Monday, March 7, 2016

E. Cuniculi in House Rabbits

Infection from the protozoa Encephalitozoon cuniculi is widely prevalent within domestic rabbit populations. Many exotic veterinarians speculate that most rabbits have been exposed to E. Cuniculi at some point in their lives whether from vertical transmission between mother to baby via placenta or from ingesting spores shed within the infected urine of another animal. While a large percentage of rabbits that have a titer drawn will show levels indicating past exposure, not all rabbits will succumb to the symptoms caused by an active infection. E. Cuniculi seems to strike by coming out of latency when the rabbit’s immune system is suppressed due to another factor.

Signs Of E. Cuniculi
As a rabbit caregiver, several symptoms one might first notice in an infected rabbit are neurological. A rabbit might tilt their head slightly or show a sudden subtle incoordination of limb movement. Rabbits are experts at hiding illness and injury and they need an attentive caregiver to recognize a slight change in gait or stance from normal. These symptoms may progress to eye nystagmus, uncontrolled body rolling or limb paralysis. Beyond the neurological system, E. cuniculi can also commonly affect the kidneys, eyes and other organs. It is vital that a rabbit showing symptoms of illness be brought immediately for evaluation by a rabbit-savvy veterinarian.

Diagnosis & Medications
Your veterinarian will likely draw an E. cuniculi titer as a diagnostic tool to aid in determining whether the symptoms observed are from an active infection or from a different cause. Commonly, an antiprotozoal medication prescription will be given (Panacur or Oxibendazole are two options). Other medications that may be prescribed are an antibiotic (such as Baytril), a pain reliever (such as Metacam) and possibly a pet safe version of Antivert if the rabbit is experiencing severe dizziness and rolling.

Supportive Care
Other supportive measures for your rabbit should include syringe feeding Oxbow critical care formula several times a day to rabbits that are unable to eat properly on their own and ensuring hydration. Rabbits that have lost coordination are often unable to use a water bottle effectively. Providing an easy to reach crock of water and wet fresh greens multiple times each day will help maintain hydration. Your vet can assess for dehydration and administer subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids as needed.

Depending on the severity of your rabbit’s symptoms, you will need to make adjustments for their particular disability. Rabbits may have a difficult time maneuvering into a standard litter box. Low sided litter boxes may be helpful or puppy urine pads can be used. A rabbit that is unable to coordinate limb movement and has become relatively or completely immobile will need an attentive and considerate caregiver to maintain a clean and safe living area. Rabbits may have fur loss and skin breakdown from urine scald if the rabbit is hindered in hind end movement. Using a thick layer of very absorbent bedding (such as Carefresh) which is spot cleaned several times a day, using a rabbit safe shampoo to spot wash dirty areas that your rabbit is unable to clean on him or herself and applying a skin protectant (such as Destin) to wet areas will help maintain quality of life and health.

Recovery & Beyond
Rabbit symptoms related to E. cuniculi infection are wide ranging from mild to severe and need to be supported according to the individual rabbit’s need. Many rabbits make a complete recovery and go on to live long, healthy lives with very little (if any) residual issues. Your vet will work closely with you to determine the best care plan for your rabbit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take good notes at your rabbit’s exam. Together, you and your vet will make decisions to provide your rabbit the best quality of life possible and support during an E. cuniculi infection.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bonding Part 2: They've Met, Now What?

So, an expert bunny bonder has helped you and your rabbit choose a partner. Now what?

Well, now the real work begins.

Part of the bonding process is the drive home. Bring a carrier that can be opened from the top and an extra person who can break up possible squabbles on the way home. Don’t miss this opportunity.

They’ve just met. NOW is the time to safely and mildly traumatize them. The purpose is you want them to cuddle together in slight terror and seek comfort from each other. The longer the ride the better. Up to 3 to 4 hours is fine. When you get them home put them in the bathtub together and let them decompress with some hay or greens. Let them sit there for 25 to 30 minutes or until their breathing slows and they start to explore. After they catch their breath place them in their separate enclosures.


The couple should be housed in separate X-Pens four-to-six inches apart. The pens should not be able to be pushed together by a loving, or suddenly angry rabbit. I use a cardboard roll about 5 inches in circumference that I got from purchasing outdoor carpeting at Wal-Mart. But, you can also use tall paving bricks, old shoe boxes with weight inside or anything that is safe for the rabbits to bite, but won’t move when jostled violently by grumpy bunnies. They need to be able to see, smell and even taste the same air as their new friend. This means NO hidey huts. We don't want "out of sight out of mind." If you visually separate them, then you will have to start from square one, each time. If the X-pens are  too close, a fight could break out that leads to torn lips, noses, eyelids, pulled hair, removed toes, etc. At this stage of the courtship, the relationship is still very fragile. All interactions need to be monitored carefully.


Take them out for a date, lasting 15 minutes to 30 minutes depending on how things are progressing. The number of times you do this is up to your schedule, but the more the better. 15-minute dates every hour are wonderful. But, after each date do not put them back in the pen they were previously in. Put them in the other rabbit’s area. So Rabbit A was in area A and Rabbit B was in area B. You take them out and have them sit in the tub for 15 minutes where they ignored each other, groomed themselves and peacefully ate off the same hay pile. When you’re done with the bonding session but rabbit A in area B and rabbit B in area A. Don’t move anything that was in the other rabbits area, leave them for the new rabbit. This means:
·         DO NOT move the litter pans.
·         DO NOT move the water container.
·         DO NOT move or touch the toys.
·         DO NOT move the hay rack.

If everything is going well, increase the length of the date by five-to-ten minutes every day. In our next bunny bonding blog, we will share what to have on hand during a date; just in case someone says something rude and a scuffle breaks out…Until next time…binky on!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Art of Guinea Pig Manicures & Pedicures

Did you know that guinea pigs typically have four toes on their front feet and three on their back feet? Those are 14 nails that need to be cared for regularly to ensure your guinea pig is living the happiest and healthiest life possible.

In fact, regular nail trims are one of the most important aspects of proper guinea pig care. It’s also something that many guinea pig owners neglect to do in a timely manner. Some individuals simply forget while others don’t like putting their guinea pigs in a situation that may stress them out. But forgoing nail trims can severely impact your guinea pig’s health!

Why Nail Trims Are ImportantGuinea pig toenails grow constantly but vary from pig to pig. Some nails grow straight while others curl and are more brittle. Guinea pigs as domestic animals do not experience enough wear and tear on their nails to forgo regular trimmings. They require their loving humans for monthly manicures and pedicure.

Without regular toenail trims, guinea pigs nail can grow too long and put added pressure and pain on the paws. This risks painful nail breakage and long nails embedding in the skin, which can lead to infection.
Illustration of nails and quick.

Tools Of The Trade
To trim your guinea pig’s toenails you can either use a human nail clipper (some guinea pig experts believe it’s the safest option) or a small animal or kitten/puppy nail trimmer.

Nail clipper.Nail clipper.

Perfecting The Guinea Pig Hold

Being the small, delicate creatures they are, it’s important to learn how to properly hold your animal for nail trims. If possible, enlist a friend to help you with nail trims--preferably one with animal experience. One person will hold the guinea pig securely and keep them comfortable while the other trims each nail.

If you must go it alone, here are two ways to hold your guinea pig to safely trim their nails:

Tips & Tricks
For first-timers, trimming your guinea pig’s nails can be a bit nerve-wracking. Here are a few tips and tricks:
  • Dark nails can make it challenging to see the nail “quick.” Shining a bright light from underneath the paw can help you locate the quick and avoid it. 
  • If you accidentally cut your guinea pig’s nail at the quick and experience bleeding, please do not panic. It can be frightening due to the amount of blood flow. Keep styptic powder or pencil on hand to stop any accidental bleeding. 
  • Distractions may be helpful during nail trims. Some individuals have success with feeding healthy treats to get their piggies to stand still during a trim.
  • Set a monthly recurring reminder on your calendar so you don’t let your guinea pig go too long between trims.
Happy trimming!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bonding: Introductions.

Rabbits are social animals. There are exceptions to any rule, but most rabbits want to be with another rabbit. Bonding rabbits can be a tricky business. The caregiver loves their resident and wants what is best for them, so very lucky rabbits will live in pairs, trios or more. I’m going to go over some bunny bonding basics with you. From what to expect, to what can go wrong and what has worked best for me in the past.

When choosing a companion for your rabbit. Please realize YOU don’t choose a companion for your rabbit. You can pick out individuals to introduce your rabbit to, but the rabbits are the ones who choose their companion. This is just how it works. The first thing to realize is that rabbits are very emotional. They love deeply and they hate deeply. They are very suspicious of strangers and can be lethally territorial. If you go about introductions wrong, injuries can result that require emergency veterinary care. So, only adopt a companion rabbit from an organization that understands that the rabbit chooses, and allows you to bring your companion rabbit with you for introductions.

A few do’s and don’ts:

DO go with an open mind. Have a list of rabbits that are being fostered communicated to the organization in the order that you would like to make introductions. The one you hope for should be #1.

DON’T expect your rabbit to know who is on the link or give a fig about the one YOU hope for.

DO leave your emotions at the door. Your resident rabbit may be the submissive partner. He may be mounted and he may get chased. It is ok. This is normal.

DON’T interfere with the bonding process by touching your rabbit or “comforting” him during introductions. Every time you interfere, the rabbits have to start over and you risk ruining the bond.

DO watch body language. Rabbits will clearly tell you how things are going.

What you WANT to see with an introduction:
  • Rabbits ignore each other. Good.
  • One rabbit mounts the other. Bottom rabbit lays submissively and allows it to happen. Good.
  • Rabbits eat in front of each other. Good.
  • Rabbits groom themselves in sight of the other rabbit. Good.
  • Rabbits voluntarily sit near each other. Great.
  • Rabbits groom each other. Holy Grail. Hardly ever happens, but is the best possible meeting.
What you DON’T want to see in an introduction:
  • Biting.
  • Aggressive chasing with fur plucking.
  • Excessive mounting with bottom rabbit struggling to get loose.
  • Immediate attacks.
  • Defensive stances.
  • Growling.
  • Any sort of bloodletting.
Once your rabbit has chosen, the actual bonding process has begun. Please realize that rabbits are emotional (Yes I said it before, but it bears repeating). They feel things deeply. Your responsibility as the bunny parent is to be a good in law. This means don’t over protect your resident rabbit, but also don’t ignore him. The relationship that is forming between the rabbits is very fragile at the beginning. The rabbits are starting a friendship.

Just like with humans the rabbit friendships start with some attraction. “That person/rabbit looks fun to hang around. I think I’d like to get to know them better.” This can quickly escalate to “What a JERK. I hate them.” If the bonding isn’t handled properly.  The responsibility of the human is to make sure that the rabbits interactions build on positive feelings. Just like human relationships, rabbits want to be with other rabbits that good things happen with and who have shared memories of good things. The human orchestrates the meetings and “dates”.  But, that is information that we will go over in our next blog. Until Next time…binky on.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Making Your Own Litter

Small pets have big sensitivities, especially when it comes to litter. It's well documented that litters containing cedar and pine should not be used. The aromatic oils can cause respiratory issues in small pets as well as liver disease in house rabbits. The dangers of clumping and clay types cat litters for small pets are also great. In recent years companies have begun to market litters made of recycled paper products. They come in both fluffy and pelleted substrates and offer a non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and dust free litter. They have superior odor and absorbency control. The paper type litters are also environmentally friendly as they are easily compost-able and made of recycled materials. The draw back to these litters are the cost. Averaging approximately $11-16 for a 30 lb bag of the pelleted version and $15-22 for a 60L bag of the compressed fluffy version, these litters can make quite a dent in your wallet if you have multiple pets and litter boxes. As a director of a small animal rescue, I have 20 litter boxes to maintain daily for rescued house rabbits. While safety, absorbency, and foot comfort of my preferred litter (the fluffy version) is excellent, the litter costs have been astronomical for my family over the past few years. Watching over a thousand dollars a year be put towards litter costs alone, I decided there much be an alternative option. Low and behold I found a recipe for creating my own recycled paper litter on

Here's the details of how my first batch went:
- We bought wire cloth from the hardware store. It was about $12 for a 5 foot roll. We also bought an 8 foot 2X4 piece of wood and cut it into 4-2 foot lengths.
- We staple gunned the cloth onto the square of wood to make a screen. It was sturdy and a bit sharp until the edges were cut down nicely.
- Then we took a bucket and filled it with soapy water. We sloshed shredded paper around until the inks came off. It only took a few minutes and then we rinsed the paper mash.
- To the mash, we added baking powder and mixed it all around.
- The mash was then spread over the screen in a layer that was about 1.5-2 inches thick.
- Here's the long part of the process... it's mid winter and a bit cold (probably 60) in our basement storage area. It took 4 full days to dry.

We found that if you fluff the drying paper during the drying process once a day or so, it will speed the process a bit. We were left with enough litter to use for 2 large and 2 medium sized cat pan type litter boxes. The yield was higher than expected which was a wonderful surprise.
The litter wasn't quite as fluffy as the store brought kind, but we had used some shredded cardboard in our mash and didn't fluff the first batch as well which may have contributed to a slightly stiffer consistency. We field tested it and found that the absorbency and odor control matched the store brought brand. Score for the home made litter!!! For practically no cost at all and very minimal labor, we have a very good litter which is still safe, dust free, and environmentally friendly!

West Michigan Critter Haven

Friday, October 1, 2010

Kingston Animal Rescue has Rescued a Very Special Case of Rabbits

WMCH would like to extend a courtesy posting for a fellow rescue in Ontario, Canada who rescued 5 bonded house rabbits recently. They really need a loving, rabbit savvy, forever home where they can remain together. Here is their story and contact info if you are interested in adopting or donating to their cause:

Kingston Animal Rescue has rescued a very special case of rabbits:

Emily, Amanda, Rocky, Remi and Fluffy or better know as Kingston Animal Rescue's "Fabulous Five" are a family of rabbits who were surrendered to us when their owner could no longer look after them. They came to us from a home where they lived together in cramped conditions. They learned to be with one another and get along despite the lack of proper housing. When they first arrived in their foster home they remained huddled together in a corner for the first few days before they tentatively started to explore their new found space. They are now much more adventurous and love to binky and play together or on their own.

Our Fabulous Five are an interesting mix of breeds and personalities but somehow this little group co-habitates extremely well and can often be found grooming one another and relaxing next to each other. These wonderful bunnies are a bonded group who have been together since they were babies. They would love nothing more than to find a very special home where they could remain together and thrive together.

We are urgently looking for a home for them. Traveling arrangements may be able to be arranged given the distance in order to find a safe forever home where they can stay together.

More info and photos can be found at
Kingston Animal Rescue

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Growing Fresh Orchard Grass

Orchard grass for rabbits......easy to grow! A small 4'x8' plot, filled with good compost, and $1 in seed from your local seed store. We harvest grass once or twice a week for the summer and it has worked out great as a treat for the 3 rabbits we have.

Cut one eight foot section into two pieces and lie all of the boards in a place of your yard that gets a decent amount of sun and shade. Fill the box with compost, sprinkle seed down, rake the seed in gently, water, and wait. Continue to water occasionally until the grass starts to grow.

If your rabbit doesn't eat a lot of hay, this might be a great alternative to wear down teeth.