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Rabbits/excess skin on a non-obese rabbit.

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QUESTION: i have a lop mix that is approximately four years old. recently i noticed  that he seems to have a difficult time breathing and he tends to wheeze when he is picked up. a few days ago i was cleaning him and i believe he passed out, as he did not move for some time. he has no upper respiratory infection as his nostrils are clear. however it appears that he has loose skin, almost fat, around his rear end, his belly, and his front paws. he was never the size that the extra skin would suggest.

i was told that if you can feel the rabbits ribs, than he is of normal weight, i wetted him down to see his body shape through the fluff, it appears that he has all of this extra skin in only the areas previously mentioned. in fact i can feel his ribs, hips and shoulder blades. he hops around normally, is curious and affectionate. he seems to be more lethargic/ depressed if he alone but he is no where near as active as he was before. i have a female bunny who was constantly be mounted my him, he would chase her everywhere, now all he wants to do is cuddle and eat. this lack of activity has me concerned.

i have been scanning the internet for information, he has no obvious signs of infections, no bladder sludge, GI stasis, nor does he appear to be diabetic. if he is not fat why does he have trouble breathing? is it a side effect of the extra weight of the loose skin? how can i go about fixing this issue without surgery? also why has his sexual interests diminished so much?, a few months ago he would follow her incessantly, now he seems indifferent.

i have explored every internet avenue and have failed to find a reason for his behavior. any advice or treatment suggestion would be very much appreciated. i have had him since he was born, held him in my hands and have become quite attached. i want him to live a long and happy life, not die at only four.

ANSWER: Tom,

Oh dear... there are a lot of red flags with the symptoms you've pointed out.
The things you've ruled out (upper respiratory infection, bladder sludge, GI stasis, diabetes) - was that ruled out by a vet? These things you've listed have me REALLY concerned. Please take this bun to a rabbit-savvy vet asap.

Christine

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

QUESTION: thank you for taking your time to answer my question. I have not taken the bun in to see a vet. the reason why I have ruled these things out is largely based from my own research. he doesn't have the symptoms that are indicative of them. he has no nasal discharge, or wetness at all so its unlikely he has a Upper respiratory infection. i doubt its bladder sludge as his urine comes out clear, and not all cloudy such as bladder sludge would indicate. he poops a lot,everywhere so its not stasis and, based off of my research a rabbit can get diabetes but since they process glucose differently than humans, cats and dogs, they have the ability to actually reverse the damage by simply consuming hay and having a healthy diet. at least that's what several articles led me to believe.

if the rest of him is skinny, or normal, the skin could have dropped from the overall surface area of his body, the way skin on humans do as we age. so he has all this skin, which is weighing him down. the other possibility, which has me more than concerned is kidney failure. i was always told that rabbits can live up to ten years, do some species only live four? i do know that his mother and two of his litter mates are gone so maybe hes the last.

ANSWER: Tom,

If your bun has not seen a vet yet then I would DEFINITELY take him to one, immediately. The lethargy is a sign of illness and the wheezing/passing out has me concerned it's the beginning signs of heart failure. The loose skin - dehydration is a common cause. These are NOT things that should be diagnosed at home.

Your bun can live as long as a cat, but only with a healthy diet, a healthy environment and, when necessary, vet care. Please... take your bun to a vet.

Christine

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

QUESTION: that night I got your response I decided to take your advice and went to go see a vet that specializes in rabbits. you are right, it is heart failure, but it is not in the beginning stages. he is terminal. the excess skin is due to the build up of fluid in the abdomen, he has lost a lot of weight and the fluid has backed up into his lungs. I have inquired about the use of ACE inhibitors along with diuretics to try to help him but the vet has stated that he will get days, maybe a week longer, not months or years.

so now it comes down to the next couple of days, spending as much time as I can with him. them putting him down.

I sincerely appreciate all of your help, my only regret is that I didn't see the signs sooner.

all the best,
-tom

Answer
Tom,

It breaks my heart to hear this news. I'm so sorry. Rest assured knowing you gave your bunny a loving home and did all you could for him. They're experts at hiding their symptoms until the 11th hour which makes our job as parents that much harder.

Hugs and condolences to you and your family,

Christine

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Christine Whetstone

Expertise

I am not an expert on wild rabbits, only domesticated rabbits. I can answer questions regarding habitats, behavior, diet, health, pairing/bonding - pretty much anything having to do with owning a rabbit.

Experience

I've owned indoor rabbits for the last 10 years. During that time I've gained experience in areas like bonding exercises, understanding behavior, warning signs of sick bunnies, how to handle more serious illnesses (GI stasis, abscesses, eye problems, etc.) and more. It's rare that I come across an inquiry that I do not already know the answer to.

Organizations
House Rabbit Society, supporter of local rabbit rescues

Publications
http://ilovemyhouserabbit.com/

Education/Credentials
Personal experience beats the pants off of a degree, in my opinion.

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