Medicating your rabbit
This page goes over instructions, tips, and resources for a few basic medical procedures that rabbit owners are likely to need to do for their rabbits at least once in their lifetime.
Giving an enema
Enemas can help hydrate hardened fecal matter when facing a GI stasis crisis. Please contact your veterinarian first before trying to give an enema to your rabbit, as the risk of colon puncture is a real possibility.
The following are some resources on giving rabbits an enema:
- Dana Krempels, How Administer an Enema to Your Rabbit
Giving eye drops
Below are some relevant vidoes about giving rabbits eye drops.
Giving ear drops
Below are some relevant vidoes about giving rabbits ear drops.
Nebulizing is a treatment often given for upper and lower respiratory infections. Here is an example of a medical nebulizer for small animals.
The following are some resources on nebulizing rabbits.
- Ontario Rabbit Education Organization, Nebulizing
- Bright Eyes Sanctuary, Nebulizing a Rabbit
- Kirk Lowis, M.A., Nebulizing Rabbits
- Lucile C Moore, Kathy Smith, When Your Rabbit Needs Special Care: Traditional and Alternative Healing Methods, Nebulizing
Here are some videos about placing rabbits in a nebulizer.
Below are some experiences with nebulizing as a treatment.
- Amanda Greening, Rabbit Nebulizer Walkthrough (With pictures)
- House Rabbit Network, Lorraine Howard, Case Study: Guinness' Nebulizer Treatment for Pneumonia
While some rabbits may enjoy the taste of their medication and eat it from the syringe directly with pleasure, most often, rabbits do not like having syringes near their face and liquids squirted forcefully in their mouths. Syringe-feeding oral medications can be stressful and a struggle.
If you need to feed a pill to your rabbit, obtain a pill crusher to help convert it to a more liquid form.
The following tips may help bribe your rabbit into voluntarily eating their medication instead of needing to forcefully restrain and medicate them.
- Tricking your rabbit with fruit or another treat either by putting the medication in the middle of the treat or syringing in medication in your rabbit's mouth from the side while the bunny is busy trying to eat the treat.
- Drizzle the medication on a lettuce leaf, fruit slice, or other treat. Banana and apple slices work well at masking most tastes. While bread is not recommended as a regular food for rabbits due to the large amounts of starch, it is safe in limited amounts and small bites of whole wheat bread can be used to soak up the medication and fed as a treat.
- Dress their pellets with the medication. This can be done either in a spoon or a bowl depending on pellet quantity. Often, if the rabbits won't consume the pellets immediately, they will nibble on them over the next hour and consume their medication effectively that way. Here is an image album from /u/PeppermintBee demonstrating the technique.
- Mixing the medication with baby food, a sugar-free jam, or applesauce to mask the taste.
- Ask your veterinarian to compound the medication with something sweet like apple or banana.
If no amount of bribery will work, the following are some tips to help you restrain your rabbit:
- Use a two-door carrier to catch your rabbit and use the top entry to corner and stuff a syringe in their mouth.
- Catch your rabbit in a carrier and walk around for a minute or so to slightly stress the rabbit and make them easier to handle.
- While kneeling on the ground, hold your rabbit firmly between your thighs and block the rear entry with your feet so they are unable to back out of the trap. Bend over your rabbit to put the syringe in their mouth.
- Use a bunny burrito for restraint. See Grooming#Bunny burrito for tips.
The following links have more information on methods on giving your rabbit their oral medication.
Here are some videos about various strategies to orally medicate rabbits.
- The University of Edinburgh. (2020). Client Support - Rabbit Oral Supplement
Force feeding recovery foods such as Critical Care can be a much more daunting task than oral medications due to the amount of food that needs to be fed and the amount of time needed for the procedure. This is something that most rabbit owners will need to learn to do due to bouts of GI stasis, dental issues, or during recovery from a major surgery such as a spay.
We recommend filling up the oral syringes from the back of the barrel by spooning the food in after removing the plunger rather than trying to draw up the solution from the tip. This helps to reduce the amount of air in the barrel for feeding as well as minimize the amount of liquid needed to constitute the recovery food powder.
If you are unable to locate a syringe for oral feeding in an emergency, you can try to assist feed by using a Ziploc bag. Fill the bag with the liquid food, cut a small corner off, and squeeze the food out of the bag through the tip to feed.
A few tips specific to syringe feeding recovery food vs. medicating a small amount of medication:
- Give very small volumes of food (less than 1cc at a time) to prevent aspiration.
- Aim the tip at the opposite cheek rather than the back of the throat to prevent shooting food directly down the throat.
- Use a large syringe (15cc) and add more water as needed so the food flows out smoothly. You can also cut the tip of the syringe with a pair of scissors to make the feeding opening larger.
Please see the #Oral medication section above for more general tips on handling your rabbit for medication.
The following are a few articles with tips about syringe feeding rabbits:
- All Creatures Rescue & Sanctuary. (2008). Tips on hand feeding rabbits and guinea pigs
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund. Syringe feeding guide
- BunnyHugga. (2010). Nursing rabbits
The following are videos to help demonstrate different effective techniques of restraining a rabbit for force feeding:
Subcutaneous injections, also abbreviated as SC, SQ, sub-cu, sub-Q, or subcut, are given in the fatty layer of tissue under the skin. This method is commonly used to inject medications as well as fluids for hydration. Subcutaneous fluids are also known as Lactated Ringer's solution.
Below are some additional resources about giving subcutaneous injections to rabbits.
- MediRabbit, Naomi Heinsma, Basic instructions for subcutaneous injections in rabbits
The following are videos of demonstrations of the administration of subcutaneous injections in rabbits.
Normal rectal temperature for a healthy rabbit should be between 100-104F. Infrared thermometers for the ear are not accurate in rabbits as they use their ears as their main thermoregulatory organ, and temperatures will fluctuate greatly whether they are hot or cold.
Here are some resources on taking your rabbit's temperature.
- Georgia House Rabbit Society, How To Take Your Rabbit’s Temperature
- House Rabbit Resource Network, Body Temperature
- BunSpace, Taking A Rabbit's Temperature
- House Rabbit Society, FAQ: Medicating Your Rabbit
- Kathy Smith, Rabbit Health in the 21st century, 2003, p43.