Any animal can become unwell quickly, and whilst your veterinary surgeon should always be contacted first if you have any worries, it is a good idea to have a basic first aid box to hand.
Your vet’s phone number
When you get your rabbit, you should find a vet and register your rabbits with them. Not all vets will see rabbits as they are technically classed as exotic animals, so make sure the vet you have chosen is skilled with bunnies. Not all vets operate their own emergency services and many outsource to other companies, so be sure to have your out of hours vets details too. As well as their phone numbers, get the address too as you don’t want to be stressing about where they are if you have an emergency.
A secure carrier
Ok so this won’t fit in your first aid box, but a secure carrier is a must for any rabbit owner. You need something that is strong, safe and easy to clean. I recommend a carrier like this. It keeps your rabbit in the dark which will help keep them calm, it has a front door so you can keep an eye on your bunny and the top unclips, allowing easy access to your pet without dragging them out through the front door. It’s also easy to clean, just wash it down and spray with a pet-safe disinfectant.
Every bunny owner needs Critical Care. This stuff has saved many of my rabbits, so you definitely need this in your first aid box. Rabbits have a different digestive system to you and I and need food to constantly pass through their digestive system, otherwise, it shuts down and they can die – this is called Gut Statis. If we aren’t well, we can easily skip a day of food, but this isn’t the same for rabbits.
If your rabbit stops eating and isn’t producing poos, it is classed as an emergency.
Rabbits can stop eating for a number of reasons, from dental issues to blockages so if your bunny stops eating, call your vet right away. Critical care is basically a nutritionally complete powder that you mix with water and syringe feed to your rabbit. It should be used under the direction of your vet, but you must always have some to hand.
Another important item in your first aid box is Infacol. Parent readers may recognise Infacol as it’s marketed for colicky babies, but can also help to break down gas in rabbit’s digestive system, making it easier for them to pass.
Although you should always check with your vet first, the recommended dose is 1ml every hour for the first three hours, followed by 0.5ml every 3 to 8 hours if needed.
A designated rabbit towel
Towels are useful to sit your rabbit on when giving them medicine or liquid food as it can get messy! Make sure the towel is soft and clean before using and keep it separate from the ones you and your family use.
A few 1ml, 5ml and 10ml syringes are good to have to hand for syringing medicine (although Infacol comes with a dropper a syringe is much easier), and the larger syringes are good for giving water and critical care.
Gloves and hand sanitizer
Gloves and hand sanitizer are both for you and should be used to prevent the spread of germs.
Saline is used to flush out wounds.
Rabbit’s temperature can be taken rectally using a digital thermometer. You should ask a vet to show you how to do this before doing it yourself. To take a rabbit’s temperature, put some Vaseline on the end of the thermometer and gently insert it into your rabbit’s rectum. A rabbit’s temperature should be 38.5-40°C.
Heat pads can be used to help keep rabbit’s warm in winter, but they are also good to have in case your rabbit becomes unwell. I prefer this type, as it’s easy to use – just pop it in the microwave and put the cover over it before giving to your rabbit. Hot water bottles should be avoided as rabbits can nibble them! Any heating device should only be used if the rabbit is able to move away from the heat to self regulate.
An indoor cage
Again, this won’t fit in your first aid box, but if your rabbits live outside, an indoor cage is useful should they become unwell and need the extra warmth or monitoring. Be careful if your rabbit is bonded with another, as if they are away from their companions for too long, the bond can break. If you cannot house all your rabbits indoors whilst one is unwell, you could let the healthy rabbit come in to see their partner regularly.
Gauze is used to stem any bleeds. If your rabbit is bleeding, use clean hands, wear gloves and then apply pressure with gauze. Ideally, get someone to do this as your drive to the vets. If the blood leaks through the gauze, do not stop applying pressure, but add more gauze. If you lift the gauze to have a look it can pull off any blood clots that may have formed.
Antibacterial sprays are good to have to hand should your rabbit get a cut, scrape, hot spot or abrasion. After cleaning with saline, the spray can be applied.
Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Wound and Skin Care can be sprayed directly on the wound or F10 Wound spray not only applies an antiseptic barrier but also is an insecticide to repel flies.
Whilst most rabbits wear their nails down by digging and scratching around, some rabbits need to have their nails clipped, particularly elderly rabbits who aren’t as mobile. Long nails are not only uncomfortable for your bunny but can damage their ears or eyes should they wash their face.
Down your rabbit’s nail is a blood vessel called the quick. Although it does show up as a darker line on light coloured nails, its invisible on dark nails. If you do nick the quick, it will bleed. Should this happen, a caustic pencil will stem the bleed pretty quickly. Just be careful not to get it on your hands or clothes as it stains!
If your rabbit has stopped eating, Fibreplex is a paste that can be administered into your rabbit’s mouth. Fibreplex is a fibre-rich paste which improves normal fermentation in the colon.
Protexin pro fibre
Another useful thing to have if your rabbit is suffering from gut stasis is Protexin pro fibre. This is a pelleted formula, so good to use when your rabbit starts eating on their own again. It contains extra dietary fibre and encourages normal hindgut function.
For more advice on Rabbit care, why not look at 10 Things You Need To Know About Owning Rabbits?
Please note, this blog is not to replace veterinary advice. Your vet should always be contacted should you have any concerns regarding your rabbit.