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Rabbits/elderly rabbit and chin hair loss/goopy mess

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Bunny\'s chin
Bunny's chin  
QUESTION: My bunny is 9 years old and has had this happen at least 6 times in his lifetime.  Usually it lasts about a week or two tops and his fur grows back all soft and white.  This time, he has cut himself with his nails and his chin remains moist and goopy.  It's been over a month and he hasn't lost the hair.  He doesn't seem bothered though- his eating and drinking patterns are good.  He was over grooming for awhile but he seems to have given up trying to clean up his gross chin hair.  Anything I can use topically?  I don't want to take him to the vet.  Last visit they wanted to charge me over $700.  I paid $7 for my bunny and love him but can't afford a $700 vet bill for him.  Thank you.

ANSWER: Dear Stacey

A vet visit should not cost $700.  But as your rabbit ages, you must expect increasing vet bills, as you would for any elderly family member.  You might consider checking out insurance rates from VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance), the only pet insurance company that will cover rabbits.  Since you don't have a recent history at the vet, any pre-existing conditions might not be a problem.

As for the drooling:  this is not something that will go away on its own.  It's due to molar problems or other form of dental disease.  Your rabbit appears to be a Dutch from the picture (though it's hard to tell from the bottom).  If so, he's possibly only middle-aged, as Dutch rabbits tend to live 14-15 years. That's the good news!

The bad news is that your bunny very likely needs his molars filed by an expert rabbit vet.  Your locality is listed as California, and there are MANY good rabbit vets there.  You just have to find the right one who won't charge you an arm and a leg for the teeth.  Check the vet listings here:

http://www.rabbit.org/vet

Also read:

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

to get an idea of what you're dealing with.  Though he's eating fine and acting normal, he's being tough.  This condition is at the very least extremely annoying, and at the worst painful enough to cause life-threatening complications.  It doesn't matter what you paid for the bunny.  (Human babies are free, but you still have to pay medical bills.)  You need to commit to his veterinary care, as he is your family and he depends on you for his health and well-being.  He needs to be seen by an expert rabbit vet.  You can call around to check prices.  But I know you wouldn't want someone to ignore *your* health care because it was too expensive.

I hope this helps.

Dana

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

QUESTION: Thank you for your response- i appreciate it.  However, I should have noted that when I took him to the vet last time, it was determined that it was NOT a molar problem.  Everything looked great!  He doesn't drool.  It seems more like a seasonal allergy.  It has just lasted much longer this time.  I will look up a rabbit vet and will get him in.  Thank you again.

Answer
Dear Stacey,

So the messy fur on his chin was caused by a runny nose?  Sorry I didn't understand that from your original posting.

Please see:

http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/sneezing.html

I hate to sound like a broken record, but runny nose is OFTEN (if not MOST often) due to cryptic dental problems.  The molars and incisors may look normal, even on physical exam.  But radiographs can reveal intrusion of the "roots" (hypsodont teeth don't technically have roots) into the bone of the skull due to aging/osteoporosis, etc.  The tooth bases press on the tear ducts and sinuses, and sometimes can even penetrate into the sinus, causing chronic infection and runny nose.

One of the most common causes of chronic runny nose is a blocked maxillary sinus.  Antibiotics can knock it back for a while, but because the lack of proper air flow sets up a hospitable environment for opportunistic bacteria, they will grow back sooner or later, once the antibiotics are stopped.

Be sure the vet you see is very experienced with rabbit head/skull/dental problems.  No experienced rabbit vet I know would diagnose a problem like this as "seasonal allergies."  That's a dog or cat diagnosis, and I've never heard of a confirmed case of this in a rabbit.

Hope this helps.

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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