by Laurie Stroupe
Please remember that I am not a vet. Do not follow any advice found here without checking with your vet first.
I love watching babies playing and romping the very first week they get out of the nest box. I love to see a coat in prime. I love to find a first time mom with five clean, well fed babies snuggled under a pile of fluffy fur. I love to see a buck with his head stretched out of his cage for some affection.
There’s a lot to love in this hobby of ours, but there’s a yucky side, too. Today is all about the yuck.
Warbles or Botfly, Caused by Cutereba sp. Parasites
Warbles are actually botfly larva implanted under the skin of your rabbit. It feels like a small marble under the skin. It differs from an abscess or tumor in that you can find an air hole. It may be crusted over, but just by washing the lump with some peroxide and a cotton ball, you’ll find a distinctive and quite large air hole.
The adult bot fly (or blowfly, cutereba sp.) is a fairly large fly – 2 cm or more in length. But the larva can be 4 cm or longer. The eggs are laid in warm weather and may grow for almost two months under the skin.
If you find a warble cyst on your rabbit, the warble must be removed intact. Trauma to the larva could result in shock in the rabbit. The air hole must be enlarged. You can use a sterilized Xacto knife to enlarge the hole. The skin around the cyst is quite dead and you might be surprised how little reaction your rabbit has to this step. The entire larva must then be removed. This step is not as easy as it sounds. They can be quite stubborn.
I had a rabbit with a warble way back when I first got into rabbits. I took her to the vet. He had a difficult time getting the warble out. But after he did, he rinsed the hole with sterile saline solution and then filled it with a topical antibiotic. I had to fill the hole with the antibiotic twice a day until it healed.
I’m not entirely sure that I ever had ringworm in my rabbits, but I thought I did when I first got started. Looking back, it was probably fur mites. But I didn’t know what I was looking at. When I described it to a more experienced breeder, he suggested several things it might be. In case it was ringworm, he told me that he used Tinactin on his rabbits. So I used the Tinactin with no problems. However, I used it in a location where my rabbit could not lick it off. I have since read that human preparations are not suitable for rabbits since they groom themselves.
Ringworm causes loss of fur just like fur mites do. What I was looking for was a roundness to an irritated patch of skin. I may have seen that (it’s been too long to remember). If the patch of missing fur had just been accompanied by dandruff-like flakes, I should have treated for fur mites.
Abscesses on Big Rabbits, Dwarf Rabbits, Any Rabbits…
Abscesses can show up anywhere, but I’ve mostly seen them around the mouth and genitals. Sometimes a thorn in the hay will start an abscess. Sometimes rabbits will get their scent glands under the chin infected.
If the abscess has enough size, it should be lanced and drained. Then it is time for antibiotics. You want to prevent a secondary infection while you are cleaning up the first one. My vet prescribes Baytril for abscesses. My Grand Champion Holland Lop Rio had a small one in his cheek/chin area that was too small to lance. He took Baytril orally to clear it up.
If your rabbit will tolerate it, a hot compress can help.
For a really valuable rabbit and a difficult abscess, sedation and veterinary surgery may be required.
Dirty Poopy Bottoms in Baby Rabbits
Sometimes you get these three week old babies that are hiding a terrible secret. Flip them over and they are sitting on a pile of poop as big as your fist! Okay, sometimes it’s just the size of a marble, but often, it’s almost the size of a ping pong ball.
The first time it happened, I thought my babies were all dying. Now, I take it seriously, but I don’t jump to any horrible conclusions.
This usually happens for me with the shaggier bunnies with huge appetites. Just a little overeating and a furry bottom is a horrible combination. It seems I’ll go for months without any problems and then wham! there’s a huge stink bomb under one of my darlings.
I’ve not found an easy way to deal with this. Be careful if you decide to use clippers. I’ve more than once gotten some skin. Take it from me, you’ll feel like a dog if you cut your baby bunny even a tiny bit. Water works, but makes a huge mess.
Once you have cleaned and dried the baby (especially important in cold weather), you may want to put some soothing ointment on the bottom. Also, trim the fur in the crotch to prevent the problem from happening again.
It is important to keep things cleaned up, though. It’s not just a matter of things being a mess. Dirty cages can easily lead to coccidia parasite buildup and fatal infection. Check your rabbits often, even adults, and keep the cage clean!
Luckily, they usually grow out of this stage. I’ve only had one poop bomb under an adult and it was only the size of a marble. He had an especially shaggy bottom, though.
There’s more yucky stuff, I’m sure: stuck babies, tumors, nasal discharge, other parasites, and more. But you’ve probably had enough yuck for one day.
Days when you are dealing with the yuck can sometimes get you down. When that happens, find a breeder friend you trust to talk it over with. And then spend some times playing with your cute babies. That’ll help you get over the yuck fast.