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Rabbits/Accumulation of manure near anus and bunny's tail

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QUESTION: I have been rescuing rabbits and rehabilitating aggressive rabbits for over 10 years.  I currently have 12 rabbits.  Over the years I have learned so much about rabbit health, but one health concern has continued to puzzle me.  I have three rabbits that require my assistance to keep their underside clean.  They don't have diarrhea.  They do not exhibit any signs of illness.  They don't have snuffles.  They have had the same diet for at least 6 years.  Their diet consists of a high quality pellet, as much Timothy hay as they want and for these three rabbits I only give fresh food with low levels of sugar, like kale, occasionally.  They all drink plenty of fresh water.  I keep their enclosures VERY clean on a daily basis.  They all seem content and they engage in all their normal activities.  All the research I've done concerning this matter seems to point to their diet.  I'm not sure what else I can do...My 9 other rabbits have no issues and they all vary in age.  Currently, I deal with the issue by wiping and cutting the feces away from their fur.  This is an arduous feat since rabbits produce large amounts of waste and I have three affected rabbits.  My rabbits are very tolerant of this activity, but I would rather they didn't need my cleaning assistance.  Do you have any suggestions and or ideas of what may be causing this?  Could it be their older age and an inability to reach that area?

ANSWER: Dear Sarah,

Your bunnies appear to be suffering from chronic cecal dysbiosis, which is fully explained here:

www.bio.miami.edu/hare/poop.html

While some people mistakenly believe this is due to giving a bunny a diet too rich in fresh greens, this is almost never the problem.  However, it could have something to do with his, if bun is getting the wrong type of food.  Please check that here:

www.bio.miami.edu/hare/diet.html

The second most common cause of this problem is probably pain/stress from dental disorders, such as molar spurs or other dental problem.  Please read:

www.bio.miami.edu/hare/dental.html

Another common reason for messy bottom in older rabbits is simple arthritis that makes it harder for the bun to reach down and grab cecotropes straight from the "chute".  They sometimes turn around and walk on them, or squash them onto their bums while trying to eat them.  This can also happen with rabbits who are pudgy.  :)

You will need an experienced rabbit vet to help you, and you can find one via the Vet Referral Listings linked here:

www.rabbit.org/vets

The vet can also check for intestinal parasites (if possible, bring a very fresh sample of bunny poop with you in a clean ziplock bag), such as coccidia or roundworms. These are not particularly common in adult rabbits, but it never hurts to be sure.

In the meantime, you can safely clean bunny and keep him comfortable with the techniques described here:

www.bio.miami.edu/hare/buttbath.html

I hope this helps you get to the bottom of the problem and get it under control.

Dana

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

QUESTION: The information you provided me made me realize that each of my affected rabbits has a different reason for their condition.  They have all seen a veterinarian several times and I only received information about diet.  After reading your response I was forced to analyze each rabbits' situation individually.  I am convinced one rabbit suffers from arthritis and I will look into ways to make her more comfortable.  It is my belief that one rabbit may suffer from an unbalanced diet.  This rabbit had been released in a neighborhood prior to coming to my home and I'm wondering if he is used to more fresh food than I traditionally serve my rabbits.  Can each rabbit's dietary needs differ greatly from one another?  The third rabbit has suffered from dental issues from a young age.  He came to my home as an aggressive rabbit and I quickly discovered he had overgrown incisors.  I clip his teeth at least once a month.  He does not display signs of pain, but I would agree that he must be stressed due to his handicap, which greatly inhibits his ability to preen.  Our bond is quite strong because he recognizes that my role in his life is to help him, but I certainly don't want any of my rabbits to be stressed.  Is there anything else I can do to alleviate his stress due to his dental issues?

Answer
Dear Sarah,

Unfortunately, chronic dental problems will always be a source of pain and stress.  The best we can do is to keep them under control with regular veterinary treatments, as necessary, and good diet to promote sideways chewing (fresh grass, grass hay).

I hope all your bunnies will get solutions to make them well and happy.  They are lucky to have such a caring "mom".

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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