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There may be occasions when you’ll need to help nurse your rabbit when they are unwell or recovering, but you should take advice from your vet on when this will be necessary, and what you need to do.
Due to their unique digestive system, rabbits cannot go long periods of time without food, so it’s important you ensure they still eat enough to get the nourishment they need, and drink enough to prevent becoming dehydrated. You may need to syringe feed your rabbit with a special mix or liquidised pellets. Never feed your rabbit baby food, as it will often contain substances like sugar, starch and dairy, which a rabbit can’t tolerate, and will likely worsen their condition. Handle your rabbit carefully when feeding them to reduce the chances of them becoming stressed. Either place them on a safe, non-slip surface, or sit them on your lap with their face pointing outwards. Never try to feed them when they are lying on their back as you could suffocate them or get liquid in their lungs. When feeding, offer 1–2 ml of liquid each time and give you rabbit time to swallow the food down. A suitable total amount of food in a 24 hour period would be 30-50 ml/kg of the rabbit’s bodyweight, which should be divided into a number of smaller feeds throughout the day.
A rabbit’s temperature should not usually be below 38.2 degrees Celsius. If it drops below 37.6 degrees, they may have hypothermia, and you will need to take measures to keep them warm.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used for rabbits, and opioids sometimes in cases of severe pain such as after major surgery. Only ever give your rabbit medication that has been specifically recommended or prescribed by their vet, at the dosage that has been advised. Never give them medicines that are meant for humans or other animals as they could be highly dangerous to rabbits.
After undergoing an operation you should find out as much information as you can from your vet regarding how best to care for your rabbit, when to go for postoperative check ups, and request pain relieving drugs. It can take time to recover, so rabbits should be left to rest in a clean and comfortable place. Ensure your rabbit is kept warm enough, and outdoor rabbits may need to be brought inside until fully recovered. Keep an eye on any stitches, ensuring they don’t tug or pull at them, and check for any signs of redness, swelling or discharge. It’s important to keep your rabbit eating to maintain a healthy gut. If your rabbit is not eating after 24 hours, or producing droppings, then consult your vet.