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Behind the coops...

Behind the coops...

By: Joy Ekstrom

Rabbits like consistency. Routine times to feed and water. Consistent types of food. Anything new to their system is a challenge to their system. When you vary from your rabbits routine, its like playing Russian Roulette, you are taking a chance on getting a sick bunny. Let’s talk about what is in my rabbit medicine chest.

Good Quality Timothy Hay: This is for soft stool. Pull the feed and just give hay until it clears up. Alfalfa hay is too rich to feed your rabbits exclusively. (Although, alfalfa is the primary ingredient in most rabbit feeds, remember in that case it is watered down by all the other ingredients). Grass hay varies greatly in quality, and runs the whole gamite of quality depending on where it was grown, and variety of grass used to make the hay.

Neomycin 325 (also seen it under the name NeoMed 325) has come in handy for anything that looks like an enteritis, stomach upset, full blown diarrhea or bloating. (once they bloat, it is very rare to save them). Follow directions on package.

Critical Care: This is a fine powder made from hay. Mix a small amount with with equal parts water and syringe feed the rabbit. The best success comes when you can catch the rabbit early. A rabbit that is not eating is a sick rabbit. To entice them also I give parsley, dandelion greens, dill weed. strawberry leaves, or willow tree leaves. I will say that a rabbit that is not eating is less inclined to eat something from this list if the rabbit isn’t used to it. About every other week or so I give something from this list to my herd.

Sweet Potato baby food: Can be mixed with the critical care. Make sure it isn’t chocked full of sugars! Sugars can throw off the gut also. Look for the lowest amount of sugars.

Pedialyte: Is also good to entice them to drink and keep their hydration. It’s has electrolytes.

Vanodine: They don’t make Vanodine anymore, but there is a product Barbi Brown (http://www.barbibrownsbunnies.com/) sells that is similar to it. This is a great disinfectant, you can put in the water or use for cleaning cages. (Check the label for what the different strengths of vanodine are used for).

Goat Milk Yogurt: This one can be tricky to find. This helps me with the litters that lose their mom early, or when a rabbit goes off feed. It can also be mixed with the critical care and fed to sick rabbits.

A dewormer: There are tons of products to deworm. Ivermect, Safeguard or Strongid, just to name a few. Deworming should be done when ever you get home from a show. All must be dosed dependent on size of animal. Your vet can help you figure the proper dosage or make recommendations.

Coccideostat: Kills Coccideosis. Products like Sulfamet or Corid are good medicines for this.

In my barn I won’t mess with respiratory issues or vent disease issues. The biggest key with rabbits is to keep them eating. Don’t throw a new type of food or water at them when they are not feeling well, they won’t likely eat or drink it.

As always consult your vet first before treatment and develop a patient/client relationship with your vet.

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What I have learned about traveling with rabbits came from when I had French Lops. It was a running joke between my show partner and I, when we drove over Railroad tracks too hard or hit potholes, I would yell out “CONDITION points”!!! French lops would drop condition so easily. Actually, any breed will when traveling too roughly.

Rabbits don’t like ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’. So try to refrain from...

driving over excess bumps too hard

swerving excessively

hitting potholes

driving over railroad tracks fast

The less they are bounced around in your car, the better for them.

Rabbits will NOT continue to eat while in transit. BUT when you stop or are at a resting place they will munch on things or drink so it is best to travel with something in the cage. You don’t have to fill the food container, but something in the food dish is a good thing.

Water bottles are worthless during transport as the vibrations of travel will cause them to empty. You don’t need to travel with a full water dish as most of it will splash out from the vibration of travel. But put a little water in there. So when you are at a stopping point they can drink.

I have plenty of various things in their cage to keep them eating during transit and at the show.

A good quality timothy hay

Their normal feed. I free feed at a show because the stress of being at a show can often cause them to go off feed. Going off feed will cause them to loose flesh.

Some people give a baby carrot during transport (to keep the hydrated). Parsley or sweet potato are my veggies of choice to travel with.

Some people will give electrolytes (via pedialyte) or powdered vitamin and electrolyte to the water.

While some people swear by traveling their rabbits in tight cage quarters, with the thought that if there is an accident, the animals won’t be thrown around in their cage. I prefer to give my animals larger than needed cages to travel in, that way at any stop, or at the show the animal can lay down or stretch out and relax. Fill the cage with clean straw or hay to cushion the ride and help absorb shock.

Your car should be well ventilated. I travel colder than is my comfort level...remember rabbits naturally live in the outdoors. Heat can throw them into molt and cause undo physical stress. Several animals packed into a small space is a furnace to a fur coated animal.

I like to clean the cages at the beginning and end of a show. Rabbits have a very sensitive respiratory system. If you can smell the ammonia, then it is already affecting your rabbits lungs. I can not stress this enough!!!! CLEAN YOUR CAGES!

When entries are due, I go out to the barn with my show list to see who I want to take. When deciding I consider these things...

Trim nails (look for white nails or light nails)

Clean vents, double check the sex of younger animals

Check teeth.

Decide how much I want to work on a coat. I won’t take a hugely molty rabbit. Take pride in your rabbits!!! And they will do good things for you.

Check tattoos and touch up if needed.

I also consider which rabbits went to a show the previous weekend, how they travel and if they get stressed. A stressed animal will not show well.

I double check the ages (birth date) of my younger animals. I don’t like showing immature animals or taking young animals to a show that is far away. I will sometimes show younger animals to help them get used to showing at a closer show.

Double check ages when your juniors turn into seniors. Don’t be guilty of showing your year old rabbit as a junior. This is cheating. PERIOD. Don’t do it!

Check weight, especially on the rabbits that feel heavy.****Remember your scale may say an animal is within weight, but the official scale at the show may not.

---> REMEMBER when you compromise your ethics, you compromise your reputation.

I believe my feed should be complete enough that I shouldn’t need to add a supplement. But I have heard of people using

Black sunflower seeds use limited amount (roughly 5 seeds per rabbit)

Wheat germ or wheat germ oil. I don’t know the proper quantity. But this is a fat and you don’t want to put too much fat around your reproduction organs.

Calf Manna. I shy away from any form of Calf Manna or protein rich food as I was told it can burn them inside out or cause gut issues. I know it works for some people, but I refuse to use it.

There is no magic potion hair formula to turn a dirty, molty rabbit into a BIS winning rabbit. Constant care, good genetics, proper diet and routine grooming will get you where you want to go. Take pride in your animals!

Joy Ekstrom

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