Rabbits can become disabled for many reasons and should always be checked at a rabbit savvy veterinarian as to the cause and treatments. Some causes can include spondylosis, arthritis, injury, broken back, genetic deformities or E.Cuniculi. Caring for a disabled rabbit takes a lot of extra time, patience and love. Not everyone will do this for their rabbit which is why they end up at Rabbit Rescue. They are immediately taken to the vet to find the cause of their disability and treated accordingly. It then takes a very special person to want to adopt a disabled rabbit.
If your rabbit has become disabled, your vet will be able to help you decide what to do. Not all causes are treatable and the quality of life for your rabbit must be considered. It is not a fair life to them if they are in constant pain or suffering. However, many disabled rabbits with different conditions are able to live very happy lives thanks to dedicated owners and wonderful vets.
Many rabbits that are disabled become urinary incontinent, or unable to express their bladder on their own. Being taught by your rabbit savvy vet to express the bladder is a good way to keep them cleaner and prevent bladder infections. These rabbits will be more prone to bladder infections as they can not empty their bladder fully. A cranberry (fresh, not dried as dried ones are coated in oil and sugar) cut in half a day could also help with bladder infections. Urine should be tested frequently for infections.
Because some disabled rabbits can’t make it to the litterbox, or get into a litter box, many blankets are often needed. What we find works best is a bottom layer of puppy pads, hospital pads, or plastic tarp (dollar store shower curtain liner) and then synthetic wool or Profleece bedding on top. Both wick away the urine so the bunny isn’t laying on it. You can purchase Profleece bedding here: http://www.palacepet.com (not available in Canada).
You may want to add towels or blankets as a middle layer for more cushion. You will need a few pieces so one can be washed while another is being used. Another good product are the Quiet Time Pet Beds made with synthetic sheepswool. They have raised edges that some bunnies like to hang over, possibly relieving some pressure or rolling up towels will do the same thing.
Confining your disabled rabbit to a specific room or certain locations is a good idea as you don’t want them scooting all over the house and possibly injuring themselves. You want to keep their food and water nearby in low dishes so they can easily get to them. Also keeping the floor as obstacle free is best.
Bathing and grooming
Some disabled rabbits will need daily bottom cleanings in a sink. There are a few ways to do this and you will have to figure out what is best and easiest on your rabbit. You can fill the sink with an inch or so of water and holding the rabbit under is front legs, slowly lower his back end into the sink. If he stays, you can then use the hand not under the front legs to swish the water around and gently pull apart any feces or just rinse the urine. Leaving the tap running and placing the bunny’s bum/hip under the tap and using your fingers while holding the rabbit can work too. The water should always be lukewarm and drying your bunny as much as possible is recommended. Some will tolerate the hair dryer on cool or lukewarm (never hot) and held away from your rabbit’s skin.
Once bunny is dry, you can add a cream or ointment to any exposed skin as recommended by your vet. Some common ones are Flamazine, Bag Balm, Healx or Hibitaine. Make sure what you use does not have zinc in it as it can be ingested (licked) and is poisonous.
Disabled rabbits also need their ears cleaned out as they often can not do it themselves. Gently with your pinky scoop any excess wax out of their ear, you can then offer it to them….most love to lick it off your finger. Ask your vet to show you how to do this, as you do not want to injure them or push wax further into their ear, by doing it incorrectly. Once you have the hang of it, you will find it very easy and your rabbit will likely enjoy it.
Depending on what kind of disability your rabbit has, you may be able to invest in a cart for him/her to get around in. Carts can be ordered from the following companies:
Some rabbits prefer just the ‘sling’ that comes with some carts and not all rabbits get used to using a cart. However, for the ones that do, it can increase the quality of their life, and many truly enjoy it.
Just because your rabbit is disabled does not mean he has to sit in his pen all day. How about bringing him to the couch for a long snuggle, laying on the grass on a nice summer day ,laying on the floor with them playing with toys, getting them a friend if they aren’t already bonded. Giving them muscle massages is a great way to relieve any pressures they have and a bonding session for you and bunny. A great book on bunny massage is: The Relaxed Rabbit, by Chandra Moira Beal. The bond you have with your disabled rabbit will be like no other.