I know I haven’t explained what happened last week, but the answer is nothing drastic: just a steady decline. Frank never started eating on his own after his surgery. We fed him Critical Care every few hours, and watered-down Pedialyte even more often (and meds, and belly massage), but he was losing weight and dehydrating anyway. He lost interest in everything but snuggling, and even then he was listless. His eyes were glassy, he was always in discomfort (if not pain), and he’d given up on the litter box. He just wasn’t living anymore.

Life without Frank has been and continues to be a difficult adjustment. I miss his presence very much.

Coming to accept the events of his life, particularly of these last few months, has also been difficult.

In the aftermath, particularly in looking over this blog, things seem crystallised — I hope somewhat illusorily. Because as I scroll down, past the posts of his final illness, I see a picture of Frank taken in profile a few months before his death, and I see a bump at his throat and I think, my God, how couldn’t I have noticed? And I scroll further down to last October when I found the inflammation on his chin, and I’m afraid to think this could have been going on so long, and that I may have been the cause of it through one incident of accidental rough grooming. And, I must admit, I’m afraid of my readers doing the same, and thinking the same. But I don’t believe it’s really like that. Other pictures that I have reveal Frank always had a slight dewlap; and that, from many angles, the bump in his throat, around March and since then, was not at all distinct; also, he was examined by a vet in May; and, until two weeks ago he showed no signs of discomfort or ill health — so I’m trying not to blame myself for not noticing. And if I had noticed earlier, I’m not at all sure the final outcome would have been any different. As for the inflammation last October, I think I did what I could in response to misfortune. I had Frank examined by the vet, I had a cell sample tested, I kept an eye on it, and the swelling went away. The vet said Frank could well have simply jabbed himself with a sharp piece of hay as he grazed, and she wasn’t very concerned. Maybe my fears are right and it was my rough grooming that did it but, either way, it was a small injury sustained in the normal course of daily life. I don’t know if it’s connected to the tumour or not (the test of which, by the way, came back “undiagnostic”), but if it was, what could I have done about it? This is what I keep asking and I keep answering: Nothing. I can only hope my readers agree with me, but if you don’t, you can learn from my experiences. I won’t be enabling comments on this post and I don’t want feedback on this issue (unless you are a doctor! because I do plan to look into this, some day); rather, I am writing this for the sake of closure. I am closing this blog, tying up loose ends. It is mine to do.

Thank you, everyone, for your comments over the years. In joyous times and difficult times, you have uplifted and sustained me, and Frank as well. Warmest wishes to you and your own beloved bunnies.


Frank Rabbit
Beloved bun
Euthanized quarter past 10 in the morning
on Monday, May 30th, 2011

In spite of everything, Frank is still my beautiful, friendly, naughty boy.

Brown rabbit sitting in litter box, a little hunched up and non-responsive but with one ear cocked toward photographer

Yesterday, hunched-up, hiding (the litter is not his usual hangout), in pain, sad, but still curious re. interlopers (note his right ear)

Brown house rabbit, sitting on pink blanket, grooming left hind foot, looking at photographer out of corner of eye

Today after his 2:30 feeding: pretending to groom, but really waiting for me to turn my back so he can pee on our sofa (a favourite activity of late)

Brown rabbit standing in litter box, facing photographer, alert (if disgruntled) expression on his face

A minute or so later, perturbed that I caught him and dumped him in his litter box; "Fine, I peed here instead, now WHAT DO YOU WANT?"

The vet found irritation on Frank’s tongue on Tuesday, so he went in for surgery on Wednesday, but they didn’t find a molar spur. They found a huge tumour in his throat. It was so big, growing up and over his back teeth (Jesus!). When they found it, they called me and asked if I wanted him put down, because I could not afford the complicated careful removal procedure, and I said okay, but then they looked more closely and said they felt a slash and burn might be successful, so that’s what they did. (I’m sorry, I do not know the technical names of the different procedures at this point.) They’ve sent the thing off to be tested, so we’ve yet to learn whether it’s malignant or benign.

Frank is home now, but he still can’t swallow solid food. Is that because there’s more tumour in there, or because of swelling from the surgery? We won’t know for a few days.

I have worried at times the surgery was a mistake: he’s so old, am I just prolonging his misery? But, no, I’m quite sure the only thing I would be saving if I’d put him to sleep when they found the tumour is money. Frank tried so hard to keep living in spite of this thing. It must have been growing for a long time, and by the end (the vet says) it must have been painful to even close his mouth! But did he ever give up? No, he only stopped eating when he physically no longer could, and even then he stayed happy and active. Both times he returned from the vet he was in such high spirits, running into the kitchen and asking for food, sure (I believe) that he’d been cured. Both times he became (I believe) depressed upon realizing that he hadn’t been, but he bounces back: his mood in the evenings especially is lovely, he tries to nibble greens and hay, and occasionally he eats his own Critical Care and drinks his own water.

The vets said “we gave him a fighting chance” and I think that is right. He has been fighting, and now we’ve given him a chance. If he doesn’t recover, well, at least we tried as much as Frank has been trying. And if he does recover, even if only for another few months before the next disaster strikes, I think it was worth it.

So in the mean time it’s back to force-feeding and force-hydration, but at least he eats his meds on his own (I put them in a ramekin — I’m sure they’re super sugary). Belly massage, belly massage, belly massage! He continues to poo and pee, but his poops still don’t look so hot (understandable), but I think he may have started eating his cecals again! And he’s been struggling with gas (again, understandable considering all the syringe feeding). Yesterday was unbelievable. He was so swollen I thought maybe it was Bloat (and, thus, the end) but I kept rubbing in case it wasn’t. I rubbed and rubbed, and there was much gurgling, and then there was SUCH gurgling, his whole body rumbled, Frank opened his eyes wide and stretched his body out… seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it, even in humans. I never actually heard him pass it but he must have because the bloating went down and the rumbling stopped.

dental, maybe?

I guess, at this point, dental trouble could either be the cause or result of Frank’s not eating hay, but I’m very suspicious now about him feeling discomfort or pain in his mouth. I’ve caught him moving his mouth about in odd ways this whole time, and eating in what I thought of as a careful way. Now he’s dropping his food and eating less and less of it. He has great trouble swallowing his cecotropes. He noses around in his food and shows interest but he’ll only take tiny bites, and he’ll take forever to eat them, and as he does little pieces will drop out of his mouth. We’re largely relying on Critical Care at this point, and we’re mixing Pedialyte into his water. His poops are still regular but they’re becoming smaller and conical-shaped.

I’m going to try and get him a vet appointment tomorrow afternoon on grounds of emergency.

If we don’t find any obvious problems in his mouth (irritation on tongue or cheeks, big molar spikes), I wonder if Frank is just getting old, finicky, senile? I wonder if we’d see any improvement with a course of meloxicam (an anti-inflammatory and analgesic)? If so, would this be a for-the-rest-of-his-life situation? It’s hard not going over all the possibilities in my head but, on the other hand, somewhat pointless until I hear what the vet has to say…

I am not a good nurse. I just had a rough session with force-feeding, and now I feel rather sick to my stomach. How will I be able to keep this up?

Frank has deteriorated somewhat. He’s still in a fine mood, but he didn’t touch his breakfast pellets, so now he’s on Critical Care (followed by force-water, which is really way worse than the force-feeding bit). His poops (fecals) overnight were fine, but we haven’t seen many yet today; nor have we seen any unformed cecotropes/mushy poops, but we have seen a lot of normal cecotropes… normal except for the fact that he’s not eating them! The last ones appeared as I was preparing the CC so I mixed them in. I don’t know if that will even work, as he might have accidentally chewed them before swallowing, and I’ve heard that ruins them. (Also, I think he noticed what I was doing and was not impressed.)

Now S is giving him belly massage while I decompress. We might have to break out the Pedialyte soon. He’s not dehydrated, but he’s resisting the force-water more and more, and the less water in his system, the more likely the onset of GI stasis.

I have to admit, I’m feeling resentful of our vets at this point. Finally we’ve learned enough to catch a problem early on, and what good does it do us? He won’t be seen until Wednesday or Thursday: almost a week after we first noticed something was wrong. And, of course, if we fail in our efforts to keep him stable and he goes into GI stasis, then back we are at the 24/7 emerg, no better off than we were as newbies who didn’t notice a thing until it was too late. Logically speaking, I know I can’t blame them: only I am responsible for the things I’ve taken responsibility for, and I guess it’s nothing but foolishness to think of a vet office as anything other than a business. My problem isn’t really them: it’s my own powerlessness. And really, it’s nothing but bad luck, what’s going on here. But, let me tell you, it doesn’t feel good.

not feeling so hot

Well, poor Frankie’s in cecal dysbiosis. Maybe. Or he’s tottering on the edge. Or he’s okay?

I apologise for the amateur diagnosis, I’m just trying to understand what’s going on. My cause for concern? Frank’s not eating any (or hardly any) hay. This has been going on at least three days now. And I’m concerned because a diet low in fibre (whatever its reason) will lead to a sick rabbit, yes? Other signs of ill health I’ve observed are:

  • Reduced appetite (I already mentioned he’s ignoring his hay, but he’s also been sluggish with his greens, pellets, and water)
  • Occurrence of unformed cecals (i.e. mushy poops, some large like fecals but they’re not fecals, they smell and feel like cecals — this does make sense, considering the lack of hay consumption; I found a pile of five or so found yesterday; today, only one so far)

We’re not in emergency mode. He’s still peeing and pooping fine (aside from those mushy cecals). His mood, mobility, and energy levels are normal. But I am worried.

My first plan is to stave off ileus, for which my ideas consist of:

  • Forcing water (which I’ve already started doing)
  • Belly massage (started yesterday evening)
  • Papaya enzyme tablets (he’s been on “moult-levels,” i.e. 60mg/day, since his vet appointment last month when the vet felt a little something, maybe fur, in his belly)
  • Simethicone if I suspect gas (I did give him one dose yesterday)
  • Forcing Critical Care, Pedialyte (if he stops eating, drinking)
  • Maybe the vet will give me some pain meds tomorrow (like Torbugesic) in case ileus sets in over the weekend? (I already have some leftover motility drugs, i.e. Metoclopramide)
  • And, of course, encourage encourage encourage!! (I even went out and bought more grass hay today, so now we have four varieties!)

My second plan is to figure out WHY he’s gone off the hay.

  • My first idea is: dental trouble
  • I don’t have a second idea, but I know it could be any number of things

Obviously I need a vet to help me with my plans, but the long weekend is coming up and both my vets are booked solid tomorrow. If it turns into emergency, I’ll go by the closer of the two and they’ll try to squeeze him in. And there’s always (God forbid) the 24/7. Tomorrow I’ll call the vet and ask for a brief consultation, at least.

These two links have informed me:

If you have insight into what’s going on here, please share it with me!

a new vet

We tried Frank out on a new vet last month. It’s much, much closer to home than our regular vet’s (I actually walked Frank home! in a carrier, of course; and picked up hay on the way!), so I’ve been eager to test them out ever since I found out they take rabbits now. Turns out their rabbit vet used to work at our regular vet’s! I came prepared with a list of screening questions but I only asked two or three, he so clearly knew what he was doing.

The new place is smaller and more informal than our regular place, which admittedly has its drawbacks (e.g. efficiency is not exactly prioritized, so everything took a long time), but for me they’re greatly outweighed by the benefits (so far).

Our regular vet’s is a large hospital and while the doctors and techs are always willing to answer our questions, I can feel their anxiety about keeping to schedule and getting the next patient in. They don’t always review Frank’s file beforehand so I find myself explaining things I’d already explained and referring to things from previous visits they didn’t remember. At times it’s been like pulling teeth to get them to help us to help Frank at home; they’ve been condescending at times (not so much in tone, but in their approach). I understand of course that many rabbit owners are irresponsible and don’t know what they’re doing, but I should think that if you approach me without prejudice as an individual and consider the things I’m saying and doing, it would be clear that I’m not a rabbit-ignorant fool. They’re also a teaching hospital with a lot of tech turnover, which I understand the need for but don’t enjoy at all: Frank has been occasionally mishandled and three times almost dropped.

Conversely, at our visit to the new place, the vet sat on a stool and did most of the physical with Frank on his lap, and for the rest of the time I held him in the typical pose instead of a tech doing it. I liked that a lot and I think Frank did, too; the “front paw shakes” never set in once! He also suggested taking a sterile urine sample (cystocentesis), which had never been done before (I’d always collected the urine myself), and he recommended I have him send the urine out for an extra test when he saw the results (he found some bacteria but, long story short: false alarm, hoorah!). I don’t think of it as a waste of money. I’m happy to switch up the normal procedures for Frank’s diagnostics now and then. You never know what one test will miss, or one set of eyes! And, overall, this vet’s is a little less expensive than the hospital. We also got the results back from his basic tests (urine and blood) way faster, within a day or two! I guess they have testing facilities on-site? I did notice, however, the exam room wasn’t equipped with the fancy-pants deep-scope-and-screen that the hospital has (which has been used a number of times on Frank’s mouth and ears).

I guess I’ll use the nearby place for regular visits, and keep the hospital as a back-up for second opinions and for times when high-tech could be useful.

A healthy Frank!… To be honest, I was almost hoping Frank did have a bladder infection, somehow missed all these years, and that it would explain his messy habits and nipple obsession. I don’t like not knowing. I’m afraid of hearing, down the road, a much more terrible explanation than something a simple course of antibiotics could fix…

Frank is getting old. He’s at least 10; possibly 13, 14 years of age!

We’ve been watching for signs of aging for awhile. He gets annual diagnostics (fecal, urinalysis, bloodwork), but his vets are mostly concerned about mobility issues. I think he’s fine on that front. (He has, on the rare occasion, displayed signs of a splay in his right hind leg when he’s stressed out; and he does have an odd habit of licking obsessively the area around his lower right nipple; and he does pee on himself in his sleep regularly; and he did, for the first time, need his vent cleaned out today; but he also chases our ankles, jumps up and down from the sofa, runs through tunnels, crouches under cabinets, uses his litter box daily…)

Frank does seem a little needier, though, and more sensitive to disruption. When we had the apartment painted earlier this month, we kept him in his room the whole time (about 10 days), and he became short-tempered with us (nipping during grooming, etc.) and territorial (peeing on the sofa, poops everywhere).

He might also be going senile. It’s like he can no longer distinguish, before it’s too late, a cecal from fecal pellet. Always we find half-munched poops these days, and often I see him swishing his mouth around (as though there’s a cecotrope in there) only to watch him spit out some poo. Yuck! What’s up, dude? We saw the vet today and he had nothing to say except to half-joke, as I have, that Frank’s starting to lose it.

The important thing is that he’s still happy and active. I will count my blessings!

Any advice for an elderbun companion?

Frank made it on to Disapproving Rabbits!

He certainly earned it. He was rather disgruntled when I disturbed him.

Photo of a brown rabbit sitting on a hardwood floor, angled from below (taken from the floor), his eyes are narrowed, the distinctive shape of his rabbit-mouth visible (i.e. down-turned, so he looks disapproving)

But we know he’s all bark and no bite.

Two photos of a brown rabbit on a hardwood floor, taken from eye level: in the first, he crouches and noses in toward the camera; in the second, he's laying down, squished-out

On another note (on to my disapproval now), Frank’s been chewing his poops. Not his cecotropes, but his fecal pellets; and he doesn’t eat them, just chews them. I know everybunny does this sometimes, but Frank’s been doing it a lot! What gives?

And in yet other news, I’ve posted a new scrapbook page.