Is this an emergency?
June 15, 2008 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Is this an emergency? Not peeing or pooping, sitting funny, grunting, looking really uncomfortable: is my rabbit ok until tomorrow or should I pay the extra $200 for an emergency appointment?

My rabbit, Iggy Pop, has chronic bum problems. We have to give him daily bum baths or else his pee scalds his genital area. He has had the beginnings of necrosis in the past. We've been doing this for a couple of months now, but a new problem has cropped up in the past couple of days and is really scaring us.

Iggy has not peed or pooped in his litter box or cage for about three days now. He peed on me once when we gave him his bum bath, but we've seen no signs that he's been going anywhere else in the house. Instead, he spends all day in his litter box, grunting and shifting restlessly. He lies down, only to get up and try to pee again after only a few minutes. To me it looks like he either has a UTI or crystals.

We want to take him to a vet, but since this is a Sunday, and we live in a small town, our only options are to 1) wait until tomorrow or 2) pay an extra $200 to get him an emergency visit. $200 is a lot of money for us, we will have to borrow it from a friend. Still, if it's what needs to be done, we'll do it. We just don't know if it needs to be done. Please help me decide if this is an emergency or not.
posted by arcticwoman to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know if it's related, but he's also sneezing a lot.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:40 PM on June 15, 2008

When I had rabbits, I would have considered this an emergency. You said he peed once when you gave him a bath - maybe another bath would help him pee so he can get some relief? Worth a try anyway.

I hope he's okay.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:59 PM on June 15, 2008

Just bathed him and nothing. Sigh.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:07 PM on June 15, 2008

According to my boyfriend who has had rabbits, this sounds like an emergency and he would go for the emergency appointment.

I hope your rabbit gets better..
posted by bluebird at 1:11 PM on June 15, 2008

3 days without pooping is an emergency, I would go to the vet if you can. If you can't, here is what they will do at the vet (I am not a vet but I spent a terrible week calling one 5 times/day):

Feel his stomach- if it is hard and tight light a drum and swollen, that means he is blocked and has painful gas built up in there.

The vet will give him gas meds, but you can give them to him now. Get infant formula simethicone and give him 25 ml with a syringe in his mouth. My bunny likes banana formula.

The vet will have pain meds (grunting probably means he has pain) and you won't be able to get those OTC.

Is he eating? Will he eat his favorite veg? Carrot greens etc? Have you tried mango or pineapple? Those help the pooping acc to my vet. Anything he eats will help the pooping- their system is like a treadmill; once you put something in the front it has to come out the back, but if you stop inputting, they stop outputting.
Do you have any Critical Care? It's like alfalfa powder. You mix it with water into a porridge-like slurry and inject it into his mouth with a syringe. If you don't have Critical Care, you can grind up some timothy hay and alfalfa pellets in the blender with some water and use that.

My bunny was severely dehydrated when I brought him in, which also stopped the system. They injected him with fluids and told me to alternate the critical care with some syringes of plain water.

Bunnies don't like things forced in their mouths, no matter how weak they are they struggle alot. Make him into a bunny burrito with a towel and get a partner to help you hold him if you can.

Good luck! I hope he is ok
posted by rmless at 1:32 PM on June 15, 2008

Omgoodness, please get your bun to a rabbit-saavy vet immediately! Not pooping and/or not eating for more than a day constitutes an emergency! Rabbits are fragile, unlike cats and dogs. PLEASE GO. Message me if you need help/have questions.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 1:35 PM on June 15, 2008

Thanks for all the advice, we're taking him to the emerg vet this afternoon. rmless, I have to ask: did your rabbit come out ok? That sounds like it was a scary week.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:35 PM on June 15, 2008

He is eating, pellets, veggies, hay, parsley. He's not drinking much water though, but lots of water-ful veg. He also seems to have a normal energy level. It's a mystery. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a rabbit-savvy vet in my town, but I'll do the best I can. His appointment is in an hour.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:37 PM on June 15, 2008

Yeah, he came out just fine! thanks for asking. I hope yours does as well. If he has energy and is eating, I would give yours some gas meds and wait for tomorrow since money is an issue. If he gets lethargic, take him right in.
posted by rmless at 1:44 PM on June 15, 2008

This has been pretty well answered already, but there's a good article on GI stasis linked from It's deadly serious, but so hard to tell the difference between "my rabbit is just acting weird and I need to syringe feed him for a day or two for some reason" and "my rabbit is in need of emergency veterinary attention now". Since bunnies mask their symptoms very well until they're really sick, we've always erred on the side of caution (though boy does it get expensive).
posted by Dr.Enormous at 3:57 PM on June 15, 2008

bunny update please?
posted by Lou Stuells at 4:03 PM on June 15, 2008

Yes, please on the updates. One of ours (Robocop) got into a GI snit this weekend and really made us worried. Here's hoping that Iggy pulls through!

When Robo gets these non-eating sits snits, we observe for a day and if nothing improves, we take'm to the vet. I always fret the 200$ vet bill, but in the end, if I didn't take him and he died, I'd hate myself for withholding the money. I mean, I can accidentally spend that much in a month on new books and I'd gladly give up my Borders shopping spree to make sure one of my buns is okay.

One thing that has been a big comfort to us is having a semi-regular vet, someone that knows the buns and we can call and figure out if we are right to be concerned or freaking out over nothing. It's worth tracking down an odd pet vet in your area and at least taking your rabbit in for a checkup every few years. It sounds from your post that you've already done this, articwoman, so this is more for the archives than you!

If they could actually draw and not try to eat the crayons, I'd have Captain Grendel, Robocop, and Doctor Beef Wellington get some Get Well Soon cards in the mail to Iggy ASAP!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:21 PM on June 15, 2008

Could he also be suffering from impacted anal glands? Is that applicable to rabbits?

We had to take our cat to a vet recently because her anal glands had gotten so bad they had to put her under to get everything "expressed". Came home and she wouldn't sit down on her rear, meowed when the area was touched, etc. In the end (bad pun) everything was fine, it was just expensive due to the 24-hour vet.
posted by mrbill at 6:04 PM on June 15, 2008

Thanks for all the support, everyone. Here's an update:

We (minus Iggy - for now) just got back from the vet. It turns out his bladder is full of crystals and sludge. The options were to a) anaesthetize him and do a lavage of his bladder with a catheter or b) anaesthetize him and do surgery to clean it all out. The problem with the lavage is that it only works if the particles are small and there is no way to know in advance if that is the case, surgery might be required anyway. Also, rabbits are really sensitive to anaesthetic, and quite often die from anaesthesia, so the fewer times he could be subjected to it, the better. We decided that if we were to do anything, it would have to be the surgery. The vet had only ever done spaying/neutering on rabbits, and made sure to tell us numerous times that he wouldn't be offended if we opted to drive Iggy three hours away to the nearest specialist. With the bill already at over $900, we couldn't afford to drive him anywhere.

We had the "do we pay for surgery which might kill him anyway and which might be a temporary solution at best or do we euthanize him?" conversation, which is never a fun one to have. We decided to find a way to do everything we can this time, but that if it comes back we'll have to recognize that we've done all we can. The vet convinced his team to stay after hours on a Sunday to do the surgery right away. Iggy is there now, we'll hear back in the next three hours or so.

If he makes it out of this, we need to try to control this through diet. We need to either find low calcium pellets or take him off pellets entirely. Last time we tried to take him off pellets (on the advice of the vet a couple of months ago) Iggy went on a hunger strike to protest. I don't know what to do, but I guess we'll find a way.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:39 PM on June 15, 2008

You're the best sort of pet owner. May your awesomeness be rewarded with robust bunny health and a soft-hearted vet who gives steep discounts.
posted by Lou Stuells at 7:56 PM on June 15, 2008

We just got the call. Iggy's surgery went well and he's awake. The sludge was like concrete in his bladder. They had to scoop it out with a spoon. He's on some pretty heavy-duty drugs and they are keeping him there for the night. We'll go pick him up in the morning.

So, the moral of this story is: adult rabbits need low-calcium diets. Alfalfa is very high in calcium, which is one reason it's better to give bunnies timothy hay than alfalfa. I've learned (tonight, while waiting for the vet to call) that most rabbit pellets, however, are made with alfalfa. This makes me mad. If you aren't supposed to feed alfalfa to rabbits, why the hell do pet-food makers make pellets out of alfalfa? It's probably cheap or something. I did find a timothy-based pellet online from Oxbow Pet Products, and they appear to ship to Canada. I also found this article on how to lower calcium in their diets, complete with a list of the calcium content in most veggies. Long story short: no kale, no parsley, limited broccoli. Cilantro, swiss chard, and romaine are ok.

We will now proceed to learn as much as we can about calcium and rabbits, so that this never happens again. Unless we magically hit the lottery (which really would be magic, since we don't buy tickets) we can't afford to do this again. It's up to us to make sure he stays healthy. Incidences like this really remind you just how much their lives are in your hands.

Also: Thank you Lou. It helps, you know, having someone tell you that you're doing the right thing.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:33 PM on June 15, 2008

I'll happily second Lou's sentiments.
Money comes and goes, but good karma is forever.
posted by BillBishop at 10:42 PM on June 15, 2008

We get most of our hay and treats from Oxbow. Heartily recommended. Every morning, we give the buns a papaya treat to help aid their digestion (and make them love me more than my wife).

Good to hear Iggy made it through the surgery! Here's hoping he's on the mend. Dr. Beef Wellington also hopes for Iggy's speedy recovery.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:24 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

My wife was compulsively refreshing this last night waiting to hear about your little buns. Glad to hear he's on the mend. Oxbow is the only major brand of pellets we'll feed our bunnies, and they sell hay in really huge bags too; they're really quality products compared to so much of the pet store junk supposedly for bunnies. When one of my little guys was sick, they overnighted me a bag of Critical Care at minimal charge after making sure I was getting him into a vet right away.

You might also want to read up on the info about getting your bunny eating after surgery; they're often really out of it and not much in the mood to eat, so it's important to get them to munch a few things to settle their stomach and get things moving again.

Aside from, which you've already found, you can also look at some of the articles on the House Rabbit Network website. Feel free to email them with any questions: there are lots of really knowledgeable volunteers who've run into every bunny health problem imaginable.

Good luck to Mr. Pop.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 3:56 AM on June 16, 2008

I'm glad Iggy got through his surgery okay! And yeah, Oxbow is really good stuff -- we buy it for our four guinea pigs, and they love it.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:07 AM on June 16, 2008

I am so glad he's okay.

Seconding the recommendation for papaya, but don't overdo (because of the sugar) - my bunnies wanted to eat the entire container but only got one very small piece a day.

When we took our bunnies off pellets we did it very gradually - we reduced the amount they got by about a tablespoon every four or five days, and it took about a month to get off pellets entirely. My rabbits weren't already sick when we did this so best to discuss with the vet.

Cilantro, swiss chard, and romaine are ok.
Here's the House Rabbit Society page about GI motility and it doesn't make a distinction between high-calcium and low-calcium vegetables, but there's a list of recommended veg for rabbits, and you could do separate searches to see which are lower in calcium. Or, actually, there's this which gives you a list of veg and how much calcium is in each. You could add sweet peppers, alfalfa sprouts (not hay), zuchini, radish seed sprouts, and pumpkin leaves to your list (though I'd be careful with peppers because of the sugar).
posted by joannemerriam at 8:20 AM on June 16, 2008

Just got Iggy Pop back. He's still sedated and is acting a bit like he's drunk. He tried to hop into his litter box and missed. Poor boy. He hasn't peed yet, a bit strange since he was on an iv all night, but he is pretty stoned right now.
Iggy Poops wants to thank you all, but the best he can do right now is sit in his box staring into a corner. So I posed him and took pictures (because that's how much I love him).
Un: Monsieur le Pop et les shoutouts
Deux: Ignis with captor (for now)
Trois: Iggy Monster (or Poo Monster, or Monster Head) Full frontal nudity!
Quatre: a little piece of the contents of his bladder. Apparently they scooped ten tablespoonfuls of this out.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, what a little sweetie. The drugged bunny look is definitely recognizable. Make sure he gets some favorite leafy things (and ours have always favored a very small munch of quick oats) to get him eating again, even if it's only a few nibbles; getting their stomach settled and moving again is really important for recovery.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 9:02 AM on June 16, 2008

For the archives: on closer inspection, it looks like Oxbow does not ship to Canada. Select your country on this page though, and it'll tell you where the nearest distributor is. We're going to call a couple of places in Calgary and see if we can mail-order some food.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2008

I am so so SO glad to hear that your rabbit is okay. Fresh veggies, Oxbow pellets, and unlimited timothy hay are all I feed my buns. As others have mentioned, DEFINITELY use as your guide! Change his diet gradually as changing it too fast will give him diarrhea. It's often too much nutrition and junk pellets that give rabbits "chronic bum problems" but once you get his diet healthy and right, it will keep his tract moving and it will be a breeze.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 1:05 PM on June 16, 2008

I'm late to this thread, but I just wanted to say that I'm so glad you got him help right away and he's doing alright!
posted by tastybrains at 3:54 PM on June 16, 2008

He's not eating, and he doesn't seem to be pooping or peeing yet either. We called the vet, got some Critical Care, and force fed him. We'll see how he fares overnight.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:11 PM on June 16, 2008

Glad to hear he came out of surgery ok! I hope he starts pooping soon, the critical care really forces it out of them ;)
At first the poops are very small and green (just like the critical care) so they can be hard to detect. Keep a lookout!
posted by rmless at 8:49 PM on June 16, 2008

Sigh. I don't know if anyone is still reading, but it's been another tough night. Over twelve hours since we brought him home and Iggy still hadn't peed. We called the vet and he said the prognosis was grim, either Iggy's urethra was blocked somehow or his bladder had ruptured. We were to massage his groin, freak him out a bit, and try to make him pee. If he didn't, most likely euthanasia. We massaged him, no pee. We freaked him out, made him fight a little (not too much, he did just have surgery), and no pee. We called the doc, decided we would euthanize him, and headed to the vet just half an hour ago. A scary car ride later, still no pee.

Vet did an x-ray and guess what? Iggy peed. The little bugger peed all over the vet. Why couldn't he do that at home? Short story: looks like he's going to be ok. Damn monster, scared the hell out of us, but he seems alright now.

I have cried so much tonight, I didn't know my body could produce that many tears. I am going to have a drink of hot milk and then cuddle up in bed.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:17 PM on June 16, 2008

(((arcticwoman))) I'm glad it turned out okay.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:28 AM on June 17, 2008

Urf, the pet worry rollercoaster is absolutely no fun, and rabbits seem pretty keen on riding it as much as possible. Robocop too has pulled the "I'm totally sick until you take me to the vet where I magically become fine again" trick multiple times.

I suspect Iggy just wanted urine-soaked revenge on the vet who cut'm up. Glad he's showing some spunk!

That said, a nice ride in the car tends to reset bunny bladders (and attitudes) pretty well. I'm not sure it's a panacea, but it is a way to not only get two fighting rabbits to bond but also to make'm pee.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:42 AM on June 17, 2008

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