-family veggies for rabbits, no matter how much they enjoy them at feeding time.  Cabbage and other brassicas cause excessive gas build up and due to the design of the digestive system of rabbits; they canít burp to release the gas.

Since they canít burp, the only way for gas in the system to escape is by slowly working its way through the gut and excess gas in the gut can result in GI Stasis, it's horribly painful to have happen. :(  Some bunnies just get so swollen with gas that the gut stretches to drum-tight and can't push the gas any further--and that's when the rabbit dies.  I've seen perfectly healthy young rabbits die after only one cabbage leaf.  Even if your rabbit has not shown any physical problems from cabbage, you can be certain he is dealing with painful gas each time he eats it - it's unavoidable.

Is red seeing a standard vet or an exotic animal vet with rabbit experience?
Has the vet done a nose swab or blood test to test Red for Pasteurella multocida?
It's the very first test that should be done when a rabbit has any imbalance or a twisted head or neck.  If he has Pasteurella he likely has torticollis (also known as head tilt or wry neck).
There are other possible causes of wry neck, but Pasteurella is the most common.  Pasteurella is a very tricky infection because it can lie symptomless for years and when it becomes active, it may show up in odd ways.  Not all rabbits develop sneezing, nasal discharge and runny eyes which are the common symptoms of Pasteurella.  Some show it in odd ways such as a small abscess or head tilt. Some rabbits never show symptoms, but instead it lies silent and they pass it to others without you knowing they had it.

The reason itís important to have him tested for Pasteurella is that itís highly contagious to other rabbits and if Red is positive, then your other rabbits are at risk even if they are not housed in the same area.  If you feed/water/care for red, then care for the other rabbits, you can transmit the infection on your hands, clothing, feed scoop, etc.  It's a good idea to rule it out whenever any symptoms of Pasteurella are displayed and head tilt/neck bending is a big one.

In my honest opinion, and if Red were my rabbit, I would suggest that you have red humanely euthanized. I'm a firm believer that quality of life is far more important than quantity of life.  
There's no quality to his life if each time you attempt to handle him his head turns and he seizes.  He's obviously suffering.  Remember, wild rabbits are a prey animal very low on the food chain.  They are an easy meal for any predator.  Because of this, they hide pain and discomfort very well and usually don't show signs of pain or suffering until they are ready to die.  Weakness attracts predators so they hide it.  I know Red isn't wild, but domestic rabbits are 99.8% the same in DNA as wild rabbits - only 2/10ths of 1 percent separates wild and domestic rabbits and domestic rabbits have most of the same instincts that wild rabbits have.  Domestic rabbits hide pain and suffering just as much as wild rabbits do, which is likely why you never noticed any discomfort after feeding cabbage.

Red might not be showing obvious signs of suffering at all times, but that doesn't mean he's not suffering - he's simply hiding it out of instinct.  It's not so much a question of cost vs. euthanasia because Iíd suggest putting him down even if his care were free simply to end his suffering.  As you stated, his condition is deteriorating and considering that instinctually he's hiding as much of his pain and weakness as he can - if you can see him declining, then he "Feels" a whole lot worse that he's showing.

I know that's probably not the news you wanted, but I need to be honest when I offer my opinion and sometimes itís not all good news.... but I have to be honest anyway and it can be hard.
It sounds like you know in your heart what the right thing to do is.  

Antibiotics aren't going to help Red.  
If he truly did have a stroke, then antibiotics can do absolutely nothing for that.  
A stoke causes a permanent neurological impairment and antibiotics treat a bacterial infection.  Honestly - I'm concerned that a vet would even suggest antibiotics for a rabbit with stroke like symptoms given that thereís no way an antibiotic can help.  Either the vet is inexperienced and does not know what he's dealing with, or he's just taking the standard "treat it with antibiotics" approach (which makes him money).  

Question?  When the vet suggested antibiotics, did he require that you give red probiotics each day?  Rabbits should never take antibiotics without probiotics and if your vet didn't require them, then I think he may not have the proper training to deal with this.  Antibiotics kill all the good bacteria in the rabbits Caecum and hind gut and if probiotics aren't there to restore it, it can result in hind-gut overload, cecal dysbiosis, and several other possible digestional issues that can be deadly.

Further - if Red's head tilt is caused by Pasteurella, then out of preservation for your remaining herd - you should euthanize him ASAP.  Some inexperienced vets will tell you that Pasteurella can be treated with antibiotics.  That's not the case.  There is NO cure for Pasteurella.  You can manage the symptoms in between flare ups, but the disease cannot be treated and the rabbit is infectious to the rest of your herd at all times.   Even if your vet was attempting to manage Pasteurella symptoms with antibiotics, that could only be done after a nasal swab test or 0.2 ml whole blood in EDTA confirmed the diagnosis.  Did he perform nasal and blood testing to get an actual diagnosis prior to starting antibiotics? Did he require Probiotics?

I'm curious about the ethics of the vet as he may be treating without a diagnosis and/or treating something that has no cure simply to stay in business.  
Despite that, Red is suffering and declining and in fall fairness to him and to end the painful emotional issue you as his owner are dealing with, he deserves to have his suffering end by humane euthanasia.

Please keep me informed of the outcome and i'm sorry for this difficult decision.

Lisa L.


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Lisa L.


I was introduced to meat rabbits at the age of 3. Began working with them on my own at the age of 8 and started my own large commercial rabbitry at the age of 20. I'm 46 now and for the past 26 years I have owned a large herd of meat rabbits and have become well known as the turn-to person whenever a problem arrises.

Member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Member of the Rabbit Industry Council. Member of the Yahoo - Meat Rabbits Group. Member of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy. Administrators of the FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

Yahoo Meat Rabbits Group. American Council of Animal Naturopathy FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

There is no formal training for raising rabbits; its all hands on. I have had a steady rabbit breeding operation for 24 years and have read every book there is on raising rabbits for meat. Additionally, I am a member of several rabbit groups and associations as listed below.

Awards and Honors
None - there are none in this field.

Past/Present Clients
I have helped countless people over the past several decades. These have been people I knew personally or those referred to me by one of the many rabbit organizations I belong to.

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