By: Haileigh Larimer
I’ve been breeding rabbits for five years, and in that short time I’ve had a fair share of random, ‘unexplainable’ issues occur in my rabbits and their litters. Unfortunately, vets and scientists have done very little research on rabbits compared to the knowledge available on dogs or cats, so the reason behind the loss of a five week old litter or a great proven mom suddenly rejecting her babies is largely unknown. As a new breeder, I was mostly on my own when it came to my rabbits health. A ton of breeders would give me answers like ‘if it’s not eating, you should just put it down.’ Or, ‘if the baby looks unhealthy, you should cull it.’ While this may be the answer in some cases, especially if the rabbit is suffering, this was not an option for me until such a time as it was clear that was what would be best for the bunny.
All that being said, between my experiences over the years and a couple of wonderful breeders experiences and suggestions, I now have a pretty good arsenal of remedies, medicines and tricks that have helped my rabbits, adults and babies alike. Here, I’ll give a few examples of situations I have run into, and what helped. I am not a vet, and while these suggestions have worked for several of my bunnies along with other breeders, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. But I hope my experiences can help new breeders get through the hardest parts of raising these beautiful little bunnies.
Many of us have heard of faders, babies that pass usually between 3-6 weeks, with no known cause. Some say it’s from weaning, that their systems can’t break down and absorb solid foods; others say they may have simply been unhealthy. But, what about when you have an entire litter of faders? Crazy, I know, but I’ve had it happen twice. The first time was my very first doe’s fourth litter. She was a great mom and had amazing babies. Her litter of five was doing great, they all had names, and they were eating some of mom’s food by about 3 weeks, running around.
Then at about 5 weeks, I noticed the chunkiest one wasn’t as chunky. It felt light and thin, and it’s fur was not as soft as it had been the day before. Within 7 hours of noticing that, the entire litter had passed. Heartbreaking, yes, but what was worse was not knowing why. Not knowing if I had done something wrong, not knowing how to prevent that from ever happening again. The reason I told myself was that they couldn’t handle solid food, so I stopped letting the babies eat pellets until at least five weeks. This seemed to work really well in my next few litters. Then it happened again, exactly the same way, only this time they hadn’t been eating pellets! The mom of this litter was the granddaughter of the doe this happened to before. In this particular instance, there was no way to save the babies, but there was a way to prevent it from happening again.
Through some research I realized that this was a common problem in my doe’s line, and her breeder never told me. So, I stopped continuing the line immediately. I learned the hard way to buy from breeders that answer LOTS of random questions! So, problem solved, added some new lines from an amazing breeder where most of the knowledge I have now has come from, and every-bunny lives happily ever after, right? Nope.
Bunnies like to throw you for a loop. I’ll spoil the story before I get into it- I’ve never had another litter full of faders.
But, very recently, my two year old amazing doe from completely different lines had a litter of five. Mom was doing great and babies were strong and thriving. At about two weeks, I noticed that they were suddenly very skinny compared to another litter born the day after they were. I panicked, of course, but after calling my very good breeder friend, we decided to foster three of the babies to the mom of the other litter and see what happened. That way we could determine if the problem was a lack of nutrients in the moms milk not being enough to feed all five well, or a problem with the babies.
Within a couple of days, all five, the three fosters and the two still with their mom, were fat and chunky and thriving! I began giving their mom dandelion greens to help with milk production, and grapefruit seed extract as a dewormer and immune booster. The babies also got some of the GSE in the water, and they are now fully grown healthy beautiful bunnies!
Another of my more unusual situations was with a little 3 week old buck. Sweetest most playful thing in the whole world, until he developed a head tilt. Thus far, every time one of my babies got a head tilt, it was fatal. I was heartbroken to think I was going to lose this little man. I kept him with his mom so he could nurse and get the attention he needed, and I put GSE in their water as well. I fully expected him to have passed the next morning given how quickly the head tilt had progressed, but I woke up to him binkying around his mommy, the head tilt completely gone! If there’s one thing I swear by, it’s grapefruit seed extract. It’s a very quick and easy way to knock out a lot of bunny issues. I’ve used it for head tilt, eye infections, gi stasis and a number of other issues on babies and adults.
This little boy in particular has had a recurring head tilt, so along with GSE once a month, he also gets pumpkin seeds as a treat which also work as a dewormer, and if he gets a severe case, I’ll give him a lick of panacur which is a horse dewormer, but is safe for rabbits in small doses.
This is what I’ve used and what has worked for me in the crazy situations my bunnies have thrown my way, and while I hope you never run into these or similar issues, I also hope this can help prepare you if you do.
GSE: natural dewormer. I’ll usually put a drop or two in my bunnies water dish once a month as a preventative, or once to twice a week to help cure an issue.
Pumpkin seeds: natural dewormer. These are a great treat for your bunny and also work as a natural preventative.
Panacur: dewormer. This is for severe symptoms. If you don’t have a trusted vet, or are pressed for time and can’t get into your vet; use a very small lick of this twice a week until symptoms subside. About the size of a pencil eraser.
Pineapple or Papaya: my bunnies love dried pineapple, with no sugar or sweeteners. This is wonderful for molting season as it helps avoid fur blockage from all the extra fur bunnies ingest during that time.
35% H2O2: this stuff is amazing! I mix about 30 drops of this in a gallon of water as an immune boost. This is very similar to the GSE, so you can pick which works better for you, but some cases call for both.
VetRX: this can be hard to find depending on location, but this is amazing for respiratory issues.
MicrocynAH: this is a gel that works great for kits whose eyes seal back shut after they originally open, if there’s an excessive amount of goop, or an eye infection.
Homeopet: this is a great brand, they have remedies for a number of different issues, my favorite being their nose relief blend.
VitaDrops: this is a multivitamin that is great for general health. I use these about twice a month, or once a week if needed.