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BASIC FIRST AID AT HOME

Basic first aid for your rabbit involves your initial treatment of injuries or other physical problems your pet might have in and around your home. Before any such emergency occurs, you should put together a Rabbit First Aid Kit and program the phone numbers for your veterinarian, the National Animal Poison Control Center and the closest animal hospital that offers emergency services as speed dial numbers on your home or cell phones.

Some of these first aid issues will be minor and you can handle them yourself. Others may involve a medical emergency where you might have to treat the problem immediately, prepare your rabbit for transportation in a way that minimizes the chance of further injury and then take him to the veterinary hospital. In either case, your responsibility as owner is to know the following:

  • What symptoms to look for
  • What the possible causes are
  • What you should do to treat the animal
  • What you should not do
  • When to call the veterinarian or transport your rabbit to a veterinary hospital

The tables that follow provide this information at a glance, organized alphabetically by the type of problem. They also provide links to find more detailed information -- if available -- in each category.

 

Bite and Stings, Insect
Symptoms: Redness and/or swelling, pain, itching, licking
Possible Causes: Mosquitoes, chiggers, spiders, other biting insects
What to Do: 1. Try to identify the insect.

2. If you see an embedded stinger, remove it by scraping it with a hard object such as your fingernail or a credit card.

3. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the affected area.

4. Apply ice or cold packs to the affected area to keep swelling and pain to a minimum.

5. You can apply Calamine lotion or Cortaid for itching.

What Not to Do: Do not attempt to remove an embedded stinger as you would a splinter because this may release more toxins.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: 1. Transport immediately if your rabbit exhibits signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the face and neck or difficulty breathing or

2. If your rabbit goes into shock or otherwise seems ill.

 

 

 

Bites, Snake
Symptoms: Puncture wounds, redness, swelling; if the snake is poisonous, your rabbit may exhibit signs of respiratory or motor difficulties
Possible Causes: Snake or other venomous animals, attack (snakes prey on rabbits)
What to Do: 1. Keep your rabbit calm. If he gets excited, the accelerated heart rate will spread the poison (if the snake is poisonous) more rapidly.

2. If you see the snake, remember what it looks like. Identifying the kind of snake is important for determining treatment options.

3. If the bite is on an extremity (his leg, for example), tie a handkerchief or bandage around it between the bite wound and your rabbit's heart. Tie it loose enough so you can slip one finger underneath it.

4. If your rabbit goes into shock:

    A. Attempt to calm your rabbit by talking soothingly.

    B. Put your rabbit in a comfortable position. Elevate his hind end slightly.

    C. Cover your rabbit with a blanket.

5. If your rabbit is not in dire physical distress, wash the wound with mild soap and water.

What Not to Do: 1. Do not try to suck the venom out.

2. Do not put ice on the wound.

3. Do not tie the bandage too tight (you don't want to cut off circulation).

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Bite Wounds, Other Animals
Symptoms: Unruptured abscess that is red or blue and swollen; ruptured abscess with foul smelling pus; loss of appetite.
Possible Causes: Being attacked, fighting
What to Do: 1. Control bleeding.

2. If you witness the attack, try to find out if the animal has rabies.

3. If the attacking animal is wild, and it is dead, take it with you to the veterinarian. Wear gloves to carefully pick up the animal and place it in a bag.

4. If your rabbit has an abscess or wound, clip the hair around the wound and flush it with water.

What Not to Do: Do not try to capture the attacking animal if it is still alive.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Bleeding
Possible Causes: Animal bites, fighting, injury
What to Do: 1. Cover the wound with a piece of sterile gauze or a clean washcloth and apply direct pressure to the wound site. If blood soaks through the covering, apply more cloth or gauze over it, repeating as necessary.

2. If the bleeding doesn't stop and the wound is spurting (which indicates a cut artery), apply pressure to the area just above the wound with your hand. If the wound is oozing but not spurting, apply pressure below the wound.

3. If the wound is still bleeding, apply a pressure bandage by wrapping gauze or another soft material around the wound. Check periodically for swelling.

4. If the wound is on a limb and the limb is not broken, elevate it above your rabbit's heart to slow the bleeding.

5. If the wound is spurting and continues to bleed after Steps 1-4 have been completed, apply a tourniquet. To make a tourniquet, tie a piece of gauze or cloth above the wound. Make a loop and insert a stick in the loop. Twist the stick until the bleeding is under control. Be sure to loosen the tourniquet for two to three minutes every 30 minutes to allow blood to flow into the limb.

What Not to Do: 1. Do not remove the gauze or cloth because this can dislodge a formed clot and restart bleeding.

2. Do not use neck pressure on animals with head injuries.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately if the bleeding is severe and cannot be stopped, if the wound needs cleaning or stitches or if there is an embedded object.

 

 

 

Breathing Problems
Symptoms: Increased breathing effort, pale or blue mucous membrane, fainting, cessation of breathing
Possible Causes: Lung infections, overheating, poisoning, swallowed object
What to Do: 1. Lay the rabbit on his right side.

2. Open his mouth and clear any obstruction.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport depending on severity of incident.

 

 

 

Broken Bones
Symptoms: Lameness, swelling, abnormally positioned limbs, pain, maybe bruising, bone protruding through skin
Possible Causes: Accident, falling from a high place, fighting, bone disease
What to Do: 1. try to calm the rabbit.

2. If a bone is protruding through the skin, wash the area with water, place a loose dressing over the wound and wrap it with tape. Make sure the dressing is loose enough to not disturb or move the bone.

What Not to Do: Do not pull on a broken limb.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Burns
Symptoms: Red skin, pain, swelling, loss of skin, charred appearance of skin
Possible Causes: Chemicals, electric shock, fire, hot water, heating pads, hair dryers
What to Do: 1. Apply cool water. This can be done by immersing the area in a cool bath, by running water over the burn or by applying cool compresses to the area. If more than one area is affected, do not immerse the rabbit in a cool bath because this can cause shock.

2. Apply a sterile non-stick bandage to the area to keep it clean.

What Not to Do: Do not apply ointments, butter or petroleum jelly.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately if the rabbit appears to be in shock. Call your veterinarian if there are signs of infection (redness, swelling, pus) or blistering.

 

 

 

Choking
Symptoms: Cessation of breathing, difficulty breathing, making loud noises when breathing, anxiety, blue or white gums
Possible Causes: Foreign object in throat, allergic reaction (swollen tongue), trauma
What to Do: 1. Open the rabbit's mouth and feel for any foreign objects with your finger.

2. Remove the object, if possible.

3. Lift the rabbit's hind legs into the air, leaving his front legs on the floor or table, to dislodge the object.

4. If unconscious, your rabbit should be placed on his side.

What Not to Do: Do not put your fingers in your rabbit's mouth if he is alert.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Depends on severity of incident.

 

 

 

Cold Exposure (Hypothermia)
Symptoms: Dilated pupils, shivering, unconsciousness, coma or stupor, pale blue mucous membranes, weakened pulse or decreased heart rate.
Possible Causes: Exposure to prolonged cold
What to Do: 1. Immediately remove the rabbit from the cold.

2. Check for breathing and pulse.

3. Give the rabbit a warm bath. Rub vigorously with towels after the bath.

4. Wrap the rabbit in a blanket and place warmed bottles of water under his armpits and next to his chest.

5. After your rabbit has recovered, offer him half a teaspoon of honey, corn syrup or Veterinarian's High-Energy Formula.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: In severe cases, take to the veterinary hospital to make sure the rabbit has no permanent damage (frozen limbs) and his temperature is stable.

 

 

 

Convulsions
Symptoms: Anxiety immediately before the seizure, falling over, twitching, urinating, drooling, staring into space.
Possible Causes: Tumor, abscess, brain infection, birth defect, scar tissue from old head injury, poisoning, illness.
What to Do: 1. Make sure the rabbit is in a safe place so he can't be injured.

2. Time the seizure and write down the length and time of day. Seizures lasting more than two minutes or cluster seizures (seizures occurring one after another) constitute a medical emergency.

3. If you feel the rabbit may hurt himself, restrain him by putting a towel on top of him and holding the ends down.

4. After your rabbit has recovered, offer him half a teaspoon of honey, corn syrup or Veterinarian's High-Energy Formula.

What Not to Do: 1. Do not hold the rabbit's tongue.

2. Do not put your hands near his mouth.

3. Do not disturb the rabbit during, or immediately following, the seizure.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Drowning
Possible Causes: Disasters (flooding), pool accident
What to Do: 1. Pull your pet out of the water. If the water is deep, use a floatation device for yourself.

2. If the rabbit is unconscious, lift him up by his hind legs to drain any water from the chest. Then, put a blanket under his hind legs, so the body is higher than the head, to drain any remaining water. Pull the tongue out of the mouth until you feel slight tension.

3. Put a blanket around the rabbit for transport.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Ear, Foreign Object
Symptoms: Shaking of the head, scratching or pawing at ear
Possible Causes: Bug (ticks), accident
What to Do: 1. If the object is visible, gently remove it with tweezers.

2. Dab any scratches or cuts with a cotton ball and antiseptic.

What Not to Do: Do not attempt to remove the object if it is deep in the ear canal or cannot be seen.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately if you can't remove the object and to prevent ear infection or damage to the ear's structure.

 

 

 

Electrical Shock
Symptoms: Lying on the floor near the cord, loss of appetite, drooling, foul mouth odor, mouth ulcers or burns, difficulty breathing.
Possible Causes: Chewing on electrical cords
What to Do: 1. Turn off the power and unplug the power cord.

2. Check for breathing and pulse.

3. Check for and treat shock.

What Not to Do: Do not touch the rabbit until you turn off the power and unplug the cord.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately if you suspect electrical shock. Some symptoms are readily apparent but others may not appear for days.

 

 

 

Eye Burns, Irritation
Symptoms: Redness, swelling, drainage or discharge, cloudiness, protruding third eyelid, squinting, pawing at eyes.
Possible Causes: Smoke, contact with a chemical
What to Do: 1. Flush the eye with generous amounts of water for five to 10 minutes.

2. Prevent your rabbit from rubbing his eyes. This can be done with a special collar or by wrapping the rabbit in a towel or blanket.

What Not to Do: Do not apply ointment to the eye.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Eyes, Foreign Object
Symptoms: Redness, swelling, rubbing or pawing at eye, squinting, discharge or runny eyes, obvious foreign object.
Possible Causes: Flying debris or brushing up against a plant.
What to Do: 1. Check the eye for any foreign objects.

2. Wash the eye with large amounts of sterile saline solution or tap water to remove it.

3. Check the eye with a good light to ensure the object is gone.

4. Wipe away discharge or remaining foreign matter around the eye with a soft cloth.

What Not to Do: Do not put your fingers in your rabbit's eye.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately if the eye has been cut or if you are unable to remove the object.

 

 

 

Frostbite
Symptoms: Discoloration of affected area (possibly pale or blue, if advanced, black), lack of pain and sensation in the affected area (although it will be very painful as it is warmed).
Possible Causes: Prolonged exposure to extreme cold
What to Do: 1. Remove the rabbit from the cold.

2. Spray the affected area with warm water.

What Not to Do: Do not warm the area suddenly.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Heat Exhaustion
Symptoms: Excessive panting, fainting, bloody diarrhea or vomit, increased respiratory rate, redder than normal mucous membrane, stupor, salivation, moisture accumulation on feet
Possible Causes: Being left in a parked car, lack of shelter, excessive exercise, illness, seizures, heavy-coated rabbits in warm climates
What to Do: 1. Immediately remove the rabbit from the source of the heat. Take him inside or to a shaded area.

2. Check and treat for shock as necessary.

3. Cool the rabbit's body temperature quickly by immersing him in cold water or by applying cold, wet towels. You can also use a garden hose if one is available, but make sure the water is cool before spraying the rabbit.

4. Turn on a fan and point it at the rabbit.

5. Rub alcohol on the rabbit's front and back footpads and back of the legs.

6. Put ice packs on head, chest and thighs.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately since there are many serious complications of heat exhaustion (kidney failure, abnormal heart beat, cessation of breathing, seizures and brain swelling), some of which can be fatal. Some complications may not present themselves for hours.

 

 

 

Nose, Foreign Object
Symptoms: Pawing at nose, sneezing
Possible Causes: Accidental inhalation of foreign object
What to Do: 1. Look in the nose to see if the object is visible.

2. If you can see the foreign object, gently remove it with tweezers.

What Not to Do: Do not attempt to remove the object if it is high up in the nose.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately if the object cannot be removed.

 

 

 

Poisoning
Symptoms: Diarrhea; seizures, drooling or foaming at the mouth; swollen or red skin, ulcers in the mouth; burned lips, mouth or skin; bleeding from anus or other body cavity; abnormal mental state
Possible Causes: Accidental ingestion of poison or poisonous plant, eating toxic food or garbage, improper medication administration
What to Do: Ingested poisons:
1. Check for breathing and pulse.

2. Check the color of your rabbit's gums. Certain poisons can cause specific changes in color.

3. Push lightly on the rabbit's gums and see how fast they turn from pink to white and then pink again. They should turn pink again in one to two seconds. Less than one second or more than three constitutes an emergency situation.

4. Check the rabbit's mental state.

5. Call your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center 1-800-548-2423.

Topical poisoning:
1. Call your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center 1-800-548-2423.

2. Wash your rabbit repeatedly with soap and water.

3. Flush the eyes with large volumes of tap water or sterile eyewash.

4. If the poison is in powder form, dust or vacuum it off.

Inhaled poisons (carbon monoxide and other gases):
1. Remove the animal from the area and into fresh air.

2. Check for breathing and pulse.

3. Check for and treat shock.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Puncture Wounds
Symptoms: Bleeding, bruising, skin wound, embedded object in the skin
Possible Causes: Injury from a pointed object, bite wound
What to Do: 1. Control any bleeding. Do not remove a puncture device if it is deeply embedded (knife, arrow, etc.). This can cause serious bleeding and further injury. Instead, secure the embedded object by placing first aid tape around it and wrapping gauze around the rabbit until it is secure. You can cut the object to within five inches of the wound. This will help prevent the object from moving around and causing further damage.

2. Check for breathing and pulse.

3. Check for and treat for shock.

What Not to Do: Do not remove deeply embedded objects because this can cause more bleeding and further injury.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport to the veterinary hospital if there is an imbedded object, if the bleeding cannot be stopped, if the rabbit goes into shock, if you are unable to clean the wound or if the wound has two holes, which indicates a bite wound.

 

 

 

Scratches
Symptoms: Skin abrasion, redness, bleeding
Possible Causes: Fighting, rubbing against sharp object
What to Do: 1. Clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide.

2. Apply betadine or hydrogen peroxide three times a day for five to seven days.

3. Bandage wound (optional).

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Call your veterinarian if the wound was caused by an animal or a rusty object. transport immediately if there are signs of an infection such as redness, swelling or pus.

 

 

 

Shock
Symptoms: Early stage: Increased heart rate, low body temperature, redder than normal mucous membranes, lowered body temperature

Middle stage: Hypothermia, weak pulse, depression, cool limbs, pale mucous membranes, increased heart rate.

End (terminal) stage: Slow respiratory rate, depression or unconsciousness, weak or absent pulse.

Possible Causes: Sudden blood loss, severe allergic reaction, infection, traumatic injury, heart failure
What to Do: 1. Control any bleeding.

2. Attempt to calm the rabbit by talking soothingly.

3. Put the rabbit in a comfortable position. Elevate the hind end slightly, if you are sure the rabbit's back is not broken.

4. Cover the rabbit with a blanket to prevent further loss of body heat.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.

 

 

 

Splinter Removal
Symptoms: Not placing weight on a limb, swelling where the splinter is located, licking the area
Possible Causes: Running into a sharp wooden object, injury
What to Do: 1. Sterilize a pair of tweezers by passing them through a flame or dipping them in alcohol.

2. Grab the splinter with the tweezers and pull it out.

3. If the splinter is under the skin, put petroleum jelly on the area for 15 minutes, then pull out the splinter.

4. Soak affected area in warm water and Epsom salts.

5. Apply betadine or hydrogen peroxide.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: If the wound is too deep or you cannot remove the splinter, call your veterinarian for an office visit.

 

 

 

Sprains
Symptoms: Swelling, limping, pain
Possible Causes: tripping or falling, catching limb in cage
What to Do: 1. If feasible, alternately apply ice packs or cold compresses and heat to the affected area for five to 15 minutes three times a day.

2. Restrict activity by keeping your rabbit in a confined area.

What Not to Do: Do not give your rabbit aspirin.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Call your veterinarian in 24 hours if there is no improvement. X-rays may be necessary to check for a possible fracture or torn ligaments.

 

 

 

Swallowed Objects
Symptoms: Sudden abdominal pain, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
What to Do: Swallowed string:

1. Attempt to remove the string from the mouth by pulling gently. If there is any resistance, stop immediately and take the rabbit to the veterinarian.

Other objects:

1. Determine if the object is potentially poisonous.

2. If the object is not sharp or poisonous, see if it passes in 24 hours.

3. Feed your rabbit a piece of bread to coat and bind the object.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport if the object has not passed in 24 hours or if your rabbit shows signs of illness or pain.

 

 

 

Tick Removal
Symptoms: Small dark-colored, engorged insect with its head burrowed into the animal's skin, red swollen area around the tick
Possible Causes: Walking through high grass, brushing against leaves, bushes and trees.
What to Do: 1. Put on latex gloves.

2. Spray a small amount of tick spray on a piece of gauze, cotton ball or paper towel and hold over the tick for 30 to 60 seconds. You can also use petroleum jelly or mineral oil.

3. The tick should start to back out. When it does, grab the entire tick with tweezers and remove it.

4. If the head does not come out (it will look like a small, black dot under the skin), remove it as you would a splinter.

5. Flush the tick down the toilet, or save it in a safe container to show to your veterinarian.

6. Apply an antiseptic or antibiotic cream.

What Not to Do: Do not pull the tick out and leave the head.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Call your veterinarian for an office visit if you cannot remove tick head or if your rabbit displays symptoms of illness.

 

 

 

traumatic Injuries (Car Accident)
Symptoms: Bleeding, loss of consciousness, serious internal or external injuries
What to Do: 1. try to determine where the rabbit was hit.

2. Approach the accident scene with extreme caution.

3. If you suspect a back injury, place a shirt or flat object, such as a board, underneath the rabbit before attempting to move him.

4. Look for injuries, and be sure to note any blood, urine or feces (the veterinarian may need this information when you get to the hospital).

5. Check for shock and treat if necessary.

If internal organs are exposed:
1. Pick up the rabbit and his exposed organs simultaneously. Place the rabbit and the organs on a wet towel, and wrap the towel around the rabbit.

Chest wounds, open:
1. try to calm the rabbit.

2. If you hear a gurgling or a sucking sound, place some plastic wrap on top of the wound, and wrap it around the rabbit several times to secure it. This will aid in breathing. If you don't have plastic wrap, use part of a clean garbage bag or another piece of similar plastic and secure it to the rabbit with tape or gauze.

When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Immediately transport to a veterinary hospital.

 

 

 

Unconsciousness
Possible Causes: Poisoning, hypoglycemia, injury, illness, heart attack
What to Do: 1. Pull out the rabbit's tongue and clear the airway.

2. Lift the rabbit and place him gently on a table on his side with his head hanging off the edge.

3. Control bleeding.

4. treat for shock.

5. Pass some smelling salts under his nose.

6. Once he regains consciousness, rub some Karo syrup on his lips.

What Not to Do: Do not give the rabbit anything by mouth until he regains consciousness.
When to Call the Veterinarian or transport to a Veterinary Hospital: Transport immediately.