After any surgical procedure, it is extremely important to monitor your house rabbit’s intake and output. Have bunny’s favorite greens and hay on hand, as well as some Critical Care or Green Mush nutritional supplement, just in case bunny requires some nutritional supplementation. If bunny does not have issues with bladder sludge or stones, a little alfalfa hay or alfalfa pellets can often tempt a recovering surgical patient into having a bit of a snack, as can fragrant herbs such as lavender, mint or dill. Sometimes tickling bunny’s nose (just once or twice, don’t annoy him) with a dandelion leaf or bit of herbs can encourage him to allow you to hand-feed him.
Offer your rabbit a heavy ceramic bowl of water, even if s/he usually drinks from a water bottle. Post-op bunnies often are too uncomfortable to get up and stretch their necks to get a drink; it is often easier for these bunnies to get a drink from a ceramic crock, and they do need to keep hydrated after surgery (even more so than they normally do).
If your bunny does not eat for several hours (sources say 12 hours, but the author gets nervous after perhaps 5 or 6) then you may wish to syringe feed some Critical Care or Green Mush, powdered nutritional supplements made specifically for herbivores. You simply mix the powder with enough water to make a slurry which is the consistency of heavy cream/runny pudding and use a wide-bore syringe or a plastic medicine dropper with the tip cut off to administer the supplement. Make sure the tip of the syringe is wide enough, as narrow tips can allow the supplement to get stuck. Forcing a stuck blob of supplement through the syringe can cause a large amount to suddenly shoot into the rabbit’s mouth and creates a risk for choking and aspiration (food entering the ‘windpipe’),
Wrap the bunny in a towel to administer. Sit back, relax, take your time and give tiny amounts at a time. Place the tip of the syringe in the space between the front incisor teeth and the back molars, and aim the syringe at the bunny’s inside cheek, NOT straight at the back of his throat. Go slowly and just give bunny one cc or so at a time. Give bunny time to chew and swallow. Do not attempt to syringe feed a bunny that is not swallowing normally – you need to contact your veterinarian or the emergency vet clinic immediately if your pet has difficulty swallowing. 15-20 cc is a very good amount for a small to medium-sized bunny to take in at one feeding. Most veterinarians will allow bunny to have all s/he wants of the supplements.
If you haven’t any Critical Care (available from your veterinarian) or Green Mush (available online or from health food stores) you can make your own nutritional supplementation . Pour warm water over ¼ cup food pellets and let sit for five minutes or so until the water absorbs. Add enough additional water to make the slurry.
Monitoring the ‘output’: after your bunny has surgery, you will need to keep an eye on the output – aka peeing and pooping – for several days. This will help you determine if bunny is taking in enough water to stay hydrated and if bunny’s digestive tract is functioning properly.
If your rabbit has not eaten anything on his or her own for 24 hours after surgery, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Make sure your bunny is passing his usual amount of fecal pellets. If the output stops after surgery, or if bunny is pooping less than usual for more than 36 hours, contact your veterinarian immediately. If it is after hours or on a weekend you will need an emergency veterinary clinic to rule out ileus. This post-surgical complication isn't common but it is potentially fatal. If your rabbit is passing fecal pellets that are softer than usual or that have a mucus coating to them, that is not unusual for a day or two post-op. If it goes on longer than this, contact your veterinarian right away.
Observe your rabbit to ensure that s/he is actually passing urine after surgery. Mist her greens with water to increase fluid intake. Observe your rabbit for any sign of straining or discomfort in the litter pan or any signs of blood in the urine. If you observe any straining, discomfort, blood in the urine or lack of urine, contact your veterinarian immediately or seek the advice of an emergency vet clinic if it is after hours.
Keep bunny comfortable by giving the pain medications your veterinarian prescribed and by keeping bunny warm. Make sure s/he has a quiet location to recover with a hiding box or other area for privacy. A comfortable and stress-free environment will assist bunny in returning to her pre-operative patterns of ‘intake’ and ‘output’.
Next: keeping them comfortable after surgery
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You can see some of the great adoptable bunnies from the Humane Society of Greater Dayton in the slideshow
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