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Rabbits/Stange problem with my meat rabbits

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Question
I breed meat rabbits to eat. In the last several months I have had to put down three rabbits. Here is the problem, at first they go off feed and start losing weight. I have been told that it could be a potassium problem so I give small chunks of banana occasionally plus they get electrolytes every couple of days especially in the summer months. When my first one  went down none of these things helped, so when he got so he couldn't walk we put him down. There was no diarrhea until the last day and he just seemed to want more and more water. About a month later another started. Same type of problem, they were not related, nor housed near each other. I kept an offspring of the pairing from last year. Today she had to be put down. Went off feed for two days stayed in the water dish but when I touched her to move her out of the dish to put water in she just screamed and wouldn't stop. I didn't use force just touched her. She was so skinny, lost a lot of weight in a few days. Here it gets stranger. Her blood was really light and kind of thick. When we thought back the first rabbit had very little blood. Can you tell me what causes that? Could it be genetic? Could it be a problem with human consumption? Or could I have a predator I don't know about that could make them this way (they were checked no sign of bites)? Any help would be appreciated. All breeding and butchering has been stopped until I find an answer

Answer
The only way to get to the bottom of this disorder is to take one of the poor, deceased rabbits to a good rabbit veterinarian for a necropsy that includes histopathology of all major organs and tissues.  Anemia (lack of red blood cells) can cause the blood to appear light-colored, and the "thickness" of the blood could be due to dehydration, which would be consistent with the constant thirst.  These signs combine to suggest that these rabbits are dying from renal failure, though that is just a guess at this point.

Chronic renal disease is not treatable, and there are many possible causes, such as chronic infection, chronic exposure to toxic substances, etc.  Acute renal failure can be caused by exposure to certain toxins.  Has there been any spraying of pesticides or other products?  Have you used a new food (made in China?!  The Chinese are notorious for adding melamine to pet food or products destined to become pet food in the US, and this will cause renal failure.)?

There are many possibilities.  But a necropsy is the only way to get a handle on what the problem actually is.  Then you can search for culprits.

Or perhaps get out of breeding rabbits for meat, which is as abhorrent to me as raising dogs and cats for food.

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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