Is My Bunny Sick?
I am not going to play vet here, nor do I intend on diagnosing your rabbits illness, that's the vets job. But I do want to make you aware of some common rabbit illnesses and the signs that can help you spot a problem quickly.
Know Your Rabbit
This is essential. Rabbits often hide illness very well, the better you know your bunny the more likely you will be to spot any behavior that is out of the ordinary. Time is of the essence when dealing with a sick rabbit, in some cases, by the time we realize they're sick they've been hiding it for a while.
Be on the look out for:
G.I. Stasis: This is
a biggy and something every bunny owner wants to know about ahead of
time. Stasis is a condition whereby the gut is not passing food along
properly and bunny often stops pooping altogether or the size and
frequency of poops is diminished. If you haven't figured it out yet
bunnies are big poopers! Stasis should not be ignored, treatment needs
to start immediately. Rabbits are grazers, they eat allot and they eat
often, if your bunny has refused to eat for more than 12 hours you
should contact your vet.
Runny Nose / Runny Eyes: In most cases this will have to be diagnosed by a vet as there are several causes, some which may require aggressive or long term treatment with antibiotics. A runny nose can appear clear or white colored. In some cases bunnies front paws may also be wet as a result of cleaning a snotty face. Because this condition may be contagious it is best to start treatment as soon as possible and quarantine the rabbit until checked by the vet.
Sore Hocks : Sores can develop on the bottom of the back feet. Thin fur, genetic predisposition (ex: Rex rabbits) or standing on wire bottom cages are often the cause. A sore hock can look allot like a bald spot and get progressively worse turning red and inflamed.
Cyst: Lumps beneath the skin. There are many causes for cysts and abscesses. A lump could be a fluid filled pocket (which requires draining or surgery), an infected tooth/jaw or tumor. Again, a vet is needed to diagnose the cause and treatment.
Head Tilt: Head Tilt (wry neck) looks just like it sounds. Bunny begins holding their head at a sideways tilt often accompanied by a loss of balance and sometimes... darting eyes. See the vet immediately, the speed of your response may determine the outcome. Though there are many causes the most common are an ear infection and e. cuniculi.
Poopy Butt vs. Diarrhea - Soft poops a.k.a. "Poopy butt" are soft mushy poops that cling to the fur and are often caused by poor dietary habits (too many veggies, too many pellets etc.). Poopy butt has the consistency of mashed potatoes and should clear up quickly when poor diet is the culprit. Actual diarrhea is quite different and is very runny or liquid. Diarrhea is definitely cause to visit the vet. If poopy butt persist a vet check would also be in order.
Fur Mites: Fur mites look very similar to dandruff and look like white flakey skin. A rabbit savvy vet can prescribe medicine that is safe and effective for treating mites.
Ear Mites: Mites that have gotten into the ears can cause bunny to scratch their ears excessively, there will sometimes be a crusty surface inside the ear. The vet can prescribe medication to kill the mites.
Misaligned Teeth: Otherwise known as malocclusion. The front teeth may grow very long and actually twist outwardly or hook. Tooth trimming or extraction is necessary to ensure that bunny is able to eat.
It's Not All Bad
There are a few normal things that first time bunny owners are unaware of and often fear.
Red / Orange Urine: This tends to get everyone excited but is rarely any indication of a problem Bunny pee comes in many colors including clear, yellow, orange and red (not blood). Certain vegetables will change the color of their urine. When feeding kale we always see orange pee.
Cecotropes / cecal pellets: Well a picture is worth a thousand words where this is considered. Cecals are produced daily by bunny and are different from their normal, hard, round marbles. They look like a cluster of grapes...albeit a very nasty grape and they are rather pungent smelling! These are ingested without you ever seeing them, usually. Yes, I know what you're thinking... but you don't have to tell your friends. To put it very simply, the ingestion of cecal pellets provides bunnies with nutrition that isn't found in the grass they were made to consume, it is part of their design. I'm sorry if I'm the first to tell you but it is normal for your bunny to eat it it's poop :) more information on cecotropes.
Snoring: Some bunnies snore, the sound can catch you off guard if you've never heard it before. I had Grandpa thoroughly examined when he first started snoring just to make sure we weren't overlooking a respiratory issue. His snoring is so loud at times it can be heard over the television at times.
Hiccups: Bunnies can get the hiccups. I've only had one rabbit in 20 years that ever had them, and their are infrequent. These are not seizures though it is possible for sick rabbits to have seizures.
Molting: At it's worst a molting rabbit can look terribly shaggy. Molting is an annual occurrence and you can do your home and your bunny a great service by brushing them regularly. Bunnies are incessant groomers, their frequent licking means they are ingesting fur. Unlike cats, rabbits can not vomit so the hair must pass thru their system.