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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22449
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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Rabbit not eating and very weak

Customer Question

My rabbit is refusing to eat. I took her to the vet on monday because she was eating little and losing weight. The vet discovered she had a pussy genital skin infection caused by mites and a possible dental problem but couldn't see anything in her mouth to do with her teeth. It was almost like she didn't know what she was doing. She said there was black stuff in my rabbits mouth but didn't know what that was. She prescribed meloxidyl as a pain killer to see if that would help her eat and get her weight back up. The dosage is 5kg for a 2kg rabbit in a 24 hour period. She has gone downhill since she has been taking the pain killer. I feel she should have been prescribed an antibiotic. Today she has no energy, lost more weight and is extremely dropsy and lethargic. What should be our next step?

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your wee one’s situation, and wanted to help.

Now I must say that I am quite concerned about Bumble and strongly suggest a second opinion as soon as possible. First, if we have pus then we have to appreciate that this tells us that bacterial infection is present and antibiotics are indicated. Now it is difficult to appreciate without seeing Bumble myself whether the vet saw a skin fold infection or infection/discharge from the genitourinary tract. This is important to distinguish since if this was discharge from the vagina, then we'd also have to be concerned about uterine infections (pyometra), urinary infections, and vaginal infections. In all cases, antibiotics at the very least would be required (where the uterine infection can require urgent spaying to remove the infected uterus). So, if the previous vet wasn't sure how to approach Bumble's care then we want to have this reassessed by a rabbit specialist vet to make sure we don't have something more sinister here and get this addressed for her no matter which it may be.

Furthermore while her anorexia is a secondary issue it is one of equal (or arguably greater) importance here. The reason because as I am sure you can appreciate, any decrease in appetite is a
very serious problem in rabbit medicine. This is because rabbits have a more complicated gastrointestinal tract then other domestic pets (similar to horses, actually) and if you imagine these guts behave like conveyor belts. They should always be moving, which is why access to slowly digestible foods like hays are fed ad lib. So, if the rabbit stops eating then the guts can stop moving leading to life threatening gastric stasis (one of the few true rabbit emergencies.) So, Bumble's eating/drinking less is and not responding to the treatment that was dispensed, we definitely want her reassessed before this can progress any farther (which her decline suggests is already happening)..


Just to note, some of the other red flags we can see with gastric stasis:

  • Decreasing or sudden lack of appetite for food (+/- water)
  • Changes to fecal production (from soft stools, to strangely shaped fecal pellets to diarrhea or no fecal production at all)
  • Off color/lethargy/ hiding
  • No GI sounds or loud uncharacteristic grumbles/growl
  • Stretching out and lethargy (associated with gut pain)

Now no matter what is the precipitating cause that lead her to be off her food, this situation is serious for Bumble.. Therefore, we do want her seen for a second opinion as soon as possible. A rabbit vet will able to assess the trigger abd address it but will also start more aggressive treatment to restart the gut ((ie pain killers but also prokinetics, +/- fluids, antibiotics) to get her eating on her own.

Care for these wee ones is often intensive and syringe feeding is a very important part of it. I am glad to see that you have been syringing baby food, but this is only a short term option and lacks the level of fiber she needs. At the very least, we'd want to be crushing her pelleted feed into the baby food. But further to that we'd really want her on a highly nutritious rabbit food (Oxbow’s Critical Care feed (LINK)) or Supreme Recovery Diet to aid getting her guts moving again until she is eating on her own.


Overall, in this case, it doesn't sound like the current treatments are addressing the situation well enough for Bumble if she is deteriorating and becoming weak. Therefore, it would be best to have her reassessed potentially as a second opinion to make sure you address this aggressively to give Bumble the best chance.

If you don't already have a specialist rabbit vet in mind and wish to find one near you, by checking here the House Rabbit Society Database HERE. Alternatively, you can use the exotics filter on the RCVS register to find an exotics vet near you. You can find that here (LINK). As well, a lot of the vet schools (ie Edinburgh, Bristol, RVC, etc.) will either have an exotics vet on site or will have ties to one that they can refer you to (ie. Glasgow). As well, you can check here .


I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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