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A mother rabbit napping with her kits: a pile of bunnies intermingled I was curious when I read about an angora rabbit rescue on Potentially Nervous, so I followed the link to the House Rabbit Network to find more information. Once there, I read that more than 100 rabbits “were rescued from a situation in Canada” and transported throughout the Northeastern United States. Twelve different organizations were thanked for their help in the rescue; many of these were specifically rabbit rescue organizations. I was shocked to learn there were so many rabbit rescues covering this geographic area – comparatively, when I recently researched Canadian rabbit rescues, I found they were few and far between. I was also struck by the lack of Canadian presence in the HRN’s story (apart from our being the source of these needy buns, that is). I decided to look more into it; this is what I learned:

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human down!

On the weekend I sprained my ankle big time. All I can say is, thank God Frank has another human to care for him. Mucking out litter boxes? Preparing meals? No, all I’m good for these days is cuddles.

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I’ve been careful about serving Frank parsley and spinach. He loves these foods, but they’re always identified as high in oxalates in the rabbit literature I read (see my Online Resources in the side-bar for a sample), and oxalates are in turn identified as toxic if allowed to build up in the system over time. So, we serve these foods sparingly (or else in large amounts for a few days, and not again for a couple of weeks).

Now I read on a site about the human diet that collards, and especially dandelion greens, are also high in oxalates (www.branwen.com/rowan/oxalate.htm). A surface google of “oxalates” seems to support this information, but I had never heard this before in regard to rabbits, and dandelion greens are a staple of Frank’s diet!

Next I read on a rabbit forum that most oxalates in the diet may not even be absorbed by the kidney, and are instead harmlessly excreted (www.rabbitsonline.net/view_topic.php?id=13618&forum_id=17).

Sure, I’ll ask the vet about this when our next visit rolls around, but what about you, dear reader? What do YOU know about oxalates, and how do you treat them?

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I started the Toronto Rabbit Cooperative a few years ago because I found myself struggling to find good local resources for Frank – like rabbit supplies, vets, etc. I hoped that maybe I could get lots of people to post their stores and vets and any local tips they knew, so it would be easier for people searching to find this information.

The TRC started out on a website that belonged to various WebRings, but since then I’ve moved it over to Facebook. I thought I’d post the results of the TRC project thus far here on FrankBlog, to serve a greater community than Facebook.

Please note that FrankBlog doesn’t necessarily endorse any of the following resources: they are, rather, the results of the TRC project. Please contribute to the TRC project by commenting here or by joining the group on Facebook.


Update 25 June 2010 The Toronto Rabbit Cooperative has moved yet again. Find us now at torontorabbits.org. Please note that this blog post is an archive: the information published below will not be updated, and comments have been disabled. Visit the TRC message board to post your comments and questions, and to find updated information.
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I haven’t mentioned this before, but the week before Frank fell ill we were gone. We hired someone to come in for daily feedings and cleanings, and our downstairs neighbour came up a few times for company, but Frank was mostly alone during this time. The sitter was wonderful about keeping in contact with us, she even sent us a few snapshots! He was fine when we arrived home and for many days afterwards, but I can’t help wondering if our long absence had an influence on him falling ill. I can say we’re never going to leave him for this long again. For weekends, okay, but not weeks. Maybe younger buns can handle that kind of adversity, but not an old guy like Frank.

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The new year so far has been terrible. I fell ill on the 28th, and as I started to feel better on the 31st it was only to realize something was wrong with Frank. We don’t yet know why, but he sunk into ileus on the 1st. I suspect this isn’t about a straightforward blockage. We’re still nursing him through the ileus, and we won’t discover the real problem for awhile. Here’s the timeline:

31-DEC-09

  • Mid-morning: A full litter box is scooped and replenished; Frank eats his breakfast and joins us in the bedroom for play-time; a perfectly normal bun.
  • Midday: Frank settles down to sleep as usual.
  • Afternoon: Frank rises briefly to drink some water.
  • Evening: Frank doesn’t rise for dinner or play and hasn’t pooped all day; this is unusual but we’ve seen him like this before only to rise normally overnight, so we aren’t very concerned.

1-JAN-10

  • Morning: Frank ate his dinner greens overnight but left his pellets and papaya tablet untouched; only a few poops in the litter-box; only a little water was consumed and urine output is on the low end; his mood is still reclusive, although he’s more responsive and relaxed than he was the last time (and only other time) we saw him in distress, so I feel hopeful.
  • Day: No change; I begin treating Frank for gas: Simethicone (three doses of 20mg over 3-4 hours) and stomach massage.
  • Early Afternoon: Frank lays down in his play-box for awhile, something he’s never done before, and panic is starting to set in; he hasn’t pooped, and now we’re finding cecotropes; I begin treating him for dehydration with watered-down Pedialyte and posting on discussion boards.
  • Afternoon: Frank stops taking the Pedialyte so we bring him to the emergency vet hospital where they give him a physical exam (he has a normal temperature and a yucky-feeling belly), sub-q fluids, a small shot of pain meds (Torbugesic 0.3mg/kg), and a motility agent (Metoclopramide 0.5mg/kg); total cost $202.13.
  • Night: Frank’s mood/behaviour doesn’t improve and he isn’t pooping or eating, although he’s peeing well and drinking some; we keep him warm with a heat-pack wrapped in a towel, and we sleep in his room on the sofa-bed.

2-JAN-10

  • Morning: We call the vet when they open and bring him in immediately; they give him a physical exam (still a normal temperature) and outline a treatment plan consisting of meds and fluids, 3 days stay, and diagnostics (blood work, x-ray), costing a total of $2,000; we decline, and they outline plan B: meds to go home with us (Torbugesic, Metoclopramide, and Cisapride; and Critical Care), blood-work, and fluids administered that day and the next, to a total cost of $8-900; we agree and pay $609.09 for the day.
  • Day to Evening: Frank’s mood/behaviour slowly improves; some water consumption and lots of peeing; he’s pretty obedient with taking his meds; no poops yet, he eats some cecotropes and leaves others behind.

3-JAN-10

  • Morning: Frank poops overnight, small little things; we return to the vets for more sub-q fluids; poops are consistently coming, although still very small and misshapen; blood test results show low red blood cells and poor liver functions, so after a quick re-test we agree to a shot of iron and an appointment for the 11th to re-test for liver functions; a more in-depth exam of the mouth (involving a scope in the back-room) reveals some tooth spurs but no ulcers in the mouth (yet); possible causes of this bout of GI Stasis are described as liver problems (although this could also be as a result of the GI Stasis – hence the re-test scheduled for next week), dental discomfort (if Frank slips back after we stop the pain meds, that would be a sign), or physical blockage; bill comes to $180.94.

Since then I’ve been nursing Frank at home (luckily I have the week off work anyway). It’s been very exhausting and stressful, but Frank is slowly recovering. For awhile he was eating his Critical Care from a spoon, but yesterday, with his improving mood, he started resisting his meds and we’re back to syringe-feeding; he also started misbehaving last night, biting at baseboards and wire-guards. His activity levels are getting better, but he still isn’t really cuddling with us; although, he has started spending more time on his usual outlooks/places around the room. He’s been wary of us since getting sick, as we’ve been “bothering” him frequently with meds and belly massage.

Water, greens, and hay consumption, and urine output, have returned to normal or near-normal levels. He’s still not eating many pellets, just a bite or two here and there. His feces is looking more normal every day (in size, amount, shape, and consistency – they were a little mushy for awhile there). On the 4th and 5th we spoke with the vets on the phone, but today there hasn’t been a need. We’ve been slowly reducing his Critical Care. We’re still spending nights in his room.

It’s down to waiting, now, to see what happens when he goes off his meds and has another blood test. If this is about a dental problem, we’ll give him the surgery to grind down the spurs (although the last time he was put to sleep for surgery he had a bad reaction and gave the vets a good scare). If it’s about a liver problem, there isn’t much we can do for him. The vet started talking about ultrasounds and this and that, which we can’t afford, so she switched to talking about milk thistle (I think) and other things we can do to “support” liver function. That is what it will come down to. He is an old bun and anyway you can’t squeeze money from a rock (we’re the rock), no matter how much you want to.

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bun-sitting a success!

Last weekend we left town because a relative asked us to visit. We were happy to take the trip partly because it allowed us to wet our feet with our new pet-sitter by engaging her for a weekend before the 7 days we’ve reserved her for over Christmas.

We liked this set-up so much that in the future if we need a new sitter we’ll make a point of planning a short trip first, not only to calm our nerves by increasing our familiarity with the process, but also for the learning experience, because a miscommunicated detail may be of minor importance on a short trip but could easily turn major on a long trip.

Everything went very well, though: we even kept in contact through text messages! (Sorry, that’s txt msgs. Ha! Not really: I only abbreviate when absolutely necessary. Abbreviate the thought, not the word, that’s what I say.)

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bunny-sitting part 2

Last weekend we met with our future bunny-sitter after calling a couple of her references the week before. (The other prospective sitter I mentioned never responded to my last e-mail.) We’ve requested her services for a weekend in early November and 8 days over Christmas-time. She mostly deals with cats and dogs, but she has experience with rabbits, too. She charges $15 per day (1 visit per day), which I think is very reasonable. She lives close by, and she has a car and is willing to bring Frank to the vet’s in case of trouble. I’m so pleased! I know having a professional sitter will ease my mind while I’m away. We’ll still probably have a friend of ours pop by now and again for cuddles and possibly feedings, but she won’t have to do the litter and she won’t be responsible for Frank’s general wellbeing. I’m really happy to pay someone to do that: the monetary transaction really gives me a sense of security.

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Something I believe that is fundamental to humanity is our free will, our ability to choose. Everyone has heard about the concept of free will, but what is meant by it — its significance and implications on our existence — is not always clear. I think it means different things to different people, and to some people, likely nothing. I’ve been considering the concept of free will for awhile, and what I’m thinking now is that one thing free will means is I have choice in how I conduct myself in my day-to-day life. I can and must choose, for example, what food to eat, what clothing to wear, and how to behave on the streetcar. We must, unavoidably, choose from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. Not every choice we make is made consciously, some are made through habit, others through reflex or instinct, but every choice does have consequences, and I believe we have a responsibility to consider those consequences.

When I chose to bring Frank home, the consequence of my choice was that Frank was placed under my care to the exclusion of all others. Not only did the quantifiable fact of his care become my responsibility, but also the quality of that care; and the degree to which Frank flourished or floundered while under my care became dependent on the choices I made, whether consciously or not. For example, once I had chosen to feed Frank, I had to choose what to feed him. At the time, the two choices available to me were to buy pellets from the small dry-goods store in Kensington market where I had seen a bin labelled “rabbit food,” or to research alternatives.

I think one of the biggest failures of our society is that we don’t often choose to research alternatives. We often choose not to discover the hidden consequences of those choices we are most familiar with. When was the last time you evaluated your pet’s diet, habitat, play behaviour, or medical care? When was the last time you sought out new resources? How many people buy their rabbit food at that store in Kensington? Have they asked about its ingredients? Have they researched their rabbit’s dietary needs and functions?

Something I learned a few years ago is that we should define ourselves as constantly trying. Perfection is impossible, but we must strive for perfection anyway. We must never be satisfied with what we think we know. Most importantly, we must recognize when we’ve sunken into a smug funk, and we must raise ourselves out of it! I try to apply this to everything I do.

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Braved the outdoors today to buy a fan for Frank — he’s had ours the last two nights, and we want it back! We wanted a tall fan with a good reach and, if possible, a metal base Frank won’t be tempted to munch on. Canadian Tire, Sears, and the Bay were wiped out; but Honest Ed’s came through, and for $15!

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