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Forum HOUSE RABBIT Q & A Quality of Life at 9

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    • Deleted User
      22058 posts Send Private Message

      My rabbit Conker is 9 this year and has gone through a lot of sudden changes. I am just becoming familiar with his care. A few months ago, I noticed he was blind and took him into the vet who diagnosed him with arthritis and sent him home with pain meds and physical therapy. He has always had an on-and-off watery eye, but after his cataracts grew his eyes started constantly oozing white discharge and he would sneeze several times in a row a few times a day. His vet gave him antibiotic eye drops, but the problem persisted, so the vet gave him a round of trimeth-sulfate and then a round of baytril.

      During this time, I moved Conker from a small cage to a bigger pen for the first time. The more I took him to the vet and handled him to clean and give medicine, it seems like for the first time in his life he’s getting worse and worse. He’s always been an amazingly resilient and excited rabbit, but as soon as I started trying to change his lifestyle for what I hoped to be the better, his health problems started getting worse and worse and worse all at once and I have no idea what’s going on. Is all this too stressful for him because I started too late in his life?

      While he’s been on meds, he started eating less and smacking his mouth. He recently had his teeth filed and it seems to have helped his appetite a bit but he still doesn’t get as excited about food as he used to. He still rubs his mouth on the side of his litter box, and recently I discovered that he has a lot of matted fur under his chin crusted over with critical care. Something similar happened recently with diarrhea behind his leg and I’ve tried several times to soak and clean these areas out but it is very stressful for both of us and he reacts as though the areas are painful. I am going to call his vet today and hope they can clean or clip the fur because I think he is very uncomfortable.

      When he came back from his tooth filing, he first started trying to groom out the leftover poop from behind his leg and I noticed he was turning his head to the left and shifting his eyes back and forth over and over. Every once in a while he’d run in circles until he fell over or ran into something. He did this all day between sleeping. Now he keeps his head turned to the left all the time, and sleeps with his head left and his nose on the ground. He can look forward and to the right, but sometimes it seems like his head slowly drifts back on its own, and gradually he has just kind of stayed that way most of the time. He is a little less coordinated but not totally rolling around. It looks painful how far he keeps his neck crooked. His vet is now suggesting a parasite called e. cuniculi, but he said it is a diagnosis of exclusion so we would have to put Conker through literally every test to find out.

      The thing is, I don’t know if all the tests are what’s making him worse? It’s so hard to understand because he really has brushed off everything in his life and never even looked depressed until he started going to the vet and taking medicine. Now he can’t really eat or play with his toys. I don’t know if it’s because his meloxicam makes him sleepy, but he doesn’t like to move or lift his head as much. The worst part about that is he insists on sleeping in his own pee in the new pen – he puts his front paws in the litter box and pees right in front of it, then turns around and lays in the pee, and every time I change out the pad he instantly pees there again and then lays in it. I can tell he wants to eat. He’s always loved food, but it seems like he’s having trouble. I want to do all the tests in hopes that it will find any fix that will get him back to feeling like he was, but I have no idea if I’m doing something wrong here and he wants to be left alone. He’s not used to being handled by so many different people and prodded at all the time… did I initiate change too late?

      How do I know when Conker has had enough and it’s no longer beneficial to him to go through tests and treatments? He changed so quickly this year from the curious hungry bunny I’ve always known to either running around frantically or barely looking alive. It’s hard for me to even hold him because he hurts or stresses out. I can’t really engage him with anything… He doesn’t even want to chew for fun, just when his mouth hurts I think. I just really have no idea how he feels now or how his life really is. It seems like I’m somehow hurting him the harder I try, so I’m scared to do anything. I wonder if I should’ve gotten him the new pen and just left him alone after all this time.

      How will I know if/when he is not able to get enjoyment out of his life anymore? Thank you for reading.

    • Bam
      15217 posts Send Private Message

      I’m very sorry for you and Conker.

      Head tilt and nystagmus as you describe are as a rule due to either an ear infection or e cuniculi. The tests for e cuniculi are notoriously unreliable and may produce false negatives. Many vets will treat on suspicion. Treatment consists of 4 weeks of Panacur (fenbendazole), plus often meloxicam, sometimes Baytril, sometimes also an antihistamine to help with vertigo and nausea.

      There is also the possibility that this is a combination of an ear infection and e cuniculi. E cuniculi is opportunistic in that the rabbit can carry the parasite all its life, (the bun can even be born with the parasite) but the parasite doesn’t do much (or any)  harm until the rabbit’s immune defense is challenged in some way. Once e cuniculi gets the chance to thrive and proliferate, one of its effects is that it suppresses the immune defense further. E cuniculi can cause  cataracts (but old age can of course also bring on cataracts).

      There are still things that point to an ear infection though. (Ear infections are more common in lop rabbits than in up-eared rabbits. In lops, ear infection should always be suspected). An upper respiratory infection can travel from the mouth/nose to the ears via the ear trumpet. URIs in rabbits can need several weeks of antibiotics, but once the bacteria have reached the middle ear, oral antibiotics may not be enough to clear the infection.

      -To be continued-

    • Bam
      15217 posts Send Private Message

      An ear infection of the middle ears are best seen on skull x rays. X rays are also the best way to see and determine the severity of dental problems. There are dental problems that are so extensive that they can’t be fixed, and in those cases, pain relief and adjustment of the diet are the only things you can do.

      Did the antibiotics help with the runny eyes and sneezing?

      To me it seems that Conker may be experiencing pain. E cuniculi doesn’t typically cause pain, but ear infections are very painful, and so are of course severe dental problems. What dose meloxicam is he on now?

      The changes you’ve made to his living area could be confusing to him. If he has (or has had) a bad ear infection, he is most likely deaf. He is also blind. Thus he is extra dependent on a highly predictable environment. It’s lovely of you to want to improve his life with more space etc, but it might not be what he needs right now.

      As for how long you should treat- it is as you say about his quality of life. We dont want to put our pets through suffering if there’s little hope of restoring or maintaining good quality of life. There are several free on line tools that that can help you assess quality of life in your pet, based on what you observe.




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Forum HOUSE RABBIT Q & A Quality of Life at 9