Most of us have a first aid kit for ourselves. But you’d be surprised how many people forget to put one together for their pets. A rabbit first aid kit can help you to deal with everyday minor injuries. It can also buy you time with larger problems, while you bring your rabbit to a rabbit vet.
A well-stocked first aid kit for rabbits can help you to deal with minor injuries and health issues while you get to the vet ASAP. Some important tools include:
- Gauze pads/cotton balls
- Rabbit-safe disinfectant or antibiotic ointment
- Bunny nail clippers
- Blunt-ended scissors
- Styptic powder
- Oral syringes
- Saline eye solution
- Infant gas medication
- Hand sanitizer
Check your first aid kit regularly, especially the use-by dates of medications and other perishable items. Always replace out of date items. Most items for first aid kits should be available in pet stores. You can also ask your vet.
What’s In a Rabbit First Aid Kit?
You’ll need your pet carrier to take your rabbit to the vet. But a pet carrier can also help to keep your rabbit quiet and still while recovering from injuries.
Your carrier should be large enough for your bunny to stand up and turn around, but not a lot larger than that. In addition, the carrier should have adequate ventilation. This means ventilation holes on all sides, including the door.
Choose a hard-sided pet carrier. A hard-sided carrier will do a better job protecting your rabbit from bumps and knocks. It’s also easier to clean.
A top-loading carrier will make it easier for you (and your vet) to load and remove your bunny.
Finally, the carrier should be secure. You don’t want any escape attempts to be successful.
Any Current Medications
If your bunny is taking any medications, it’s always a good idea to have extra on hand in your rabbit first aid kit. That way, if you run out and aren’t able to refill the prescription right away, your pet’s regimen won’t be interrupted. This can also be helpful in case of a natural disaster or another emergency.
Any animal that’s frightened or experiencing pain may bite or scratch. A stout pair of gardening gloves with forearm protection can protect your hands while you treat your pet.
Wrapping your bunny in a towel can keep it from struggling while you examine or treat it. This protects both you and your rabbit. You can also lay a towel on the floor of your pet carrier for extra comfort. It can also help you keep your rabbit warm.
A lot of vets recommend a type of wrap called a “bunny burrito.” Here’s how to do it.
Keep hand sanitizer in your rabbit first aid kit, and sanitize your hands before and after treating your rabbit. This will help to prevent the transfer of pathogens to and from your rabbit.
Disposable gloves can also keep both you, and your rabbit clean.
Gauze Pads, Cotton Wool, Cotton Swabs
These items have a thousand uses for us, and they have just as many uses for pet rabbits.
You can use cotton swabs to clean the area around your rabbit’s eyes, or to clean your rabbit’s scent glands. Most of the time rabbits do an adequate job cleaning their own scent glands. But if the glands become impacted, the job may fall to you. Here’s how to do it.
From time to time, your rabbit may experience minor cuts or scratches. A rabbit safe wound disinfectant can help you to treat these minor injuries at home.
Bunny Nail Clippers
A nail trim is an important part of every rabbit’s grooming routine. Trim rabbit nails every three weeks or so.
It might be tempting to use human nail clippers for the job. But pet nail clippers are made to cut cylindrical pet nails, rather than flat human nails, and they general do a better job.
A good pair of blunt-ended small animal nail clippers can also help you to deal with broken nails and other minor problems.
How do you trim your rabbit’s nails? Check this out.
Styptic powder stops bleeding and sterilizes a broken nail fast. The most common use is stopping the bleeding after accidentally trimming a nail past the quick. Simply sprinkle the powder on, then apply gentle pressure, using a piece of sterile gauze.
Do not use styptic powder on open wounds, and do not allow your rabbit to lick it. Styptic powder is both caustic and toxic if ingested. A gentler substitute for styptic is corn flour (corn starch). Corn flour can help to stop the bleeding, but it won’t sterilize the wound.
Tweezers can be helpful in a number of first aid situations, including cactus needles, splinters, debris in a wound, and so forth.
Use blunt-ended scissors to trim bandages, or to trim the fur around a wound.
In rabbits, a normal rabbit’s body temperature is between 38.5 and 40 degrees Celsius (101.3 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit). An abnormally high or low body temperature may be a sign of numerous problems.
Having your rabbit’s temperature available can help your vet to make a diagnosis and begin appropriate treatment, so have a quick-read rectal thermometer on hand, as well as a pet-safe lubricant such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly.
This video describes how to safely take a rabbit’s temperature.
Pet Eye Wash
From time to time, most of us will get some sort of debris in our eyes, and that includes a pet rabbit. A gentle, natural eye wash formulated for pets can help your bunny to start feeling better fast. Apply your rabbit’s eye wash with an eyedropper or with the enclosed applicator.
This video shows how to apply drops to your rabbit’s eyes.
Speaking of eyedroppers, this is another tool with many uses for rabbit owners, including flushing out eyes and applying certain medications.
Infant Gas Medication
Simethicone is a medication used to improve gut motility. In the case of suspected GI stasis, it can be a lifesaver while you get your pet rabbit to the vet.
The House Rabbit Society recommends giving your pet rabbit 1-2 CCs of infant simethicone (20mg/ml suspension) as often as every hour for three doses, followed by 1CC every three to eight hours. Keep a bottle in your rabbit first aid kit.
Rabbits recovering from certain injuries and illnesses may require syringe feeding. You can also use feeding syringes to give your rabbits liquid medicines. It’s always good to have a few feeding syringes of different sizes to hand.
Rabbits are fairly tolerant of cold, but overheating can be a big problem, especially if you live in a hot climate. The perfect temperature for bunnies is 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Temperatures over 26.6 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) can become dangerous fast. So if you’re expecting hot temps, keep an eye on the thermometer, and be prepared to bring your rabbit inside if necessary.
It’s best, of course, to prevent overheating before it happens. Toward this end:
- Place your hutch in a shady part of the garden, and never in direct sunlight
- Use a run shade or a garden sun shade to create extra shade
- Make sure your rabbits have access to lots and lots of cool water
- Provide frozen water bottles, cool tiles, ice pods and other accessories
It’s also important to recognize the signs of heat stress:
- Rapid breathing
- Hot and/or red ears
- Wet fur below the nose
- Open mouth
- Flared nostrils
If you notice any of these signs, place your rabbit on a cool, damp towel, and seek veterinary assistance immediately. Never place your rabbit in a bath.
When to Call the Vet
Of course there are some problems that rabbit owners shouldn’t attempt to deal with themselves. And rabbits, being prey animals, will try to hide their injuries and illnesses.
When in doubt, contact your vet.
In addition, here are some symptoms that definitely require veterinary advice.
When You Suspect GI Stasis
Rabbits’ digestive systems work differently from ours. GI Stasis means that your rabbit’s digestive system has slowed or stopped. This condition is very common and very painful. Worse, it can turn deadly in a matter of hours.
Symptoms of GI Stasis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Small, hard, dry poops
- Fewer poops than usual, or none at all
- Stomach gurgling
- “Doughy” feel to stomach
- Hunching over
- Teeth grinding (a sign of pain)
- Unusually high or low temperature
If you suspect your rabbit has, or is developing GI Stasis, don’t wait for it to get better. Seek immediate veterinary care.
Flystrike is common in the summer months, but can happen anytime. Flies lay their eggs on rabbits, typically near the rear end, and the larvae start to eat your rabbit’s flesh. It’s painful, and, like GI Stasis, can turn deadly very, very quickly.
If you notice flies or maggots in your hutch or on your rabbit, go to the vet immediately.
Rabbits are delicate. They can break bones jumping from too high a height, or trying to escape grabby human hands. Worse, they will try to hide their injuries, and, unfortunately, they can be very, very good at it.
If you suspect your rabbit has been injured, go to the vet.
When Your Rabbit Isn’t Eating
Loss of appetite can be the sign of numerous problems, including:
- Dental problems
- Infectious disease
- Heart or kidney failure
- Respiratory disease
- Neurological disease
To name a few.
Loss of appetite can be very serious in rabbits, and can lead to GI stasis. If your rabbit isn’t eating, consult your vet immediately.
When Your Rabbit Isn’t Eliminating
Your rabbit’s poop contains a wealth of information about your bunny’s digestive system and general health. Rabbits poop a lot.And if your rabbit is pooping less than usual, especially if the poops are small and hard, it could be GI Stasis. So bring your rabbit to a qualified veterinarian.
Less pee than usual could be a sign of dehydration. It could also signal a urinary tract infection. Either way, it’s time to call the vet.
When Your Rabbit Eliminates Too Much
Diarrhea is annoying for us, but for a rabbit, it can be deadly. Diarrhea can be a sign of:
- Poor diet
- Sudden diet change
- Dental disease
- A gut infection like E. coli or Retrovirus
- Liver disease
In any event, if your rabbit has diarrhea, run, don’t walk to the vet.
By the same token, frequent urination is also a cause for concern, especially when accompanied by blood in the urine, thick, white, or tan-coloured urine, and straining while urinating. Seek immediate treatment.
No one wants to do a lot of running about when they’re feeling poorly, and that includes your bunny. Lethargy, that is, sitting still and not doing their regular activities, can be a sign of many, many different illnesses, and injuries, too. So don’t delay. Call your vet.
Teeth grinding is a signal that your rabbit is in pain. Your vet needs to determine why.
Shaking and shuddering is another sign of pain, among other problems. If your rabbit is shaking or shuddering, go to the vet.
When You Don’t Know What the Problem Is
Every pet owner has had this experience. You can tell that there’s something wrong with your pet, but you can’t put your finger on it. Your pet just seems “off.”
Bunny illnesses can move fast. Trust your instincts and call the vet.
A rabbit first aid kit can help you to treat minor injuries. A first aid kit can also buy you time in more serious cases, when the vet isn’t immediately available.
At the same time, there are some problems that a pet owner shouldn’t try to treat themselves. When in doubt, speak to your vet.
Do you have a pet first aid kit? What are your essential items?