Medical Treatments and Health Care Advice for Rabbits

by Laurie Stroupe

Finding Sound Advice in times of Emergency

Other breeders are a wonderful source of information and misinformation about how to treat rabbits for illness and parasites. So how do you tell the difference between sound advice and a common mis-perception? I wish I knew the whole answer to that question, but here are some ideas.

First, when you post a question on a rabbit group, do not take the first answer you get. Wait until others have had a chance to reply to the answer. You may find that your first responder is in the minority with the suggested treatment. I often see responses that I feel are in conflict with published veterinary information. But someone often pipes up with a correction by the next day.

Never take the advice of just one breeder on anything. Even the best breeders in the nation may have holes in their knowledge. Or, their herds may have been bred over time to tolerate the treatment of their breeder (after all, the ones who could not tolerate it died off over time or were not bred because they weren’t seen as being hardy enough). What works for them may not work for anyone else.

I heard a story of a breeder who sprayed his rabbits’ feet with Lysol after shows to reduce infection. He apparently could do that with his herd and get away with it. Yet somehow, I don’t think that advice would work with everyone.

Be sure to read directions carefully. Did the advice say to use a 1% solution or a 5% solution? Was it Pen G or Pen B? Was that an oral administration or an injection? Was the injection intramuscular or subcutaneous? Was it 1 cc or 0.1 cc? And was that per rabbit or per pound?

You might ask anyone giving advice whether they have used the treatment themselves or whether they just heard about the treatment. Bad advice can be passed along as quickly as good advice, especially if no one has had the need to actually use it.

Excellent Medical and Health Care Resources for Pet and Show Rabbit Owners

Check the advice you receive against The Merck Veterinary Manual – Edition Online. Besides information on drugs and anti-parasitic treatments, the manual contains more general articles on rabbit breeding and care.

Also, you can check the Drug Dosage Calculator For Rabbits to see if the recommendations you are getting make sense. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to convert the dosage to something practical (0.5 mg means what in cc’s?). But by comparing the information on the treatment package, you may be able to figure it out.

One common piece of information that I see conflict on is ivermectin. I’ve seen 0.1 cc per pound recommended. I personally believe that the dosage is 0.027 cc per pound, or 0.81 for a 3 lb. rabbit and just over 1/10 of a cc for a 4 lb. rabbit (0.108). [Remember, I am not a vet.] I have an acquaintance who is a Holland breeder and a vet. His wife and I were talking one day and she said that he gives 1/10 cc per rabbit. I asked twice, because I had always heard it was per pound. But she was very clear that it was per rabbit (referring to our Holland lops, of course, I’m sure the dose would be different for a Flemish Giant!).

I give my ivermectin orally. I have dropped it on the fur, but my rabbits almost always lose a patch of fur around the drops (even rabbits that had no signs of fur mites).

Click for a more detailed article on treating vent disease in rabbitsAnother area that I see a lot of conflicting information on is vent disease. There are numerous ideas on how to identify vent disease. I recently saw a photograph of vent disease that looked nothing like any other example I’d been shown. I feel that any difference seen in the vent area is often called vent disease when it may be in reality hutch burn or a simpler irritation. I’m not qualified to say for certain, however.

Treatment for vent disease varies as well. I do not believe that topical penicillin preparations are sufficient to treat true vent disease (but may be sufficient for minor irritations). I think that Pen B, not Pen G, is the way to go. But I would advise anyone who thinks they may need to treat for vent disease to research it thoroughly first.

I will say that I’ve had a couple of does to stop producing. I thought perhaps they had asymptomatic vent disease, so I treated them (and their partners) with Pen B. They did start producing again. It may be that my guess was correct. But my more recent research suggests a low grade infection might have actually been the cause and the Pen G corrected it. It’s certainly a topic where the more I learn, the more I find I do not know.

Considering that I don’t have access to a really good rabbit-savvy vet in our small town, other breeders and information published on the web, along with culling, are my best tools for dealing with rabbit disease and injury. As long as I am a careful consumer of the information available to me, I think most things will work out just fine.

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