Emergencies happen. Your rabbit may have suddenly stopped eating or pooping, putting them in an urgent care situation. The first step is always to make an emergency appointment with your vet. But afterwards you will need to care for your rabbit and help nurse them back to full health.
When rabbits get sick, they may be in so much discomfort or pain that they refuse to eat. This can be lethal to rabbits because their health relies on the constant movement of their digestion. To help a sick rabbit recover from their illness, you may have to force feed them Critical Care with a syringe.
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What is Critical Care?
Critical Care is a powder based rabbit food formula. It is used to give rabbits enough calories and water as they recover from illness or surgery. My vet recommends that I always have a bag of Critical Care formula available for emergency situations. The hope is that I will not have to use the formula, but it’s best to be prepared.
To get your rabbit to eat in emergency situations, you will need to feed them the Critical Care formula. To make the formula, you simply mix the powder with some water to make a pudding-like consistency. You will then need to slowly syringe feed the formula to your rabbit.
Critical Care is used after surgery or medical diagnosis to get your rabbit’s digestion moving again. The formula will help make sure your rabbit is eating enough, and the water will also help to keep your rabbit hydrated.
When do you need to give your rabbit Critical Care?
You should avoid giving your rabbit Critical Care unless directed to do so by a qualified veterinarian. There are many possible reasons a rabbit might not be eating, and it is necessary to determine the underlying cause of this behavior before you’ll be able to help your rabbit return to normal health.
For example, your rabbit might not be eating because of a blockage in their stomach or digestive tract. Force feeding them would not help until their digestive system is moving again, which would require surgery or medical intervention by a rabbit-savvy veterinarian.
If your rabbit is not eating, the first thing you should do is make an emergency appointment with your veterinarian.
After your rabbit has been to the vet and their underlying condition is diagnosed, you will likely need to administer doses of Critical Care formula to make sure your rabbit is eating and has the best chance of recovery.
How to make rabbit Critical Care
Rabbit Critical Care is not difficult to make. The idea is simply to mix the Oxbow Critical Care formula with water to make a mixture with pudding-like consistency. You can then put this mixture into a large syringe and feed your rabbit (that’s the hard part).
How much to feed your rabbit
The amount that you feed your rabbit will differ depending on the size of your rabbit. You should also take into account any food that your rabbit is eating on their own. Many times rabbits who are recovering from illness will still be eating a little bit of their normal food. In these cases, it’s safe to decrease the amount of Critical Care formula you give your rabbit.
You should still give them some of the formula until they have returned to completely normal eating habits. At this point, you can reduce the amount of formula you give your rabbit over the next couple of days.
|Rabbit Weight||Amount of Formula Per Day|
|2 lbs||45 mL|
|3 lbs||67.5 mL|
|4 lbs||90 mL|
|5 lbs||112.5 mL|
|6 lbs||135 mL|
|7 lbs||157.5 mL|
|8 lbs||180 mL|
|9 lbs||202.5 mL|
|10 lbs||225 mL|
Your vet may give you specific instructions for how much to feed your rabbit. If they differ from the advice given here, it’s always best to listen to them. Your vet will have a better understanding of your rabbit and their specific situation.
How often do you need to feed your rabbit
You should avoid giving your rabbit the entire daily amount of Critical Care formula in one feeding session. At minimum, it’s best to split the daily amount of required formula into three separate feeding sessions. However rabbits that are very weak should be given the formula is 4-6 smaller sessions throughout the day.
For example, if you need to give a 4 pound rabbit daily Critical Care formula, they will need a total of 90mL. You can split this up into three feeding sessions by giving them 30mL in the morning, 30mL in the afternoon, and another 30mL in the evening.
Rabbits that are doing well and beginning to eat on their own may only need 1 or 2 supplemental feeding sessions with the Critical Care formula. As your rabbit recovers, you can reduce the number of feeding sessions and the amount of formula that you give your rabbit.
To make Critical Care for your rabbit, you will need a package of Oxbow’s Critical Care formula and a large syringe. Your vet may have these items for you when you bring your rabbit home after their emergency.
- In a bowl, mix the Critical Care powder with warm water. You should use double the amount of water as powder. So 3 Tbsp of powder would be mixed with 6 Tbsp of water.
- Offer the solution to your rabbit on a spoon. Most of the time sick rabbits will not eat Critical Care off of a spoon even if you get the formulas that have a yummy flavor. It’s still best to offer it to them and see if they’ll be willing to eat it on their own, since this will be less stressful for the rabbit.
- Scoop the formula into a large syringe. If your rabbit does not eat the solution on their own, take the back plunger out of the syringe and spoon in the Critical Care mixture.
- Syringe feed your rabbit until they have eaten the correct amount. You will need to slowly feed your rabbit so that they don’t choke.
Homemade critical care
If you run out of the package formula or cannot get access to it, you may need to create a makeshift formula for your rabbit. In a pinch, you can make a homemade version of critical care to give to your rabbit using their regular daily pellets. It won’t have the same nutritional value as the official formula, but it can work to make sure your rabbit is still eating and getting essential nutrients and calories.
To create a homemade critical care formula:
- Add a few tablespoons of your rabbit’s daily pellets to a bowl.
- Add warm water to the pellets until it becomes a smooth enough texture for syringe feeding. You should add one tablespoon at a time to avoid making the mixture too watery.
- You can choose to add a small amount of squashed banana or unsweetened applesauce to make the mixture more enticing for your rabbit.
How to syringe feed your rabbit
Depending on your rabbit’s disposition, syringe feeding them can be difficult and stressful. It’s often even more difficult to administer Critical Care than other oral medications because you need to go slow. Your rabbit will need time to chew and swallow.
This may be a difficult technique to get used to, but after a couple days you’ll become more skilled and your rabbit will get used to it. Even if you are stressed and frustrated, it’s best to remain calm and continue to comfort your rabbit throughout the process.
- Scoop the formula into the syringe and push the plunger until the formula reaches the tip of the syringe.
- Put your rabbit into a bunny burrito to keep them from struggling. Place your rabbit on a flat surface and keep them still by holding them firmly with your arm wrapped around their body.
- Put your hand on top of the rabbit’s head and pull their lip back with the arm that’s wrapped around your rabbit. You’ll want to pull the lip on the side of the rabbit that is closest to you so you can see the front teeth.
- Insert the syringe into the rabbit’s mouth behind their front teeth. This may take some time if your rabbit tosses their head to keep you from inserting the syringe. Be patient and gently hold your rabbit’s head down while you insert the syringe.
- Push a small amount of formula into your rabbit’s mouth to get them chewing. About ½ mL or less. Remove the syringe and give your rabbit a few moments to swallow the formula.
- Put the syringe back into your rabbit’s mouth and push in about 1 mL of formula. Remove the syringe and allow your rabbit to chew and swallow.
- Continue giving your rabbit the formula is small 1 mL chunks until they have finished their dose.
- “Critical Care for Herbivores – Information for Pet Owners.” Oxbow Animal Health. https://www.oxbowaustralia.com/critical-care%E2%84%A2-information-for-pet-owners.
- Krempels, Dana Ph.D. “Gastrointestinal Stasis: The Silent Killer.” House Rabbit Society. February 10, 2013. https://rabbit.org/gastrointestinal-stasis-the-silent-killer-2.
How do you know when your rabbit is sick?
Rabbits are prey animals and have a tendency to hide their illnesses to avoid being picked off by predators. Some of the main signs of sickness in rabbits include
- Not eating or a change in eating habits
- Not pooping
- Sitting in an uncomfortable position
- Lack of energy
- More aggressive behavior than usual
How do I know if my rabbit’s poop is healthy?
Healthy rabbit poop will be cocoa puff sized balls. They will have a consistent and regular shape, size and color. Small or deformed poops can indicate health problems. If your rabbit’s feces do not return to normal, it’s best to make an appointment with your vet to look for any underlying health conditions.