Emergencies always seem to happen after your veterinary clinic has closed, or on weekends.
For this reason, it is a good idea to assemble a basic emergency kit. Discuss the contents with your vet before an emergency happens so that you will be prepared. Keep the kit with a binder or folder of important rabbit care information, because during an emergency, even the most savvy rabbit owners sometimes find it difficult to think clearly. Having access to some of these supplies and a binder of important rabbit care information will allow you to at least keep your rabbit comfortable until you can see your vet.
A basic rabbit emergency kit should contain some of the items listed below. We hope you never need them! Remember this is not intended to replace veterinary care!
Always take your rabbit to the vet at the first signs of illness or injury.
Very Basic Items:
• Baby food, canned pumpkin (not pie filling!), or a product like Oxbow’s Critical Care (only available from a vet) for force feeding. (Do not force feed if a intestinal blockage is suspected).
• Pedialyte (unflavored liquid) or powdered Pedialyte for hydration. Pedialyte doesn’t keep well after it has been opened, but can be frozen. Powdered Pedialyte, if available, is less expensive and can be made up as needed. Check the Drug Dosage Calculator for dosage information.
• An assortment of oral syringes (minus the needles) in various sizes. You can get a large bore syringe from your vet that can be used for feeding. Some prefer to use smaller syringes (3cc size) for force feeding (slip tip syringes or you may have to cut the tip off).
• Simethicone for gas. Some common brand names include GasX, Phazyme and Ovol. You may use either a liquid or a chewable. Some rabbits really like the chewable fruit flavoured tablets, which makes them easy to administer. A rabbit with gas may exhibit some of the following symptoms: sitting hunched up, eyes closed, belly pressed to the floor or loss of appetite or loud gurgling noises from the tummy. Check the Drug Dosage Calculator for dosage information.
• Neosporin or Bactriban (mupiricin) antibiotic ointment for minor cuts or bite wounds. (Do not use Neosporin Plus – which contains pain medication in it’s ingredients).
• Betadine, chlorhexidine solution (Hibitane ointment) or Novalsan (diluted) to wash cuts & puncture wounds. Ask your vet for a small sample of his or her preferred disinfectant.
• Carrier to take bunny to the vet.
• Styptic pencil, styptic powder or flour to stop a nail that has been clipped to short from bleeding.
• Eye wash or saline solution to flush the eyes.
• Bag Balm or calendula gel for minor wounds, sore hocks and scratches. Calendula gel is available at health food stores and Bag Balm is available at some feed stores.
• Sterile gauze, cotton squares and vet wrap to bandage wounds.
• Ice pack for heat stress.
• Soft towels for a “bunny burrito” (see How To Video) to make it easier to administer antibiotics to an unwilling rabbit.
• A small can of V-8 juice, fruit juice or baby food to mix with ground up medicine.
TIP: Some rabbits will readily take antibiotics if they are mixed with a little V-8 juice, unsweetened applesauce or baby food (such as carrots).
A bit more complicated:
• Lactated Ringers Solution and equipment for administering sub-q fluids. It is a good idea to ask your vet to show you how to administer sub-q fluids before you have an emergency. Check the Drug Dosage Calculator for dosage information. Sub-q fluids should be given when a rabbit is in stasis or having a problem with sludgey urine.
• Plastic digital thermometer. It is important to know how to take your rabbit’s temperature. Be sure to ask your vet to show you how to do this before you have an emergency. Normal rabbit temperature is 38-39.6C or 101-103F.
• KY Jelly to lubricate the thermometer (available at pharmacy).
• Heating pad or towel to wrap the rabbit in case of hypothermia.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT put a rabbit on a heating pad without knowing their exact body temperature. They may feel cold to the touch and still be within the normal range. Heating them could make the situation worse. Always use a heating pad on the lowest setting!
• Stethoscope to hear tummy noises. It is a good idea to ask your vet to let you listen to your rabbit’s gut noises during a bunny wellness check so that you know what a healthy gut sounds like. Very loud gurgling (may indicate gas) or the absence of gut sounds are both a cause for concern.
Other things you may want to keep on hand:
• A good quality probiotic such as Benebac or Probician. A probiotic can be given while the rabbit is on antibiotics to help maintain balanced gut flora and prevent diarrhea.
• Prozyme to help digestion. Prozyme is a combination of enzymes specific to the animal intestine. We did not include this as part of the emergency kit, because if you decide to use Prozyme, it needs to be given for a period of time to be beneficial.
• Elizabethan collar, already fitted to your rabbit.
Suggested articles/printed materials to keep on hand:
GastroIntestinal Stasis, The Silent Killer -by Dana M. Krempels, Ph.D