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Forum BEHAVIOR Bunny Mama worried about the aging process of her precious baby

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    • LunaTheLionhead
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      Luna is the love of my life.

      She’s a 7 year old lionhead who’s never been anything short of delightful. She’s cheerful, obedient (for the most part) and so, so loving and caring. She will never hesitate to lick my hand, face or clothes when I come near her, she hops right to my side in the morning when we first see each other, she always likes to explore a lot. When I take her to her free roaming space, she binkies and jumps on top of everything she can reach, and runs around like the happiest bunny I’ve ever seen. I love her. 😀

      Unfortunately, she has a mom (me, hi) who is a chronic worrier, and suffers from anxiety, so whenever I see the subtlest changes to her behavior, I freak out, and it stresses me a lot. I try to stay cool for Luna’s sake, so that she won’t sense my tension and become tense herself, but it’s hard. When she was younger, it was much easier for me to talk myself into feeling better, by thinking “She’s young and healthy, she’s gonna pull through. Give her a few days and she’ll be back to her regular self.” And this has always proven to be true. Luna hasn’t given me that many health scares, aside from a few times where I got worried and rushed her to the vet, but it either turned out not to be anything serious, or she just bounced right back with due time and treatment.

      Luna is getting older, though. And this is a thought that is in my mind 24/7 now.

      My anxiety has me constantly bouncing between preparing for the worst, and kicking myself in the head for worrying so much when she’s perfectly healthy and active. The real problem comes when she’s feeling under the weather. Because now that she’s older, it’s much more difficult for me to even try to brush it off, my mind is plagued with “What if she’s like this because she’s starting to feel her age weigh on her? What if she’s dying?”

      This past week, she has been a little reluctant to jump to high places (like my bed), and most of the times, she hesitates to come to me when I call her. Sometimes she comes, sometimes she doesn’t, and this is out of character for her. I thought of the possibility that Luna might be feeling under the weather, because I also noticed her leaving cecotropes around more often. I started monitoring her droppings, and how much/often she eats, more closely, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. She’s still the same munching and pooping machine she’s always been. When she’s lying down, I don’t notice any tension in her posture either. She will either have her front paws stretched out in front of her, and the hind legs tucked underneath her, or off to the side. But for the past week, I haven’t seen her flop down either. She just kinda lies down slowly and peacefully, without those dramatic bunny theatrics that say “I feel so safe and happy!” This is also out of character for her, because I see her flop quite often. Every day, actually. And now it’s been a few days since the last time I saw her do it. Same with binkies. I’m not about to mess around with my dear baby’s health, so I obviously scheduled a checkup for her.

      The checkup was today.

      Now, I was already nervous before going in, anxiety and whatnot. But every vet who’s ever checked Luna always compliments her on how lively she is, so I thought to myself “The vet is gonna say she’s looking fantastic for her age, and all of these worries will disappear.” How wrong I was.

      The vet was super robotic and “cold” in the way they talked to me, and even in the way they handled Luna. I have given Luna oral medicines with more grace than that. Animals are rarely comfortable when they go to the vet, but Luna was clearly not okay with the way she was being fed that medicine, and, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve done the same thing the vet was doing, much more gracefully than that, so I know she doesn’t always react like she’s being tortured. The vet was holding her vertically and against their torso, so much that Luna’s head was bent over the vet’s arm. That’s unnecessary, they could have fed her the medicine in a more comfortable position. As the visit continued, I was clearly upset, my voice was shaking as I talked, when I asked the vet if they do the whole cremation process too, I was on the verge of tears. This still didn’t affect how the vet spoke to me in any way, they still spoke just “cold, hard facts” with no tact whatsoever. I was hopeful when I said “I know that a rabbit’s average lifespan is between 8 and 12 years old,” and I was going to follow that up with “But I know some even live up to 16 and 18 years old.” But they didn’t let me. The vet spoke over me and said “Eeeehhh… and even then, 8 is really pushing it. Not many make it to 8 years of age.” I was shattered. 😥 How could they say that to me, so coldly, while a perfectly healthy 7 year old rabbit was right in front of them? If anything, they could have said it, as long as they followed it up with “But this one here looks great for her age, so I wouldn’t worry just yet.” Isn’t that part of a vet’s job? To be tactful and bear your feelings in mind when they talk about your fur baby? I know healthcare professionals also have to be objective and straight to the point, but jeez! I wasn’t asking her to promise me that Luna will never die, I just wanted to hear a “Your baby is doing fine, just keep her on a healthy diet.” I’ve been aware of Luna’s mortality since the first day I’ve had her in my arms, I know she will pass away someday. Accepting that she will die someday is not the issue here, I don’t need to be constantly reminded of it. 😡

      Anyway, apparently nothing is physically wrong with Luna, she could just be going through mood/hormonal shifts, she’s healthy as a peach (as far as I know) so I’m wondering… why is it that it suddenly seems like her age is front and center of my worries? Why am I noticing her less active all of a sudden? Is this how the aging starts? Could she really be showing signs of aging, or is she just feeling some sort of change? Do older rabbits still binky? Do they still flop? Is 7 even old for a rabbit, or just middle-aged? Is my stress causing her stress too?

      I’m sorry for such a long post, I just feel so confused and alone, and I don’t know whether to be worried that she might be too old to do “happy bunny thearics”, or to just stop worrying so much, because she still eats, poops and makes happy noises when I pet her. I’m just so confused. I could really use some friendly guidance. Or at least, I just want to feel understood. It seems like nobody understands my pain. 😥


    • DanaNM
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      I’m so sorry you had such a rough experience at the vet, they sound like a real piece of work! And obviously not someone who cares about rabbits! I have some senior buns myself, and I obsess over them, so I know how you feel. You are doing a great job, try not to feel guilty! I have gone through the same feelings with mine (is this normal aging or something worse)? If you can find a better vet, you might consider doing blood work just to get a baseline for her. Bunny blood values can be very variable, so the benefit comes from knowing what’s normal for your rabbit.

      I can’t quite follow what happened at the vet, but it sounds like they couldn’t find anything wrong? What medicine did they give her? And is she spayed?  That is completely absurd they would jump to talking about cremation when you just thought she seemed a bit stiff..!  My girl Bertha lived to be at least 10 (maybe older, we don’t know her actual age), my Bunston lived to be 9, and Bun Jovi is 12 and going strong, so that vet clearly does not know what he’s talking about! Of course we all want our buns to live to 16 and we know we never really know how much time we will have with them, but he just sounds very rude and outdated! Unspayed female rabbits used to only like to be 6-8 due to reproductive cancers, so maybe that’s what he was going off of?

      To me it sounds like she might be having a touch of arthritis (some stiffness, leaving some cecotropes, generally less active). Senior buns do spend a lot more time sleeping and cuddling, but they may still get some zoomies occasionally. I’ve also noticed when I’ve given my buns more or less free-roam, they seem less excited about running around. Seems like when they are penned more, they get more excited to be let out and will run some laps.

      I wouldn’t take her back to that vet again… you definitely want someone who is gentle with your girl, esp if she is starting to get arthritic. Arthritic buns benefit from ramps or lower steps to get up and down from levels, etc, so there isn’t so much impact on their joints. Some also do well with a litter box with a lower side. Your vet (maybe a different one!) might also prescribe a daily dose of metacam to help her feel more comfortable.

      I give my seniors a “joint support” treat from Oxbow. I have no idea if it works, but they love them and they do seem a bit more active (at least I get to see them run around when they get excited for the treat). I also was giving one of my girls this Myristol bunny supplement that is supposed to help the joints. I think it helped her?? But hard to say. My other senior doesn’t like it though so I stopped giving it.

      Heavy molting can make buns very cranky and uncomfortable. Extra grooming, extra fiber, and extra fluids can help with this in case there’s any tummy trouble brewing. She could have also been feeling a bit gassy, which causes fleeting symptoms of discomfort.

       

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • LunaTheLionhead
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        Oh no, the vet wasn’t the one who brought up the cremation, I was. I’ve been so paranoid with Luna’s mortality that I’m trying to get everything in order in my head, so that when it happens, I’ll be ready. But I think it’s making me even more paranoid. I’ve gone into a loop.

        The arthritis possibility crossed my mind a few times, but Luna was doing all sorts of jumping and those little head binkies a few days ago. Plus, as bitchy as the vet was today, they did examine Luna physically, and she didn’t express any discomfort when being moved around. The medicine the vet prescribed isn’t exactly medicine, it’s just one of those oral medications that prevent parasites. Luna doesn’t have any as far as I know, but apparently this is something that should be done periodically, and it was due time again. I will get a second opinion and some blood tests ASAP. But this shift in her mood happened really suddenly, she was normal a few days ago. As I’ve mentioned, she’s still doing her normal things like eating, pooping and drinking, it just seems like she’s more lethargic as of the last few days. I keep a close eye on her at all times, so I notice these changes as soon as they happen.

        I know it seems rather morbid of me to bring up death and all of that while Luna is still alive and kicking, but she’s the first pet I’ve ever had the pleasure of bonding with. All the ones before her were goldfish, and a hamster that I didn’t even keep at my house, so when it died, I wasn’t there, nor had I bonded with it. It wasn’t painful. I haven’t had many experiences with death in my life, so… I’m absolutely terrified of this little one crossing the rainbow bridge. I cry every time she gets sick. I just want my bunny to go back to normal, I just want her to be okay. Are there support groups for that kind of fear here?

        I really want to make the most of the present and enjoy life with her, but every time I take one look at her and her behavior is changed, my anxiety skyrockets again. I’m mortified.


    • DanaNM
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      Ah, I understand. Any sudden behavior change is good to take notice of. Could she have maybe sprained something when jumping down?

      And just to confirm… is she spayed?

      Any source of pain could cause a change in behavior, so in addition to thinking about tummy issues, and getting some baseline blood work, I would have her teeth checked as well. Lionheads can be prone to dental issues, and sometimes the first symptom of dental pain is not always clearly linked to the mouth.

      At home, one good thing to do if you every find yourself concerned about her at home is to offer a favorite food. If she takes it, then she is feeling OK. You can also take her temperature if you find yourself really concerned.

       

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • LunaTheLionhead
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        Yes, she is spayed.

        She is still making happy sounds whenever I give her head rubs, and she certainly didn’t say no to that slice of apple I offered her yesterday, so I guess she feels okay…? It’s just that it’s odd for her to not jump at the opportunity of getting out of her hutch, she’s too… quiet. I understand for some bunnies this is normal and not a big deal, they’ll come out/run when they feel like it, but Luna is not the type. This was really sudden. I wonder if she has been feeling my stress, and when I got more worried, she got more quiet too as a result?


    • DanaNM
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      She could be picking up on your stress since you two are so closely bonded. Did you give her a tummy rub? Also, were you interacting with her a the time of day that she’s normally active? I know sometimes in the middle of the day I convince myself that Bun Jovi is ill, when he’s really just sleeping!

      It might be fun and informative to try some new enrichment type activities with her and see how she responds, like hiding pellets in food puzzles, baby stacking cups, or even working on clicker training. I would think if she responds happily she is doing just fine and was maybe just feeling a little tired. But a follow up with a different vet would also be good.

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • LunaTheLionhead
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      To be honest, I haven’t exactly been consistent with my bunny playtime. These past few months have been difficult for me, and when anxiety takes over, everything in life loses meaning to me. Luna was never one of those things, but my ability to feel motivated to play with her was reduced during this time, and I forgot that bunnies need stimulation and mental exercises to feel happy. I would just let her out of her cage whenever she wanted, sometimes I’d call her over and pet her, other times she’d just run around my feet. Her hutch never went uncleaned either, of course. It’s just the social factor that suffered the most. I really took her cheerfulness for granted, I feel like. I feel so horrible, to have taken something so precious for granted. How could I have forgotten that she, like every other bunny, enjoys being played with? No wonder she’s been so quiet. I feel terrible.

      I was careful to spend time with her today, play with her, interact with her, make sure she was active, and that she knew that I was 100% focused on her, and I’m already seeing improvements. She’s playing around, hopping on my windowsill, cleaning herself there, eating, all of the normal things she’s always done.

      I tried to remember that, just like she lives in the present and doesn’t hold onto the past, nor stress about the future, neither should I. I felt myself relax, and I think she did too. It’s good to be prepared for the future, but when it starts interfering with your ability to focus on the present, you have a problem in your hands. It’s true that I’m mortified of losing her, and what that will be like, but I started obsessing over it so much that I could no longer look at her without crying. While she’s perfectly healthy! And alive!

      I need to trust that future me will know how to handle this. But present me needs to focus on this bunny that still needs me to be present in the moment with her. I will work harder to make sure she knows I’m always here for her. I’m going to build her a maze so she can have fun while she exercises her mind.


    • DanaNM
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      I’m glad she is perking up! I’m sure she would love a maze 🙂

      Bunnies are great teachers of many things, sounds like you have an excellent one. <3

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • LunaTheLionhead
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      She did love it. She was all over it.

      It’s a new day and I’m noticing she’s quiet again. It’s about 10 AM right now where I live, and I know rabbits are crepuscular, but up until now, Luna’s always been excited to see me in the mornings. She’d usually rattle the metal bars on her hutch to get my attention and ask to be let out/for petting. She’s hop out first thing every morning and circle my feet happily. Now, she just stays wherever she’s loafing and doesn’t care whoever comes into the room. I’m worried because she’s always been very demanding of cuddles and love, and now she seems fine with whatever. I tried to look for signs of discomfort, but she’s simply loafing/lying around. I even heard her tooth purring, without me even petting her! She looks perfectly content for a bunny, it’s just that… she doesn’t seem like herself. She eats, poops, drinks (in smaller quantities now, I think) but she looks perfectly happy, and it’s freaking me out! Last night when she was running away from me, she even flopped head first, paws up, once I stopped chasing her. She’s acting like a completely different rabbit; different routines, different behavior with people… but she seems happy. I’m scared, but then I look at her and she’s loafing and purring, and my brain short-circuits.


    • prince dorian the bun
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      sorry to hear about the vet experience, I had something like that with an elderly cat. My solution was to make sure I never dealt with that vet again, mind you that can be easier with cats and dogs if you have limited vets available. But if you have a choice don’t be scared to voice a preference.

      Aging is a hard process, you are likely going to have to deal with arthritis and maybe some litter box issues. Maybe even needing regular meds. They will also slow down and could have some behavior changes. This is all okay, and doesn’t mean you don’t still have quality time. My advice is look at worse case scenario, decided what you would want to do for cremation or what ever, and write down all the info and then try not to worry about that anymore, this helped me at least. You are now prepared for the worst and can deal with the happier if sometimes icky parts of helping your bun become a healthy senior. If it helps I was recently chatting to someone whose bun was 15 years old, so you may have many years ahead and my vet said so many issues that buns used to die of are now treatable so the life span is lengthening. Especially since she is spayed!


    • LBJ10
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      Bunnies slow down as they age. There will still be bursts of energy, of course, but you will probably notice more periods of rest. This isn’t anything to be concerned about. As long as they are still doing “normal” things, it’s probably safe to assume that they are simply slowing down a bit. Try not to stress too much. At 7 years old, it’s very likely she still has a lot of life left in her. 🙂


    • LunaTheLionhead
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      Thank you all for your advice. I’ve never had a pet I had the chance to bond with, so I’ve been dreading her loss pretty much since I’ve had her… I’ll be looking for ways to support her better as she ages. Thank you.

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Forum BEHAVIOR Bunny Mama worried about the aging process of her precious baby