Hello Dr. Krempels,
I am a CVT that works at an emergency wildlife hospital and rehab facility in Sanibel FL. I am the one that raises the Eastern Cottontails. We try to educate the public about keeping them in the nest, but they don't always listen. I have encountered an odd thing with some of my baby bunnies. I have them on supportive fluids upon intake and then Fox Valley ECT formula. They receive TMS for predator attacks or Baytril if their wounds are worse. Not every ECT has been on antibiotics that had this phenomenon happen. The 6 ECTs this has happened to have come in from 32-70 grams. 4 of the 6 ended up with diarrhea. Their weight starts to go up initially and then it starts to go down a couple grams, then maybe up a gram or so then back down. I have had 4 siblings where 3 were released at 120 grams and one of the 4 never got above 83 grams. Then after they start to lose weight they start to form what looks like cataracts, and they become completely blind. It looks like horizontal slits like goat eyes. Have you ever heard of this? Also like most cottontail rehabers they have issues with diarrhea and once ours get it they seem to die from it. With supportive fluids BID or sometimes TID and antibiotics. Have you ever been able to turn diarrhea around? I thank you for your time and look forward to talking to you.
Yay for you and your work with C.R.O.W.!
The photos of the cataracts are really bizarre. Did those babies make it? If you do have one of these little ones with such cataracts and it dies, I would suggest you have a necropsy done on the eye by a veterinary ophthalmologist, if you have one in Fort Myers or Naples. We have some excellent ones here in Miami, and perhaps this could be coordinated. The shape of the lesion is really odd, and I really would like to know whether this is a cataract or intra-ocular abscess.
I have a friend who's a rabbit rescuer in Missouri, and I think two cottie babies she raised got the cataracts you described. They survived, but were deemed unreleasable because of their disability, so she let them live in her house. They lived 10 years, and thrived. So the blindness is apparently not necessarily associated with something irreversible and deadly. I will ask her if they seemed to regain vision, because I seem to recall that they did.
I wonder if you might try using an antibiotic other than TMS. Is it possible that this particular antibiotic is causing something odd with the visual system development? We have seen no problems with fluoroquinolones. For cat attacks, we always administer dual-acting Penicillin-G/Benzathine, (injection only, of course) as it is excellent against the nasty things cats harbor, and doesn't have the potential adverse effects on cartilage development as the fluoroquinolones (Baytril, cipro, Orbax). (We've never seen any cartilage problems in the babies we've given fluoroquinolones, by the way.)
The diarrhea problem is a bad one with all baby cotties, but I have had some success with this protocol:
It's aggressive, but hey...it's load them up with the pharmacy and hope, or just watch them die. This past week I had a baby with very wet diarrhea. He had never been fed, as far as I could tell, so never even had colostrum before he got formula from me. At the onset of the diarrhea, I gave him Orbax instead of ciprofloxacin, and the results were dramatic: by the next morning, the diarrhea had stopped. Also gave him colostrum, but waited about 45 minutes after the Orbax so that the calcium in the dairy would not interfere with its absorption.
The baby was still bloaty, even after the diarrhea has stopped, but simethicone helped with that. And then--as luck would have it--my wonderful foster cottontail, Shucks, showed up all booby (The nests in our back yard are almost instantly raided by rats, despite our efforts to camouflage them with peppermint oil and our constant battle against the rats; she had probably lost a litter and wanted to be nursed.). We were able to get the baby a really good meal of Real Live Cottontail Milk. By the next day, he was back to normal, and is doing well, now that Shucks is on the job.
I will put out feelers with other rehabbers I know to find out if they ever see the type of cataracts you're seeing. Is it okay with you if I share your photos with them? This is such a strange thing that I really think we need to find out what's going on here.
Again, thanks for all you do. You are a hero!
I hope some of this helps. If you want to get faster answers, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with those babies. Cottontails are special little souls.