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I am not in favour of children having rabbits as pets, but if you do decide to go ahead and buy your child a bunny, there are a few guidelines which should be followed.
Many parents say they want to get a rabbit for their child to teach the child some responsibility. What usually happens is that the child loses interest (not to mention being incapable of sticking to a routine and providing proper care), and the rabbit suffers. The child, at best, learns to feel bad that she has failed and caused suffering. At worst, she learns to resent the animal for the nagging that she is hearing from the adult. Often, the rabbit is given away because “you didn’t take care of it”. The child learns that life is disposable and that if she waits long enough, someone else will relieve her of her “responsibility’.
So, let your child help with the rabbit, but don’t insist. If the child appears interested, encourage her; if she becomes bored, let her move on to the next thing, and you carry on with the rabbit. She learns most of all from watching you-your actions, your tone of voice when you speak to the rabbit, and your attitude. From this she learns the nurturing point of view- the patient waiting, the faithful caring, the joyful appreciation and acceptance of a living creature for who it is, not who you wish it to be.

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Dear Rabbit Owners

Yesterday we had a huge cloud burst which lasted pretty much the whole afternoon and evening.  We were out in the afternoon celebrating Dylan, our son’s second birthday, so was worried about Marge who was somewhere in the garden.  Before we had left to go out, I had locked up Pillsbury and Chelsea Bun, so I knew they would be dry, but couldn’t find Marge.  When we got home I searched for her, but still, she was no where to be found.  She is now about 8 years old, so I really don’t like the idea of her being drenched by the rain.  Often during the hot summer evenings she stays out and I just leave the gate for the picket fence open, also with her house door open, so she can at least have access to her food and water.  So once again I did this and went to bed.  This morning when I went outside to check on her, I found her lying on her towel in her house albeit saturated.  She is a strong willed bun and when her day comes when she goes to the rainbow bridge, I will have peace of mind that she has had a fantastic life!

Today’s newsletter will cover the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables in your rabbit’s diet.

Along with a high fibre pellet and hay, vegetables make a wonderful addition to your rabbit’s diet.  The high water content helps keep the intestinal tract hydrated and moving correctly.  Carrot tops, fennel, dill, parsley, coriander, basil, red and green peppers and turnips are all suitable to feed to your rabbit.  Contrary to belief, carrots are not very good for rabbits because they are far too high in sugar and carbohydrates, but if you must, feed your rabbit only small amounts.  Rabbits love apples and pears but again the high levels of sugar will stimulated the growth of the wrong kind of bacteria in the intestine, predisposing them to gas, which is very painful and can be life threatening.  Again only feed fruit in small quantities, preferably once a week.  The bottom line is be consistent in the vegetables you feed your rabbit.  Cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower should be avoided as they are all gas forming and never feed potatoes, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, nuts or anything containing sugar.

Do’s and don’ts


Uneaten fruit and vegetables should be discarded.  The same goes for the hay.  Keep it in a rack or bowl so it does not get soiled.Always give a variety of vegetables, so that your rabbit can have a nutritious diet.

Fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly.

Never give food directly from the refrigerator.

Canned, cooked or frozen vegetables should never be given.

Always refrain from using chemicals in your own vegetable and herb garden.  For this reason be careful when picking wild plants or letting your rabbit eat grass that has been sprayed with insecticide.

Never feed your rabbit sugar, as it increases the bad bacteria in the intestines and can cause disease resulting in diarrhea and loss of appetite.

Each rabbit should eat approximately 1 cup of fresh food a day, but this should be divided into two meals.  One in the morning and one at night.

A good diet, together with good excercise will help your rabbit live a long and healthy life.

Before I finish off, there is a beautiful neutered bunny called Chocolate needing a good home in the Cape Town area.  He is litter box trained.  If anyone is interested, please email me.

Take careRegards

Brandy

Dear Rabbit Owners

Sorry for the late email. I have had no Internet connection for a week.

A week ago I planted 3 basil plants. One in a big pot and the other two in the herb garden where my previous basil plant thrived, until the monkeys up-rooted it. I noticed that the 2 plants in the herb garden would get new leaves, but then by the end of the day there was not a leaf in sight. On the other hand the plant in the pot, was green and growing rapidly. I couldn’t understand this and even asked my husband if he could work out what was eating the two plants. Then it dawned on me. Theses two plants were right at the entrance of Marge’s sleeping place. She has different places in the garden where she sleeps, but lately has chosen to sleep in the shrubs near the herb garden. Looks like I am going to have to grow all my herbs in pots.

Today I want to talk about urinary problems in the pet rabbit.

Bladder and Urinary problems

Sometimes a bladder problem can go un-noticed, but usually there are some very noticeable symptoms. Firstly you will notice that your rabbit who always had impeccable litterbox habits is not always making it to the toilet in time and when he is in his litterbox he is seen straining to pass a few drops of urine. Sometimes the fur around the tail area will be wet and matted from frequent urinating or there will even be blood in the urine. This is not to be confused with red urine which is usually caused from eating carrots and other red or orange vegetables. Rabbit’s urine varies in colour from clear yellow to brown to bright red. This is normal, but when the urine becomes thick, white and sludgy your rabbit needs a visit to the vet. Unfortunately rabbits do not metabolise calcium very well and unabsorbed calcium is excreted through the kidneys into the bladder. This is why it is so important for rabbits to get plenty of exercise and water to flush out the kidneys. Vegetables with a high water content will also help, as well as a low calcium pellet.

Urinary infections can be treated with Baytril which is a safe anti-biotic for rabbits. Your veterinarian will prescribe this. More disappointing problems are bladder stones and crystals. Large stones may need to be surgically removed, and it is advisable to ration or eliminate pellets entirely from your rabbits diet thereafter to help reduce the calcium intake. Routine checkups should be done via ultrasound or x-ray, making sure that no more stones are formed.

I am sure a lot of you have noticed that the Bunny Chow price has increased. We are in the process of trying to find a new place to pellet Bunny Chow for us as we are having to pay very high transport costs. Hopefully we will be using a company much closer to us, to cut down costs.

Until next time

Take care

Regards

Brandy

Digestion

Dear Rabbit Owners

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas that 2009 is a good year for you.

Two days ago it was very cloudy, so I decided to keep Marge locked up for the day. It is not easy cleaning out the buns houses when she is around, as I have to make sure the she is kept separate from the other two. While I was fetching them fresh water from the room next door to them, I heard what I thought were monkeys on the roof. When I got back to the bun enclosure, I saw Marge and Chelsea Bun lying head to toe. I immediately picked up Marge who was still attached to Chelsea. With her came a huge clump of fur. I always worry that Marge being twice Chelsea’s size would really do damage to her sister, but judging from all the battle scars, I think they came out square. In my books, there is nothing worse than a rabbit fight!

Today I want to talk about digestion.

Digestion begins in the mouth. The food is mashed up by the teeth and mixed with saliva, which contains proteins that begin breaking down the food. When the food is swallowed it enters the stomach where it is mixed with stomach acid and digestive enzymes, which continue the digestion process. It then moves out of the stomach into the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed into the body, and then it continues on into the large intestine where the food particles are sorted by size. This is where it gets interesting. The larger particles of indigestible fibre drive the smaller fragments of digestible fibre backwards into the cecum, which is a large blind-ended sac located at the junction of the small and large intestines. This is where our appendix is, but the rabbit’s cecum is much larger. The indigestible particles are then passed out in the fecal pellets (regular round droppings) and the cecum begins the fermentation process that will produce what is commonly referred to as night droppings or cecotrophes, which a rabbit will eat directly from the anus. You can tell the difference between normal droppings and cecotrophes by their soft, shiny clumped texture and often more pungent odour.

A rabbit’s cecum maintains a delicate mix of protozoa, yeast and good bacteria, which is crucial to keeping your rabbit healthy. If something upsets the delicate bacterial balance (such as stress; some oral antibiotics such as penicillin & related drugs; a high fat, low fibre diet; too many carbohydrates, etc.), bad bacteria will begin to grow. These bad bacteria produce toxins that can be harmful or fatal to your rabbit. On the other hand, the products of good cecal fermentation are crucial to healthy gut flora, because through coprophagy, the oral re-ingestion of the cecal droppings produced by this fermentation process, the rabbit can absorb by normal digestion the special nutrients and vitamins contained in the cecal droppings. Some evidence suggests that bacteria from these [re-ingested] cecal droppings help the food digest while in the stomach.

Now if your rabbit gets a bout of diarrhea, this is more than likely the night droppings that you are seeing. Diarrhea of the day droppings is very rare. This is why no refined sugars or carbohydrates should ever be fed to your rabbit.

When a rabbit is fed an improper diet that is, one that does not contain an adequate amount of [indigestible] fibre or one that is too high in carbohydrates the Gastro-Intestinal (GI) tract cannot function properly and it begins to shut down, causing various degrees of what is called GI stasis. GI stasis, if not taken care of immediately, can cause your rabbit to die a very painful death.

My Peter Rabbit had several bouts of GI stasis, due to the fact that he had no incisors. This made it very difficult for him to eat grass or hay which is essential for the normal digestion. Just before he had his last bout of GI stasis, he was on antibiotics. It was this with a combination of a lack of fibre that finally caused him to be in such severe pain, that we put him to sleep at 3am one morning.

I hope that this letter has not been too serious, but it is crucial that all rabbit owners understand the importance of fibre in a rabbit’s diet. With the correct diet, so many rabbit sicknesses can be avoided.

Here are the details of the company that sells and distributes Bunny Chow and Bunny Chow Orchard Grass. I have had many people emailing me asking where they can get these two products from. An idea, is to go to your local vet/pet store and ask them to order it for you. Company Rolf C Hagen 031 5699100.

Fly Strike

Dear Rabbit Owners

Last Wednesday I arrived home later than usual and knew that my 8 cats would be waiting for me as it was well past their dinner time.  As the electronic gate opened, I was greeted by 8 hungry cats.  Then suddenly as they all scattered when I drove in, I saw that Marge was also there.  I don’t think she was wanting food as the garden is her dinner plate, but I think she liked the idea of being in on the action.  She is such a streetwise bun and all 8 cats have a healthy respect for her.

Now that summer is coming I want to discuss a very important issue.  Recently I have had quite a few rabbit owners mentioning that their rabbits have had maggots.  This condition is known as Fly Strike.  This can happen to a rabbit with the most vigilant owner and within 24 hours a once healthy rabbit can go into a terminal state of shock.
There are three things that attract flies.  They are moisture, warmth and odour.  An overweight rabbit that cannot clean himself can attract flies as well as a rabbit that has open sores or urine stains.  If your rabbit lives outdoors he has a higher chance of getting Fly Strike.  It only takes one fly to create the problem.   Once the maggots have consumed the skin, they go right on to the flesh, and once in the flesh, they produce toxins that create a state of shock.
There are a few warning signs that your rabbit is suffering from Fly Strike.  Firstly he may have ‘itchy skin’ type seizures.  This is caused by local nerve sensors on the surface of the body triggering a general or overall nerve reaction, resulting in a seizure. Rabbits are sensitive to surface irritations.  The second sign is listlessness.  A listless rabbit is not a good sign and usually means something is seriously wrong.  In the case of fly strike, the rabbit may already be in shock.  Lastly you may even see the maggots.  If you suspect your rabbit has Fly Strike he needs to be taken to the vet ASAP.
Prevention is always better than cure, so make sure that you try and eliminate as many flies as possible.  Never use insect sprays as this could poison your rabbit.  Fly catchers are a better option and also having screen doors and screens on windows. Another way to prevent Fly Strike is to keep your rabbit’s tail area clean and dry.  Don’t ever bath your rabbit or even submerge his rear end in water as this will just attract flies.  The best way to keep your bun clean is to use damp cotton wool to remove any droppings or urine stains. Lastly the best prevention is to do daily checks.  That way if a maggot problem arises, you can treat your rabbit early, before he goes into shock.

Good Rabbit Vets

Dear Rabbit Owners

The grass in the rabbit enclosure is long and very green.  The buns love it when I pull the new shoots out and feed it to them.  Chelsea Bun gets rather bossy and scratches my hand if she feels I am taking too long to give her the next shoot, and if she sees me giving any grass to Marge through the wire, she grunts and boxes me.

With all the rain we have been having, the buns have been locked up quite a lot lately, so when I finally let them out the one day, Pillsbury was jumping as high as possible from one stepping stone to the next so as not to get his feet wet.  It was so funny to watch.

Today I want to discuss the importance of finding a good ‘rabbit’ vet.

As soon as you get a rabbit, you need to find a good rabbit vet.  Don’t leave it until you have an emergency.  Not all vets are experienced with rabbits, and even within a group practice you will find that some of the vets are more knowledgeable and interested in rabbits than others.  Quite often we find it is younger vets who are more open minded about rabbits and more willing to go away and find information if they don’t know the answer off hand. Rabbits are companion animals – not livestock. You need a vet whom you trust to do the best for your rabbit. You are looking for someone who will put as much effort into your rabbit as he/she would for a dog or cat. Of course you must also be willing to pay the appropriate rate. Another point to remember, is that your nearest vet may not be the best vet for your rabbit.

There are a few questions you can ask the vets when you are looking for a rabbit knowledgeable vet.
Firstly ask how many rabbits they see a week and how many spays and neuters the vet has done.
Another clue is whether the vet tells you to fast your rabbit before surgery or not. Rabbits should NEVER have their food taken away from them before surgery as this can be life threatening for them, causing GI Stasis.

Please email me your ‘rabbit’ vets that you have found, so that I can add their names and contact details to the Bunny Chow website.

Take care
Regards
Brandy