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Rabbits/Baby bunnies born/matted hair/possibly missing limbs

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Question
Hi,

We just bought a rabbit and much to my surprise she had babies 2 days ago. I have never raised newborns so of course I loaded myself with information as quickly as possible. When I went out to check on them this morning four of the 6 had passed away and the other 2 were crying and their bellies were sunkin in. From what I have read that means that Mom is more than likely not feeding them. To be on the safe side I pulled them so I can hand feed them. When I brought them in the house and took a good look at them I noticed that what  think is Mom's hair is matted all over them and it looks like they are missing limbs (each one is missing 1 leg) and ears. I was just wondering if you have ever heard anything like this before. Could it be that Mom was trying to eat them? Will they be able to live comfortably with missing limbs? How do I get the matted hair off safely to clean their wounds? They are both eating though not very much. The feeding chart that I got from House Rabbit Society said they should be eating right around 2ml twice a day but they're not even close to that. Any help and prayers you can give for these little ones will be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

Answer
Dear Holly,

I'm sorry about this sad turn of events.  But you did the right thing by taking the babies away from mama.  She was not trying to eat them.  But a stressed mama will sometimes overgroom her new babies to the point of mutilation, and she likely would have eventually killed them if you had not taken them away.

This is one good reason NOT to keep rabbits outdoors.  There are predators and environmental extremes (heat! cold!) that are just horrible for rabbits.  Not to mention the loneliness.  Rabbits are as smart and sociable as dogs and cats, and can be litterbox trained to live inside with the family.  All my rabbits are free-range house rabbits.  Check out the House Rabbit Society site for more information on living with a house rabbit, and then get mama indoors where she will be happy and not suffering the stress that made her mutilate her babies.

As for the babies:  be patient.  At first, feed them only a little bit at a time, allowing them to get used to the formula.  Get them to eat the full amount over the course of several feedings, and gradually they will get to like the formula and eat their full helping all in one sitting.

And yes, bunnies can live perfectly well without a limb or external ear pinnae.  They will adapt very well if they have never known anything else.  They will be the two little Gimp Twins.  :)

I hope this helps, and that you're able to get these little ones growing.  I would suggest getting them to a rabbit vet who might prescribe antibiotics, since open wounds from chewed off ears and limbs are certainly a nidus for infection.  Baytril or ciprofloxacin would be good, broad-spectrum choices, though there is some evidence that they can inhibit the normal formation of cartilage in very young animals (but usually only at high doses).  I have used both of these in baby rabbits with no ill effects, so ask the vet.

I hope the babies will be fine.  Good luck,

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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