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Buckeye HRS logoThe Buckeye House Rabbit SocietyHarelines logo

Spring/Summer 1998
Volume 2 Number 2


Tips for a Safe Rabbit and a Happy Homeowner (or Landlord) by Kristi Cole
Landlords and Lagomorphs by Libby Moore
Rabbit blamed for starting apartment fire by Stephen Dyer

GastroIntestinal Stasis, The Silent Killer by Dana M. Krempels

Easter Bunny by Mary Brandolino
My Rabbit's Tail Tale by Missy Mansfield



Chapter Messages

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Tips for a Safe Rabbit
      and a Happy Homeowner (or Landlord)

by Kristi Cole

Due to the natural instincts of rabbits, along with humans’ tendencies to want to preserve their belongings and home, some adjustments may be needed to allow rabbits and humans to live together in harmony.

One of the first things a new house rabbit companion will notice is that bunnies like to chew electrical and phone cords. It takes only a few seconds for them to make a clean split through the wires. This can be dangerous for both the rabbit and the residents. The best solution is to cover your cords with a material that the bunny can’t gnaw through. There are a few different products that can be used. One is spiral cord wrap found in electronic sections of hardware stores or Radio Shack. It is pre-slit to cover your cords and some are wide enough to contain several cords if you are trying to reroute them around obstacles. Another item that can be purchased in the plumbing section of home improvement stores is a hard, clear, plastic tubing that can often be cut to order for your particular length. You can then slit the tubing yourself and apply it to the cords.

Some rabbits like to chew or dig carpeting. One deterrent is Bitter Apple spray or other pet repellent, but this doesn’t always work. What usually works better is to substitute something that the rabbit is allowed to chew and dig. After all, it is their natural instinct; we just need to reroute those behaviors to safe items. Helpful substitutes are natural grass mats or the more heavy-duty rope mats put in the most appealing digging/chewing spots. You can also put a "dig box" in an area where the activity has been persistent. A litter box or cardboard box filled with hay or newspaper can help satisfy that urge.

enjoying a rest
Bean enjoys a rest in his cardboard tunnel

The most common spots for chewing and digging behaviors are room corners or snug spots such as behind a couch. To hinder mischief behind a couch, put a cardboard tunnel back there. These are great fun for bunnies to dig in, nibble on, and zoom through. You can crunch up some newspaper and put it in the tube for extra activity. These concrete pouring tubes are available at home improvement stores in the cement section and are inexpensive. For extra tough cases, you can also decide if it would be more appropriate for the bunny to live in an area of your home that has a vinyl or wood flooring.

For bunnies who like to chew corners of wallboard, plastic corner protectors are very helpful and easy to apply. For wood chewers, first try Bitter Apple furniture cream. Its consistency will stick to wood instead of evaporating away like the spray and it will not harm surfaces. Some bunnies hate it, others munch right through. If that doesn’t prevent chewing, there are a few options. If it is baseboards they are most interested in, you can nail some unfinished baseboards on top of the permanent ones in the rooms the rabbits frequent. If it is nice furniture, you may want to restrict your bunny’s exercise area to avoid that temptation. Always remember that it is a rabbit’s natural desire to chew, so have alternatives available that can be safely chomped on. Some ideas are untreated wicker baskets, toilet paper tubes, untreated pine boards, twigs from maple, apple, willow, and pear trees (make sure they have not been sprayed with any pesticides).

Put houseplants out of reach of your rabbit. You never know when she will decide the plants look like dinner. Also, keep valuable belongings out of reach or behind locked doors. Books on shelves are often victims of a bunny’s curiosity. You can remove books from the shelves reachable by your bunny and make a cubbyhole for her, or cover those shelves with plexiglass.

Sometimes a bunny will get into trouble out of boredom. Make sure there is plenty for him to do. Some safe toys not already mentioned are hard plastic baby keys, mason jar rings, cardboard boxes with holes cut in them for entrances (try combining tunnels and boxes to build a fort), infant velveteen stuffed balls, wooden bird toys and old phone books. Often if a single bunny gets a friend, it helps decrease destructive behaviors. They now need to devote time to grooming each other and plotting to steal each other’s food, and so forth.

Once you get to know your individual rabbit’s habits, you will learn which areas to focus on and how to best meet his needs without your home looking like it’s under construction.

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Landlords and Lagomorphs

by Libby Moore

Having difficulty with your landlord over your rabbit? Looking for an apartment that will allow you to bring your bunny? You have lots of company. It is often difficult, in certain areas, to find bunny-friendly landlords. Knowing this from personal experience, I set off to find out why. Landlords are often hesitant to rent to people with rabbits—even when they will rent to cat owners.

I spoke with a leasing agent from a large midwestern property company who is an animal lover herself (company policy prohibits her from being identified). I asked her why landlords will or will not accept a pet, and how they determine guidelines. I expected to hear that they were concerned about pet damage, but her answer was surprising. She said decisions were made because of market demand. If a property owner has numerous requests for large dogs, for example, they will often increase the size limit rather than turn away tenants. So, I wondered, if property owners get many requests for allowing pet rabbits, would they reconsider the rules? She stated that if there were many requests, and the policy did not allow rabbits at the time, it would certainly be reconsidered. She said they are in the business to rent apartments and don’t want to turn good tenants away. I thought of one complex I had visited when I was looking for a place myself, where I had been told cats were allowed, but not rabbits. I asked her why she thought the company might take such a stance. She replied in one word: "ignorance." She stated that most leasing agents, including herself, did not understand that rabbits could be litter trained, that they were clean house pets. She was surprised and pleased to learn this! She said what most often springs to mind is a dirty, smelly hutch in the backyard, so most landlords immediately decide they don’t want a setup like that in their building.

My next question was about meeting a landlord halfway—with pet damage deposits. I asked her if the offer of a damage deposit would make a landlord more likely to lease to a family owning a bunny. She said that often will sway a reluctant landlord, and it has been her experience that those who have their own money at stake will often care for their pet's living quarters better than those who face no financial penalty. She did warn against "pet rent". Some complexes charge an extra $20-30 per month if the tenant has a pet. This money is not refundable when you leave, no matter how immaculately clean you are. In her opinion there is no real justification for this extra charge—your security deposit and pet deposit, if applicable, should more than cover any damage your rabbit could cause.

Akron Beacon Journal, December 1997

Rabbit blamed for starting apartment fire

Caged bunny apparently bites into electrical cord at Streetsboro complex

by Stephen Dyer, Beacon Journal staff writer
Reprinted with permission

STREETSBORO: Several burned items from an apartment fire occupy a parking space in front of the G building at the brand-new Shady Lake Apartments. Charred remains of a sofa, books and newspapers lie in a soggy bundle. The smell of smoke still seeps from the pile.

The only thing remaining intact is a blackened wire cage and a melted plastic water bottle.

The Streetsboro Fire Department said Wednesday afternoon's fire was started by a pet rabbit that lived in that cage and drank from that bottle.

Fire Department spokesman Kevin Grimm said the rabbit apparently was able to reach through the wire cage with its teeth and bite through a lamp's cord. The sparks apparently caught a stack of newspapers on fire, then spread to the sofa. The sofa was the only piece of furniture to be destroyed.

``The construction of the building kept it confined,'' Grimm said. ``I have to give the complex's management credit for calling us when they did.''

Grimm said the fire had been going for about an hour before the department received the call from the apartment's rental office.

What kept the smoke and flames from jumping into the hallway, Grimm said, was the manager, who approached the door to the burning apartment, felt the heat coming from it and called 911 instead of opening the door.

Neither Kristi nor Scott Speiser, who rented the apartment, was home at the time of the blaze.

They were not home yesterday morning and did not answer phone calls.

The rabbit died in the fire. When the animal was discovered, Grimm said, wires were dangling from its mouth. It also had burned in the fire, but it was difficult to tell what caused the animal's death -- electrocution or burns.

``Without an autopsy, we don't know,'' Grimm said. He had not heard of a fire caused by a caged animal in Streetsboro before.

Apartment complex officials would not comment on the fire, which caused $10,000 in damage. The apartment was a ``two-bedroom deluxe,'' according to the complex's floor plan. The complex does not allow pets unless they are housed in a cage that cannot be escaped.

Grimm said most of the Speisers' possessions were saved, including all of their Christmas presents.

``There was a lot of smoke and heat damage,'' Grimm said, ``but most of their stuff is recoverable.''

She also mentioned that newer, high-rent buildings are more likely to accept pets. There is a perception among property owners that those who live there are more likely to keep their place clean and undamaged. I found this to be true in the Cleveland area, where it is nearly impossible to find apartments that allow pets of any kind, but those that do are usually newer, more expensive properties. In areas such as Columbus, where there are thousands of newer apartments, and not enough tenants to fill them, tenants are in a much better position to bargain for their pet’s acceptance. In short, a tighter rental market may make it tougher to find a place for your bunny.

Over and over, the property manager returned to two points: ignorance on the property manager’s part and irresponsibility on the pet owner’s part. Property owners need to understand that rabbits are clean, quiet and ideal apartment pets, as they don’t disturb neighbors. Perhaps HRS needs to get the message to them. As more tenants demand a place for their rabbit, policies will slowly change. You might educate the leasing agents you speak to, even if you decide not to rent at that property. Tell them what great house pets rabbits are and explain that they are as trainable as a cat. They might remember when the next prospective tenant with a bunny asks "do you accept rabbits?"

And pet owners need to take responsibility for their pet and the damage s/he causes. If your rabbit chews the carpeting or the baseboards, repair or replace it before you leave. Don’t just leave the damage behind for the landlord to fix. Besides, it is probably cheaper if you get someone to fix it yourself, rather than the landlord taking it from your security deposit—you will have greater control over cost. Leave your apartment so that no one can tell anybunny ever lived there. Leave a mess behind and it will almost guarantee that the next person to inquire about the likelihood of a rabbit moving in will be met with a firm "No."

Happy apartment hunting!

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GastroIntestinal Stasis, The Silent Killer

by Dana M. Krempels, PhD, in consultation with Susan Kelleher, DVM

[Reprinted with permission]

Dana Krempels, Ph.D. is a faculty member of the University of Miami Biology Dept. Susan Kelleher, D.V.M. received her veterinary degree from the University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Medicine and is the exotics expert at the Hollywood Animal Clinic, Hollywood, FL. We are grateful to George Flentke, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin Pharmacy Dept) for his review and information on the pharmaceuticals named in this article and to Kevin Johnson for his editorial expertise. The treatments listed are based on information and protocols suggested by many veterinarians and experienced rabbit rescuers. It's an all too familiar story. "My bunny stopped eating, and then she just died." When we ask for details, we often learn that not only did the bunny stop eating, but she had been producing extremely small or even no fecal droppings, or showed symptoms of diarrhea. In reality, true diarrhea is uncommon in rabbits. Runny stool is more commonly due to an imbalance of the normal bacterial and fungal flora of the caecum (the bunny's intestinal "fermentation vat"). The diarrhea is actually liquid, unformed caecotropes--the soft, pungent, normally mulberry-shaped pellet the bunny reingests to obtain essential nutrients. The floral imbalance can be caused by a number of factors, such as the wrong antibiotic (oral penicillins can be deadly to rabbits for this reason!), but is often simply due to an intestine whose normal peristaltic muscular contractions have slowed down or stopped. This condition is known as GastroIntestinal (GI) stasis, or ileus.

What Causes GI Stasis?

A rabbit's intestine can become static for a variety of reasons, including (1) stress, (2) dehydration, (3) pain from another underlying disorder or illness (4) an intestinal blockage or, most commonly, (5) insufficient dietary crude fiber (which is why unlimited grass hay is so essential in the rabbit diet). Left untreated, the slowdown or complete cessation of normal intestinal movement (peristalsis) can result in a painful death. An intestinal slowdown can cause ingested hair and food to lodge anywhere along the GI tract, creating a blockage. Also, because the caecum is not emptying quickly enough, harmful bacteria such as Clostridium (related to the ones that cause botulism and tetanus) can proliferate and outcompete the normal, beneficial bacteria and fungi in the caecum. Once this overgrowth occurs, gas emitted by the bacteria can cause extreme pain. Some Clostridium species produce deadly endotoxins. It is the liver's job to detoxify these harmful poisons, at a terrible cost to that all-important organ. Often, the ultimate cause of death from GI stasis is damage to the liver.

How Can GI Stasis be detected?

Symptoms of GI stasis include very small (or no) fecal pellets, sometimes clinging to the bunny's bottom. In some cases, very small fecal pellets will be encased in clear or yellowish mucous. This indicates a serious problem which must be treated as an emergency.

With GI stasis, the normal, quiet gurgling of the healthy intestine is replaced either by very loud, violent gurgles (gas blorping around painfully!) or a desolate silence. The bunny may become lethargic, have no appetite and may hunch in a ball, loudly grinding his teeth in pain.

GI Stasis and the "Hairball" Myth

Too often, a rabbit suffering from GI stasis is diagnosed as having a "hairball." In reality, an apparent hairball usually is a result of GI stasis--not the cause. A vet who has not palpated many rabbit abdomens may be unfamiliar with the normal, sometimes doughy feel of the healthy rabbit stomach. A doughy stomach is cause for concern only when accompanied by an empty lower GI and symptoms of abdominal discomfort.

Like those of most herbivores, the stomach and intestines of a healthy rabbit are never empty. A rabbit may eat relatively normal amounts of food, almost up to the time the GI shuts down. Because of this, the stomach may retain a large bolus of food when stasis occurs. Unlike the typical cat hairball, which usually consists completely of hair, the mass misdiagnosed as a hairball in a rabbit is usually composed mostly of food held together by hair and mucous. Unless it is allowed to dehydrate into an impassable mass, this bolus of ingesta can be slowly broken down with enzyme supplements and plenty of oral fluids, as will be discussed shortly. However, treating a hairball without addressing the problem of GI stasis will generally be unproductive.

If you suspect that your bunny is experiencing GI stasis, you must take him/her to your rabbit-experienced veterinarian without delay. Tell the vet your suspicions. S/he will probably listen for normal intestinal sounds and palpate the bunny's abdomen. The vet also may wish to take radiographs to see whether the various parts of the digestive tract contain normal ingested matter, feces or foreign objects--or are empty and gassy. The appearance of the digestive tract will help the vet determine whether there is an obstruction and, if so, where it is located.

If an obstruction of any kind is present, the use of intestinal motility drugs (described later) could make the situation worse by pushing it into a narrow area where it completely obstructs the intestine. If the mass is not causing a complete blockage, it is best to consider medical alternatives to surgery. A gastroenterotomy--surgical opening of the stomach--may be performed to remove the obstruction, but rabbits who undergo this procedure have an abysmally low survival rate. Those who survive the surgery itself often succumb a few days later to peritonitis or other complications, even when under the care of the most practiced, skillful rabbit surgeon. Surgery on the rabbit GI tract should be considered only as a last resort.

Can GI Stasis Be Successfully Treated?

If your vet has determined that there is no intestinal obstruction, there are several treatments s/he may wish to use to help your bunny in distress. As always, do not perform any of these procedures or try to administer any of these medicines without the supervision of an experienced rabbit veterinarian.

I.  Mechanical Treatments

A.  Abdominal massage. This may sound strange, but one of the single most effective ways to stimulate a lazy gut into action is with gentle massage. Place the bunny on a secure countertop on a towel, making sure he can't jump down and hurt himself. With your hands and fingertips, gently massage the abdomen. Knead as deeply as the bunny will allow, but back off immediately if he expresses pain. A rabbit's internal organs are very delicate; care must be taken to avoid bruising them and making the situation worse. After a bit of manual massage, try an electric vibrating massager. This seems to be even more effective than manual massage, and it's worthwhile to invest in some type of massager with a large, flat surface that can be held against the bunny's tummy for relatively long periods. Press the massager firmly against the abdomen, start on low and work your way up. The bunny may be a bit taken aback at first, but almost every bunny on whom we've tried massage has settled down and enjoyed the soothing vibrations. In addition to stimulating the muscles, the massage seems to help break up gas bubbles and ease colic. Massage as long and as often as the bunny will allow and enjoy.

B.  Petroleum-based laxatives (Laxatone, Petromalt, mineral oil) do not affect intestinal motility, but may help to slide dry, impacted matter through the intestine more easily when used in conjunction with intestinal motility drugs and oral hydration. Whereas flavored remedies in a tube are often preferred by the bunny, some vets believe that their higher viscosity may actually contribute to holding a mass of impacted food together. Unscented, laxative grade mineral oil is less viscous, and may be more effective. Petroleum-based laxatives should not be given daily or long term, as they can strip the intestine of important, fat-soluble vitamins. Note that some very experienced rabbit vets believe that these products are of no use whatsoever in treating GI stasis.

C.  Simethicone (liquid, pediatric suspension or tablets) is essential for the relief of gas pain which usually accompanies ileus. This substance has no known drug interactions, is not absorbed through the intestinal lining and acts only on a mechanical principle: it changes the surface tension of the frothy gas bubbles in the gut, joining them into larger, easier-to-pass bubbles. Simethicone is practically inert, and is safe to give, even as a precaution. A farting bunny is a happy bunny!

II. Non-prescription Supportive Measures

A.  Oral fluids are essential for hydrating intestinal contents which may have formed a hard mass and be nearly impossible to pass. Water is fine, but unsweetened electrolyte drinks (e.g. Pedialyte, Infalyte or generic versions thereof) designed for human infants (and available in the infant section of the grocery store), are even better. Avoid any fluids containing large amounts of sugar (even Gatorade), as these can exacerbate the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the caecum.

B.  Force feeding.  Anorexia can rapidly cause gastric ulcers and liver deterioration in rabbits. Even 12 hours without eating is cause for concern. Keep the bunny eating! One quick and easy recipe is to heat about 1/2 cup of electrolyte drink or chamomile tea and soak 2 - 3 tablespoons of pellets in it until they're soft and fluffy. Mix the pellet fluff with vegetable baby food or canned pumpkin until it forms a somewhat liquid paste (you may need to add more liquid). Allow to cool before using a large-bore feeding syringe (available at most pharmacies) to deliver the goods. Insert the tip of the syringe into the space behind the incisors and squeeze gently sideways to avoid squirting food down the trachea. Give only 1-2 cc at a time, allowing the bunny a chance to chew and swallow. Aspiration of food could be life threatening, so do this with great care!

C.  Caecotropes from a healthy rabbit, although difficult to obtain, are an ideal way to re-establish normal caecal flora in a compromised rabbit. If your rabbit is producing runny stool, and you can get well-formed caecotropes from a healthy rabbit, you can feed them to the sick bunny in a bit of baby food, mushed banana or papaya. Don't expect this procedure to be easy. No one appreciates being fed someone else's poop!

D. Unlimited grass hay.  If the rabbit won't eat timothy, oat, brome or other grass hays, you may have to resort to alfalfa (which is too rich in protein, calories and calcium for everyday use), since this is an emergency. Even if you have to feed it strand by strand, get the bunny eating hay. The long fibers help push impacted matter through the digestive tract and also stimulate the intestinal muscles into normal action. (Of course, your bunny should always have unlimited, fresh grass hay available!)

E.  Fresh, wet, leafy vegetables. The fiber and moisture in fresh vegetables will also help stimulate the intestine. Kale is a good choice. If the rabbit refuses to eat, try fragrant, fresh herbs such as mint, basil, dill, cilantro, tarragon, sage, fennel, parsley and others. You just never know which herb will stimulate the appetite, so it's best to have a variety on hand.

F. Lactobacillus acidophilus is not normally a member of the rabbit's intestinal ecosystem, but we have noticed that a good dose of dried Lactobacillus powder (available at health food stores in powder or capsules) seems to help the rabbit survive the crisis until the intestine starts moving again. No one knows why, but it helps. Use non-dairy powder--NOT yogurt. The milk sugars and carbohydrates in yogurt may promote harmful bacterial overgrowth.

Probiotic pastes, such as Benebac, are available at feed stores, and might also be helpful. Products designed for horses are generally safe and possibly effective for rabbits.

G.  Enema. It may be helpful to administer an enema of warm, clean water and a very small bit of unscented, laxative grade mineral oil. Be sure to consult your veterinarian for instruction before trying this procedure. We administer the enema with a pediatric rubber ear bulb/syringe. A 5 lb rabbit can safely be given 10-15 ccs of liquid enema. Mix the water and oil well. Place the bunny on her back, well supported so she doesn't kick. Gently insert the lubricated tip of the syringe into the anus, about 1/2 - 1 deep. (Note: if you're not sure which orifice is the right one, the anus is the one that winks back at you when touched.) Be gentle. NEVER FORCE ANYTHING! Slowly empty the bulb and let the bunny remain on her back for at least 30 seconds, to allow the liquid to travel up the tract a bit.

You may need to gently hold the anus closed to avoid a fountain. An enema delivers liquid to the source. It can help hydrate hardened, dehydrated fecal matter in the lower GI, even when subcutaneously administered fluids don't seem to help.

[the remainder of this article appeared as Part Two in the printed Harelines Vol 2 Number 3]

III. Prescription/Veterinary Treatments

A.  An intestinal motility agent, such as cisapride (= Propulsid) or Reglan will help get a static intestine moving again, as long as your veterinarian has determined that there is no intestinal obstruction. Both of the aforementioned drugs are safe and effective for rabbits. Cisapride, a more recently developed drug, has fewer potential side effects than Reglan, and can safely be used long term. It may take as long as two weeks on these drugs before the intestine is fully motile again, and patience and careful nursing for the duration is essential.

In severe cases of GI stasis, both drugs can be used simultaneously. Because they work on different areas of the digestive tract (Reglan on the upper GI and cisapride primarily on the lower GI), they may have a synergistic effect. Recall: if there is an intestinal obstruction, these drugs should not be used, as they could make the situation worse. This is why it is imperative that you not take matters into your own hands. Have an experienced rabbit vet diagnose the problem and prescribe proper treatment!

B.  Cholestryramine (Questran) is a granular resin with a high affinity for negatively charged, hydrophobic compounds, of which Clostridium spiroformes toxins are one type. This product is used primarily to reduce serum cholesterol in humans, and is available at most pharmacies. If the rabbit has mucousy stool, there is a good possibility that Clostridium bacteria are proliferating and producing potentially lethal enterotoxins. Questran will absorb these and be passed out harmlessly in the feces. Questran should be suspended in a generous amount of liquid and administered orally: because of its hydrophilic properties, it can dehydrate intestinal contents if given with insufficient water. Questran does not affect the action of the intestine; it is not absorbed by the body. Rather, it works directly upon the contents of the gut. We believe this substance has helped save the lives of many rabbits suffering from a severely inflamed intestine simply by sequestering toxins and buying time while gut motility medications and other treatments get the intestine moving again. It is very safe, used as directed.

C.  Subcutaneous Lactated Ringers Solution will not only keep the bunny well hydrated, but will also make sure the electrolytes are balanced. Administration of subcutaneous LRS--even if the rabbit does not feel dehydrated to the touch--can help to re-hydrate food masses lodged in the intestine, and make the bunny feel better in general. A dehydrated rabbit will feel tired and ill, and may not have as much will to fight as one who is well-hydrated. Rabbits in GI stasis tend to be both anorectic and unwilling to drink, so it is a good idea to administer subcutaneous fluids as a precaution, unless the rabbit has known kidney or heart malfunctions.

D.  Enzymatic digestive aids can be helpful in loosening and softening an impacted mass of food and hair (which, we remind you, is usually a symptom, not the cause of the problem!). Proteolytic (protein-dissolving) enzymes may be of either plant or animal origin. Papain (found in papaya) and bromelain (found in pineapple) may help to break down mucous binding an obstruction, thus allowing it to slowly break up and pass. However, there is no evidence to suggest that these enzymes break down keratin, which is the main protein component of hair. Both papain and bromelain are available in powdered form at most health food stores, and should be reconstituted in water or Pedialyte shortly before use to ensure maximum potency. Papaya tablets are little more than a sugary treat: they contain very little active enzyme.

Your vet may wish to try a more powerful, animal-derived enzyme product such as Viokase, which contains pancreatic enzymes to break down proteins, amylases to break down indigestible carbohydrates and lipases to break down fats. Although these enzymes may be better at breaking up an obstruction composed of ingested matter, they should be used with caution, as they can burn the esophagus and cause several days discomfort in an already sick bunny!

E.  B-complex vitamins, administered orally or injected, may help stimulate the appetite. It is vital to keep the bunny eating, even if you must force-feed. Anorexia can rapidly result in gastric ulcers and serious liver degeneration.

F.  Antibiotics.  Some vets routinely prescribe antibiotics for a rabbit suffering from GI stasis, either to combat the overgrowth of Clostridium spp. (Flagyl) or to prevent secondary bacterial infection in the compromised rabbit (e.g., Baytril). While we appreciate such cautionary measures, we note that unnecessary use of antibiotics is a prime reason that so many resistant strains of bacteria are evolving even as we speak. Unless the rabbit shows signs of bacterial infection (which may be the reason the intestine shut down in the first place), we urge a conservative approach: don't use antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary. The above-mentioned medications and treatments should be enough to get the rabbit's intestine working again.

IV. Pain Relief: The key to keeping the bunny fighting to live!

A.  Analgesics are extremely important for a rabbit suffering the abdominal pain of GI stasis. Banamine, a product approved for use only in horses, has been used extensively on rabbits with excellent results. Although some species suffer gastric ulcers when given banamine, we have anecdotal evidence of rabbits on Banamine for several weeks, suffering no apparent side effects.

Torbugesic, an opioid analgesic, provides excellent pain relief at relatively low doses, but it may have the undesirable side effect of slowing down intestinal motility. We also have had excellent success at relieving colic pain and inflammation of the intestinal lining with sulfasalazine, a combination sulfa antibiotic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory compound. Sulfasalazine works topically to reduce intestinal inflammation. Both banamine and sulfasalazine have a twofold benefit:  not only do they relieve pain, they also help reduce enteric toxins generated by harmful bacteria. Barium may also be useful as an intestinal tonic to relieve pain and help stimulate peristalsis, but its action is slow compared to that of the aforementioned analgesics.

The Road to Recovery: If it Ain't Completely Broke, Don't Fix it.

It is absolutely essential that the caretaker faced with a rabbit in GI stasis be patient, allowing the treatments and medications to work. Rabbits are easily stressed, and excessive handling should be avoided. It may take several days before any fecal pellets are seen, and it may take two weeks or more on intestinal motility agents and therapy before the intestine is moving normally again. We have had one case in which a rabbit produced no fecal pellets for 14 days, but finally did respond to gentle,consistent administration of the above treatment regimen. Patience and persistence are key!

Do not make more trips to the veterinarian's office with the rabbit than absolutely necessary. Increased stress will only slow recovery. Whenever possible, administer medications at home, where the rabbit feels safe and secure. Every bunny parent should have a stethoscope (not necessarily an expensive one) to monitor intestinal sounds. The gradual return of gentle gurgling is a very good sign: once this begins, the rabbit is on the road to recovery, even if fecal pellets don't begin pouring out the chute. Administration of intestinal motility agents, gentle massage and supportive care as listed above should be continued, and gradually tapered as fecal pellets slowly begin to come through the system.

Do not be alarmed if the first batch of fecal pellets are small, hard and misshapen. This is to be expected. Also do not be surprised if the rabbit produces a small bunch of pellets, nothing for a day, and then a bit more. The intestine sometimes seems to regain its function in fits and starts, rather than all at once. Consistent, gentle nursing and reduction of stress are essential at this time.

PLEASE RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO FORCE ADDITIONAL, AGGRESSIVE TREATMENT ONCE THE RABBIT BEGINS TO RECOVER. RECOVERY FROM GI STASIS IS SOMETIMES MADDENINGLY GRADUAL. We know of one instance in which a rabbit was starting to produce fecal pellets and showing signs of recovery, but the veterinarian overseeing the case insisted on anesthetizing the rabbit to perform oral gavage, enemas with an extension tube and vigorous abdominal massage. Despite our advice to the contrary, this veterinarian believed that the mass in the stomach could not possibly pass without such treatment. Tragically, this rabbit died. The autopsy revealed a ruptured liver. We cannot help but wonder whether excessive handling and the unnecessarily aggressive treatments contributed to, or even caused this rabbit's demise.

Backtracking to the Cause

Once you and your bunny have defeated the GI stasis threat, it's time to look for the cause of the problem. Does your rabbit get insufficient fiber in her diet? Are you giving her too many starchy treats? Does she have overgrown molars or an abscessed tooth? Does she have an underlying infection or illness that's causing enough stress to shut down her intestine?

A rabbit's stress organ system is its digestive tract. GI stasis may be your first clue that something else is wrong. If the rabbit does not seem fully normal, even after the GI is moving well again, its time to do some bloodwork, radiographs (don't forget the head!) and other additional diagnostics as deemed necessary by your rabbit veterinarian.

During recovery from GI stasis, careful monitoring of body temperature (use a plastic thermometer, which cannot break off in the rectum) will allow the caretaker to tell whether the rabbit is homeostatically stable. Normal rabbit body temperature ranges from about 101o - 103oF. A higher temperature may indicate either tress or an infection, the latter requiring immediate veterinary attention. A temperature lower than 101oF is actually of greater concern than a mildly elevated temperature. Abnormally low body temperature may indicate septicemia: a bacterial infection that has entered the bloodstream. A rabbit with a temperature lower than 100oF should be considered an extreme emergency. Pack the rabbit with warm water bottles wrapped in towels and get to the emergency clinic immediately!

Prevention: The Best Medicine

The best cure for GI stasis, of course, is prevention. Be sure your rabbit companion gets plenty of dietary fiber from fresh grass hay. Feed high fiber (22% or higher crude fiber) pellets. Be sure your rabbit is drinking sufficient water to keep ingested food hydrated and moving smoothly. It helps to offer at least 4 cups of fresh, moist leafy greens per 5 lbs. of rabbit daily. And don't forget that regular exercise not only keeps the skeletal muscles buff and strong: it also keeps the smooth muscles of the intestines well-toned and active. Regular visits to your rabbit vet will ensure that your bunny pal doesn't develop health problems that go undetected. Once such a problem becomes serious, it may manifest itself as GI stasis.

So here's to healthy peristalsis! May your home be blessed with great, healthy piles of gorgeous bunny poops. All in the litterbox, of course.

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Easter Bunny

by Mary Brandolino (in memory of all the bunnies we couldn't save)

I remember Easter Sunday
It was colorful and fun
The new life that I'd begun
In my new cage.

I was just a little thing
When they brought me from the store
And they put me on the floor
In my cage.

They would take me out to play
Love and pet me all the time
Then at day's end I would climb
In my cage.

But as days and weeks went by
I saw less of them it seemed
Of their loving touch I dreamed
In my cage.

In the night outside their house
I felt sad and so neglected
Often scared and unprotected
In my cage.

In the dry or rainy weather
Sometimes hotter sometimes colder
I just sat there growing older
In my cage.

The cat and dog raced by me
Playing with each other only
While I sat there feeling lonely
In my cage.

Upon the fresh green grass
Children skipped and laughed all day
I could only watch them play
From my cage.

They used to take me out
And let me scamper in the sun
I no longer get to run
In my cage.

Once a cute and cuddly bunny
Like a little ball of cotton
Now I'm grown up and forgotten
In my cage.

I don't know what went wrong
At the home I did inhabit
I just grew to be a rabbit
In my cage.

But they've brought me to the pound
I was once loved and enjoyed
Now I wait to be destroyed
In my cage.

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My Rabbit's Tail Tale

by Missy Mansfield

As sheriff of Sea Ray Cove, I hear lots of rumors wandering about the neighborhood, some true, some harmless tales of fun. So when I heard the rumors that The White Rabbit had come to town to unlawfully lead the local band of Wild Rabbits, I first thought they were tales to liven up the boring summer evenings. Then, one day as I was riding about, I saw that it was NO tale. There, there he was in all his glory eating a bouquet of Mr. Rolland's prize-winning flowers. Well, I could not stand for that. I was sheriff. So I deputized a few of the locals, put a bounty on his head, and went after the notorious White Rabbit. Being the modest sheriff and all that I am, I will not go into the details of the capture; but let's just say I brought my man (or rabbit in this case) back alive.

The town's folks were so happy there was a big celebration right in the middle of Main Street to show off the feared White Rabbit. Immediately, Deputy Jim began construction of our town's first jail to hold our furry bandit. Sea Ray Cove had always been a quiet neighborhood; we had never had a reason for a jail in the past.

A few days later the travelling Judge came to town to try the notorious White Rabbit for his crimes. During the trial, we discovered that he had been the slave of Ms. Sarah who had abandoned him after she became bored with him and left him to fend for himself in the wild. After that exhausting testimony, all charges were dropped.

Since he had no other place to go, I offered to take him home with me to get cleaned up, have something to eat, and get some rest. Over the next few days, he became like a son to me. The son I never had. I asked him to stay. He accepted and we lived happily ever after. The End.

The sad truth...

A young girl won a rabbit at a local carnival. After she became bored with him, she let him loose in the woods of our neighborhood. Once I found out about this, I knew he would never survive. I had to catch him and find him a good home. At the time, I did not figure my home would become his because my husband is allergic to cats and dogs. But something good came out of something bad... my husband was NOT allergic to the rabbit, so we were able to keep him. And we are all living happily ever after. Click here to see C.D. Mansfield.

The moral to the story is...

1) Rabbits should not be given away at carnivals.

2) Tame rabbits can not survive in the wild.

3) People who are allergic to cats and dogs may not be allergic to rabbits.

4) Rabbits may not be a great pet for small children. If you're interested in getting one, browse more of our Buckeye chapter website and check out the House Rabbit Society (www.rabbit.org). Some great rabbits are looking for good homes. AND there are great handouts that will teach you about how to take care of your new bundle of joy.

5) Rabbits make great house pets. Mine is kind of like having a cat. He's litterbox trained and has the run of the house - no more cages for him. But remember to cover those electrical cords!

6) Something good will come from something bad.

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Gillette ends testing on animals

The Gillette Company no longer tests final products or ingredients on animals. This major policy change will spare the lives of countless animals. As reported last year in the NAVS Bulletin, the change began several years ago as the company phased out testing on its finished products, then on its ingredients. The company has now officially gone cruelty-free.

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Bunny Bytes

Bunny Bytes: Outfitters of the Urban Rabbit has opened its website at http://www.bunnybytes.com

They offer a wide range of products for rabbits and rabbit lovers alike, from food, first-aid needs, and toys to rabbit-themed items for home and garden, and, of course, jewelry. Bunny Bytes has chosen the Buckeye House Rabbit Society as the recipient of a portion of their proceeds in 1998. We are grateful for their support and look forward to shopping with them.

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Winter 1989 to May 18, 1998

we'll always love you

We miss seeing you pounce on your morning greens, especially if they were homegrown.

We miss watching you race around the room at top speed and then flop, exhausted, for a pet.

We miss the way you'd tilt your head so we could stroke your eye.

We miss how you were always there, every day, waiting to greet us when we got home from work.

We miss the look of concern in your big, bright eyes when we packed our suitcases for a short trip.

We miss how you stood up on your hind legs every night to beg for your bedtime cracker.

But, most of all, we miss feeling you stretched out on our laps, soft and warm and gently grinding your teeth, while we watched TV.

It's so empty here without you, Mugg.  You were a big part of our lives and a part of us left with you on that Monday in May when we had to say goodbye.

We'll always love you, Muggie, and we'll miss you forever.

Herta and David

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Special Dates

Congratulations and all the best to these extra-special bunnies and their devoted human companions:

In June:  Wilma and Mary celebrate 8 years together on the 26th. Bosco marks 6 years with Karen, Sunny celebrates 4 years with Noelle, and Misty 2 years with Deanna. On the 21st, Becky and Cocoa look back on their first year together. It's a special month for Gabrielle and Kelly as well.

In July:  Fuzzy starts a second year with the Pasternacks. Benjamin begins his 4th with Terri and Jeremy and Dusty his 11th with June. C.D. Manfield, whose story is featured in this issue, begins his second year with Missy on the 16th. For Statler and Emmet, it's the start of an 8th year and a 5th, respectively, with the Seligmans.

In August:  Orion and Julie will mark their first year together, as will Kisses and Andrea. Petri begins her third year with the Pryde family, and Taz begins his 4th with Deanna. J.R. of Cuyahoga Falls enters his 6th year with Penny. Cinnamon and Samson begin their third and first years with Kristi and Bill.

In September:  Silly-Bunny and Bob complete 3 years together on the 1st, and Carmel and Christine 2 years together on the 6th. Isabelle and Yugo enter their 3rd year with human companion Jennifer. Max and Kismet begin their 3rd and 2nd years, respectively, with Libby.

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Chapter Messages

Newsletter in Print

This webzine is based entirely on the Harelines printed newsletter. The printed copy is sent out to members much before it appears here -- that's one way we can encourage you to support it by becoming a member. If you find you are reading this website regularly or with special appreciation, please consider becoming a member of the Buckeye House Rabbit Society.

Now's the time to join! Your $10 membership donation pays for one year's issues of Harelines AND helps us help needy rabbits here in Ohio. We are an all-volunteer, federally-recognized non-profit organization and depend solely on YOUR generous support. Don't forget, your donation is tax-deductible! Kari loves Buckeye members

Don't let this issue of Harelines be the last to reach the web. Send your membership to us today!

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World Wide Wabbits

Do you wish you had the time to put your bunny on the web? Let us help. As a special service available only to Buckeye HRS members, we'd like to offer space on our website -- ohare.org -- just for your bunny. Take a look at Our Photo Albums to see where your lagomorph will appear. Send us your favorite photo(s), include a short description, and we'll hop to it.


Tell Us about Your Bunny...

Do you have a story about your rabbit that you’d like to share with other house rabbit folks? Or a question about rabbit behavior? We’ll print it in a future issue! Write to us at: Buckeye HRS, P.O. Box 61, Vickery, OH, 43464. Don’t forget to include a photo and a SASE to ensure a prompt return. Or visit My Rabbit Companion at this site for another way to reach us.

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Special Thanks to:

Thanks so much -- you're terrific!

Harelines, the Buckeye House Rabbit Society Newsletter, is published by the all-volunteer, non-profit Buckeye House Rabbit Society, Vickery, OH. The House Rabbit Society assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.

Newsletter editor Herta Rodina

Layout and Design Libby Armstrong Moore

Contributing Writers
Kristi Cole
Dr. Anne Gentry, D.V.M.
Michael Lain
Cindy Scheel
Therese Skinner

David Sharpe

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